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Christmas Party Surprise!

Yeah, I’ve probably written about this before but it was at least a year ago so it’s okay to bring it up again as it is topical for the season, right? So here we go…

The scene is this; Years (and years!) ago I was enrolled at a small community college taking some IT classes. A buddy of mine and I have been tasked with putting together a CD of Christmas music for the annual IT/IS Christmas party. This was far back in the mists of time that Napster was still a free file sharing utility. Ask your grandparents kids, they’ll tell you! We, of course, put this off until the very last minute so on the night before the party we were sitting here at my desk, wasted out of our minds, searching Napster for Christmas music.

We’d downloaded enough stuff to fill a CD and since it was getting late we were just sampling each song to make sure the quality was good. We listened to the first :57 seconds of this track and we both said “That’s perfect for the CD!” Chris split and I threw a black disc into my CD burner and called it a night.

The next afternoon we’re gathered around for the IT/IS Christmas party. Thirty or forty students. A half dozen instructors. The dean of the school and her staff. A more straight laced, white bread, crowd of boring couldn’t be hand picked. We’ve sat down to eat and a few songs have played to the approval of the group and then we hear what’s PAST the :57 second mark in this song… I literally fell out of my chair laughing. NO ONE believed we didn’t do it on purpose. I guess I can’t blame them 🙂

To this day it still gives me the giggles when I hear Silent Night by the French Canadian hardcore band… BARF:

Hawk (grinning and giggling)

TPOTB, Baby!

I’ve written about it before and I’m sure I’ll write about it again. ‘The Power of the Bitch’ means not letting yourself get walked on, screwed or taken advantage of by companies and corporations.

Too many times I’ve let things slide. Spoiled food, empty soda cans in a 12-pack, poor service, employees with bad attitudes, etc. Well I for one won’t put up with it any more. If I’m unhappy with something I buy or some service I’ve had done I WILL speak up about it. I refuse to throw good money away on bad products and services. I refuse to be treated like crap by some cretin in a store uniform.

We purchased our 2007 Hyundai Accent back at the end of June. In August I decided to have the transmission and radiator flushed. The tranny fluid was pretty crappy looking and the radiator looked like it had WAY too much water than coolant, I wanted a clean slate to start from. Since I was slightly annoyed with the Hyundai dealership about the sales tactics and lies the salesman told me I decided to have the work done elsewhere.

I called around and Firestone of all the places I was the only shop that said they used the specific (SPIII) fluid the manufacturer calls for and not a multi-vehicle fluid they throw additives in to make it ‘compliant’. I made the appointment and took the car in for service. When they’d finished the job they asked me if I wanted a copy of the compliance sheet. When I asked what that was they said it was a printout that listed the vehicles their multi-vehicle transmission fluid was compliant with. I was annoyed but they assured me that this was perfectly safe and fine in my car. I walked out unhappy but hopeful things would be okay. This shop had, in the past, cut me a great deal on tires for my previous car.

Just as an FYI the severe driving service schedule, which I guess my driving (short trips, stop and go traffic) and Florida weather actually do fall under calls for the transmission fluid to be changed every 30,000 miles. The ‘normal’ driving schedule for the service is over 100,000 miles!

Last month I my mom and I drove across the state to visit my father’s grave (see previous blog post ‘Promises Kept’). A few times on the way there, while starting out on hills (I actually found hills in Florida!), the transmission felt like it was slipping in and out of neutral for a second or two then it would be fine. On the ride home, and from then on, the car would frequently… stumble when it shifted into 2nd and 3rd gear. It wasn’t making noise or grinding but it was seriously annoying and caused me to worry about the health of the transmission.

After discussing the issues with several people online, one a Hyundai master technician who very kindly volunteers his time answering questions from Hyundai owners, the consensus was that the Versa-Trans fluid was garbage. It needed to go and Hyundai specific SPIII fluid was what should replace it.

I had barely put just one thousand miles on fluid that was supposed to last a minimum of THIRTY THOUSAND miles and I was calling the dealership for an appointment to have diagnostics done on the transmission and (another) transmission flush if that was all that it needed. I was looking at putting close to $300 more dollars into the car. Happily the dealership waived the diagnostics fee of $95 when I agreed to have the transmission flushed for $185 which was what Firestone also charged me. They reported that nothing appeared to be damaged or wrong in the transmission, then reset the computers that control everything, installed a couple software updates and flushed the transmission.

