Customer service.


I bought a giant sunflower head at the farm market last week, and finally got around to hanging it from one of the trees. It took the squirrels a day to strip it bare and leave it in pieces on the ground. This guy was so excited he was like Ramona Quimby, who took a single bite out of each apple in an entire box, on the grounds the first bite is always the best.

Click to enlarge. These black squirrels are aggressive bastards, but this one will have a very glossy coat.

My iPhone’s been giving me problems for a few weeks, and Saturday I finally managed to organize myself into a trip to the Genius Bar. The Genius Bar is the only part of the Apple experience I don’t like, and the part I don’t like is the name. Also, that you have to make an appointment, but that’s a byproduct of success. I don’t think I’ve been in an Apple store in the last five years when it hasn’t been crowded.

So I get to the Genius Bar, and I tell them my sad tale of woe. He stops me one-third of the way through the narrative and says, “OK, you get a new phone. Hang on, I’ll get you one.”

This is the typical G.B. experience for me: I have a problem, they give me a new one. Alan’s computer has had its motherboard, hard drive and wifi innards replaced over the years, all without data loss. For a while I wondered if I’d get a thrilling new third-generation iPhone, but no, they replaced my second-generation model out of old inventory, or maybe it was reconditioned — they can’t tell, and neither can I. Anyway, I got a brand-new phone, and since I’d backed up the old one the day before, all I had to do was plug it into my laptop when I got home, wait a few minutes, and unplug it with everything exactly the way it was on the old one, minus the problems but including my home-screen photo of Eastern Market vegetables and custom ring settings.

In the middle of this, a man about my age approached the G.B. “I downloaded the new software for the iPod Touch, and when I reloaded it, it blew up the iPod,” he groused. “Spent an hour on the phone with tech support.”

The Genius looked regretful. “OK, you get a new one,” he said, whisking it away.

The curmudgeon caught my eye. “I was going to get an iPhone,” he said. “But not now! This settles it!”

I said nothing, but he went on. “This is ridiculous! Thing just quit!”

I said, “You’re getting a new one.” The Genius walked up at this point, unwrapping a new iPod Touch.

“Is that some reconditioned job?” the old fart said.

“I don’t know,” the Genius said. “They don’t tell us. It could be brand new, or it could be factory reconditioned. If it doesn’t work, we’ll replace it, too.”

“It has scratches on it!” crowed Mr. Grouchypants.

“Oh, no,” said the Genius, before it was pointed out the scratches were on the box, and the iPod was indeed shiny and twinkling.

“What if this blows up, too?” asked Grouchypants.

“We’ll replace it, but if that happens, the problem’s with your computer,” the Genius said. “We’ll take a look at that, if you like.” Grouchypants fell silent. Aha! Probably a PC user.

To be sure, an hour on the phone with tech support can turn anyone into a jerk — it certainly does me. But I doubt he’d get better service, or a new device, from Sony. Wait until he goes home, syncs it up and realizes, hey, I have a new iPod now. I wonder if he’ll feel guilty for jerkitude. Unlikely.

Encroaching jerkitude is a hazard of middle age. Your back hurts, your ass sags, you can’t get waited on in a deli without wearing a purple pashmina and a metallic gold tote bag, so often the logical reaction is: I think I’ll lash out at the next person forced to interact with me. I’m going to blow Dentu-Creme breath all over his or her unlined face. I try to remember this when someone is a jerk to me. (Not always successfully, I should add.) Add a keyboard and internet connection to the mix, and it’s a wonder anyone is ever civil.

I love my new phone. It’s shiny and unscratched. And it, unlike the last one, can find a wifi signal.

The boat haul-out went pretty well. The boat is out, anyway. The marina added a bunch of security since we were last there in the spring; there are now card keys and beeping gates. I don’t know if they’ve had theft problems, but it would be a miracle if they didn’t, as boats can be hard to secure and much of what’s valuable about them sits out in plain sight. Last year we passed a handsome cruiser with a high-end flat-screen TV bolted to the outside bulkhead, facing the cocktail deck. Maybe the owner found blue skies and sea gulls boring, or maybe he wanted to work on his tan while he watched golf, but a smart thief could have a field day stripping that vessel clean.

