2/25/09 - Resolution Update

1) Working out...forget about it. I see no signs of this picking up. I've had zero motivation to do anything. I ran a week or so ago, but haven't done anything "exercise" related in nearly a month. I want to, I am simply not taking the initiative to get something going.

2) Getting up better. Well, I consistently get to work by 9:00, but my goal was to get to work closer to 8:00 or early. This has failed. The prime culprit is playing Gears of War 2 every single night until 1 and 2 in the morning. I could easily turn this around, but for now, Gears of War is a lot of fun.

3) Eating better. I am still eating better now than where I ended 2008. The last week or so I have basically stopped my diet, I have simply made sure to limit my meals and intake per meal. Then of course there is the most recent dessert I am experimenting with. Let's just say that it will probably be featured on ThisIsWhyYoureFat.com once I'm finished with it. (Thanks Ryan for posting that link on your blog). I will say though that although my intake has changed from my initial diet, I have maintained the weight after a 10 pound loss. I'm holding steady at around 163-164 pounds (about 74 kilos for those people reading in countries advanced enough to use the metric system).

4) Grass Guys. This is still a little slow going. I made an effort to get a few commercial accounts under contract and that went horribly. I went to probably 20 different businesses. I only gave 2 quotes and I have not heard back from either. I left my card with probably 5 places, no calls from them. Most of the others required a call to their corporate headquarters which meant that I would probably be bidding on all of their local places of business which most will be outside of my mowing radius. Since then, I have not done any real work. I will start passing out door hangers pretty soon which will keep me busy most nights. I think in the years past I have started doing that around spring break. I've actually already gotten two door hangers this year, but I think it is still way too early. Most people aren't even thinking about lawn care this early in the season. After my horrible experience with the commercial arena, I'm pretty discouraged and think I'll just continue with residential this season and try to build up a strong customer base. This will also mean that I won't HAVE to get insurance. If my customer base gets large enough though, I will get it. With no real commercial, it won't be a requirement though.

So there ya go. I have basically failed on all fronts with the exception of Grass Guys which I just haven't had the ability to really work on it too much.

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2/23/09 - Things that make my heart melt

I'm a guy with certain female tendencies. For instance, I know how to crosstich, and although I have not done it in a while, I used to really enjoy doing it. I knew how to knit at one point, and have completed several hook and weave (I think that's what it is called) patterns, including a very large eagle crest that is currently displayed over my parent's staircase. I tend to cry at sappy stories; you know the ones that just really give you hope that there are still decent people in this world. For some reason, sappy sports stories really get to me. These are just a few things that would cause people to question my "manliness".

With that said, here is a list of things that I think would make the heart of even the manliest of men melt.

1) Not long ago, Makenna learned how to give kisses. Although it is not a true kiss as there is no puckering going on, it is the thought that counts. Depending on how "busy" she is, it takes a little bit of coaxing, but eventually she'll cut her eyes, open her mouth and lean in, usually initiating the contact. I can't imagine there is anything sweeter than getting a kiss from your daughter.

2) A while back, about the same time she learned to give kisses, she starting giving high fives too. Although not really as sweet as kisses, it is another one of those things that makes me just say "That's my girl."

3) When she gets tired, and I mean, when she gets really tired, to the point of almost passing out, she will eventually give in and lay her head on my shoulder. For most babies, when they get just a little sleepy, they will lay down and fall asleep just about anywhere. I know this, because I've seen it on many occassion. Makenna is the opposite, she will fight sleep for as long as possible. But that is what makes this point that much sweeter for me. It's a very rare thing, and she won't do it for just anybody. In fact, I've found that she is more likely to lay her head on my shoulder than Cristi's. Not to take anything away from my wife, but that makes me feel so good that there is an area that I can provide just a little better than she can. (Trust me, these are few and far between, Cristi gets credit for pretty much everything else).

4) She is such a charmer. Anywhere we go, she likes to wave at people and get their attention. If someone doesn't pay her enough attention, she will wave and wave until they leave or until they look at her. I have seen grown men with a scowl on their face, turn into a massive grinning child if Makenna waves at them long enough. It's so fun to watch and of course to get constant compliments about how cute your daughter is.

5) One of her first noises she starting making on a regular basis was "dada". It started out as a long string of "da"s but eventually shrunk to a simple "dada". I do recognize that to some extent she has not equated that noise she makes with what it really means. But every once in a while, she'll point right at me and enunciate those two wonderful syllables and it just brings a smile to my face.