On the ride home it was like driving a completely different car. Night and day from what it had been. Shifts were, and still are, crisp and quick. There’s no stumbling between gears. The difference was amazing.

When I got home on Monday (Nov. 5th) I fired off a letter to Firestone detailing the issues above and stating that I expected my money back. I didn’t have much hope but I had to at least let them know how dissatisfied I was with their people lying to me and how badly their product performed in my car.

Wednesday morning (Nov. 7th) the phone rang. It was the district manager for Firestone. He was very sorry for my bad experience and promised to look into their employee’s actions in promising their product was specific to my vehicle as opposed to a general multi-car fluid as well as looking into the compatibility of the transmission fluid they do use. I figured that was going to be it, that this was just a “Sorry about that, Chief.” phone call. Then he said “…of course we’re willing to offer you a full refund and if you’d like I can have it sent to you by overnight air.” I like! I like! And true to his word Thursday afternoon (Nov. 8th) UPS delivered an overnight envelope with a check for $185 in it.

Kudos to Firestone. Granted, your employees may lie and your products may suck but not only were you readily and cheerfully willing to refund my money you got back to me and got my refund to me faster than any other company has ever responded to a complaint. Well done!

So there’s my tale once again. Never let your dissatisfaction with products or services go unheard. The response might just surprise you.

Hawk (waiting for the bank to open)

Promises Kept…

Last week I was able to keep a promise I’d made to my mother several years ago to visit my father’s grave at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL which is on the other side of the state. It’s about a 250 mile round trip.

Our previous cars had become cases of troubles and money pits. I rarely drove anywhere I didn’t HAVE to and even then I constantly worried we wouldn’t make it home. After finally giving up on the old cars and buying ourselves some reliable transportation we waited for the weather to cool down a little and then made plans to drive to Bushnell.

After picking up a nice bouquet of fall flowers. We used my new (my first) Garmin GPS navigator. I had set it to shortest distance as opposed to fastest time. The ride was a blast. We kept getting sent down narrow little county roads that were so off the beaten track they only had numbers instead of names but we arrived at Florida National Cemetery without once getting lost. We both were impressed that within moments of construction having closed off a ramp onto our route the GPS routed us through a handful of back streets and right back where we needed to be.

Florida National Cemetery is, as are most military cemeteries, a very well kept and beautiful site. I’ve really got to hand it to and thank the people who work there for making out visit a pleasant one. First was the gentleman at the visitor’s information center who helped me search for, find and print out a map showing where my father’s grave was.

We found the area my father was in without a problem but the cemetery doesn’t have a lot in the way of navigation aids. The markers are numbered on the back of the stones. But there’s are, sadly, a LOT of markers in each section. The second of the incredibly helpful people we met this day was a grounds keeper who was driving by and when I flagged him down spent ten minutes himself driving around the section before he found my fathers marker which was, unfortunately, just a couple rows in from the very far side of the section. When he heard my mother’s dismay at possibly not being able to make it all the way out there he said he could radio in and have someone come out with a golf cart to take us to his marker. He spent several minutes trying to raise someone on the radio and when that didn’t work he said he would go to the visitor’s information center and send someone back to help us.

Just as I was about to make the walk across the cemetery alone to put the flowers on my father’s grave while my mom watched from a bench the next incredibly nice and helpful person, a retired Navy veteran, showed up in her golf cart. She drove us around the cemetery helping us find a plastic vase for the flowers and filling it with water. She then drove us right out to my dad’s marker. Not only did she move the cart so I could take a few photos she also set up the vase and helped arrange the flowers in it. When my mom said she was ready to go our aide asked if mom was sure and assured us she would stay with us as long as we needed. She dropped us off at our car, told us she hoped we had a good visit and drove off with a smile. Without her I don’t think mom would have been able to make it to my dad’s marker. I cannot thank her enough for making our goal possible.

We stopped for a quick lunch and then had a quite and uneventful ride back to our side of the state… well, except for the fact that the car was on E about 50 miles from home. Amazingly I pushed it and got to the local Shell station I buy all my gas from with about 2 gallons left in the tank.

