Our Glowing Review of Bath Fitter

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:03 pm

This is a bit overdue, but we wanted a good long time to test out this product before I wrote an online review about it.

Back when we were starting to really flesh out the whole “wipe out our built-up equity in the name of home improvement” thing (a lie, by the way: we spent about 60 grand on home improvement, while our house has increased in value about a hundred and fifty g’s since we bought it. Yay, insane Puget Sound real estate market!), one of the things that neither of us had any question would go onto the chopping block was the guest bathroom. Our house’s former owners, while stalwart and detail-oriented in their maintenance, boasted an esthetic that was, to put it kindly, wildly divergent from our own. Many attempts at a description have been tendered by friends and family: “Looks like the place is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Holly Hobby”; “The walls look like they are all decorated with the contact paper from Grandma’s underwear drawer”; “All that’s missing is the saw blades painted with winter farm landscapes”, undsoweiter.

The bathroom was, in some ways, the piece de resistance: Pepto-Bismol pink walls alternating with maroon floral wallpaper, maroon-and-white linoleum, yellow trim and sink cabinet, and the uh-huh-HUGLIEST dual cut-glass-globes-with-attendant-dangling-crystal-pendants light fixture you have ever seen. Oh, and a single saloon-style batwing door separating the toilet are from the rest of the bathroom. Rustic yet excruciating, homey but tacky and oh so cheesy, a true assault on the senses for anyone with functioning retinas.

So beyond the necessity of hooking our house to the municipal sewer system, nuking the guest bathroom and starting from scratch was our top priority.

As long as we were going to gut that room, we decided that we would like to replace the serviceable but long-in-the-tooth bathtub with a shower enclosure of some kind. Neither Margaret nor I are particularly keen on taking baths (if we want a long soak, well, that’s what we got the hot tub for), and a shower stall seemed to be a better use of the relatively small space with which we had to work. We had a basic idea of what we were looking for. We wanted something made of an easy-to-clean synthetic product; fiberglass, acrylic, perhaps cultured marble or granite, no repeat no tile (hear my shout: grout is out) with sliding glass doors. Early on in the process we decided that we would really prefer to hire a specialized outfit to install a system rather than having a contractor install a kit or an ensemble of his own design; at that point our contractor was still something of an unknown quality, and we both felt more comfortable having a single entity with a broad presence and an established reputation at whose feet we could lay blame should something go wrong.

There are a few such outfits in the Puget Sound region. We found ours through the most unlikely of happenstance; for perhaps the first time in my life, I actually looked through one of those annoying multipage newspaper-sized collections of ads that arrive via the mail twice or thrice weekly. An outfit called Bath Fitter was advertising in this particular one. We decided to go check out their showroom.

We both liked the look of Bath Fitter’s products from the get-go: solid acrylic walls and pans with textured floors, substantial-looking soap shelves and grab bars, attractive doors and hardware. The look was like that of the bathroom in a three-star hotel that didn’t want to spring for marble. So far so good. We arranged to have a sales person come out and give us an estimate.

We also checked out another local company that specialized in—ugh—Formica surrounds, but it didn’t take us long to rule them out. “Trailer Park Chic” is about the best way I can think of to describe the majority of their wares. And while they did offer a cultured granite product as well, I think it’s safe to say that the initial stigma of the kitchen-countertop-as-shower-wall esthetic, combined with the bumbling, harried nature of the guy who came out to give us an estimate, put us right off our feed.

Later that week a bright, easygoing woman named Kristin from Bath Fitter came out to do us an estimate. The whole approach of Bath Fitter was very professional and left us with a good impression. Bath Fitter is a franchise outfit, and they have their schtick down to an art: polo shirts with their logo on ’em, specialized cases for their high-tech measuring equipment, and a very impressive-looking print campaign. It’s an extension of the slick presentation you experience when you enter the showroom, and it leaves one feeling that you are in the hands of “professionals”. The price Kristin worked up for us was a bit steep, but not out of our range. We gave her a check for half of the total in order to qualify for a 200 dollar discount and agreed to further solidify the installation in the following week.

It was only at that point that I really had the time to do some research online about Bath Fitter. What I found was not very reassuring. While the company generally had a decent rating with the Better Business Bureau in every state where they operated, to type “reviews ‘Bath Fitter'” into a search engine was to risk poaching one’s eyes in a sea of flame. Nearly every review I uncovered in various consumer advocacy and public bitchfest sites seemed to warn the prospective buyer away from this company. Their products leaked; they misled people regarding cost or quality; their installers damaged walls and flooring and left garbage everywhere; they took much longer to install than they claimed. And particular to the East Coast, there were many, many complaints about management failing to make good on repairs to property such as water-damaged ceilings and broken bathroom fixtures.

Needless to say, we kinda panicked. We’re not spring-loaded to believe everything we read on the Net, and we’re both fully aware that someone who has had a bad experience with a company is many times more likely to let the world know about it than someone who has had a good experience. But still, the general opinion on this particular company seemed overwhelmingly negative. I called Kristin and told her we were having second thoughts based on what we had seen on the Web. She was extremely sympathetic, told us she had heard that sort of thing before, and offered to drop our check off at our house on her way to work that Monday. I said that would be great and thanked her for her understanding. I have to say, Kristin’s complete lack of hesitation in returning our check, coupled with her sympathetic demeanor, was not lost on us. It was a big indicator that this company might not be the predatory monster that the reviews we read on the Web would have one believe.

