I Have Freaking Socks On!

I hate socks.

This is the tale of three houses.

North Puffin
The furnace didn’t start when I turned it on Friday morning.

Multi-Colored SoxRegular readers may recall that we’ve had some water issues here. I installed a conventional, electric water heater this spring primarily because the “domestic coil” in the furnace had some issues but we figured we’d get another season out of the boiler itself.

We figured wrong.

“Won’t need it this weekend,” Liz Arden said.

Will Sunday!

It was about 44 Friday night with calls for frost. High Pressure to the north kept the weekend nice but cold. We flew the coop, not to return until last night in time for the eclipse.

Our son lives in Barre. We drove to his house Friday. Stayed overnight.

Karl lives downstairs in a two-apartment house. It has but one thermostat and that is in his living room.

Cool, right?

Maybe not. As I understand it, the upstairs tenants might burn his car for heat if he turns down the ‘stat. It is always quite warm in his house.

I was very comfortable.

Our granddaughter and grandson-in-law invited us down for dinner (I’ll go a long way for a free meal and this was a good one) and to see their new house. It’s a lovely new house with a working furnace, views of Boston, and a driveway on Lombard Street. OK it’s not really Lombard Street but their street designer did his best.

It was c-o-l-d in their house Saturday night, even by my sleeping standards, and SWMBO kept pulling the quilt away. She slept quite well.

North Puffin
It was a pretty, pretty day and the temp got up into the 70s for the ride back north but it was 60°F when we arrived back here. The breeze picked up to 8 mph or so out of the south when I quit shooting the blood moon eclipse at around 11.

We put the winter blanket on the bed and I was warm and cozy all night except when SWMBO pulled the blanket away and my butt froze.

Then I had to get up.

The furnace in question is 35-years old. It needs replacement. I don’t wanna. I particularly don’t wanna today.

We’ll limp along until that happens.

For the record, it was 81°F this morning in South Puffin with about a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms all week from that system in the Gulf of Mexico. It will be mostly cloudy there today with a high of 88 and a 10-15 mph southeast wind which for some reason isn’t a breeze (the temperature here is coming up a bit on 13-21 mph southerly “breezes” this afternoon.)

It’s time to head back home. Maybe we should camp at Karl’s until we do. It’s nice and warm there! Meanwhile, I have socks on.



Say Cheese

A short collection of whine.

I needed to replace my clock radio because the buttons have stopped working. The radio plays, the clock tells time, and the alarms sound at the appointed hour but the snooze and the alarm set and the time set buttons all do no more than make satisfying mechanical clicks. They don’t change or set anything.

For Sale: good clock radio for someone on a rigidly fixed schedule who likes to listen to 94.3 FM. Click the Paypal button. ==>

The most amazing online store offered an RCA RC40R Dual Wake Clock Radio with Large Green LED Display by RCA with all the features I want:

Product Features

  • Auto time set for seven different time zones, six more than I live in.
  • SmartSnooze converts all top buttons as snooze button when alarm has been activated to confuse me when I want to turn the radio back on.
  • Dual wake features two different alarm settings for two different users: radio or buzzer and turns off one when the other activates.
  • Programmable snooze; Programmable sleep
  • Graduwake ramp-up alarm makes waking from a deep sleep easier and annoys the neighbors until you do.
  • AM/FM clock radio with a large LED 1.4″ display for clear viewing
  • Graduwake Ramp-up alarm eases your awakening
  • Programmable Sleep feature plays the radio for up to 2 hours before automatically turning off the radio, allowing you to gently fall asleep to music while your neighbors enjoy techno.
  • Programmable snooze feature turns off the alarm or radio for an extra 9 minutes of sleep or for 1-30 minutes

35 customer reviews gave it 3.4 out of 5 stars. Not bad for $19.99. Did I mention it’s an RCA? And that it has a Graduwake ramp-up alarm?

I was about to click the Buy Now button when the most amazing online store piped up that

There is a newer model of this item:

The RCA RC141 Dual Wake Clock Radio costs just $20.89 and is also In Stock.