My father’s marker is on the left, down the hill and just a couple rows in from the far trees.
I think the first stone in this row is perhaps one of the saddest things I’ve seen.

A couple views of the section my father is buried in.

This was the tree we were sitting under while waiting for the cart to arrive…

Click the above images for full size views.

Hawk (promise keeper)

Man, it’s been a while…

Mostly laziness but also time and circumstance have stood in the way of updating the blog. I do hope to get back to doing it more often. I missing writing…

This was important enough to log in and resurrect the blog. Yes indeedy…

Hawk (still craves a smoke now and then… ugh!)

Ding Dong the Neighbor’s Gone!

In the beginning there was Lot and it was good. There were awesomely large black snakes, tortoises, turtles, squirrels and even once a family of armadillos. I even got close enough one morning to pet one of the baby armadillos. It was so cute and weird… mostly weirdly cute. Once or twice a year all we had to do was call the town to complain about the dried grasses being a fire hazard and they’d send someone out to brush-hog the property.

Then there was Construction and it was bad, very, very bad. Lot was torn asunder. Creatures fled or died in panic. A mere ten feet from the walls of our sanctuary trucks brought in endless loads of dirt and materials. And then, then there was hammering and pounding and more hammering and more pounding. Days on end this horror went on. Horrible music from badly damaged stereos accented the annoying sounds of…

House. At first House sat there, quiet and alone. It was much like Lot but without the creatures or the forty foot pine tree that had grown in the middle of Lot. And while it wasn’t good it was better than bad.

But then… Neighbors. The first was a pleasant guy in his thirties. He was reasonably quiet. Having a few people over from time to time on the weekends. Never annoying. He planned on buying after renting House but there were hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and the banks wanted to play ‘wait and see.’ Finally he got them to agree to a closing date which as it turns out was four days after we got slammed with the first of two hurricanes in 2004. House was damaged and damaged again a few weeks later. The banks ran him around in circles. So he gave up.

Then there were others. A nice couple who said ‘Hi.’ and never gave their names or the names of their two daughters. Creatures it seemed only capable of running around in circles and screeching at nearly hypersonic levels. Luckily these people were only ever home on the weekends. And I mean that. Almost every Monday morning to Friday afternoon the house sat empty. We knew of their arrival by the exploding of our fine lead crystal stemware (kidding, but just barely). These folks owned two cars that were worth more than the property they were living on. Hers, a fully loaded and tricked out Cadillac Escalade and his an also fully loaded four-door, four-wheel drive GMC diesel pick-up truck. One day they stopped appearing. We saw nothing of them for a couple months. Then the woman showed up in her gleaming white Escalade looking for a package of ‘pens’ that she assumed had been delivered to the wrong address. She had driven more than an hour north from the depths of deep south Florida to accost every neighbor in a two block radius for her ‘pens’. She was back a week later and nearly hostile with veiled threats and accusations that someone HAD to have her ‘pens’ and she wanted them, “right NOW!” I saw her about a month later cruising the neighborhood perhaps looking for people illicitly writing with her ‘pens’ but she never stopped by and I never saw her again.
{Sotto Voce} I think they were drug dealers!

Then House sat empty for a while. We hoped and hoped some elderly retired couple would move in, settle down and be in bed by 9:30 PM. So we got…