When Kristin appeared on our doorstep that Monday with our check she offered us another potential source of input, suggesting that she bring the company’s binder full of customer satisfaction surveys to our house on her way back from work so we could look it over. That book was quite an eye-opener: over fifteen hundred surveys reaching back over about six years, the significant majority of which were positively gooey with praise. We sampled at random for over an hour—perhaps two hundred in all—and found less than a handful that rated Bath Fitter less than a 7 out of 10 on a wide variety of aspects of customer satisfaction, from value and appearance to the courtesy and competency of the installers. Even those people who gave low marks for certain areas of the experience (the timeliness of the install, say, or minor damage experienced during same) still rated themselves at least “satisfied” with the whole affair. I think we may have found a single “unsatisfied” in all of the surveys we pored over. We decided to re-take the plunge. We called Kristin back, got her a new check and scheduled our intall.

I won’t bore you with the details of the installation, save to say that it took place over two days, day one being the plumbing and day two being the actual shower. On day two a quiet, cheerful, efficient man named Arjo walked into our bathroom at around nine o’clock that morning and by the time he left at three that afternoon we had a complete shower (we had to wait 24 hours to allow all the industrial strength, chromosome-unwinding adhesives used to bind the acrylic bits to each other to cure, but that was no biggie: the rest of the bathroom was still Contractor Ground Zero and totally unusable anyway). He concluded this seemingly miraculous warping of both space and time by sitting down with me to give me an intense lecture on the care and feeding of our new shower.

Now, some month-plus later, I can say without hesitation that this shower is one of the real show(er)pieces of our remodeling adventure.

Our new shower from Bath Fitters

It is roomy, with plenty of room to stretch out; infinitely better than the old tub, whose gently upsloping side walls consumed much of the useable space side to side. The two four-level corner shelves hold pretty much everything we use in the shower. The floor is textured in a way that is pleasantly nubbly on the feets, and keeps your feet securely on the ground. It is gently sloped both length- and widthwise, encouraging water and suds to sluice into the huge drain that never seems to clog. The doors slide easily on the track, and everything feels solid and looks beautiful, pretty much exactly as it appeared in the showroom.

Our new shower from Bath Fitters

The total cost for this shower was just over 4800 dollars. That’s a lot of money, but buying similar high-quality shower walls, pan, trim and shelves from another company like, for instance, Swanstone would have easily cost us twenty five hundred. The glass doors and hardware would have run another eight hundred to a thousand, the plumbing would have been another hundred, and the labor to have the contractor to put it in would likely have cost us another nine to twelve hundred. That’s 4300–4800 bucks right there, without the integration we got by working with a single company all the way through. On top of that, our experience with every representative of our local Bath Fitter franchise was top-notch. They were to a person friendly, knowledgeable and interested in making us feel like valued customers.

I’m hoping that this post will help in its own small way to stem the tide of unfavorable reviews found online. Should anyone out there in the Infosphere come across this post while trawling for information to help them decide whether to choose Bath Fitter, here’s a few tips from our experience: ask the sales rep to see their customer satisfaction surveys. Ask them to provide some contact information for customers willing to talk about their experience with bath Fitter. And don’t necessarily believe everything you read online. Just this. 😉


A Joyous Retraction

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:38 am

In case you tuned into Uncle Andrew dot Net late yesterday morning Pacific Time, you may have seen a copy of a rather flamey letter I sent to Other World Computing, berating them for the lackluster customer service I had received surrounding the return of a nonfunctional product. Short version: one of their customer service reps wanted to charge me a 15% restocking fee for a product that was incompatible with the other components they had shipped on the same order. I felt that this was unreasonable and asked him to waive the fee. When he refused, I began a dispute with my credit card company and sent the message.

I have since taken down the post. A couple of hours after I sent the email, I received a personal reply from OWC owner Larry O’Connor, apologizing for the incident and assuring me that the treatment I had received was not their standard policy. He more than made up for the deficit by issuing a call tag for the product and refunding my initial shipping charges.

If there’s a lesson in here for the consumer, it is this: don’t necessarily take the word of an individual CS rep as gospel. If you have a problem, escalate it past the first person you contact. If the situation seems unreasonable to you, there’s a good chance that you are not receiving the level of of service that is the core policy of the company. You have most likely fallen prey to a single individual’s inexperience/ineptness/acute gas pain from the footlong meatball sub (s)he had for lunch. If you take the issue higher and things don’t improve, you can always contest the charge with your bank. But that’s your hole card: don’t lay it on the table right away.

Larry, you have fully renewed my faith in your company. Prior to this incident, I have had nothing but good experiences with Other World Computing, and I am sure I will continue to receive excellent service from here on out. I would recommend Other World Computing to anyone in need of computer parts and peripherals.


