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.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More kitty updates...

The kitties had their first night out in the apartment together last night, completely unexpectedly. Last night Alex got home from being out and the bathroom door was open with Anni nowhere to be found! When I got home from work soon after we looked in every possible place and finally found her behind the couch, behind some picture frames -- an excellent hiding spot. We’re not sure how she got out of the bathroom. It’s possible Banjo was the one to open the door. But Banjo was ignoring her completely by then and just begging me for dinner as usual, so we figured it would be better to just let her come out on her own rather than trying to get her out. Who knows how long she had been out already anyway! I put some tuna near the edge of the couch, which she ate after a while, and she stayed behind the couch all evening. Right before we were about to go to bed she decided to come out though, and she hasn’t hid again since!
She and Banjo are doing really well -- they chased each other around a lot last night and wrestled a bit but weren’t mean to each other. No hisses or growls, just the occasional puffy tail, and one of them would walk away when they got tired of it. Sometimes they’d just sit and stare at each other for a while, or Anni would flop on the rug and Banjo would sit nearby. We went to bed assuming that we would be awoken by any major drama, but there was only periodic running around. So we’re just going to let them be, since it doesn’t look like they’re going to fight and apparently they’re busy engineering daring escapes from the bathroom anyway, despite our best attempts to contain them.
This morning Banjo was fast asleep in bed with us, Anni came over to say hi when I got up and was looking out the windows later while we ate breakfast (not sure where she slept, maybe the bathroom), and both of them had eaten a lot of their food. I guess they worked up an appetite! They still seem a little nervous when the other one comes up to sniff, but as long as there’s no outright aggression I guess that’s fine. So much for a carefully planned introduction though! I guess they made the decision for me about when they were ready.
Here's a couple photos of them from this morning.

Monday, March 22, 2010

new kitty updates!

I figure it might be a good idea to keep people posted about my new kitty, Annie. I had posted in a cat-related forum for advice over the past few days, so here's the info from there to catch everyone up to speed:

Saturday, March 20:
Tonight’s the big night! My mom is bringing Annie up from my grandmother’s house, with all her things. I say “big night” but really I’m hoping it’ll be very uneventful. My plan is to put Annie into the bathroom straight away, with everything that she’ll need. Then I’m going to give Banjo some REAL tuna fish (i.e., the only thing that he will do ANYTHING for) outside of the closed bathroom door, and try to ignore Annie for most of the evening and pretend that everything is totally normal. I also plugged in a Feliway diffuser today near the bathroom. Fingers crossed that there’s no drama at this stage…

Sunday, March 21:
Well, last night went very well. Banjo is VERY curious to know what’s in the bathroom, and actually has taken to sitting directly outside the door for a half hour a time, especially if he hears Annie meowing in there. But after a while he goes about his business again. He didn’t want to eat the tuna near the door yesterday because he was so preoccupied with knowing what was going on in the bathroom! But he ate it all eventually in his normal food spot. He caught sight of her when I was leaving the bathroom once, and he just froze and stared at her and then moved back away from the door, but didn’t hiss or growl or anything.
And Annie is not hiding at all! She stayed in her carrier for about an hour and then ventured out and explored the bathroom. She really wants to have people around and goes head over heels in love for both of us when we go in the bathroom. She heard Banjo meowing and didn’t freak out too much, just moved away from the door where he was. She’s bored of the bathroom already after one night and is meowing to get out. I think we might let her explore the apartment and put Banjo in the bathroom this morning, so she can see what the rest of our place is like before she meets Banjo for real. But they both seem to be relatively calm and curious about the whole thing. Yay!
Alex and I have been nicknaming her Annikki, which is the sister character in the Kalevala. Adding the "-kki!" at the end of her name sounds cute and she seems to like the high pitched sound of it. I'm hoping she'll be a good little sister to Banjo eventually.

