Tuesday, June 1, 2010

currently on hold with belkin

...trying to get a replacement USB hub. This is turning out to be more of a pain than the product is worth. I have to say that I probably won't ever order a Belkin product again, based on the customer service alone.

The hub that I got wouldn't turn on when I plugged it in (which I usually like my electronic devices to do) so customer service told me I had two options: give them my credit card number and have them charge me for a new hub and shipping, they'd send me a new one right away, I'd send them the old hub back (paying for the shipping myself), and they would refund the hub price when they received the broken one. Or, send the old hub back (paying for the shipping myself) and they would send out a new one when they received the broken one. I picked option 2, not wishing to be charged a second time for a hub that also might not work.

Well that was on the 19th and I still haven't received a replacement. Plus, it cost me nine bucks to ship the old one back, and although UPS says it was delivered, the Belkin support site does not list it as "received" when I log in and check the status of the replacement. When I call customer service directly, they can't seem to find my RMA number, even though I can log in and look at the replacement status while talking to them. And still, no hub.

I just typed all this while still on hold with them and they still can't find my order. They're going on UPS.com to see if it was delivered. Screw that.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cats + box = drama

When I got home from Baltimore I had a package from Amazon (a USB hub, which I then had to return because it wouldn't turn on. Thanks a lot, Belkin.). Cardboard box = best present ever for cats.
However, one box + two cats resulted in some skirmishes. Eventually Banjo was victorious.

Annikki decided to pout a little bit. When she sits like this she looks like a sea lion, I think. Exhibit A, sea lion courtesy of CuteOverload:

And just for good measure, here's one more picture of Banjo, in the process of waking up from a nap / begging for dinner. This stretch is usually followed by some very dramatic reaching with one paw up into the air.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The universe and I are at odds.

There I was, settling in to knit and watch some tv online, ready to have a relaxing night of doing nothing, when suddenly:

The computer freezes, mid-video, totally unresponsive, accompanied by a clicking noise the likes of which I have not experienced with any laptop. Kind of like the sound a remote control car would make if you tried to drive it into a wall repeatedly.

I shut it down manually, stopped for a moment to hyperventilate at the thought of how many things I had not backed up in several months, and (probably stupidly) turned the laptop back on to assess the damage.

Actually, it seemed like everything was fine -- it turned on as though nothing had happened. Of course I felt somewhat betrayed, as though the laptop had been planning some kind of mutiny for months. But at the very least this gave me enough time to back up everything onto the external hard drive and take the time to have a proper panic attack about it. (Especially when google searches for "macbook" and "clicking" automatically filled in the words "of death." Not especially comforting.)

The next day I brought it in to the Genius bar at the Apple store on Boylston, which is kind of like walking into an Apple computer -- you have to give them credit for sticking with the theme. Everything is either white of made of glass, including the translucent spiral staircase that goes up to the third floor where the genius bar is. Can I make a suggestion though, Apple? For people coming in with hardware issues, the sensation of falling three stories down a glass spiral staircase is not very helpful. Just FYI.

When I booked the appointment the night before, the website said it would take 15 minutes, which I was skeptical about. But it actually did take exactly 15 minutes. The kid at the bar opened up the computer, listed to my description, said "Yup. You need a new hard drive. Sign this waver.... initial here and here, sign there. OK bye!" and I had to put the brakes on the whole situation just to get an assurance that the backup that I had was ok and find out exactly how to restore the system later, before they took my laptop away from me. Dear Apple, I know your whole thing is about being hip and easygoing, but can we just stop and be serious for a second, because this is all of my data we're talking about. Can we just acknowledge the gravity of this situation before taking my laptop to the back room and sending me on my way?

24 hours later I picked up the laptop and brought it home again. I didn't open it for another day -- I gave it the cold shoulder to teach it a lesson. Then I set about trying to restore it. A few hours and two pots of coffee later, and I think everything is basically back to normal. Nothing was lost.

Anyway, there are a couple silver linings of this whole thing, at least. First, I was very pleased to remember that I had shelled out for the extended AppleCare Protection Plan, which at the time I thought was probably a waste of money. So the repairs were free. Secondly, they decided to upgrade my hard drive from 120GB to 160, and upgrade my operating system from 10.4 to 10.5 so that I would have TimeMachine for future backup purposes. Bonus. Thirdly, having to move everything over to the new hard drive is making me stop and reorganize my files, and purge a lot of crap that was on the computer, which will be good in the long run.

But now I'm considering whether to get a second external hard drive for the TimeMachine stuff, because at this point I view my laptop as a wild animal that I've taken in as a pet. It seems like a nice companion right now, but at any moment it could turn against me and attack. I'm going to end up obsessively backing things up all over the place.

I'm really looking forward to having a couple months of boringness with no drama. That sounds nice right about now. I'll write again with a real update, when I'm sure that this animal has been sufficiently tamed.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Successful baking experiments

I've been continuing to experiment with vegan baked goods. I like not having to buy eggs, milk, and butter, and to be honest I'm happy to eat less dairy and substitute plant-based products if they'll work just as well. Milk is kind of gross, when you get down to it. At least compared with soybeans. Also, I like that whenever I make something vegan, it usually ends up being low fat and pretty healthy (as far as cookies and pastries go). There are certain things that won't work vegan (e.g., flaky pie crusts, brioche, etc... although I suppose you could use shortening). But I feel like, if it will work then why not?

Also I've been using agave nectar instead of sugar because I ran out of sugar a while ago and keep forgetting to buy more. (Not because I'm turning into a total hippie, although at this rate, who knows.) I bought the agave at Trader Joe's, and I had been using it for baking bread instead of honey. Supposedly it has a low glycemic index, which is nice, but the real reason I like it is that it's as sweet as honey but is cheaper and has a little bit of a maple syrup flavor to it. Awesome for muffins and bread.

So I made dessert last night and breakfast this morning and both things came out great! Here are the recipes:

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
(because peanut butter + chocolate = bliss)

1 banana
2 T plain soy milk
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 t vanilla extract

1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda

1 bar of semisweet or dark chocolate, broken into squares

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

Mash the banana in a small bowl, along with the peanut butter and soymilk. Then add the agave and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Mix the remainder of the dry ingredients (everything else except for the chocolate) and add to the banana mixture, folding in until evenly moistened.

Drop spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet, then press a square of chocolate on top of each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown on top. Makes about 16 cookies.

Raisin Bran Muffins

1.5 cups wheat bran (about 5 crumbled Wheetabix biscuits)
1 cup plain soymilk

1 cup whole wheat flour (half pastry and half regular)
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda

1 mashed banana
1/4 cup agave nectar
1-2 T molasses
1 T olive oil
1 t vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
Turbinado sugar for muffin tops (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a muffin tin (mine has six large cups).
Mash the banana in a small bowl, then add agave, molasses, olive oil, and vanilla and stir to combine.
Add soymilk to wheat bran in another bowl and mix. Add the banana mixture. Mix the remainder of the dry ingredients together in a measuring cup before adding to the wet ingredients, and mix until evenly moistened. Divide evenly into muffin tin, sprinkle with cinnamon and turbinado sugar if desired, and bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.