OK, time to start the day. I have no bloggage, because I realize I’m posting all my amusing links over on Facebook. Here’s an oldie from last week that still makes me giggle. Detroit, you’re a town with my kind of fun:

Farmington Hills — The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s chief financial officer will be sentenced next month after he and his wife pleaded guilty to inciting a riot outside an Ohio nursing home.

Have a swell day, all.

Posted at 9:36 am in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' |

56 responses to “Customer service.”

  1. Dorothy said on October 27, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Cracks me up that you called that guy “a man about my age”, and then in the next breath called him a curmudgeon, an old fart and Grouchypants. Which pretty much describes me once in awhile, too. And I’m just 3 months older than you, Nance.

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  2. Jeff Borden said on October 27, 2009 at 10:06 am

    I’m way older than most of you, which perhaps is reflected in my cellphone choice. It is an older LG flip phone that does absolutely nothing but make and receive calls. Verizon keeps calling and offering me fancier new phones, but I love this small piece of equipment because the battery is Hulk Hogan. The phone can go days without being recharged.

    Grumpiness not only goes along with aging, but it’s aided and abetted by the weather in the Midwest, which could reduce Norman Vincent Peale into a shrieking grouchypants within a few days.

    Generally, my grumpiness blossoms while driving. I’m so tired of idiots driving in heavy rain without turning on their lights, the buffoons who refuse to use turn signals, the dickwads who flash past on the right on city streets, the bicycle messengers who buzz through busy intersections like a dragonfly on acid, the old men with hats who set their Buick LeSabre’s at slow speed in the left lane, etc.

    I must need more coffee this morning.

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  3. Julie Robinson said on October 27, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Tee-hee Jeff, I was just recalling how my DH became a crankypants driving around Chicago last weekend. He’s normally the most even tempered guy in the world. But will he let me drive so he can relax? Only when I can pry his cold, dead hands from the steering wheel.

    We found a phone in my mom’s bushes over the weekend. She lives along the route home from the taverns to campus. It was the same as my model, so we charged it up and called the home number. The guy had already replaced it and didn’t want it.

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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 27, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Look out, UrJeff — i made a comment about Norman Vincent Peale the other day *at a church event* (not during a sermon), and saw utter blank-itude in the room, and it wasn’t an “everyone younger than me” room, either.

    I still love the inversion “I find the Apostle Paul appealling but the Apostle Peale appalling.” Adlai said that, didn’t he?

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  5. Peter said on October 27, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Oh, I’m definitely in the old man/grouch demographic. A couple of more years and I’ll have my inner Abe Simpson up and running.

    I go into instant grouch model when customer service is treating me like I’m the one with the problem. I never expect service like Apple (although I’m really happy when I get it), but I do expect a gee, I’m sorry, let’s see what we can do.

    One time a restaurant goofed up my order (I got fish instead of chicken), and when I asked for the right order, I was told that I could enjoy what I received and next time they’ll try to get it right. WTF??!!
    I didn’t expect them to kill themselves over it, but how about a “sorry, we’ll fix the right one up and take a little something off the bill for your trouble.”? A pox on their ancestors!

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  6. Chris said on October 27, 2009 at 10:54 am

    No offense, but can someone really use the term “WTF” and qualify as a member of the old man/grouch demographic? Or does it just show your ability to adapt?

    My birthday is next week and I’m wondering how old is old enough to be a part of this demographic?

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  7. LAMary said on October 27, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I can get very grouchy if customer service leaves me on hold for 39 minutes (there’s a timer on my work phone) as happened last week. I will be buying a new phone this weekend for the oldest son. He had his phone in his shirt pocket, stood up, then reached down to the coffee table to pick up his cup. Ta-da, phone in coffee cup. I haven’t bought a phone in years, opting only for the free upgrades. I have five lines on my ATT friends and family thing, so no one’s getting an IPhone here. It’s not the cost of the phone, but the extra 30 bucks per month to run it.