A couple in their mid to late 30’s moved in. They had a son, 12 or 13 who didn’t appear to go to school but stood in the driveway ten feet from my bedroom window and bounced a basketball from early morning to past sunset just about every single day. After a while several twenty-somethings appeared and started hanging around. They decided to white-trash up the neighborhood by moving the kid’s basketball backboard down to the street and spray painting the street to look like a basketball court. When the town disapproved of that they moved the backboard back up next to my window and repeated the spray paint decoration in their driveway.
We rarely saw the couple who first moved in but the twenty-somethings we hanging out playing basketball at 2 in the morning after drunkenly screaming at each other for several hours. The group of semi-adults also seemed to change from week to week. It was decidedly odd.
About a year of that the driveway crowd dried up and disappeared then the older gentleman stopped by and told us they had trouble with the bank and were moving out.
House sat pleasantly empty and quite for several months and then they were back. The same middle age couple minus the basketball playing tween and with a different batch of late teen early twenty somethings.
After they said “Hi we’re back!” I never really saw the older folks again. The twenty-somethings set up in the garage and sat there, all day, every day in the summer heat. Once in a while they had a fan sitting there but most of the time there were several people just sitting forlornly at a patio table in cheap plastic chairs from just after sunrise until sometime around midnight. Sitting there. Sitting. In the Florida heat. SOMEONE was in the house. I could hear their A/C cycling on when I was out back cooking on the grill. They also had someone living in one of their mini vans. Every now and then I’d see him out in the street shaking out his blanket or walking his pillow up and down the road until ‘Those Who Live Inside’ departed for the day and then he was back hanging out in the garage.
A short while after they came back we found two kittens by our front door, adorable little things, they had collars so someone cared about them. I went next door to see if they belonged to them. When I knocked a young boy maybe eight or nine answered the door. Then a girl a few years older came to the door and said that they were indeed their kittens. She came and got the kittens and I never saw either kids or kittens again.
Woke up one morning about a month ago, went down the driveway to see where the paper”boy” had flung the paper this time and the parking lot next door was empty. Normally in the morning there were six to eight cars parked in the driveway, front yard and street and they were all gone. Even the one that hadn’t moved in months. They’re gone, again, without a sound this time.
Here’s hoping we get a nice, elderly couple with no grand kids or pets as our next neighbors. Please?

Hawk (wants Lot back!)

Why I Like Point & Shoot Cameras

Okay, I understand, I even agree, DSLR cameras take great pictures. They even take superior pictures over most point & shoot models. Now, that being said if I’d hit the lottery I would have myself a hot DSLR with a backpack full of lenses and accessories. But I haven’t hit the lottery and I live on a tight budget. My electronic goodies are paid for by taking surveys and converting those proceeds into Amazon gift cards.

With my budget a point & shoot camera is like a Swiss Army Knife, it doesn’t do anything perfectly but it does many things well. My current camera is a Kodak Z990. It has a 12MP sensor (BSI CMOS), full manual controls (if you want them) and best of all a 30x zoom lens. The 35mm equivalent range for this lens is 28mm to 840mm. Most DSLR packages come with a 200mm – 300mm zoom lens. To reach the zoom level my point & shoot can you’d have to spend quite a bit, from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars. And YES, I admit, the quality will be better. But I only paid $199 for my camera!

So here’s why I really like my camera. I was at the beach earlier this month having fun shooting pictures when I saw… something out on the water. Years ago with a 10x zoom camera I also ran into ‘something’ on the water and to this day I have no idea what it was.

Something out on the water (the other thing is a pelican, I saw it land):

So I zoomed out to the maximum optical zoom of the camera, 840mm. Two guys in a boat with a small motor. Wow. From that little dot on the water to being able to… hey, I wonder what would happen if I put some of the camera’s:

…digital zoom to work. Yeah, it really stepped on the image quality but now you can see both their fishing poles. The guy in the front is either shirt less or wearing a light colored shirt. You can tell the guy in the back has on a sleeveless t-shirt. You can make out the handle on the tackle box and even a cable on the trolling motor. Amazing detail for something that far out on the water:

Clicking the above will bring up 1920×1440 reductions from the original 4000×3000 images. I left the aspect ratio alone to better show the distances in play.

I really like my point & shoot camera. For the money you can’t beat the flexibility. It’s really too bad Kodak has gotten out of the digital camera business but this was one heck of a last hurrah on their part.

Hawk (hurrah!)

Before & After…

As some of you dear, few and far between, readers already know I (we) got a new car. New as in new to us, we couldn’t do brand new. We’ve now got ourselves a 2007 Hyundai Accent. When we got it it had 26,703 miles on it. That’s two records for me. I’ve never owned a car that was just five years old and I’ve never had a car with such low miles on it. It still hasn’t reached it’s first major scheduled service. Hell it still has (not for long) some original factory warranty left on it! Wow, that makes three records for me; age, mileage and warranty. One, two, three strikes… you’re in!? Something like that.

So as I’m sitting here listening to some classic Bob Dylan I thought I’d risk jinxing myself and do a little before and after of the new Accent and the Ford Probe that it’s replaced.

