Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Fifth Day of Christmas

My pet peeve at this time of year is the sudden disappearance of Christmas as of midnight, December 25. All the Christmas songs in which we have been saturated for weeks vanish from the airwaves, decorations start coming down, and the season is buried in the stampeding return to the humdrum and the routine.

Christmas begins on December 25--at sundown
. That's why people used to refer to "Christmas time" or, farther back, "Christmas tide." It's a joyful and meaningful season that should not be rushed out the front door along with the wrapping trash. The famous carol that goes on at length about the Twelve Days of Christmas ends the holiday on January 6, on the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the Magi (popularly known as the Three Wise Men) visiting the manger in Bethlehem to bring gifts. In fact, in many countries people exchange gifts on Epiphany, which makes perfect sense.

Today is the Fifth Day of Christmas. We're not even halfway through this magical season that gets nary a mention after Day One, except for dreary TV ads for merchandise clearance. So I thought I'd try to keep the Christmas spirit alive with this link to Yule Blog 2010 on "The Meaning of Christmas." I'm also still playing Christmas carols and lighting my tree each night. Why hurry away the happiest time of the year?

Merry Christmas time to all.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Customer Disservice

I bought a new dishwasher recently. The experience has moved “Appliance Replacement” ahead of “Root Canal” on my list of least favorite chores.

It all began last spring, when my dishwasher’s pump died. Since barbecue weather and paper plate suppers were almost upon us, I decided to wait until fall to replace it. In September, I purchased a dishwasher online from a well-known home improvement store.

That was my first mistake.

Although installation popped up as “$0” as I placed the online order, when I called to confirm the delivery date (because they sure as snow aren’t going to call you) the customer rep told me installation would cost $99. She couldn’t explain this rather dramatic contradiction. Consequently, I canceled that particular order and continued to use my defunct dishwasher as a drying rack.

In November, I ventured online again. This time, I accepted the opportunity for the “free” installation that I now knew would cost me $99. Then came the fun part: scheduling delivery. The subcontractors had two specific rules about delivery: they pick the day and they pick the time. Nothing was negotiable. So intractable was the delivery dispatcher that I was ready to believe that he was the one paying for my new dishwasher.

Since I work for a living, a concept that seemed foreign to the delivery company, I scheduled a Saturday delivery. Alas, when the delivery truck arrived, the crew was unable to install my dishwasher. A cabinet between the dishwasher and the electrical plug made it too complicated for them even to consider it. Since they couldn’t install the new machine, they couldn’t haul away the old dishwasher, either. Another ironclad rule, it seems. So, they asked me, should they leave the dishwasher there, in the middle of my kitchen, or should they take it back?

That’s a tough one. I sent the delivery “team” and the new dishwasher back to the Warehouse of Negativity. For installation, I scheduled a contractor for the following Saturday, the rescheduled delivery date.

The dishwasher was installed, just in time for Thanksgiving, and it worked great for a few weeks. But now, there is water sitting in the bottom of it—not just a drop, but a muddy lake of it. Today I called the manufacturer to schedule a repair. After ten minutes on hold and several more in a convoluted telephone system, I was connected to a customer rep who must have “arguing with customers” enshrined as one of her performance goals. She did a good job of it, too. Even when I pointed out that she had not read the right model number, she apologized that I hadn’t heard her correctly. She never did apologize for the fact that my dishwasher is not working. Finally, she assigned me a “repair assessment” date—over two weeks from now—and gave me my choice of 4-hour time windows.

I will never again question why American jobs are moving offshore.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us..."

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Bad State of Affairs

Victor Davis Hanson draws a stark picture of socio-economic reality in his article, "Two Californias." There is no doubt that California is teetering on the brink of a financial abyss that might make Greece and Ireland look like two oases of comparative prosperity.

The state of California is essentially broke, yet free money showered upon illegal immigrants shows no sign of stopping, as Hanson notes. I don't know where the whole ugly mess is going, but it's safe to say that the end result will not be pleasant. That's not a happy thought at any time of year, let alone at Christmas time.

And we've got the return of Governor Moonbeam to look forward to, with the dim hope that he will be able to handle things. That's called California Dreamin'.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Presidential Pulse

Many people still haven't heard of him, but John Thune is one potential candidate for president to watch closely.

If you've seen or heard him interviewed, you know he is to-the-point and low-key. There's no soaring oratory from Thune, but I believe the South Dakota senator means business in 2012.

Why do I think so? I made a modest contribution to John Thune's Senate campaign in 2004, and in 2010 I'm still receiving his annual family photo Christmas card.

That bespeaks a politician who's not fooling around with the people's goodwill. That is a quality the country could do with a lot more of these days. I think Thune will go far. And I think I'll be holding onto this year's Christmas card.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Peace At Last

It's sixty-nine years since the U.S.S. Arizona was bombed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Arizona today is a memorial--and a cemetery. As the long years unfold, shipmates from that day of infamy rejoin their fallen brothers with increasing frequency. Survivors of the attack on the Arizona may choose to be buried with their ship, as described on the National Parks Service website:
Crew members who were assigned to the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941, have the right to have their cremated remains interred inside the barbette of gun turret four by National Park Service divers. If you were a crew member before that infamous day, you have the right to have your ashes scattered over the ship. In both cases, the common thread is that these men were at one time in their navy careers assigned to the USS Arizona. This policy is strictly enforced by the USS Arizona Reunion and Survivor Association. (In addition, any Pearl Harbor survivor can have their ashes scattered over the place in the harbor where their ship was located during the attack). On April 12, 1982, the ashes of retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Stanley M. Teslow were interred, becoming the first USS Arizona survivor to return to his ship. By mid 2006, 28 surviving crew members have rejoined their shipmates in simple and private ceremonies, complete with a two-bell ceremony from the Fleet Reserve Association; a rifle salute from the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps; and a benediction with the echo of Taps being played across the harbor. The services are conducted inside the memorial and consist of an invocation, funeral ceremony, and a flag presentation to the family. Following the ceremony, the urn is carried from the memorial to the dock area and presented to divers, who swim the urn into the open barbette of gun turret number four and proceed to a large open “slot” that measures approximately 6" x 5'. The urn is placed into this slot and slides into the ship."

Rest in God's peace, brave veterans, with the thanks of your grateful nation.