Leave It To Marketplace….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:38 am

Caught another fascinating article on my favorite evening-soak listening, American Public Media’s Marketplace. This was a look at the evolution of the newspaper. It is no news whatsoever to most of you that the American newspaper industry is in decline. Speaking personally, I am probably not the best person to be charged with the observation of this phenom: I have never had a subscription to a newspaper. By the time I was of an age where I was emotionally and financially prepared to give much of a shit about the day-to-day workings of the world, I already had a subscription to an Internet Service Provider (okay, America Online….gotta start somewhere) and was getting my regular dose of current events through the wire. To be frank, I don’t think I would have ever cleaved to a newspaper as a source of information, for one simple reason: they get my hands dirty. There is simply no excuse in this day and age for a medium that is so unwelcomely interactive. I want the daily news to leave its mark on me in an intellectual and emotional fashion, not physical. Imagine how small the viewing audience for television would be if the radiation emanating from the cathode tube inadvertently singed your drapes every time you turned it on (okay, so I’d probably still watch Ghost Hunters and the new season of Dexter, but that’s it).

Anyway, back to Marketplace. The article followed the recent innovations of a community newspaper in suburban New York, the Journal News. The JN has been going to great lengths to solicit reader input on the types of stories in which their readership are truly interested, and also the form which those stories should take. As a result, they have greatly expanded their offerings. The paper publishes a couple of glossy magazines, runs a blog, produces short videos and a television program. They offer podcasts, content for mobile devices, and online discussion boards. In short, they are doing anything and everything they can to attract and retain their reader base, and so far it seems to be working.

I’m having all kinds of trouble trying to decide what I think of this.

On one hand, if there’s one thing about this trend that truly appeals to me, it’s the idea of making the news as local, as personal as possible. I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to make the assertion that the pool of information at mankind’s disposal has far outstripped our ability to process it. My very existence as a modern First World human is defined in large part by a continuous act of mediation and filtration. In this light, a local paper that follows every baseball game and high-school graduation—in addition to covering the “harder” news of note—can really help to ground the reader, to put everything in context. And as the saying goes, though one must think globally it is best to act locally. (I always liked Zippy the Pinhead’s rendition of this well-worn aphorism: “Think global, act loco.”) While we should all be expected to behave as though our actions have consequences the world over, it’s also practically axiomatic that our efforts are expended to greatest effect in our own community. From random kindnesses to charitable donations, it is when we brighten the corner where we are that we are often generating the greatest impact.

To that end, keeping in tune with the day-to-day life in our own community is a good thing. Having a local newspaper that makes the job easier through blogs, podcasts, video and print content is even better.

On the other hand, what the Journal News is doing might be seen as pandering. They take the pulse of the reading public and provide content based on the feedback they receive. This kind of responsiveness can be a real benefit….unless it turns out that what the public wants is an “Inside Edition”-style melange of celebrity gossip, perp walks and bikini-wax exposes. Fortunately that doesn’t seems to be what the fine citizens of the Hudson Valley want out of their local media, judging by the web site. Good thing too. The Journal News being a Gannett publication, were the local market to demand such coarse fodder, I have little doubt that they would be forced by their corporate masters to serve it up with a smile.

But it would seem only reasonable to assert that news, like nourishment of the body, may not always take a form towards which one might naturally gravitate. Just as my parents knew better than to let me dictate the content of my meals (and I thank the Devices in retrospect that they did not. I’m already an overweight diabetic with a bad back; I shudder to think what I’d look like today if I had been allowed to subsist on a diet of Redondo’s Hawaiian Winners and Freakies Cereal), perhaps the news media ought take it upon itself to elevate the menu, as it were. Give us the good stuff we really should be using to feed our heads, and the roughage we so desperately need to clear out the—well, let’s face it—the crap. A harmless tasty treat is a fine thing—reading Fark, say, or leafing through a People Magazine while waiting for the oral hygienist to call you in for your biannual plaque-blasting—but just as in the realm of the body, a diet of nothing but mind Twinkies is no good way to lead your life.

So there is a real potential drawback to appealing to the lowest common denominator in deciding on the content of one’s media….unless of course your community’s lowest common denominator is so far above the national average as to make it neither by comparison. As with everything, it’s necessary to maintain a balancing act, and I think I will be watching both local and national media just a hair more closely now, to see how they manage the tightrope.


So Pretend You’ve Never Had Any Medical Training…..

Filed under: @ 11:18 pm

I know most of you are probably still wiping the laughter tears out of your eyes over the Kasparov video (I know I still am), but I thought I’d provide some clarification about my spoiler from earlier this week….. If for no other reason than it’ll save Dalek from going insane.

Matt and I play a game on occasion called “Pretend You’ve Never Had Any Medical Training” which is the code phrase we use to start a conversation with each other regarding our more interesting medical experiences. The above phrase generally translates into “Oh my GOD you wouldn’t believe the mouth breathing moron that I saw today!”
Although I really think he won the game about 10 years ago when he had a guy walk into the ER in Tacoma where he was working who hadn’t been able to pee for the previous 5 days. Not that this guy didn’t NEED to pee, you understand, it’s just that he COULDN’T. The dude claimed that around about the third day he had thought that there might be something wrong and maybe he should go to a doctor, but then he figured that he’d just wait another couple of days to see what would happen. (For the record what happens is that your kidneys fail and you end up in azotemic hyperkalemic shock, but that is beyond the point.)

