Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, footnote 324, pg. 1071

"Todd, trust math. As in Matics, Math E. First-order predicate logic. Never fail you. Quantities and their relation. Rates of change. The vital statistics of God or equivalent. When all else fails. When the boulder's slid all the way back to the bottom. When the headless are blaming. When you do not know your way about. You can fall back and regroup around math. Whose truth is deductive truth. Independent of sense or emotionality. The syllogism. The identity. Modus Tollens. Transitivity. Heaven's theme song. The nightlight on life's dark wall, late at night. Heaven's recipe book. The hydrogen spiral. The methane, ammonia, H2O. Nucleic acids. A and G, T and C. The creeping inevibatility. Caius is mortal. Math is not mortal. What it is is: listen: it's true."

(inevibatility is spelled that way in the book)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wow I've been negligent

Love Song for Bobby Long - Yeah I know this is not a book, and I usually do not write about movies. But this one was exceptional. And it's based on a book - Off Magazine Street by Ronald Everett Capps. I new friend recommended it and he was right, I loved it. Set in New Orleans and to me captures it just right...

"A New Orleans summer drowns in thick, dank stillness."


"Autumn comes slowly in New Orleans. The grass remains a stubborn green, but the heat gives way to a gentle warmth...Winter arrived before we realized the sunlit hours of summer had waned. So now the wine began to outlast the day and that was more than anyone could've asked for. "

"Some people reach a place in time where they've gone as far as they can. A place where wives and jobs collide with desire. That which is unknowable and those who remain out of sight. See what it is invisible and you will see what to write. That's how Bobby used to put it. It was the invisible people he wanted to live with. The ones that we walk past everday, the ones we sometimes become. The ones in books who live only in someones mind's eye. He was a man who was destined to go through life and not around it. A man who was sure the shortest path to Heaven was straight through Hell. But the truth of his handicap lay only in a mind both exalted and crippled by too many stories and the path he chose to become one. Bobby Long's tragic flaw was his romance with all that he saw. And I guess if people want to believe in some form of justice, then Bobby Long got his for a song."

The movie gets additional points for making me want to download music - "If You Knew My Mind" by Grayson Capps. And I'm wondering what, if any, relationship the author and musician have. I don't see anything on Google about it.

Read: (well, listened to)
Eat, Pray, Love - Good! I wouldn't say it was life-changing for me. Although it did make we want to get back into yoga. And it made me want some spaghetti. It was well written, though. I got the version read by the author, which I always love because you know you are getting the right emphasis and inflection.

Yann Martel short stories - OK. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood, but they just seemed ok. And I so LOVED Life of Pi.

Yeah I'm still reading Infinite Jest and I don't want to talk about it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Deck Stairs!

And a clean deck! They finished the stairs last Friday and Jason pressure-washed the deck today so as soon as it dries we can do the sealer on it. It looks SO much better.

Out of Sorts

Corner of my desk today. Guess I'm feeling a little OCD.

Friday, February 13, 2009

New plants

So yesterday Lauren (my coworker) and I went to the Main Street Market in downtown Baton Rouge for lunch at the greatest wrap place in the universe. And of course we had to stop at the Coyote Creek booth which generally contains native and hard-to-find really cool plants which, of course, I immediately started to obsess over.

Because, you know, what I need in my 4 square feet of gardening space is more shrubbery.

But when has that ever stopped me before?

So I bought:
Leucothoe 'Margie Jenkins' ( which is actually a cool story. Margie Jenkins is an 86-or-so lady down here in south Louisiana that has been propagating and hybridizing plants since 1962. And when I did a search for that picture, I found a thesis written on her for the LSU Landscape Architecture program that includes a whole bunch of stuff on the history of the horticulture industry down here. So I've tagged that to read.

Calliandra - which let's please hope this is the dwarf variety because uh....I don't have space for a 30 foot tree. Temple Bells because I killed the one I bought at Hilltop last year.

A dwarf abelia 'Canyon Creek'. htp://
Which fits into my red/orange/bronze front yard color scheme

Dwarf Walters Viburnum

Gold Spikemoss

A ligularia that is double-flowered. Can't remember the variety - maybe 'Othello'?

And then the lady realized she hadn't rung up my master gardener's discount so she threw in 2 foxgloves and a chocolate ajuga.