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  8. MichaelG said on October 27, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I don’t know if there’s anybody around here older than me (I’m 65) but I find that I’m mellowing as I get older, although idiot drivers do pull my string. For some reason I have less patience with old people than I did in years past. I used to require that I drive any time I was in a motorcar but in recent years I’ve gone the other way. I now try to chump the other person into driving. You’d be amazed at the stuff I see along a route that I’ve driven for years and never saw before while driving.

    I have a simple cell phone like Jeff B’s. It’s good enough for me. I am able to survive without twitter so far but there are some interesting applications coming up so I might get interested. I have internet access at home and at work. That seems to be enough so far. I have a Canon camera that works very well for me. It’s my fourth digital camera and I’ve pretty much figured out what I need and like. It’s small and is no problem to carry along with a phone. I guess I’m sort of a medium tech guy.

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  9. Jim said on October 27, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Unfortunately, there are times when outrageous customer service necessitates being a jerk/curmudgeon/grouchypants. If you don’t squawk, businesses (and often people) treat you however they think they can get away with. I like to think I’m a pleasant, civil, nice guy and I usually am. But when you’re not getting the response you need, you have to make some noise.

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  10. coozledad said on October 27, 2009 at 11:26 am

    What that store needs is SOB on demand. One owned the bookstore where I used to work. If we had a problem customer, someone would go fetch him from his office and we’d watch the two bastards go at it. I’m afraid I picked up some tips from him on how to age badly.

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  11. Julie Robinson said on October 27, 2009 at 11:35 am

    LAMary, would your son like a slightly used Razr phone from Sprint? I’ve no idea if it would work with AT&T, but otherwise, I’m just going to send it in to the recyclers. I’m with you on the extra $30/month for smart phones. Our daughter got a blackberry for her internship year but we make her pay the extra bucks.

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  12. 4dbirds said on October 27, 2009 at 11:45 am

    My old grumpy self hates when I hear “not a problem” instead of “you’re welcome”. In this part of Virginia, we have gray squirrels and occasionally, very occasionally a white one. No red or black ones.

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  13. whitebeard said on October 27, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I am going to be 72 on Christmas Eve and i think I have my curmudgeon down pat. I love picking up robocalls from card services and pushing appropriate buttons to get a live person. Then I sweetly ask where they are calling from, say I wish I could be there because weather is much nicer than here.
    I talk about the bad weather here, say that I have to cut the lawn one more time and then apologize profusely and say sweetly “How can I help you today?
    When he replies that he can lower my interest rate on my credit card and asks how much I owe, I reply back that if he is really calling from my credit card company and he doesn’t how much I owe then he must be a scammer trying to steal my money and he should be ashamed of himself for trying to scam an old man in his 70s.
    I figure the time he has wasted with me being chatty has saved four other people from being scammed and THAT makes my day.

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  14. Sue said on October 27, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Ahh, squirrels have to eat too.
    MMJeff, I yield to your greater theological knowledge but Paul doesn’t do much for me. I’m guessing he’d misbehave at the Apple store, too, going all cranky and patriarchal on everyone and then writing a letter. Bossy old coot.

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  15. LAMary said on October 27, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Thanks for the offer, Julie, but I think he’s looking forward to a new phone and he’s contributing at least half the cost from his house/dog/garden sitting earnings. He’s got his little business going based on years of living with large and sometimes crazy dogs. He and his girlfriend give off a vibe or reliability and people pay them to house sit and take care of pets and tend gardens.

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  16. brian stouder said on October 27, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Good on you, whitebeard!

    If you haven’t clicked Nancy’s picture to see the full-sized detail of Rocky (Balboa) the sunflower seed lovin’ Squirrel, you really must; a genuinely great photo –

    and (as always), inextricably related to today’s essay.

    That squirrel is all but saying “Do you want a piece o’ me? You think you can take this seed from my mouth? Go Ahead and try! I ain’t runnin’! In fact, I’m laughing at you!” etc

    As for phones, I’m with the ‘cheap/simple=good/desireable’ school. We buy trac-phones (less that $20) and buy minutes – double minutes for life means you can get like 300 minutes for about $20, and you’re good to go for 6 months or a year (or whatever).

    No cell-phone bills in the mail = WooHoo!!

    Lost or destroyed phone = darn; time to get another

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  17. Laura said on October 27, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    I work on my jerkitude daily; sometimes it’s a real struggle. Re: that squirrel. I thought it was a (stripe obscured) skunk.