ANYway, back to my story about the Veterinary Board of Governors.
So pretend you’ve never had any medical training.
On a Monday afternoon in early December we got a call from a silly woman who said that she had come home from work to find that her terrier bitch was whelping and that there was something green hanging out of the bitch’s vulva. It was 3:45 in the afternoon, we close and leave the building at 7. I had a full appointment schedule, the other on duty doctor had a full appointment schedule for the rest of the afternoon.
Our office manager took the call, came to us at our work stations to tell us what was going on and get our advice on what should be done.
Being as it was late in the day, being that we were both fully booked with appointments, being that WE’RE NOT AN EMERGENCY CLINIC, and it being likely that any bitch, regardless of whether or not she’s had previous litters, that starts having difficulties giving birth is very likely going to need emergency surgery……. We told the OM to tell the silly woman to go away. Not in so many words, you understand, we phrased it more like: “It sounds like the bitch will need surgery and since neither of us is available for the rest of the afternoon the owner should probably just take her into the local ER.” (with an undertone of “shoo, shoo, shoo! Hurry up! NOW!”). Also anything green involved in a prolonged whelping is a BAD sign so there’s more than a little urgency that enters into the case when “something green” is reported to us over the phone.
OM, who is also an experienced dog person and who has assisted at the whelping of more litters than I probably ever will, went back to the phone and told the silly woman to shoo, shoo, SHOO!
Silly Woman bitched, moaned, and complained about why we couldn’t just see the bitch and do an x-ray or something (um…. because it’s likely that the bitch will need surgery and we’re not equipped to do it in the THREE HOURS that we have left before close of business!). Silly Woman also whined about why Dr. Myboss wasn’t there and if Dr. Myboss were there SHE’D do the x-ray and why were we being so unreasonable. However, OM was firm that there wasn’t anything positive that we could or would do if she brought the dog here and finally Silly Woman agreed to take the bitch to the local ER.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning.
Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. Silly Woman’s husband showed up, unannounced, with the bitch in his arms. The bitch had still not produced any puppies, she was still straining, and there was still something green hanging out of her vulva.
In direct contrast to human labors, prolonged labor in a bitch is a VERY BAD THING. Usually if puppies aren’t born and the labor concluded within the space of 6-8 hours it’s game over for the puppies and a really bad prognosis for the bitch. Sadly, people who fancy themselves dog experts just because they can put two sexually intact dogs in a room together and watch them mate, never seem to do any actual research before they participate in this bestiality porn. It’s not uncommon for us to be presented with a bitch that has been in a prolonged labor and have the owner have no idea whatsoever that a 1, 2, or even (my highest number to date) a 4 day labor is FEROCIOUSLY UNUSUAL.
So far as we have been able to determine the bitch had been in active labor at that point for at least 24 hours. Bad. Very, Very BAD.

I was in surgery so it fell to Dr. Myboss to evaluate the bitch and provide Mr. Silly Woman with a treatment plan. She did so, and because I was doing procedures that day the bitch’s care fell to me. Dr. Myboss made it very obvious to Mr. Silly Woman that the bitch would need surgery, at this point the goal of the surgery was to save the life of the bitch and that the puppies were likely dead. Proceeding from that stance we were actually able to stabilize the bitch somewhat before taking her to surgery. This was a good thing because the bitch looked like gently chilled shit on a cracker. She was in shock, she was hypothermic (normal temp for a dog is 100-102.5F, the bitch read at 94F), hypotensive, and painful. We filled the bitch full of warm IV fluids, antibiotics, and pain medications, and buried her in warm blankets and hot water bottles. After 3 hours her body temp was up to 99F (not normal, but much better), her gums had gone from being a nasty grey color to a nicer, if pale, pink, and she wasn’t panting and straining anymore. Lovely. This is a patient who is much less likely to die on the surgery table.
The key to obstetric surgery is speed. You want your mamma shaved and scrubbed at least once before you anesthetize her, you want two surgeons (one to concentrate on mamma and one to deliver puppies) and you want at least one pair of hands per puppy to stimulate them, dry them, and get them breathing.
Honestly the surgery went well. We were expecting a uterus full of dead puppies, instead we got three live ones (including the one whose placenta had been the green thing hanging out of the bitch’s vulva). We spayed the bitch (I almost NEVER do a c-section without spaying at the same time. It’s one of my great joys to be able to charge people this sort of stupid tax), closed her, and discovered that she’d actually done fairly well under anesthesia. Granted the bitch was still hypotensive and hypothermic, but with proper support I was confident that she’d do okay.
It was 2 p.m.
I called Silly Woman, gave her an update and told her that she should show up to pick up the bitch and puppies as close to 7p.m. as she could.
We kept the bitch in a heated cage with warm IV fluids and she recovered well, if slowly, from anesthesia. She was even taking care of and nursing her puppies.
My one big mistake, and I admit there were some less big ones too, was that I didn’t tell Silly Woman that she had to take the dog to the local ER for overnight monitoring. Of course it wouldn’t have mattered if I had told her because she wouldn’t have done it anyway, but the point is moot. I should have recommended it and then documented that the owner declined.

Silly Woman and her husband show up to pick up their just whelped post surgical hypothermic bitch and her three newborn puppies with….. a sweatshirt.
This is December.
No blanket, no box, nothing at all to protect the four very vunerable creatures in their care from the FREEZING BLOODY OUTDOOR TEMPERATURES AND THE NASTY SPITTING RAIN. When told by my technician that she needed to monitor the bitch’s temperature closely Silly Woman said, and I quote “Oh, I don’t need to take her temperature with a thermometer, I can just put my hand on her forehead!”
We provided her with a box, blankets, and hot water bottles, crossed our fingers, and sent her home.