Product Features

  • Automatic time set
  • Large 1.4-inch LED display
  • FM radio with digital frequency readout
  • SmartSnooze – multi-button snooze activation
  • Wake to radio or alarm

I’ve seen this marketing technique before in the ice cream wars put less of the juicy stuff in the tub and charge more for it. And the airlines deciding to charge for the overhead compartment space where babies could previously sleep free. Now we’re going to suffer with squalling babies down in the rows with the rest of us.

The optometrist ordered me a new set of specs on my VSP vision plan. It’s a lousy plan but, as he says, “it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.”glassesThe new replacement glasses arrived a few days after I left so Anne had to mail them to me. They look nice. They don’t look through nice, though.

The optometrist had to send the first set he received back to the vision plan to correct an unspecified error. I don’t know what was wrong with the originals but I do hope the replacements have someone else’s prescription because I can’t see through them. Either the new Rx was ground incorrectly, the pupillary distance is wrong, or the optometrist got the wrong numbers from the refraction.

I’m wearing last year’s glasses as I write this and hoping that the Aviator sunglasses I ordered at the same time are correct. They should be in the mail any day now.

Speaking of shipments, !@#$%^ Comcast has done it again.I spent more than half an hour on the phone with !@#$%^ Comcast because I got back here to find no cable TV. We had a little power outage. Not unusual. Both cable boxes dropped out. I hope that’s unusual. One required reset from their end, necessitating a call all by itself. One would not power back on, necessitating a replacement.

There’s no excuse for that. I told the customer service rep (she offered to send a tech out but said it would cost me $30 to FIX THEIR EQUIPMENT) that I’d better not have to call them every time the power goes out. She didn’t care.

Comcast ShipmentShe ordered one shipped. It didn’t come overnight so I was out of service but it did get here. In two boxes. Two very large boxes.

I don’t have a DVR in South Puffin so to “time shift” requires setting up both the VCR and tuning the newly replaced digital box. For a reason I don’t understand I got the Special Audio Program on both Criminal Minds and CSI. The voiceover kept saying this was for blind peeps and I could turn it off except there is no SAP setting on the recorder I used and I don’t get SAP from any live broadcast, either from Dish or Cable on the TV. Both VCRs played it back on the tape though.

I’m thinking it was !@#$%^ Comcast. Good I didn’t order the special X-Ray vision glasses they were advertising, too.

That Irritating Site Over ===> There

MyTwitSpace gave me a series of error messages that my Firefox browser was too too old to conform to MyTwitSpace and that I would have to upgrade Firefox to continue using the site. Of course, the I.E.6.0 I maintain for such occasions worked just fine. I’ve had trouble with that site ever since but, up until this morning, the I.E. plug-in for my new  Firefox 3.5.5 worked fine there.

Until this morning.

I tried to post the usual teaser about Tiger Woods’ difficulties in my MyTwitSpace blog and the !@#$%^ page doesn’t work despite the Firefox upgrade. Then it crashed I.E.


If the site remains this difficult to use, I will not much longer maintain my MyTwitSpace space. Readers can find me in FaceBook or here in the permanent home of the No Puffin Persective.

The Game of Telephone

“I have a cupcake in my briefcase,” I heard Missy say.

Missy and her husband Biff are here in South Puffin for a couple-three weeks of fishing. Missy loves her bling which dangles and jangles and actually seems to attract fish when she leans over the transom. She still has her job with the state but Biff is out of work for the first time in about 20 years. Naturally, they each brought a cellphone.

In the game of Telephone, according to the Wikipedia, “the first player whispers a phrase or sentence to the next player. Each player successively whispers what that player believes he or she heard to the next. The last player announces the statement to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first. The game is often played by children as a party game or in the playground.” Or by the Congress.

Missy actually said “My son got a cupcake for his birthday. I found it in the fridge.”

The game of telephone has become the game of cellephone.