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  18. beb said on October 27, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Crankitude? I’ve got it big time. My rudeness towards unsolicited phonecalls constantly mortifies my wife.

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  19. kayak woman said on October 27, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I avoided the Ann Arbor Apple Store like poison after my first mad dash out there shortly after it opened to replace a powerbook battery. I found the battery right away and then couldn’t figure out how to pay for it! No checkout register? Hmm, there’s a counter back there with a guy sitting behind it not doing anything. Maybe he’s the checkout person? No. He was one o’ them thar geniuses and couldn’t help me. Eventually, a salesperson became free and rang my purchase up with his little handheld scanner. But not without several trips to the back for a bag (which I didn’t need) and a receipt and I forget what else.

    A few weeks ago, my macBook powercord fizzled out and I steeled myself for a lunchtime dash over to the mall (another of my complaints is that I have walk through the *mall* to get to the Apple Store). This time I was impressed! I am a fast walker even on a slow day and I cruised in there emanating “I am in a hurry!” A nice young salesman caught on immediately, followed me to the back, asked me what I wanted, grabbed it off the wall, and checked me out in about 30 seconds flat without making me take a blasted bag. By the time I got back to my cube, my emailed receipt had arrived.

    I am most grumpy when I am in the left lane of the freeway *behind* a slow line of traffic and some cell-phone-yapping idiot zooms up behind me and tailgates.

    And I’ve had an iPhone for a couple years now and I love it!

    Anne (Kayak Woman), Ann Arbor old bag

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  20. Dorothy said on October 27, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Forgot to say I have never, ever seen a black squirrel. They’re pretty cool looking! And last week I read this really good article (maybe on about how to get what you want by being polite and I’ve been trying to find it but simply have not unearthed it yet.

    edit: Me too, Beb.

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  21. Jeff Borden said on October 27, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Black squirrels dominated the area of Kent, Ohio, where I went to college. Word is they are more aggressive than their brown or gray cousins and drive the lighter-colored guys away in their quest for territorial dominance.

    I’ve yet to see a black squirrel in Chicago. I will say our squirrels look awfully plump this fall, which likely would lead some old-timer to speculate this will be a bear of a winter. Allegedly, we may get a break because of El Nino, but I’m not counting on it.

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  22. paddyo' said on October 27, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    In our heads, we’re all Joe Jackson (“Nineteeeeeeen forEHHH-verrrrrrrrrrrrr!”), but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that we are budding grouchmeisters in our mid-to-late middle age now, aren’t we?! I, too, like to think I’ve mellowed with age, but then I’ll have several WTF moments and just roll with it.

    My first computer was an Apple (Apple IIc, lovely for its time but ahead of it, too), and then I took the PC track away, driven by cost, etc. Love my iPod(s), and now I’m looking to replace my PC laptop. Paid a visit to the Apple Store here at Denver’s Cherry Creek Mall on Sunday and was mightily impressed by the helpful guy amid the crowded-but-controlled chaos of the place, from Genius Bar (“Hi, my IQ’s 165, compute here often?”) to One-on-One areas to the guy who helped me who I swear is an in-training version of the TV-ads’ “I’m a Mac” guy.

    This time around, I just don’t see how I can say no to a MacBook, higher-price-be-damned . . .

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  23. Jean S said on October 27, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    never seen a black squirrel before. cool.

    At 53, I’m much more patient when driving, less patient with sales calls.

    And if someone gave me fish instead of chicken (or vice versa) and responded to my complaint with that incredibly lame answer, I rather wonder what my reaction would be…I suspect I would be Ms. Grouchypants.

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  24. mark said on October 27, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I see that Lieberman says he will filibuster with the Republicans on health care. He doesn’t like the “competitive option” or “consumer option”, which shouldn’t be confused with the “public option.” Good for him. The legislative wranglings have been some of the most cynical I’ve ever followed.

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  25. brian stouder said on October 27, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Pam would say I am a push-over (or words to that effect) when it comes to wait-staff. One time when Pam and I went to dinner, she ordered some dish like beef and noodles (I forget; and if she wants to correct this story – she’s certainly welcome to), which comes with gravy, and when the food was served she sat there and just stared at it as if they had just served her a heap of uncooked intestines.