In her complaint to the Veterinary Board of Governors, Silly Woman claimed that the bitch “never recovered from anesthesia and died in my arms at midnight”. What we suspect is that Silly Woman took the bitch and the puppies home, put them in a crate overnight and got up the next morning to find the bitch dead. If the bitch was doing so poorly that she died at midnight, why didn’t Silly Woman call the number for the 24 HOUR EMERGENCY CLINIC that we had given her the night before, at some point before the bitch died? If the bitch had been that closely monitored that she died in the owner’s arms, don’t you think you’d notice that something was wrong BEFORE THEN?
Regardless of whether or not Silly Woman witnessed the bitch’s death at midnight, she didn’t let us know about it before 11:00 the next morning when she called to find out what she should be feeding the puppies.
In her complaint, Silly Woman also “[took] full responsibility for not taking the bitch to the emergency clinic the night before, but [I] refuse to take my animals anywhere where they will use scare tactics to force you to do things that you don’t think are necessary.” I worked at the ER that we referred her to and I’ve had, and have been witness to the same type of conversation that Silly Woman had with whomever she ended up with on the phone there. I know the gist of her end of the conversation was “I want you to do the c-section for my bitch, and oh by the way I don’t have any money.” Which would have gotten her the discussion about options for payment (they work with a credit company called Care Credit and if you don’t qualify for Care Credit you’re pretty much SOL) and when Silly Woman complained about their awful, evil policies and said that she’d just bring the bitch to us in the morning she was warned that waiting could have serious consequences on the health and life of the bitch and puppies. I KNOW that was the conversation she had with the ER, I’ve had the EXACT SAME conversation with god knows how many people.

Silly Woman filed her complaint with the Veterinary Board of Governors one week after the bitch died. She alleged that our care was negligent, that I discharged a patient that was not fully recovered from anesthesia (lie), that we shouldn’t call ourselves a “Veterinary Hospital” if we aren’t able to provide care 24 hours a day that we should call ourselves a “Veterinary Clinic” (what?), that she didn’t understand where it was that we got the idea that medicine is a 9 to 5 job and that if we were truly dedicated to animals like we SHOULD BE (her emphasis, not mine) that we would have seen the bitch on Monday and stayed open late just for her (oh, and not charged her for it by the way…..She didn’t actually say that, but that was implied. Pardon me for having a life, but that’s what the local 24 HOUR EMERGENCY CLINIC is for.), that all the patients of mine that she had seen discharged from the hospital that evening had all been so sedate they couldn’t walk (blatant lie), that I had been defensive and hurried when I went to speak with them before the bitch was discharged (Hurried? Yes. I had done 9 hours of surgery that day, had barely stopped to eat before seeing another 2 hours of appointments, I was exhausted and I wanted the hell OUT, so sue me. Defensive? That I’ll argue.) and a whole raft of additional hateful and mis-represented nonsense.

I have a friend who works in emergency medicine in Los Angeles. He claims that if you don’t get about one board complaint per year that you’re not practicing aggressive enough medicine. On the other hand he works in emergency medicine in Los Angeles. I can’t begin to imagine the crazies that he gets to see on a daily basis and I am so obscenely happy that I DON’T.
I’d never had a board complaint. I’ve been in practice for fourteen years and while I’ve had my share of loonies and while I’ve had my share of lawsuit threats and hate mail, no one had ever forced me into a review by my peers. Peers that I don’t know personally. Peers that have the power to remove my means of making a living. This is seriously scary shit folks.
First I was pissed. Then I was scared. Then I was pissed again.
Then I called my liability insurance carrier and had them hook me up with a lawyer who works exclusively in their license defense department. The lawyer took me through the process, gave me advice on what, and more importantly what NOT, to write in my response to her complaint. Lawyer helped me (us, actually, the complaint listed Dr. Myboss as well) to bundle together all of our paperwork, medical records and so forth to send to the board then he told us to chill the hell out.

It was a frustrating three months between the time we sent our response to the board and the time that we got their ruling. The ruling reads as follows:
“Dear Dr. Hammond
The Veterinary Board of Governors investigated a complaint regarding allegations against your veterinary practice.
After careful consideration of the records and information obtained during its investigation, the Board has determined there was no cause for disciplinary action. The case is being closed as no cause for disciplinary action, as conduct was within the standard of practice.
Blah, blah, blah, if you have any questions please call us.
Someone at the Washington State Department of Health”

Dear Silly Woman
Kindly shove it up your ass.


Delightful Convergence Of Real and Second Life

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:36 am

I’m sure most of you already know about this, but the ones that don’t, simply must. 😀

In the style of the Second Lifegriefer“, some technically astute wag interrupted a speech by Russian opposition leader and chess master Gary Kasparov with a radio-controlled flying penis:

That’s the funny bit. The sad bit is, I wish our country’s political repartee could be elevated to such a level. 🙁


Sorry for the Blackout — Redux

Filed under: @ 6:10 pm

So what, I hear you ask, has been happening on Margaret’s end of things?