6) The final thing that really gets me is that recently she has started reaching for me (or running away, depending on her mood). If I reach for her to pick her up, she will do one of two things. The first is to lift her hands up to me which is just so awesome knowing that what she really wants at that moment is to be held by her dad. The second is to scoot off as fast as she can, the whole time looking over her shoulder laughing. This is just as sweet to me because I interprate it to mean that all she wants to do right then is play with her dad.

So there ya go, a list of just a few of things that remind just about every day why I think it is so great being a dad. I know this list is just going to grow and grow, but for now, it's hard to imagine that I could fall in love with this little girl any more than I already have.

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2/20/09 - Dish...resolved?

I made call number 5 on Wednesday which I expected to be fairly painless. After finally receiving the $300 credit nearly a month after it was first charged, I was out to finish things off.

Appparently, Dish has a department by the name of ERT. I believe it stands for something like Executive Reimbursement Team or something like that. Basically, there reason for existence is to refund customers money for stuff they shouldn't have paid. I take this to mean that I'm not the only customer who has had a very similar situation.

The problem with this department is that they only reimburse for actuall monetary losses, and to make matters worse, they don't cover interest charges on credit cards (although apparently they might make an exception for me). We pay off our credit cards, so there was no reason for me to talk to these people.

I still felt that I was owed some sort of compensation considering I got the $40 in credits and the "free" HBO and Starz on only my 2nd call trying to get this taken care of. This being call number 5, I felt that $20 a phone call was reasonable since that was apparently the going rate. With this in mind, I was going to get another $60.

When I spoke with "Harry", at least that is what he claimed his name was. I immediately went in to a complete recap of my last month of phone calls, account checks, so on and so forth. When I finished, I flat out said "What I want you to do, is add 6 months of $10 credits to my account". After a slight hesitation, he simply said "OK". I didn't really believe what I was hearing, so I specified that this would be on top of the other credits I was already recieving for a total of 10 credits of $10. He said that he could only add 6, but then I reiterated that this would be on top of the other credits already on...and he again responded with a postive answer.

Now, I like to think the best of people, even after I've been round and round with these people, so I am going to assume that Harry actually added this to my account. I will wait for my next bill to see if the original credits were added correctly, and assuming they were, February, March, April and May will include the original $10 credits, and April through whatever will have the next 6 credits. Of course, what would be even better in my book is if the next four months have a $20 credit, and so on.

Whatever the case, I'm currently satisfied with the results of everything. I would have preferred to not have gone through all this, but I think the compensation is sufficient.

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2/18/09 - I'm all hyped up on Mountain Dew

I'll have a better update in the next couple of days, in fact, I'll have two scheduled over the next couple of days to update on the resolutions, as well as some info on Makenna.

For now, I wanted to mention the effects of caffeine. I went without caffeine since I started the diet about a month ago or so. I went cold turkey. I had very little chocolate, no cokes or other soft drinks, and I had coffee maybe once (black, no sugar or creamer). Over the weekend, I was very very tired and had to drive to Greenbrier kind of late at night, so I went ahead and got my favorite energy drink Monster Khaos. I really didn't feel the effects too much, possibly because my sleepiness was beyond what caffeine could impact.

This morning, I was pretty tired, so I thought I would drop by the gas station and fill up the truck as well as get a few drinks (2/$3.00). I picked up a new (to me) flavor of Amp...Lemonade. I wasn't very hopeful, but turns out it is pretty good. The downside is that I have the jitters really bad, I can't stop bouncing my leg and sitting still is the last thing on my list of things to do. The crazy thing is, I haven't even finished the can yet. I don't plan on having the other (grape flavored) until at least tomorrow, so hopefully I won't go into cardiac arrest.

In the immortal words of Rick James (slight modified for my pupose): "Caffeine's a helluva drug"

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2/13/09 - Dish...again...almost there.

Yesterday I made the dreaded call to Dish to hopefully get things straightened out. I was very pleased to speak with a gentleman by the name of Pat. I can honestly say that after getting off the phone, my blood pressure was lower than when I started, which is the complete opposite of my last handful of calls.

I told him why I was calling, which was to discuss my bill. I explained that the $300 would be addressed the next day if I did not get the resolution I was expecting. He voluntarily explained to me that it did appear on my account that it was being processed as expected. This pleased me although he did explain it would probably be three to 5 days before my credit card company recognized the credit. (Side rant at the bottom of this post). More on this in a moment. When I started explaining my problems, he was more than patient with me and offered to explain one by one.

The service fee was removed with no hassle whatsoever. I truly believe I could have just said that I didn't want to pay it and he would have removed it. The part that was the most confusing to me was the multiple line items for multiple premium packages pro-rated on different dates. He too was completely confused by them, but tried to explain the best he could. The point is, he genuinly tried and didn't try to make something up. When I mentioned that I was not receiving my $10 credit as promised, he asked to put me on hold, came back and explained that it had been applied to my account, but wasn't showing up on my bill. I said that his comment made no sense, but we would move on for the time being. The next question was in regards to the taxes. He explained that when the credit was truly applied, the taxes would also be removed and my account would display this.