I'm a happy girl :)

My thoughts on Valentine's day.

To do list for this weekend:

1> Help Jason pressure- wash deck and treat the deck and new stairs with protectant stuff.
2> Plant the new plants I bought today @ Main Street MArket (will post pics/ list later).
3> Get civic association dues notices printed and mailed.
4> Finish civic association financial statements for the annual meeting.
5> Finish reading Infinite Jest, which I love but is killing me I'm so ready to be done with it.
6> Take care of my poor husband who has the cold I brought home from D.C.
7> Take advantage of an opportunity I was given today to make peace with the universe and resolve an internal conflict caused from certain events of December, 1991.
8> Get my fishing, mining, and alchemy skills in WOW up to 450 and decide if I want to spend $ on the epic flyer or not.
9> Write letters to ALIENWARE and cc: everybody I can find in the continuing saga of the "Quest for the Full Refund".
10> Ride my bike.

And THAT is generally the sort of t0-do list that is floating around in my head at any given moment, along with a similar but separate one about work. Which, folks, is probably why I'm neurotic.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Draft Official Refund Request letter

Should I send it now? Or wait the 48 hours. At 11am a customer service supervisor told is that billing would call us within 48 hours to discuss the refund. But...billing isn't open on the weekends, which Jason calmly (cough) pointed out.

Plus I fully intend to CC every Alienware e-mail address I can find PLUS the CEO of Dell, which Andree was awesome enough to find for me.

Here's the draft. Comments welcome.

Last week you sent me a brand new $3000 computer. (It arrived January 30, 2009) Unfortunately, my husband was on the phone with your tech support after having the computer out of the box for TEN MINUTES. My husband, a computer tech himself (CCNA, Etc.) has spent at least $1000 of his OWN TIME on the phone with your technicians trying to fix a BRAND-NEW OUT OF THE BOX computer. Now does that seem reasonable? I mean really, shouldn't we be demanding that you not only refund us the full amount of the purchase but also throw in something for pain, suffering, and anxiety? Should we have to spend our own time "FIXING" a brand new item?

On Sunday, I sent an e-mail to your company asking for a phone call from customer support when they opened Monday morning. Did I get that call? Well NO, I did not!

Therefore, at 10:37am, I called them. That customer service person talked me into sending the computer in for repair. I had taken some cold medicine since I had the plague and was obviously not in my right mind. The more I thought about it, though, the more anxious and upset it made me. I SHOULD have been able to just return the faulty machine and have you ship me a working one. Then the story would be - Everybody's happy! I am a little befuddled that the first machine was a lemon, but you guys handled it so professionally and expediently that it’s no biggie! I sing the praises of Alienware to any game nerd within my vicinity! I post pictures of how cool it is on my blog, which is, as I have said before in previous correspondence, read by TENS of people!

Instead, my BRAND NEW MACHINE, with which I did not even really have a chance to get acquainted, is IN THE SHOP.

IN THE SHOP? That still boggles my mind. I can't think! I haven't gotten ANY work done this week because I'm so DISTRACTED when I think that I'm going to have to wait SIX WEEKS for something I bought new, but is now going to be used/rebuilt/whatever. Who buys something new and has to take it to the shop after 10 minutes? That is not normal! And your techs can't get it straight. One tells me 1-2 days for repairs, the next says 2-6 WEEKS (that one just about made me lose my lunch!)

I can’t take it. I’m not cut out for this kind of high-anxiety, high-risk, high-dollar-amount capitalistic transaction. All I wanted to do was be able sit in my hotel room or at a coffee shop when I’m out of town for work, play Wow, talk to my friends on the Facebook, and surf the interwebs for things that make me want to “LOL out loud”. Is that so much to ask?

So I am pleading with you, Alienware. Do the right thing. Just end the insanity. Refund our money. Don't even think about uttering the words "restocking fee" again or seriously, my head will explode.

Your computer is already back at your warehouse. We will gladly ship back the accessory equipment as soon as you send us a shipping label.

All of the details should, of course, be in your own tech. support notes, but just IN CASE one of the 50 support people we talked to forgot something, here is the play by play:

Sincerely disappointed that I will not be using your snazzy light-up uber computer and showing it off to all my friends,

Sonya Pickens
RMA# 1114724

ALIENWARE Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggg!!!!