Well, obviously I got done with the Crud. Although whatever Crud this was, the damn thing is persistent. I still cough on occasion.

I got done with the Crud in time for David the Contractor to *FINISH*, that is, honest to god, FINISH! Which, of course, launched Andrew and I into the most noxious bout of Spring cleaning that I’ve ever experienced. I spent, no shit, two days cleaning the living room. Drywall dust is one of the most pervasive substances on the face of the planet. I also reorganized, re-alphabetized, and moved about 2/3 of the books that we own. Ya wanna know how many books that is? LOTS, that’s how many.
Just last week we got the little man in here to clean the carpets so we’re now calling the interior part of the remodel as done. At least mostly done. Contractor and builder done. I’ve still got to move my study into what is now our (I feel so grown up!) guest room so I can peel the wallpaper off the walls in my study and repaint. And there’s still a wall in the laundry room that David patched that needs a coat of paint. and if I’m feeling energetic I might actually slap a coat of paint on the walls in the (snert!) guest room to cover up the pink (pink?) and find something that will match better with the navy blue with white flowers wallpaper, the only wallpaper in the house that I don’t loathe.
There is no longer a bathtub in my garage, but the toilet, sink, mirror, batwing door, and other bits of the old bathroom remain there. For the record I’m officially un-impressed with the RE-Store. For those not in the know they’re a retail organization that takes donations of used building materials etc. for resale. I called them a month ago to have them come out to scope out and remove what of the debris they’d take. I called them three weeks ago, I called them two weeks ago. Each time I called I was told that their field crew would give me a call within 7-10 business days and to date there has been no contact. I understand there is an organization called Second Use who will be my next option.

Since the weather was appropriate on Thursday I got up, discovered that the rototiller and the gas can were both out of gas so I walked to the gas station to fill up. Yes, I appreciate the irony of walking to the gas station so as to not drive my gas fueled car to purchase fuel for my gas fueled rototiller, but since the poor little beast only drinks about two quarts of gas per year, I figure I’m justified. Anyway, I spent about two hours rototilling then spent the next 5 hours transplanting the 40 plus volunteer potato plants, planting an additional 6 pounds of seed potatoes, beans, and what I think turned out to be something like 500 onion sets (I lost count). The theory is that between the castor oil based mole repellant and the onions I should be able to protect my potatoes from the fangy little subterranean rodents that ate half of my potato crop last year. Bastards!
Oh, and sunflowers, lots and LOTS of sunflowers. Just for fun I left the stem of the Russian Giant that I grew last year in the ground over the winter. Where I pulled up all the rest of the stems and left them to rot and be tilled in with the rest of the mulch this spring, the Russian Giant topped, I kid you not, 11 feet and the main seed head was almost 14 inches across. Yeah, this one….

And I wanted to see what the winter would do to it. The stem, which was as big around as my wrist at the base, was still standing in the garden when I went to till. I dug it up. I jumped on it in my big clunky garden boots and when it wouldn’t split I figured I’d chew it up with the rototiller. Nope.
So I tried to break it over my knee. Nope.
So I finally gave up, got out my bow saw, sawed it into 2-3 foot sections and I’m now using it as row marking stakes. Some day it may actually biodegrade, but I’m not holding my breath.
I’ve also got great plans for filling the raised beds that will be in my new front garden, but since Sheri and I will be starting on the restoration out there only next week I’ll have to hold on that for another couple of weeks.

On a more personal note, since I am rapidly facing my 40th birthday my MD requested that I make an appointment for a mammogram. Once I was over the Crud (my appointment was originally scheduled for the first day that the Crud hit and I wasn’t no way no how going to go and get mashed with a 102 degree fever) I went.
In “Invasion of The Dykes To Watch Out For”, Alison Bechdel describes a mammogram as “[It’s] no big deal. They just clamp your tits in a vise for a couple seconds.”
Which I find to be a remarkably accurate description. Because I have a medical background I was asking the radiology tech questions about the machine she was using (a remarkably nice and hideously expensive digital machine for the record) and as a little treat for being knowledgeable about the process she offered to show me the images. I’m no specialist, and god knows I think radiologists sometimes suffer the effects of spending to much time in the dark, but the films looked good to me.
Looked good to the radiologists too as it turns out. I got the interpretation in the mail yesterday and apparently my boobs are fine. Bruised, but dandy.
Get it done ladies. “It’s no big deal.”

And for now I think that’s covering enough ground. I’ve still got to tell y’all about the bossy nutritionist, the ruling (SPOILER) in my favor from the Veterinary Board of Governors, and why sunshine sometimes makes me stupid. But for right now there are things that I’ve got to get done to be ready for the week so I’ll pass on the rest of this and hope that some day next week I’ll not want to garden for enough time to catch everyone up on the rest of it.


Did I Really Just Say That?

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:19 pm

I have mentioned many times, both in conversations among friends and here on Uncle Andrew dot Net, my fascinating and contradictory relationship with my boss. I like my work, I love our company’s mission, and I admire my boss to no end. But he has his quirks. Some of his quirks are so quirky they couldn’t get markedly quirkier if they were produced by an automatic quirking machine running full-quirk-boogie 24/7. Quirk.