Monday, today!:
Last night Banjo and Anni had their first face to face meeting! Anni makes it until about 6am in the bathroom before she starts meowing. I got up and went to visit her, and of course Banjo sat outside of the door. She wanted to play so I put a ribbon under the crack of the door, and she and Banjo started pulling on opposite sides of it. This meant that whenever Banjo "won" the game and got the ribbon all the way on his side, I had to crack open the door to put it back. After a few times, Anni stuck her face in the crack when I opened it and she and Banjo just stared at each other. Banjo sat very tall and still and calmly, and Anni tilted her head sideways and tried to wedge herself through the door, but I didn't think they were ready for that yet. I opened the door a little bit more and held Anni across the chest so she couldn't go all the way out. Banjo stayed very still, and then stretched his neck out to sniff her. She stretched out her neck too and they sniffed noses -- no hissing or growling at all. I was shocked! I gave them both a bite of tuna right away for being so good!
This morning I decided it might be good to continue the slow face to face introductions, so I took Anni out into the apartment in her carrier and let Banjo check it out. He hissed once, but in general he's just scoping it out, walking all around the carrier, staring at it, sniffing it, and then walking away and going about his business, looking out the windows and stuff, like nothing is going on, or watching the carrier from the opposite side of the apartment. When he comes up to the carrier Anni puts her nose right near him and even sticks one paw out of the gate towards him -- I think she wants to be friendly. He did venture into the bathroom and I caught him using Anni's litterbox -- maybe he's marking his territory or maybe he just had to go, I have no idea. I put out some tuna and eventually he went and ate it in sight of Anni. She got some in her carrier and ate that up too, and now she's falling asleep. Indifference is a good thing, so I'm really happy about this!
More on this story as it develops...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lentil Burgers

These came out great -- made about 20 veggie burgers. We had some of them right after I made them and froze the rest. SO much cheaper than store-bought veggie burgers, and they actually taste a lot better too.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a baking sheet with some olive oil (and sprinkle with cornmeal or soy grits if you want).

Veggie Ingredients:
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms (about 6-8 shitake or baby bellas)
  • 1 chopped jalapeno
  • 3 1/2 cups water/stock

  • Chipotles in adobo sauce (be careful with these -- really spicy!)
  • cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, oregano, pepper.... whatever else you want. These would be good with curry powder, or with fresh parsley and cilantro as well.

Saute the onion in olive oil until translucent. Add lentils and stock and bring to a boil, then turn heat to low-med, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are just cooked. Add mushrooms and jalepeno, and spices to taste, and cook for another 10 minutes, until lentils start to get mushy.

Then take off the heat and add:
  • 2/3 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1/3 cup quick oats

Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Add 2-3 T ww flour as needed until the lentil mixture is very sticky and thick (should stick to the spoon even when it's flipped upside down). Drop big spoonfuls (about 1/4 cup) onto the baking sheet and press into a patty.

Bake patties for 15 minutes on each side at 400 F.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oatmeal Pumpkin Squares

Got the basis of this recipe from FatFreeVegan. Changed some things based on what I had around.

Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • 1 c oats
  • 1 c ww flour
  • 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
Add, and mix until combined:
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 c soy milk, plus extra as needed to get crust to come together into a ball.
Press crust into a greased 9x13 baking sheet.
In a separate bowl, mix:
  • 1 15-oz can of pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 c soy yogurt
  • 1/4 c agave nectar
  • 1 T molasses
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t cardamom
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 t lemon zest (optional)
Add 1/4 c oats to pumpkin mixture.
Pour pumpkin mixture on top of the crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle top with oats, nuts, brown sugar, and/or crystallized ginger, if desired. Bake for 30-35 minutes until pumpkin is set.

Chocolate banana spice cookies

Took a couple of stabs at some vegan baked goods.... these came out really yummy! Next time they need dark chocolate chips too.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a cookie sheet.
  • 1 banana
  • 2 T soy yogurt
  • 1/4 c peanut butter
  • 1 T molasses
  • 1 T olive oil
In a separate bowl, mix:
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t cardamom
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
Place 1/4 c turbinado sugar in a small bowl.
Add banana mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Drop spoonfuls of dough into the turbinado sugar and toss to coat, then space evenly on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before eating.