OK before you customer support/ retail working people blast me for this let me just say yes I'm WELL AWARE that the CS reps generally have NO authority to actually help me with my problem and yes I'm WELL AWARE that it's not actually their fault. But...I do believe in the squeeky wheel theory of life.

So for your enjoyment, here are this week's calls to Alienware.

Tech support: "Michael" 10:37am Feb 2
Me: (Outlines problem.) "I want a refund."
Michael: "Let me send you a fedex shipping label, you can send it back to us, we'll get it Wednesday, I'll put a note on the account to expedite the repairs, you could have it back Friday or at the lastest Monday next week"
Me (In a cold-medicine induced stupor): "ok"

When Jason woke up, (he's totally nocturnal @ this point), he cannot believe that I settled for that option. And the more I think about it, the sicker I get. But I am DOPED and feeling like I have the plague. I am mentally compromised! It isn't a fair battle!

So on the 3rd, Jason sweetly and dutifully boxes up the system as per Alienware's instructions and delivers the box to an authorized Fed Ex location. It's Second Day delivery. So on the 5th, I'm calling to check.

Tech support "Gracie" 2:50pm Feb. 5: "I can't help you because we haven't received the computer yet. Why don't you call back at the end of next week and check then."
Me: "WHA!?!? The end of NEXT WEEK?! there's no WAY I'm waiting for a BRAND NEW computer that long and you sent me a broken computer and blah blah blah blah.
Gracie: "Well the account says expedited so they will look at it within a day or two of getting it to the shop."
Me: "I want to talk to Michael"
Gracie: "He's not available"

So I sit here all day stewing and worrying.....and finally can stand it no more.

Tech support "Dave" 10:12pm Feb 5: "The computer didn't get here today even though if was scheduled for two day delivery, but I'm not sure why, I don't see any exceptions."
Me: "Dave, what would you do in this situation. You people sent me a BROKEN brand new computer. Do you understand my frustration here? I have a $3K charge sitting on my credit card. I have no confidence that you can fix this system. You should have immediately sent me a brand new system that WORKS. Do you not TEST the systems before you ship them?"
Dave: (very nice and patient) . "The note says expedite so I would say that they'll look at it within 1 or 2 days of getting the system in."
Me: (Stomach-ache grows, but DAVE was sweet.)

So I wake up this morning. Stewing. Worried.

This time Jason is in the room with me.
Tech support "Peter" 11:08am Feb 6: "I can't help you because the computer has not arrived yet. The Fed ex truck had a problem blah blah blah it wasn't picked up from the drop-off location until yesterday @ 6pm. You should track the package on"
Me: I'm not interested in tracking the package. YALL should be tracking the package. Actually, yall should have sent me a new working computer when we said this one didn't work.
Peter: "I'm just technical support. I can't send you anything."
Me: "I know that PETER. But what I'm looking at right now is that I have paid for a BRAND NEW computer, and what I'm going to end up with is a REBUILT computer, which I could have bought for about $2K cheaper. That does NOT make me happy. What do the notes in my account say?"
Peter: (reads I suppose) " Well you are shipping the computer in for repair and it will take about one and a half weeks for us to take a look at it..."
Me: "STOP! Do the notes say expedited and 1-2 days and blah blah blah".
Peter: "No"
Me: Proceeding to WIG OUT. Yelling ensues. Supervisors are called (Peter's) We get put on hold. Supervisor answers. Throws out the words "RESTOCKING FEE" ($500). I SERIOUSLY WIG. Jason gets involved. NO MORE NEGOTIATION. We want a full refund and we are done. We are not paying a %!@%^ restocking fee when you sent us a BROKEN MACHINE. Talking talking blah blah blah Customer service will call you within 48 hours, blah blah....yada yada yada...

Me: calls credit card company to close credit card account, dispute charge.

Me: TOTALLY distracted for rest of day. PISSED. Disappointed. Nervous that I still have an uphill battle to get the full $3000 refunded.

And.....happy weekend to you too ALIENWARE.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

But this one walk was pretty spectacular

This was the view that greeted me as I walked out of the building in Virginia last Thursday night to walk back to the hotel...can't complain much about it.