The Before…

My 1991 Ford Probe. Bought twelve years ago with 80,000 or so miles on it for something over four grand. Traded in (seriously, they gave me $500 for it, I couldn’t have sold it for that!) in 2012 with just over 110,000 miles on the clock. Okay, I don’t drive much, that’s only 30K miles in twelve years. I don’t get out much and towards the end there I didn’t get out because I was afraid I wasn’t getting back. Over the years I actually put more into repairs than I paid for the car but they were always $500 or $800 or $1000. A LOT but never enough to say STOP and go looking for something better. But it got to be twenty one years old the brakes were bad, the tranny was slipping, the A/C hadn’t worked for five years… since the year after I put $1,100 into getting it repaired (the shop that botched the job folded up their tent and left town). The passenger side window hadn’t worked in six or seven years. The seats were trashed as was the head liner and carpet. It needed… everything. It just wasn’t worth sinking any more money into.
Now, after trash talking it I must admit I really liked the smokey blue/silver color and that side graphic fit it nicely. I enjoyed having the sunroof. It handled pretty well and the three spoke rims are something you rarely see these days. The seats were really comfortable with serious side support. It got me places. If you look back at my older photography on the site it got me there to take the pictures and it got me home. It only stranded me on the side of the road once, on my birthday. I liked the car it was just time…

The After…

The 2007 Hyundai Accent. As already mentioned, low miles, warranty (not for long!) and newer than anything I’ve ever owned before. Trash? Okay… it’s top heavy and handles like a hamster roller skating on ice. Well, maybe it’s not THAT bad. It only has a 110 horsepower, that’s 30 less than the Probe which wasn’t any speed demon… that’s also 275 less ponies than my 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado which I sold before I moved down here to FL. The seats are brick-like with no real bolsters/side support. The ‘trunk’ (hatchback ‘area’?) holds the weekly groceries and not much more. It was also one of, if not the, lowest priced cars of it’s year. There’s some mild body damage and scratches on the car too. I also had to buy a set of four tires for it right off the bat. The tires that were on the car were total crap.
Now after saying… typing, whatever, that. I really like the color. When I was making a list of ‘What I’d Like’ (as opposed to ‘What I’ve GOT to have’ (automatic tranny, two door) a deep red/burgandy was one of the top colors (I’d probably have bought this even if it was electric pink with purple polka dots) we had said would be great to get. It’s GOT A/C! I live in Florida. Summer’s nine months long and I’ve spent years sweltering in a mobile oven everywhere I went. Now we can go places and be comfortable. Both windows work and I don’t have to prop up the tailgate with my cane (or worry about the tailgate crashing down on my head which happened and HURT like hell). The stereo works. Not only does the stereo work but all the speakers work too! It gets (supposedly, I’ve only just filled the tank) great gas mileage. It gets out of it’s own way okay, it’s no sports car but I’ve owned Vegas and Pintos and some anemic post-gas-crisis V8s in the past that didn’t accelerate as good. I had it up to 70 on the highway and it felt safe and sure footed and the ride was smooth. I even had to keep an eye on the speedometer ’cause it kept creeping up over 70. It also sits a little higher than the Probe making it a lot easier for myself and mom to get in and out of. Oh, it’s got air bags but no ABS. I’ve never had ABS so I won’t miss not having what I never had. What a sentence…
All in all it’s a good car and we’re going to do our best to keep on top of keeping it up. Regular maintenance and care and we should get a long life out of it.
Oh yeah… It’s got such a short hood and what there is angles down. From the driving position it’s like you’re driving a giant windshield with no car attached. I’m finally getting the hang of it but the first week or so I had a hell of a time keeping myself from speeding and I think not having the hood sticking way out in front of the view had something to do with it.
The only thing that sucks is it’s too damn hot out to go anywhere! Come on Fall!

Oddly enough I seem to have taken both pictures of the cars at almost the same spot on Melbourne Beach. 🙂

Hawk (say it with… an Accent!)

I’m So Mean…

It was 10:00 AM and I was sitting here at the PC enjoying a Diet Coke, reading email, browsing the web and generally just relaxing after waking up. Then the doorbell rang. The only time my doorbell rings is when someone’s delivering a package or trying to sell us something. Ten on a Saturday morning is way too early for any of the delivery companies. Even the mailman doesn’t get out this way until the middle of the afternoon.