    She asked me what I thought of her dinner – with a very clear (not to say testy) “this is a test” tone in her voice, and I said – as sincerely as possible (and with mounting concern!) – that it looked ‘really good’, whereupon she burst into tears! The waitress stopped back, and Pam gathered herself up and informed her that it was unacceptable (either it had brown gravy which should have been white, or white which should have been brown – but I have no idea!); the waitress was as flat-footed on the whole deal as I was.

    The meal was replaced, but then I was ‘on the spot’, because I knew the next discussion would be the one where I want to tip ‘X’, and she wants to tip ‘X-minus’, if at all! That discussion loomed like an approaching storm.

    One crucial detail: Pam was about 8 months pregnant at the time, which may explain why I never really feel like I’ve earned the right to pitch a fit about such things!

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  26. Rana said on October 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    I love the squirrel photograph – it very much captures the bad-ass nature of most squirrels.

    I tend to have three modes when dealing with customer service – chatty and friendly (usually when I’m killing time, or when I feel sorry for the person working – like with students doing the alumni fund drives), no-nonsense and brief, and I Am Clearly Talking to a Stupid Person.

    Whether I employ mode one or two depends on my mood and the situation. Most telemarketers get the terse “Not interested, thank you, *click*” response, and when I’m in a rush in the store I manage to convey a similar attitude.

    What will flip me over into Dealing with a Stupid Person mode is when the person fails to pick up on my signals and either ignores me or continues with the pre-programmed “If I try long enough I’ll wear you down” routine. One nice result of all my years of teaching (I’m sure parents will also appreciate this) is that I have what I call the Shut Up I’m Talking voice, which doesn’t involve volume so much as tone. It basically conveys the message that I’m done with the person and if they continue, yelling will result. I rarely, if ever, have to take it that far, once I’ve used that tone.

    I covet iPhones, but I don’t really need one. I barely take or make any calls on my cell as it is. It’s more the appeal of the wi-fi and the apps… which I could get with an iPod and not have to give up my long-distance service. (I have no interest in throwing over a company that has served me well for over 20 years in order to get a new toy I don’t need.)

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  27. Dorothy said on October 27, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    About a month ago I answered a telemarketing call while making dinner and this sentence came out of my mouth: We are on the do-not-call list! How DARE you call us and disturb us at home! Take us off your calling list immediately!” Afterwards I thought “Why didn’t I ever think of that before?” Now I’m almost gleeful when I answer one of those calls cuz I’ve got that statement ready to drop on them. And yesterday I went to the March of Dimes website to complain about all the calls they keep making to our house. I counted up via caller ID that we’ve had 37 calls from them in the last month. Obviously that’s more than one per day.

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  28. Jolene said on October 27, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    That is, indeed, a remarkable picture. Very impressive. Service culture . . . so much going on on both sides. So wonderful when an exchange works out well, so awful when it doesn’t. I try to remember that the person on the other end of the phone is just someone trying to make a buck, but sometimes it’s a challenge.

    On another topic, following one link, I came across a couple of others that might be of interest to Detroiters and residents of other struggling Midwestern cities.

    On re-imagining Detroit

    On how cities might learn from each other and use their strengths in new ways

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  29. Jolene said on October 27, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    I see that Lieber­man says he will fil­i­buster with the Repub­li­cans on health care. He doesn’t like the “com­pet­i­tive option” or “con­sumer option”, which shouldn’t be con­fused with the “pub­lic option.” Good for him. The leg­isla­tive wran­glings have been some of the most cyn­i­cal I’ve ever followed.

    Where did you hear that, mark? Here’s what the AP posted only a few minutes ago.

    Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman says while he’s “strongly inclined” to vote to move Sen. Harry Reid’s health care plan to the Senate floor for debate, he would ultimately oppose the measure because it includes a public option.

    In other words, he would vote in favor of cloture, but against the bill. And, by the way, if there is anyone more cynical than Lieberman, I can’t imagine who would be. The only thing he is steadfast on is that he will do what is best for Joe Lieberman.