Paul is a brilliant scientist, with the ability to apply laserlike focus to a problem or situation. But he is also a man of extremely divided attention. He is being pulled in eighty different directions, all the time. As a result, he can often only afford to apply the aforementioned laserlike focus in any particular direction for a few femtoseconds at a time. That may warm the target up a bit, but it hardly qualifies as a kill.

Consequently, his grasp of concepts or paradigms that are not of paramount importance to him is often, paradoxically, tenuous yet intense. This can lead to problems.

Case in point, his relationship with computers. Paul uses a variety of computers on a daily basis: desktop, laptop, PC, Mac, Blackberry. He is as dependent upon them as a person in a modern technological society can get. And yet, it is my unalloyed conviction, arrived at through years of passive observation and active participation, that computers hate him. I have long suspected that his intimate relationship with the natural world—and fungi in particular—somehow offends the God of the Machine, and that He goes out of His way to punish Paul for his allegiance to the sphere of actual living things. Hence, Paul’s computers are forever breaking down, powering off or freaking out on him, in ways that they never, ever do when I’m around.

A respectable portion of my job involves trying to simplify Paul’s experience with computers so as to cause him the least amount of stress and lost time. This goal can sometimes come into conflict with his own desire to be as tech-savvy as seems befitting for a bleeding edge fast company such as ourselves.

Take yesterday, for instance. I had spent quite a lot of time setting up his new laptop, a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro. He will be using it for, among other things, editing his PowerPoint presentations (Paul is an excellent photographer and his slide-show-enhanced talks are always very well received). He may also be using it to present his presentations on occasion, and that has given me pause.

There is nothing particularly wrong with the Microsoft Office suite of programs for the Macintosh, just as there is nothing particularly wrong with Office for the PC, but trying to jump from one to the other can cause difficulties. For one, the font set for each platform is different, with some fonts having different names on each platform (the Image Club font Aurea Inline, for example, is called “AureaInline” on the Mac and “Aurea Inline” on the PC). If a given document contains fonts that have a different name on the platform from which you are viewing it, the computer will instead change the type to the default font, usually Times. This can really suck if you are not prepared for it. Even fonts with the same name can appear differently from platform to platform, and sometimes from machine to machine.

This is just one of many hurdles that must be overcome in moving presentations from one platform to another. How the platform handles media files of varying types is another. Until fairly recently, Audio Video Interleave (.avi) files were extremely problematic to view or work with on the Macintosh. I was concerned that my boss’ many presentations containing embedded AVIs would fail to play. I explained my concerns to Paul, telling him that, in the worst case scenario, we would need to buy a piece of software to turn all of his AVIs into MPEG files, with which Macs have traditionally had little or no problem.

Paul thought he might have a better idea. “How about we just change the ‘avi’ at the end of each file to ‘mpg’?”

As most of you know, the three- or four-letter suffix (also known as an “extension”) at the end of a computer file name tells the computer what sort of file it is. Not only the type of file, but in many cases the program that made it as well. Software companies and professional groups get to choose the suffixes that their documents will bear, such as “.doc” for a Microsoft Word document, “.indd” for an Adobe InDesign file, “.mov” for an Apple QuickTime movie, etc. Mac users have less experience with file suffixes historically, because Mac files contain a piece of code embedded in them that tells a Mac what sort of file it is and which program to use to open it. For many years, programs that ran on the Mac did not automatically add an extension to the files they created, because it was not necessary in order for another Mac user to access them. As a result, many long-time Mac users don’t have the context for dealing with file suffixes.

I briefly considered how to explain the mistake in his logic, how changing three or four letters at the end of a file name did not change the essential nature of the file itself.

I opened my mouth, and what fell out was, “If you changed your name to Lucille, would your penis fall off?”

As I said, for all his quirks, I do greatly admire my boss. At that moment, what I most admired about him was his sense of humor.


Sorry About The Blackout

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:44 pm

It’s been a wild couple of weeks, lemmetellyou. To think I had foozled myself into believing that the departure of our contractor from the premises (after a while you start thinking of this person, this skilled professional you are paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to be in your house, as The Dinner Guest Who Wouldn’t Leave) signaled the end of the home-improvement-based ballyhoo ’round these parts. HONK. Sorry, that answer is incorrect, but we do have some lovely parting gifts for you. Such as a gnawing sense of deficiency as you survey the rest of your home. The dingy, fingerprint-marred walls; the nappy and footstained carpets; the pockmarked woodwork. It all looks so dodgy by comparison to the recently renovated bits. So much so that they don’t even look like they’re all part of the same house.

Really, how long could it possibly take to paint the hallway, to put in new baseboards, to lay down laminate flooring in place of the rug? What, thirty, maybe forty years?

Yeah, well fuck that. In fact, fuck that, accidentally calling out some other concept’s name in the throes of passion, finish off prematurely leaving it unfulfilled, promise it that you’ll call it tomorrow and then lose its number.

I’m not falling into that trap. It’s a pernicious, self-perpetuating cycle that will never end if you let it begin. I am just about at the end of what my fatigued and feverish mind can accommodate in the way of new data, and I don’t plan on filling my dwindling storage capacity with handy tips on drywalling and foundation repair. I need to reserve my remaining functional neurons for stuff like XHTML, web offset press line screens and cross-site scripting attacks.