So, after he made a few modifications to my account and bill, I asked him what I could expect to be applied to my credit card (automatic bill pay) on the 28th of this month. He said that he couldn't give me an accurate figure because the taxes might be different but that the best he could tell it would be around $47. I was very satisfied to hear him through out a number that I had basically calculated before making this phone call.

Back to the $300 charge, today, I got a phone call from Dish, an automated system. They informed me that my refund had been processed. That's great, I'm glad that happened, but the bad part is, it is 24 hours too late. I was told 2 days, and after this much trouble, I'm holding them to that. Because of this, and more thoughts I had, I will be making a call to a different department, probably on Monday to request more monetary compensation for the my trouble. On top of that, it just so happened that my credit card billing cycle starts and ends on the 15th. If I did not have the money to cover this charge, that $300 would sit on my account, and accumulate interest to the tune of 13% (we pay our credit card bill off every month, so this percentage rate does not bother me). Because of this, I feel that I am entitled to at least $40, plus compensation for the more recent calls I've had to make, as well as to make up for the poor attempt at appeasment by offering a programming package that was offered to all customers (I believe I've mentioned my frustrations in previous posts with offering new customers one deal, and not providing the same, or comparable deal to current customers).

*Footnote from above - why do companies say things take 3-5 business days, or 5-7 busienss days. That's a bunch of crap. We live in a world where technology rules. Computers and networks are advanced enough to do millions and millions of calculations and transfers in seconds. I also know for a fact that this mega corporations spend millions a year on technology infrastructure and software. It is more cost effective to have stable software as opposed to the possiblity of manual calculation errors when it comes to bills and financial transactions. At the end of the day, I could understand 1 business day. The first day, the customer rep would have to process a form (probably electronic) which was sent to the accounting department or some other similar department for approval. Upon approval, that would be immediately queued up for that evenings processing. Upon processing, the bank or credit card system was be alerted of the debit/credit immediately thanks to the use of ACH. This is a technology that I have worked with personally and it is awesome. So...don't give me this crap about how a credit/debit will take 3-5 days, much less the 61-90 as promised by the first lady I spoke with. Oh, and don't get me started on rebates...

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2/11/09 - Dish Network, revisited

Well, my incredible story gets even better. I'm sure everyone has read about my my previous dealings with Dish, so I'll jump right into it.

Five to seven business days passed as of Tuesday, the 11th of February. I called and spoke to a nice girl who seemed to have no knowledge of my previous calls. I can only assume that the service reps are required to log notes in the system explaining previous dealings with customers. Either this girl did not look for this information or it simply did not exist, and the previous two people were just pulling my leg about getting that money back.

I had to go through the whole thing from the beginning, explaining that I only had one receiver in my house, how I should not have been charged this money, and I needed the money returned. She put me on hold, only to come back to tell me that she did some research and sees where she needed to fill out a form, send it to another department, and someone would contact me with 7-10 days. As soon as she started talking, I knew I was going to get the run around, so I stopped it right there, and explained that I would be getting the refund today.

Again, she put me on hold, only to come back moments later to let me know that she had talked to the executive department and they would be able to expedite my request and I would have the money in 2 days. It's still on my account, but they still have 24 hours to get it on there. On top of that, I've decided to give them until Friday, just in case there is a lag in the update on my credit card statement.

With that out of the way, I began asking about the movie package that I was offered for all my trouble. The reason for this is that I was informed by a friend of mine that they were also being offered 3 months of free HBO and Starz....yet they were not going through my same hassle...(a different hassle, but still). I asked the girl about this and she stated that since I had been so adamant about getting my $300 back, they waived the 24 month contract extension. That didn't make me happy, but the movie channels are just a bonus as far as I'm concerned...it just frustrated me that I was led to believe I was getting this great deal with all these new channels, when they were offering this anyways.

Move on to later in the afternoon when I got an email from Dish. When I first saw it, I thought it was going to be an apology letter, or some form of confirmation that my refund was being processed. I was quite surprised to see that it was a Bill notification. Since I'm on paperless billing, I get an email when the new bill is processed. I immediately went to check it out and was very intrigued by what I found.

