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Mar 16 2006
I own a Husqvarna helmet pretty much like this picture. I use it when weedeating or using the chain saw. Inside the helmet is a harness which is the hat band and suspension that fits over your head and keeps the helmet from falling off. Well, the harness broke…plastic headband just snapped. So, today I embarked on a mission for a replacement part.

I first went to Lowe’s. They had new helmets for $47 and their special order catalog did not show they could order replacement parts. They did give me the Husqvarna 888 number, which I called. After I had been transferred to consumer products customer service, a service representative looked up the helmet number I own and told me the part number for a replacement harness. But, he told me, this could only be bought through a Husqvarna dealer and not at Lowe’s. He was even nice enough to give me a local dealer about a block away and the dealer’s phone number.

Next stop was the Husqvarna dealer. The parts guy was super nice and took down the part number to send in as an order and told me I would have the part (about $10) in three days. So, happy as a clam, I went home. The parts guy then called about a half an hour later. Seems as if this part was discontinued. I told him that I had talked to a guy at Husqvarna who had given me the part number. He said he would try again and took down the model number of my helmet. Well, about 15 minutes later he called again. Yes, this was the right part number. No, it was no longer available; it had been discontinued. The notation in the catalog is “while supplies last” and there were no more.

So, a plastic headband broke and, even though this is a replaceable part (you just snap in a new harness…so they must have known that they break), the part is unavailable. I am left with either using the handyman’s best friend (If you watch the Red Green Show you will know what I mean) or spending $47 for a new helmet. Such is planned obsolescence.
Mar 14 2006 On January 9 of this year, I wrote “The Tax Assessor Calleth” in which I describe a telephone conversation with a member of our county’s assessor’s office. Here is part of what I said then:

“Where,” I was asked, “was the trailer listed last year? Surely it must be a horse trailer.” “Nope. Only a beat-up farm trailer with no road license that I use to haul fence posts through the pasture to make repairs. It’s right there on my schedule of equipment.” It was.

At 8:15 this morning, the telephone rang and the same member of the assessor’s office was on the line. As an aside to this drama, I have bronchitis and got virtually no sleep all night due to my violent coughing. I finally went to sleep at 6:30, had just awakened, and was still in bed when the phone rang. I was not in a friendly mood, to say the least.

Him: “We looked at the State of Missouri records and the state shows your farm business owns a 1988 horse trailer. Is the trailer you are showing on your books a horse trailer?”

Me: “No. It’s a used utility trailer as I have told you in the past.”

Him: “But the state says your farm business owns a 1988 horse trailer. Are you sure that the trailer you are showing is not a horse trailer?”

Me: “As I have told you in the past, it’s a used farm utility trailer. The state’s records are wrong. We have not owned that trailer for years. I do own a horse trailer personally, and, if you would look up my name in your records, you would see that it’s declared along with our two cars.”

Him: “So, it’s not a horse trailer?

Me: “No.”

Him: “Do you license it?”

Me: “No. I just drag it around behind my tractor doing fence repair work or hauling trash. It’s just a used farm utility trailer.”

Now, let’s look at all of this logically. I have listed a farm utility trailer on my books with a cost of a couple of hundred dollars. It’s been listed that way for the last three years, I think. The 1988 trailer that was referred to was a six-horse gooseneck. I bet it sold for over $20,000. So how does one mistake one for the other? And a simple review of the state’s records would also show that no trailer license has been issued to my farm for that or any other trailer. And, finally, if I had indeed licensed the farm utility trailer, wouldn’t I need a valid paid personal property tax receipt showing that I listed that trailer?

Next year I’m sending a picture of the farm trailer in with my return. Bet they call anyway.
Mar 01 2006 Within our family, I am sometimes criticized about how sensitive my sense of smell is. The slightest smell of certain things can be overpowering to me. This is, of course, coupled with a less-than-adequate ability to hear.