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  30. nancy said on October 27, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Black squirrels are a coat variation that is said to provide better heat retention in cold climates. There is a little pocket around Auburn, Indiana, and here and there elsewhere in the midwest — Kent, Ohio, as Jeff mentioned — but they’re widespread here. It’s not uncommon to meet people who’ve never seen one before they come here. Localisms: Canadian squirrels (they’re the dominant coat color in Windsor, I’m told), east-side squirrels, and variations on racial slurs.

    It’s just me, but I think they’re tougher and more aggressive than their gray-coated cousins. I never had Halloween pumpkins destroyed until we crossed the state line, and they will get into your garbage like nobody’s business.

    I call them Grosse Pointe sables.

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  31. Deborah said on October 27, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Because I’ve had to take on so much more work because of the lay-offs in my dept I lobbied for a PDA. I’ve been doing lots more traveling and need to keep up with my e-mails on the go and was using my personal cell phone for business which was costing me in extra minutes. I am a design director (with no one to direct anymore)and there is only one other woman design director here, in interiors (I’m in graphics). Guess who had to lobby hard to get PDAs. You guessed it, us women, the men all got theirs the first time they asked and didn’t have to come up with any rationalization for why they needed them. I just got my PDA the end of last week and I’ve been so busy with working overtime I haven’t been able to read the manual to figure out how to use it. It’s actually a recycled unit that someone else in the company turned in to get a newer fangled one. Does anyone notice a pattern here?

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  32. MarkH said on October 27, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Hey! I just looked up “jackass” in the dictionary and here’s what I found:

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  33. brian stouder said on October 27, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Hey! I just looked up “jack­ass” in the dic­tio­nary and here’s what I found:

    Mark – allow me to leap at the chance to agree with you 100% on this, and with no ‘if’s, ‘and’s, or Playgirl-exposed ‘but’s

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  34. Peter said on October 27, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Jeff, I’m by LaBagh Woods and I’ve seen a good number of black squirrels in the past month.

    I haven’t seen too many fat squirrels, but in my neighborhood, the fat ones quickly become today’s special at the Raccoon Cafe.

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  35. paddyo' said on October 27, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Here in Colorado, and specifically out at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument west of Colo Springs, there are black populations of the Abert’s squirrel, which are otherwise known for their conspicuously tufted ears.

    There’s a pic at this URL:

    The garden-variety squirrels hereabouts are fox squirrels, mostly a dull brownish-grayish with lighter fur on the belly. But those occasionally show up in black evening wear, too . . .

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  36. Sue said on October 27, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    mark and Jolene, and anyone else following the latest “opt-out” public option drama: If opt-out legislation passes within a short period, isn’t it going to make mid-terms as hot as any presidential election? I don’t believe the reasoning that state legislators won’t touch opt-out, not in this political climate. So, lots of people in currently ‘safe’ states (like WI) will be working as hard as they did in 2008 to elect their candidates on either side of the opt-out issue. Our US representatives will be more than happy to toss this hot potato into the laps of the state people. It will get ugly on this issue alone, and fast.

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  37. brian stouder said on October 27, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    An interesting point, Sue. I think that tossing the hot-potato to a level of government that much closer to the people is very healthy (so to speak); if voters deliberately DON’T elect “opt out” candidates, then grass-roots support for the change will be hearty, and resistant to reversal

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  38. Jim said on October 27, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    I remember Auburn had a lot of black squirrels. I grew up in Fort Wayne and never seen black squirrels before moving to Auburn.

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  39. Jolene said on October 27, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    I don’t know the state-level electoral implications of the opt-out option, Sue, but it seems unlikely that it’ll be a huge issue. I’d think it would be very hard to organize a group to push legislators to vote against a mechanism that allows people to buy health insurance and does not raise taxes at the state level.

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  40. coozledad said on October 27, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Judging from the way the south is lapping up the economic stimulus, it won’t play too well for candidates to run on the “no insurance for poors” platform. You should see the Republicans tripping over each other down here trying to set themselves up to get at that money.And they were the ones who were so fond of the “government cheese” jokes.