Everyone in America today has at least one. It is impossible to walk down the street without tripping over Biff yelling into his hand or cupping his earbud to hear a friend at the beach or instruct a partner in Pipeline-istan. If people are far away or speak a different language, Biff knows they can understand him better when he yells.

I hate cellephony.

But it’s cheap! Every cellphone company in this country advertises the best network and the lowest rates. The average $39.99 cell bill last month cost the consumer $103 and change.

But it’s reliable! T-Mobile blamed a software glitch for the outage that left about 5% of its customers unable to send or receive calls or text messages last week. Of course, no cell carrier mentions the millions of individual dropped calls unless some other network does the dropping.

But it’s perfect for people watchers! I love to eavesdrop on conversations; cellphones make too too it easy to listen to just one side.

The game of cellephone we play doesn’t bring more cumulative error, rumor, and gossip than, say, Facebook or television or the blogosphere because our errors are personal, not viral. In the end, though, it’s all about me. Or thee. All I want is for my call to go through when I push send. All I want is to be able to tell if it is Missy or Biff who answers. All I want is to hear the words they say. After all, the simple copper line attached to a Bakelite™ speaker and microphone and the magneto my grandfather cranked did that with amazing accuracy and 99.72% uptime.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to get a bite of that cupcake. I hope it’s chocolate.

Spinning the Entire Planet

This column looks at media spin.

First, the backstory: ExxonMobil, the most profitable company in the history of mankind, made an $11.68 billion profit this quarter on the back of General Motors which lost $15.5 billion.

“America’s oil and natural gas industry earns less than many others…” That’s the televised gospel according to “the people who bring you oil and natural gas” (that would be API, the American Petroleum Institute).

Hello? Are they on the same planet you and I inhabit?

Oh. Wait.

The API planet spins backwards!

Naturally they do have statistics to back up their claim, shown in their television ad in the form of a handy bar chart of earnings per dollar of sales in the First Quarter, 2008:

Pharmaceuticals 25.9
Beverage and Tobacco 17.8
Computer Products 13.7
All Manufacturing 7.6
Apparel and Leather 7.5
Oil and Natural Gas 7.4
Food 5.0
Furniture 3.0

[In the interest of full disclosure, I own some ExxonMobil stock.]

CEO Rex Tillerson announced that my company is, out of the largest profit in corporate history, paying one of the smaller dividends (~2%) in corporate history. On the other hand, Mr. Tillerson buys back shares like mine with all their extra cash and raised my dividend a whopping nickle while the investment he makes in production and exploration plummets.

That stock buyback at about $80 per share sucked up some $8 billion of the quarterly profit. They bought $30 billion in stock last year and have (so far) reduced the number of shares outstanding by about 400 million shares. I can see no reason that it helps me when Mr. Tillerson takes the stock out of play. It helps someone, though. At the current rate, ExxonMobil will buy back all of its shares and become a totally private company in just 14 more years.


Just to show I am not playing favorites, Royal Dutch Shell’s second-quarter earnings were nearly as high as Exxon’s with a profit of $11.56 billion. That was 33% higher than Shell’s profit of $8.67 billion in the same period last year. Shell is half the size of Exxon.

Wow. $11.68 plus $11.56 billion in three months. Profit. Just two companies.

Profit that usually goes to the shareholders.

API states it is the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry. Their 400 corporate members are the producers, refiners, suppliers, pipeline operators and marine transporters, as well as service and supply companies. They represent the largest major oil company to the smallest of independents. They spin the news for companies like ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, and more. By the way, Royal Dutch Shell has a stock buyback program. Chevron has a stock buyback program.

ExxonMobil did beat its own record for the highest profits ever by a U.S. company but the $2.22-per-share profit announced still led to a $3 decline in the share price.

I originally thought that Mr. Tillerson might have wished API had not spun the profit as such a small number.

That wasn’t right.

Mr. Tillerson, unlike every CEO in American history, wants his stock price to fall. The lower the price and higher the profits the more stock ExxonMobil can buy back.

See how well spinning backwards can work?