Where we normally are charged about $55 a month for our services, the bill showed $110. In this, was the charge for the service call ($29) which will be waived. I just have to call and explain that to them. The service guy himself stated that he had to fix the crappy job that the previous guy had done. There were also 3 seperate pro-rated charges for multiple premium packages. At the same time, there were 3 seperate pro-rated credits for multiple premium packages. They were all different dollar amounts, so I don't know what they each are for. I just know that totalled up, I was still charged around $4 or so. Last, but not least was $27 in taxes. Most of this coming from the now infamous $300 charge. After all this mess with the charge itself, and explaining that I shouldn't be charged, they went ahead and are making me pay a sales tax on it now.

I will be calling tomorrow about my bill, and again on Friday if the money does not show up. I promise you there will be a follow up post to this one.

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2/7/09 - 32" Phillips Flat Tube TV for sale

Well, it's been two or three months now, and I'm finally getting around to selling my old television. As stated, it is a 32" Phillips flat tube television. I believe it is roughly 3-4 years old and is still in perfect working condition. This Zentih television is the closest I can find to compare. Here is a comparable Sony television as well.

There isn't really much more to mention about it. I would like to sell it for $250, so that is where the price starts.

I also have an entertainment center that I used along with the television that no longer have a use for. It is very heavy duty, and has lots of shelves and storage (pictures can be provided upon request). It is a light wood color and seperate, I would sell for $150. If you want the TV and the stand, I'd be willing to sell it for a total of $350.

If you want to contact me, you can leave me a comment or send me an email at GravyTrain6 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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- It's the little things in life

Last weekend, I made a purchase of clothing. In the last year, this is the only clothing I have bought in the last year...maybe even a year and a half. The other purchase was 3 pairs of jeans (1 of which I wound up returning the next day).

What was this purchase that was so important? Socks. That's right, I bought socks last weekend. A 10 pack of Hanes Crew socks size 6-12 for $8 (if I remember the cost correctly).

Why am I blogging about this? And why do I keep asking questions in my blog about this? Well, it's because I have forgotten what it feels like to wear new socks, and the questions...I don't know, it seemed like a good way to get my point across.

The thing is, although I haven't bought but 2 pairs of jeans and socks in the last year and a half, I probably haven't bought socks in closer to 2-3 years. Over the last couple of weeks, they started getting holes in them (holes and strings are a completely other blog post) and that is a big no-no as far as my wife is concerned. If a sock has a whole in it, no matter the size, it goes in the trash. Fair enough, I don't have a problem with that.

So I was down to about 3 pairs of crew socks, and maybe 2-3 pairs of no-shows. Now that I have 10 new pairs of crew, I'm considering either tossing the remaining pairs of crew or using them as garage rags. I'm also going to be buying a new pack of no-shows as I will definitely need more than 2-3 pair during the summer since that is all I wear.

So here's the big idea...I love these new socks. I feel like I've been walking on pillows all morning. My feet feel cozy and cushioned. The elastic is still new so they stay up on my calves and in places much better and just knowing that I'm wearing new socks puts a little pep in my step.

My last post was in regards to what I should write about, and everyone basically said right anything. Well, I'm putting that to the test with this post...if I can write a psuedo-interesting post about socks...I guess I really can write about anything and get away with it.

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2/4/09 - What do you want to see on here?

I have had zero motivation recently to make posts. I don't know why, but it has been about the furthest thing from my mind. I have a string of posts that I want to finish, but just haven't gotten around to it. So, since I am stuck, I extend to you, my very few readers, what type of posts would you like to see more of?

You can very easily leave an anonymous post in the comments (trust me, it is anonymous, it typically drives me nuts when I can't find out who posted a comment).

So, here are a few thoughts, but feel free to throw out your own.

1) More rants about my thoughts about customer service, companies, etc, similar to my recent Dish Network post or possibly the one about Airlines.

2) Product reviews, which would primarily consist of children and baby products, such as the Jumperoo or the Diaper Champ

3) More updates about my beautiful daughter Makenna, such as these posts here.

4) CD reviews. I've only done two so far, the Pink cd and of course, the NKOTB review.

5) Updates about the progress on my resolutions

6) Recipes? although I've only ever had one on my website, and it was for Cookies

7) Unfortunately, I do not plan on doing another McDonald's experiment, so there isn't much more I could post about that.

8) I've considered doing something along the lines of a Steve! Don't Eat It!, from over at The Sneeze, but on my diet right now, it might be tough. However, I'd like to know if this is something people would actually care about.

Outside of those, I don't really have any ideas. I do have a string of about 8 posts regarding my car history, similar to what Roxane did on her website, but I'm still trying to put all those together.

Seriously though, give me some ideas...things you would like to see me chronicle. Do you want a 10 page essay about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? I'm open to absolutely anything, and as my post about the Envelope budget system shows, I'm pretty quick to get on things that my readers want to see.

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