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  41. LAMary said on October 27, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    The squirrels around my house are plentiful and have light greyish tan backs and golden fading to cream color tummies. They all seem very well fed thanks to the carob trees in the park behind my house and the fruit trees in backyards. My neighbors across the street have a very productive tangerine tree, and the squirrels steal tangerines and run across to my parking pad to eat them. There are always tangerine peels all around my car.

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  42. Dexter said on October 27, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    I don’t mind talking to techs anymore. My first Dell lasted eight years and I spent many hours talking to Jasons and Marys in India. God, those people are smart. Instantly, they have all the information available and can talk you through anything. I had to take everything back to factory settings a couple times, it took hours, and everything worked afterwords.
    The last time, the tech had me opening up the computer and moving stuff around and I had never opened one up before. After almost four hours of doing stuff over and over again, he told me to take it to a local shop, where it was pronounced dead in motherboard and spirit. I found I was printing all kinds of stuff I didn’t need, so we junked our printer. No more cartridges, no more papers everywhere, no more snail mailings of stupid stuff.
    Julie Robinson: I was set on a Razr from Motorola, but the clerk at Sprint told me they just don’t work where I live. I then inquired about some other phones…nope! They wouldn’t work well either. They told me the best phone to use in my city was a Sanyo. A freakin’ Sanyo? The company that makes the crappiest TVs? Yep. I bought a Sanyo flip phone. It never fails. What the hell do I know?

    After a few weeks of confusion, our Jack Russell terrier got used to the loss of her friend, my labbie who passed on in July. The feral cat that walked with us loves the Jack Russell. Now the cat is the dear friend of the dog.
    We have the cat in the house. You have never seen such a milk-baby. I know , on TV cats drink milk, but we never had a milk-cat. This new cat would go crazy every time I got the milk jug out. I poured him a shot. He’ll drink two ounces about 4 times a day now. He is growing, such a beautiful animal.
    Our dog definitely has a new best friend again.

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  43. mark said on October 27, 2009 at 5:00 pm


    I heard it on CNBC a few minutes before I posted. Checked google news and found what you apparently found. Went out for a couple of hours, read your post and checked again. Looks like WSJ and others are now reporting Lieberman will block cloture.

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  44. Rana said on October 27, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Dexter, good to hear about your new cat. The self-adopting strays seem to make good pets, perhaps because they know what the alternative is! (This is how we ended up with our loud little black cat – she basically yelled at us through the window for several months until we gave in.)

    Our squirrels here are your standard issue fox squirrel – yellow-brown on the back, orangey-yellow on the underparts, and full of all sorts of attitude. We were up in Chicago this last weekend and it was strange seeing the squirrels there, which were smaller, greyer, and much less bold.

    Around my parents’ house in Oregon, the squirrels are giant grey beasts with splendid tails, and up in Washington you get these large ones with a grey-brown mix on their backs. When we were in the Bay Area sometimes we’d see black ones with tufted ears on the Stanford campus, which were very cool. And then there are the California ground squirrels I knew growing up – some of the scraggiest looking rodents you’ll ever see, at least in the dry season.

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  45. LAMary said on October 27, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Interesting, Dexter. My colleague Jason and I are the superusers here for the HR software. Maybe Jason and Mary are standard tech support names. With my first computer I somehow always got Debbie and Scott in Mumbai and they weren’t all that helpful.

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  46. Sue said on October 27, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Nice to see that, isn’t it Dexter? Our big orange cat still misses his friend; you can tell he wants to play with the other cat but that cat doesn’t know how to play and just gets offended.
    Animal best friends are great. I love the friendships that cross species, the cat taking a swipe at the dog five times bigger than her, just to see what happens, that kind of thing.

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  47. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 27, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    “does not raise taxes at the state level” . . . this year.

    I think opt-out and some federalist experimentation (the states as “little laboratories”) would be very instructive over the next few years. Krugman is justified in saying we don’t know what the Massachusetts experiment tell us about cost, yet; i’m thinking that an assortment models tested regionally makes more sense than running a test on a continent-wide basis.

    But the degree to which all the public options are being defined (to the degree they are explained at all) as versions of Medicaid, which is running up past 25% of state budget after state budget, it’s clear that any public option is, at best, going to cause increases on both the federal and state level to cover the costs, since we’ll have to do both just to cover projected costs for those programs as they stand.