Absentee-ism and snot.

It happens. I get obsessed with things, I lose interest in things, I get depressed and turn into a hermit in the winter, (seasonal affective disorder surely). I took basically a month off from work and STILL lost like 30 hours of leave (we can only carry over 240), I have had (am having) the WORST time trying to get motivated to work again.

Jason is @ home during the day because he's teaching @ night, and I just want to hang out @ home too. And play WOW and read books and eat bon bons.

OK well not really eat bon bons but do nothing. Then I had to go to Alexandria last week for work, which was actually really fun because I got to work on our exam workbook which has kind of been my baby since about 1999 but I haven't been able to work on much since Katrina, so it was nice to be able to get my hands back on that. Plus the guys I work with on that project crack me up so it was a good week.

Except that it was colder than, well cold. Snowy even, and I didn't haul coats and such to Virginia just for 4 days. And I probably shouldn't have walked back from the drug store without any socks on that one night, so yeah this week I have had a tremendous cold and I stayed in bed from Monday - Wednesday and just today sort of feel better.

Conversation yesterday:
Me (to Jason): want to come over here and snuggle?
Jason: Maybe when you aren't a festering font of snot and disease.

Letter to AlienWare computer company sent Sunday, Feb 1, 2009

To: Alienware Computer people
Subject: I wish I was playing WOW on my new laptop right now...

Let me start by saying that I am an accountant by profession. I am also a little OCD about my budget. I do not spend money without fretting. The decision to buy this computer was a painful one for me. It took weeks of thoughtful consideration to decide to purchase one at all, and several additional weeks to decide which computer to buy. When I saw the Alienware computer, I felt better about my decision. This computer is the perfect size, has the video card I wanted, and is really cool to boot. But! After I specced the thing, it was $3,000. THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS. That is a LOT of money. That is WAY more than I spent on my current desktop (this was to be a replacement). WAY more than even my husband spent on his uber-gaming machine. Way more, actually, than anyone I know has ever spent on a laptop.

But my decision was finally made, and I felt good about it. My husband was happy about it because Dell owns the company and we assumed that we would get the same kind of service and support that we expect from Dell. He made sure I bought the 3 year on-site service warranty to make sure that we got top-notch help if something went wrong. I was so excited about this computer! I had already facebooked about this new computer! I blogged about it on my blog which is read by TENS of people!

Imagine my anticipation when I got the e-mail that my order had been shipped! I was out of town on business. The order was to arrive on Friday (January 30, 2009) just before I got home. Which it did. My husband tried to resist the urge to open the box (he was very excited too), but I told him to go ahead and get it set up for me so I could start using it as soon as I got home.

Well, as I am sure you can see by your tech support notes, my husband proceeded to spend the next 20 hours on the phone with your techs. I am not even kidding. TWENTY HOURS. The screen keeps blacking out. They reinstalled windows. They flashed bios. They installed new drivers. They stripped old drivers. They finally, in the wee hours of the morning, performed major surgery to make sure all the components were seated properly.

It’s still blacking out.

So now, your techs are telling us that we need to talk to customer support, which is fair enough. However, they are telling us that our options are #1, send it in for repair, which will take 2-6 weeks, or #2, return it and pay a $450 restocking fee. Now considering that this problem happened the MINUTE my husband unpacked the thing and he was immediately on the phone with your tech support, and considering that my husband, a computer tech. himself spent about $1000 of his own TIME to try to fix this problem, I’m sure you will agree that neither one of these is an acceptable solution.

What I am expecting is that you will send me a new, working computer, with an image on it that does not have drivers from March of 2008, and a recovery disc that is not scratched, at no additional cost to me, within the next week. At least waiving the cost of the recovery disc from my original purchase and maybe a cool T-shirt (size XXL) wouldn’t hurt our feelings either.

I am also expecting that your customer service will call me first thing in the AM on Monday morning as I think we have spent MORE than our share of time on the phone with your company already and I am not really interested in waiting on hold for a customer service rep.

Your technical support staff people were very helpful, patient, and professional, which we do appreciate. I am anticipating that your customer service staff will be just as amicable and that we can resolve this issue in an expedient manner.

Looking forward to hearing from you Monday morning,