So I drag myself down the hall wondering… Is it the cops, what’d I DO? Is it code enforcement about the overgrown bushes? Did the neighbors finally manage to set their house on fire? Who the HECK is ringing my doorbell at TEN in the morning?!

I open the door and… Oh look, it’s a sweet, barely teenage girl and I’m guessing her mother (at the very least she was older than the kid). Both were dressed in their Sunday ‘go-to-meeting’ clothes. The mom (adult, manager, cult leader…) does this little ‘annnnnd here’s Mary’ gesture towards the kid and the pitch begins. She holds out a copy of ‘The Watchtower’ and recites off something I paid no attention to…

In a deep, growly bear like voice I said “Go away. Go away now and never return.” The girl’s eyes got all wide, the mom-thing put her arm around her and started walking backwards.

They got about ten feet down the walk and I yelled, in a more normal voice, as I was closing the door; “You couldn’t even bring the paper up? Thanks for nothing!”

About fifteen minutes later as I was heading out to run some errands (I’m NEVER going back to Radio Shack, ever!) I pulled into the street and looked up at the house to make sure the garage door was closing… and the newspaper was leaning up against the front door. I had to pull over and laugh for five minutes.


Well, that was something of a mistake…

We just bought a new grill, a {gag} CharBroil. I didn’t really want another CharBroil/Kenmore grill. I still have a dent in my forehead from where the last one bit me and a burn scar on my belly from where it bit me a 2nd time.

In the last few years it seems grills got crazy expensive. I almost went with a charcoal grill but the work for the reward of just cooking for two people was too much so we stuck with propane (and propane accessories).

We do use our grill every week. Rarely we’ll use it twice in a week but fresh burgers on Thursday (shopping day) has become a tradition. The previous grill lasted five years. Granted these last couple months I was forced to use a screwdriver to open the lid because the handle rusted off and I was really worried the firebox was going to flop over backwards, tear off the regulator and set me on fire as it took off like a rocket but it still turned out some tasty burgers.

I spent the last several months looking online. Checking the local Ace Hardware, Lowes, Walmart, etc. I watched the Sunday sale flyers. What I did NOT want to do was put the stupid thing together whatever I bought. My hands just aren’t up to that kinda work anymore. I could get any number of places to put a grill together for free but my little Ford Probe wasn’t going to be able to cart a fully assembled grill home. Most of the places I check wanted at least SEVENTY ($70!) bucks to deliver a grill.

I only wanted and need a two-burner grill. Anything else for me and mom is just wasted space, wasted heat and wasted propane (and propane accessories). That limited my choices even more. I finally picked this model from the Ace Hardware web site. It was very similar to evil bitey grill in that it had a left and right burner set-up rather than front and back which is what I really wanted.

The price was… competitive for a two-burner basic grills. I wanted the one without the side-burner as I never once used it on the old grill but they didn’t carry the model without it. Anyway… Ace offered to assemble and deliver the grill for less than half what the other places wanted for delivery.

So I dragged myself down to Ace last week, ordered the grill (they didn’t have it in the store) and arranged for assembly and delivery.
They called just after noon today and said if it was convenient with us they were ready to deliver the grill.

The driver arrived about twenty minutes after he called. brought the grill around the back and was nice enough to take the evil one away to be scrapped. He was in and out inside of two minutes….

Then I got a good look at this thing. What a steaming pile of crap. $155 for something that’s NOT as sturdy as the five year old rust bucket they just carted off! It wobbles, it wiggles. I haven’t cooked on it yet so tonight will be the big test but I can’t see this thing lasting anywhere near as long as the last one did. The construction is just that cheap and shoddy. OH yeah, and there were screws missing holding one of the side shelves on. When I called the store the guy I talked to said I needed to pull one of the existing screws out, bring it in and if they had one he’d give it to me. An hour later the store manager called me and said that was unacceptable. He then drove out here, pulled a screw from the underside of the shelf, drove back to the store and returned with the right parts to complete the assembly.