Less than a week ago, we installed a Sharper Image Ionic Breeze with UV and all sorts of bells and whistles in our bedroom. These dudes put out clean air, but they also produce ozone. When we got it, I cranked it up to full throttle for a few hours, but found that the ozone odor was too much for me and reduced the setting to medium. The ozone is still there, but at a somewhat acceptable level given my sensitivities.

The other day, I came into the kitchen. Marian had extinguished a candle in there about 10 minutes previously and I commented on the smell of something burning. Yesterday, when I was doing afternoon feeding in the barn, I raked up some loose hay and produced a spark for an instant, which worried the dickens out of me causing me to check and recheck that nothing had caught on fire.

Tonight, I had to go into the basement to look for some old tax records. I went up and down the steps four or five times. Each time, I smelled just a whiff of natural gas. On a couple of the trips, I convinced myself that it was ozone I was smelling from air being circulated into the basement from our bedroom. But it kept coming back to me that it was gas. Not strong, but there. Not always, but enough.

I called our HVAC service man who had me go down into the basement a couple of times to see if I still smelled it and to also look at the burners on the furnaces to see that they were lit. I did and they were. So, he came out here about 7:00 PM. He had his gas sniffer out and it smelled gas, but it came and went and he could not pinpoint the source. Finally, he took a butane lighter, the kind you use in a fireplace or BBQ grill, and ran flames up and down the gas pipe that went into one of the furnaces. Seems there was a gas leak indeed. The T connection coming from the gas line and into the furnace has a tiny crack in it…the gas lighter caused it to burn ever so slightly for a few seconds. He repeated this experiment a couple of times. Ooooo, look at the pretty blue flame coming out of the pipe!

The nose knows. I am vindicated once again.
Mar 03 2006 I wrote the following poem and it’s in Roots and Paths:

Fine Whine

The message that came with the bottle
Says the wine will be at its prime
In about ten years. Aged a bit
Beyond perfection myself,
I’m taken aback.
Is this a sign
I’ll be here
To enjoy the bottle in its time?
If I keep buying young wine
Will it extend my life,
Or will the bottles I put in the rack
Have another’s fingerprints
When poured?

A couple of months ago, I got a brochure from Clos du Val, one of my favorite Napa wineries, letting me know about their Dusty Bottle Club. I joined and just got my membership card and a description of benefits. Besides getting invitations to select tastings, twice a year they will send me one or two bottles “of our rare, older vintage Cabs.” It’s a bit pricey and it’s limited to 100 people. I also get good discounts if I want to buy a few bottles more of these aged wines.

Guess I won’t have to wait to drink these suckers. Woo hoo.
Feb 25 2006 It should not seem hard to close a credit card account that you don’t use, but it was hard for me with my American Express Gold Premium Plus card. Right there on the front of the card it says I have been a member since 1960. That was while I was a junior in college, 20 years old, driving a 1958 Ford, the year before we got married. It’s been a long relationship, not one to casually cut up and throw into the wastebasket.

I used to charge anything and everything on my AMEX card. There were those Membership Rewards points, you see, that I could convert into frequent flyer miles and the like. Then along came the cards that were (a) free, and (b) gave you back a percent of what you purchased in cash. And we don’t fly much anywhere these days. So, I switched to one of the new VISA cards and my AMEX card was relegated to second string.

Recently I downloaded my credit card information and saw that the annual fee of $150 was due for the AMEX card. Last year at this time, I rationalized and inertia prevailed for another year. This year, however, I thought I would go for it. I logged onto American Express and looked for ways to spend the final Membership Rewards points I had. It was harder than I had imagined to find stuff I really wanted, which was part of the problem with the card in the first place. But I did and spent all but spare change out of the account.

Then the hard part…calling in to cancel the card. The nice gentleman I spoke to asked why, after 46 years, I wanted to cancel. I told him. He asked if he waived $65 of the $150 fee, would that change my mind. I told him it would not.

The deed is done. The gold card is in tiny pieces in the trash. I no longer have unlimited credit, no due dates on payment, and the old cachet of being one of the original gold card holders.