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  48. LAMary said on October 27, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Our little orange cat Anna seems to love the great dane boxer. She rubs on his legs and he stands there wagging his tail slowly.

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  49. kayak woman said on October 27, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Nancy, that’s very interesting info about the black squirrels. I’ve seen a lot of them this year all over Michigan, other years not so much. Your picture cracked me up. My husband put up a fancy hanging bird feeder this summer, or squirrel/chipmunk feeder would probably be more accurate. He is in constant battle with those creatures.

    When the iPhone first came out, I strongly resisted one. Why do I need anything more than a *phone*, fer kee-reist sake! My husband persisted and, after I played with one for five minutes at the dreaded Ann Arbor Apple Store, I was sold. The next day I drove to up our cabin on Lake Superior and I was able to get on-line from there with my *phone*! Wow! Good-bye dial-up! Of course, I can also walk two doors down and use my cousin’s broadband wifi connection if I want to use a real keyboard.

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  50. Jolene said on October 27, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    For you iPhone users: How long did it take you to get used to using the touch screen for typing? I’ve only had my hands on one for a few minutes, but I found it difficult to hit the right “keys”.

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  51. beb said on October 27, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    My wife likes to put out bird feet and as a result the last couple years we’ve had volunteer sunflowers growing under the feeder. But they never last very long. As soon as the seeds start to develop the squirrels bite off the head and make off with it.

    Black squirrels maybe be more aggressive than other colors or squirrels or it could be that as city-squirrels they’re just more thuggish. We have a plastic barrel for the bird feed and next thing we know something, we’d guessing squirrels, had chewed a hole in the lid. For a time they left a similar plastic bucket for cat food, but after a couple months someone – it could have been a opossum, but probably not the pigeons – started chewing off the lid of that one. Had to replace both with metal cans. bummer.

    There is someone more cynical than Joe Lieberman – Karl Rove, who’s complaining of Obama doing stuff that he (er, Bush) was doing during his administration.

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  52. alex said on October 28, 2009 at 8:33 am

    My first black squirrel sighting was in Huntington, Indiana, many years ago. I’m just south of Auburn, but haven’t seen a black one in my immediate envrons. Around here they’re all brown or red. The red ones are particularly feisty and tend to invade homes, much like rats, although they coexist peacefully with the brown. Not sure what would happen if the red and the black were duking it out for territory.

    As for Facebook, iPhones, etc., they’re making me feel like an old crankypants. People keep bugging me to join Facebook but I just don’t have the time or inclination. People who text me drive me nuts. If they have something to say, why not just call?

    Dex, I have a Sanyo flip phone and it’s the best damn phone yet. Indestructable when I drop it and it never loses a signal. My previous expensive Motorola phones didn’t work at my house or anywhere near it.

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  53. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 28, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Nokia candybar. I think it’s become the modern version of Timmy’s mom cranking the kitchen phone to ring up the lady at Central.

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  54. Dorothy said on October 28, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Jolene I have problems from time to time hitting the right keys as well. I don’t have an iPhone, but the Verizon enVtouch and it has a touch screen. I just try to be careful, and I don’t have fat fingers. But when I use the speed dial using numbers, a few times i’ve dialed my sister Janet (who is “7”) instead of my daughter (who is “4” right about 7) three or four times! I should just change Janet’s speed dial number, and leave the 7 space blank.

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  55. brian stouder said on October 28, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I’m with Alex regarding Facebook, but my lovely wife set me up a page, so I could be on the dance floor over at Laura Lippman’s. (Now I find out that good ol’ Nance has a Facebook, so it’s all good)

    btw, speaking of the lovely wife, the dinner she ordered was a ‘country fried steak’, and everybody knows that you get WHITE GRAVY AND NOT BROWN GRAVY on your country fried steak

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  56. LAMary said on October 28, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Beb, you may have been visited by rats. I had a plastic bin in my garage for kibble storage, and rats ate right through the plastic in one day to get to the kibble. I now use a galvanized metal trash can and let my cats make occasional rounds of the garage to check for interlopers.

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