I can’t say I’m really happy with the grill, we’ll see how it cooks, but I can’t fault Ace Hardware for making things right… granted they probably should have noticed the shelf going boingy-boingy up and down but the manager, Paul, went seriously above and beyond to make it right. Thanks Paul!

Well, it’s later… This new grill cooks okay and, bonus, no apparent food poisioning. I hate re-learning how to cook everything. For the last couple years it’s been almost second nature cooking. I had burgers and such down to a science and of course the new grill is just different enough that I’ve got to re-think all my cooking stratagies. I know, such horrors, how can I go on? Ah well. It’s in better condition than the old one. It cooks and I don’t have to use a screwdriver to open the lid. Can’t say I’m super happy with the build quality but there it is and there it stays. Somehow, dear readers, I’ll find the strength to carry on.

Hawk (This space unintentionally left blank…or maybe it wasn’t)

Read more about my past, painful, grill buying experiences here and some more here… {grumble}

Roomba, Roomba, Roomba… {updated}

An iRobot Roomba 770 Vacuum Cleaning Robot Review:

Click for larger image.

I really like the Roomba 770 robotic vacuum. When these first came out years ago I thought they were a gimmick and back then they probably were. Now though these things are pretty impressive.
Getting started was a breeze. Pull a couple protective strips from the bottom of the vacuum, set the clock (easy!) then find a somewhat out of the way place for the charging dock, charge the Roomba up and finally press the Clean button. The Roomba will zip all over your open floors getting into practically every nook and cranny. If it gets full while it’s working it will light an icon on it’s top letting you know it needs to be emptied. After about an hour to an hour and a quarter the Roomba will decide it’s battery needs a recharge. It will then head back to wherever you put the charging dock, back itself onto it, play a little tune to let you know it is done and start charging up for the next time.
At it’s most basic it doesn’t get any easier, one button and it’s off. If you want a little more automated control you can program the Roomba 770 to start at any time of the day on any of the days of the week. Further control can be established by using either or both of the two included Virtual Walls. These devices (which take two C-cell batteries) can be used to keep the Roomba from entering rooms or areas you don’t want it venturing into.
I am amazed at what this little thing picks up. I am a vacuum’s worst nightmare. I have very long (3 feet) hair and I shed. Before we set the Roomba off I ran our upright vacuum over the two rooms we were going to have the Roomba cleaning regularly a couple extra times. The bin on the upright was nearly empty the last time I ran it but the Roomba comes back nearly full each time it runs.
Cleaning the Roomba is a lot easier than cleaning a large upright vacuum. The dirt collection bin pops on and off easily The Roomba also comes with two tools to make cleaning and hair removal from the brushes quite easy.
While the Roomba 770 is very handy I do want to mention a couple cons I’ve run across while using it…
If you watch the demonstration videos you’ll see they show off the Roomba in a very minimalist environment. We have clutter. We have a table with X cross feet that’s close to three walls. The Roomba can and occasionally does get stuck. It will let you know (it talks!) when it gets trapped or stuck. Though all you have to do is rescue it (and figure out how to keep it from getting stuck again!) and press the clean button to sent it off again.
The Roomba seems to be better on carpeted floors than on hard surface floors. On our hard floors it seems to scatter sand and such around while cleaning. It does get the majority of stuff but not all of it.
In the end the Roomba is great for people with busy lifestyles or for the disabled or handicapped person who just can’t drag out a heavy regular vacuum all the time.

The Roomba 770 includes a remote control; It’s nice to be able to start the Roomba from across the room but if you’re using the scheduled cleaning you won’t need to do that. You can also use the remote to direct the Roomba around the room and command it to return to the charging dock. Two AA batteries for the remote are required but are not included.
Steering the Roomba with the remote; Once you take control of the unit with the remote it only moves when you are pressing one the directional buttons (left, right, forward) when you release the button the Roomba will stop moving. I found this method of control a bit awkward and mildly uncomfortable to use.
Warranty; For a device this expensive I would have thought it would have a better warranty than one year parts & labor with just six months coverage on the battery.

Hawk (iBlogger therefore iAm)

Disclaimer: I received the iRobot Roomba 770 Vacuum Cleaning Robot to review free of charge from iRobot and the Amazon Vine program. I received no compensation for writing this review.