I’m incompetent with a paint brush or a mudding trowel and I by-God plan to stay that way. After I put the last of the towel bars and stuff in the bathroom I am done. Well, except for changing the shower head. And the wife’s already started ripping the wallpaper offa the walls in her office, so I suppose I’m going to have to help with that. And the painting afterwards. Plus there’s the roof of the grape arbor that needs some kind of weather-sealing this summer. And I ended up messing up some of the paint on the side of the house when I ripped some pre-Cambrian coaxial cable off of the siding, so I really ought to patch that as well.

Oh, shit, it’s happened again. Turn your back on a tiny pile of home improvement chores, and the little bastards multiply like bacteria.

While Margaret and I have chosen to remain childless, I think we might be willing to adopt an orphaned general-purpose contractor, if someone knows of one in need. Hell, it’d still be cheaper than putting a kid through college.

Anyway, I hope to contribute a bit more regularly to the blog from here on out, but I guess that all depends on how long all the landscaping in the front yard ends up taking. Watch this space for my imminent suicide note!


Okay, So I’m Easily Amused

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:22 am

I was turned on to this by a post at The LawDog Files, and as a sad testament to my sanity and/or taste, rendered myself non compos mentis with hysterical giggles. Contributions for my rehabilitation back into productive society should be sent care of our home address. Cash, checks and municipal bonds only please, sorry, no PayPal or tech stocks.

Hitman Monkey


The Sales Pitch Needs A Little Polishing

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:32 pm

A couple of days ago a guy showed up at our doorstep peddling burglar alarms. Now, right off the bat this got my hackles up. It sounds like exactly the sort of thing that shows up in a local news channel’s “Consumer Alert!” section just before the highlights of last night’s ball game: “The criminals targeted homes in the South Seattle neighborhood of Normandy Park, going door to door posing as sales reps for a national home security company, while secretly casing the properties for valuables and gathering information regarding the homeowners’ current alarm systems.”

So before this guy completed his second sentence I was ready to grab the nightstick from behind the door and ram it into his solar plexus. Fortunately my frontal lobe prevailed over my limbic node and I let him get further into his spiel—though no further into my house than the front door.

Mario (as he introduced himself) worked for 1st Defense Security, a division of Monitronics (a division of GE [probably a division of AOL/Time Warner/Altria/Halliburton, by this time]), and was pushing a promotion to try to get us to move over from our current alarm system to theirs. Some of what he had to say was fairly interesting: 1st Defense uses a GSM data connection instead of phone lines to carry information, which means that an intruder can’t obstruct the alarm process by taking the phone off the hook. And 1st Defense’s sensors are wireless, which means that more areas can be covered with less huhu than with wired systems. So his pitch had some meat hanging off it.

Things got a bit gristly after that, though. First of all, he really tried to slither up on the fact that he was trying to sell me a new alarm system with a new company. He made a lot of oblique references to 1st Defense’s parent company GE, saying things like, “We make the components for [our current alarm company]’s system”, and “We’re here to offer you an upgrade to all of your equipment, free of charge”. Insinuating that this would be an augmentation of our current system rather than a transition to a completely different one. (To his credit, when asked point-blank, he freely admitted that this would be new equipment under a new contract with a new company, but he would have been perfectly happy to let me make the wrong inference if I chose to do so.)

Far harder to chew on was one of the new system’s other “features” he touted most proudly: hands-free two-way voice communication. With our current alarm, once it goes into full “oh shit!” mode, the company calls our home number and asks whoever answers for the security code phrase. If no one answers, they try the alternate numbers. If no one answers the alternates, they call the police or fire department, depending on the kind of alarm. 1st Security’s system includes speaker/microphone arrays in each “zone” of the house (not quite sure how the whole “zoning” thing works, wasn’t interested enough to delve deeper). When an alarm sounds, an operator can instantly connect to the house system and talk/listen to whomever is there over the GSM data connection, without the use of a telephone.

Allow me to reiterate: the company comes and installs wireless two-way listening devices throughout your home, in order to make you more secure. ❗

Now, I’m sure that there are numerous safeguards in place to keep 1st Defense Security employees from eavesdropping on clients while they’re having sex or divvying up the kilos of buds they harvested from their underground grow rooms. And of course, the people who staff their monitoring centers are doubtless rigorously screened for any voyeuristic or criminal tendencies. That’s as may be, but I still don’t feel like waving the temptation under their noses by buying into this “feature”.

And as if my trepidation weren’t pronounced enough, something Mario said during the initial spiel—another one of those data points meant to establish the company’s bona fides as a true player in the home-security game—fell into place in my paranoid fantasy with an audible “clang”. While listing some of the many prominent clients who entrusted their security to 1st Defense, he mentioned, “and we’ve done extensive work with the Department of Homeland Security!”

Hmm, let’s run over this again, shall we?

A security company.

That works closely with the Department of Homeland Security.

Wants to come into my house and install listening devices.


Needless to say, I don’t think we’ll be availing ourselves of 1st Defense’s services any time soon. Sorry Mario.

I still have his business card on my desk, but that’s because I’m afraid that if I toss it out, it will crawl out of the recycling bin and find its way back to the 1st Defense’s central office, where DHS operatives will use it to harvest my fingerprints. 😯

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