So in my ongoing chronicle of funny price signs at our local grocery, I saw this today:
I showed the cashier, who laughed, and called over I guess one of the managers. Apparently because I was “being all funny and cute about it” I got a couple free potatoes. :)
More pics! Be sure to click on the pics if you want to enlarge them! :) [ See Day 1’s blog here! ]
First thing in the morning we nabbed a little breakfast at the hotel before heading out of Tuscaloosa, AL and onwards to Helen, GA. First random stop came near Birmingham, AL where we spotted … what? A Statue of Liberty here?!
We climbed up (we sorta kinda broke some rules there) to get a really nice view. It was super worth it.
SO random. And right beside this statue of Liberty replica was a Boy Scout museum and store. Yup. Super random. Yay for random stop!
We continued driving out to Helen, GA. My in-laws had mentioned it as a quaint little German town. That it was!
“Helen” is also my mom’s English name, so I set out to get pictures with signs with her name on them.
My mom used to work at the USPS, so I thought she would appreciate this.
We had some Czech fried cheese at Muller’s Famous Fried Cheese and homemade ice cream across the street. My stomach rebelled later for my impudence, but it tasted good at the time. :P
Then we headed out to Otto, NC where Chi-Wei had found this amazing log cabin via airbnb.com. But first, a random stop at a beautiful overlook:
And a stopover at a funny sign:
At long last, the log cabin. What a sight! Just gorgeous!!! (Picture credit: Chi-Wei)
It was gorgeous inside AND out.
We do have a silly story from our cabin stay. We couldn’t get our weighted-down Corolla up the steep, gravelly, muddy driveway (from all the rain), so we parked it at the bottom of the driveway next to the street and hiked up. Well, apparently neighbors saw the car, and it looked all suspicious because I guess they knew the cabin owners were out of town, and here was this strange car with Texas plates and a pile of stuff inside … I was downstairs taking pictures of the lodge and Chi-Wei was upstairs showering when all of a sudden there was a loud rapidfire knocking at one of the doors: “SHERIFF! WHO’S IN THERE??” I nearly peed my pants!! I hollered back, “WHO IS IT?!” when, well, the voice had already identified himself as the sheriff, but I just couldn’t think of anything else to say. He re-identified himself as the sheriff, and his flashlight was shining through the windows (none of which have curtains). I walked cautiously up to the door and peered through. Yup, sheriff’s badge. I started yelling back through the door to answer his questions (“DO YOU LIVE HERE??”), but I finally felt safe, and opened the door to talk to him and explain our renting the cabin through airbnb. OMG. I can’t believe I didn’t hear him drive up that gravelly driveway or anything. He reassured the backup on the other end of his walkie-talkie that he was fine, it was just a “10-4” or something, and bid me good night very politely. I had to sit and calm my nerves for a while after that before going to bed. It’s great that the neighbors there look out for each other, but man oh man, if I’d had any hint of a heart condition, I would have had my heart attack right then and there. :P
Thank you Chi-Wei for booking this place. SO SO awesome. Even though we only slept there for 4 hours before trying to head into the Smokies to take sunrise pictures …
[ see more glorious travel pics and read more smart aleck commentary! ]
[ See Day 1’s blog here! ]
Day 2 Progress: about 331 miView Larger Map
Total cumulative progress on road trip so far: about 1003 mi
At the end of May, longtime friend Chi-Wei was looking for a new adventure in life and looking around the country for jobs. She asked me if I’d be down for road tripping with her if/when she scored a job; I told her I couldn’t be certain yet, but to ask me again when the time came. Well, the time came (congrats, girl!) and the timing was good, as I wasn’t working yet, and my hubby graciously gave me the green light. He says I didn’t need his permission, and I know we’d been long distance for all of our dating life, it has been really nice to finally live together, and he LOVES DC, and here I was going without him. Thanks to the hubs for spoiling me. :) I was excited to get to see DC for the first time, and super happy I was getting to spend time with Chi-Wei. I’m so glad she ignored my warnings about how annoying I can get. :)
The trip was pretty much entirely planned by Chi-Wei, who rolled some of my thoughts into the planning, as she always does, being the considerate and detailed-oriented friend that she is. She left leeway for dilly-dallying, which is truly one of my favorite aspects of road trips.
Chi-Wei is an immaculate packer. Every square inch of her little Corolla was well-used. She’d thought of everything ... but remembered only after packing her car that her emergency flat tire supplies were with the spare tire … UNDER everything in the trunk. Oops. Good thing we didn’t have to deal with that! :)
Toby the koala bear got the best seat in the house for the duration of the ride.
Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the longest bridge over water in the world. It was on the way so we drove over it. It’s a toll road apparently only going southbound and not northbound. I wanted a cool pic of the bridge, but I didn’t know of a good place to stop, so onward we went.
No road trip for me would be complete without pics of random sightings of things I find amusing. I am really easily amused, so these silly photos tend to add up. :)
While driving through Alabama aiming for Birmingham, I suddenly remembered that my friend Donnie lived ... somewhere ... in Alabama. Wow, great friend I am, huh? I called him up and assaulted him with a barrage of questions: “Hey Donnie, do you live in Tuscaloosa? Yes? Have you had dinner? No? Wanna meet up for dinner? What do you suggest? OK see you in 30 mins ... oops ... our GPS says 15 mins!!” Thanks Donnie coming out on such short notice! I’m SO glad I got to see you while heading out east! His first suggestion was Mellow Mushroom (what a cool name!) but as they were closed for renovations, we hopped across the street and enjoyed food and chitchat over Italian food. We rested in a Tuscaloosa hotel that evening, and readied ourselves for our next day’s plans: Helen, GA, and ascending into the Smoky Mountains.
[ see a few more pics and commentary ]
Day 1 Progress: about 672 mi
View Larger Map
Happy Monday, courtesy of cousin Min’s son Aaron, who is clearly happy about the gift from his uncle Andy.
I can’t believe this kid already knows the word “radioactive”!!!!!!!
Several months ago, the fiancé (now hubby) had heard about Straight Talk, and decided to give them a try. He’d been wanting to upgrade to the Nexus 4. Being with Sprint, he was stuck with CDMA phones, and so he was looking to switch carriers. Straight Talk sounded too good to be true. Their claim: $45 a month, no contract, unlimited talk, text, and data. He’d been with Sprint so long because they were one of the few who did not throttle data speeds to 2G (read: really slow) once you used a certain amount of bandwidth. Well, he gave it a shot, and it was true – he used 19GB of data in a month and was never throttled. He then became one of Straight Talk’s biggest evangelists.
I admit, sales and discounts make my heart go a-flurry. Saving money on my cell phone bill? Yeah, I’m down. So we decided that after our wedding and honeymoon, we’d both get on it. Now things turned out to not be as straight forward with setup for us due to different factors with our existing accounts. Fine, you know, things happen. No biggie, call their customer service line and that’ll get things squared away, right? RIGHT?!
Coming from T-Mobile, I’ve experienced excellent customer service, but over the years I can tell that they’ve been cutting costs in different ways, it’s dwindled down to “good” and is occasionally “bad” where I’m left feeling like, “Wow, that rep did not care about me". (Honestly, I totally understand why companies outsource their call centers; if the people are trained well and act like they care and want to help you, that’s really all I want. Though, I KNOW your name isn’t really “Fred”, what’s wrong with telling me your real Indian name? Lol!)
How do I feel about Straight Talk’s phone help? It has been DOWNRIGHT TERRIBLE. I am straight up AFRAID to call Straight Talk’s customer service, and I’m hoping I am at a point where I don’t have to. It’s not just once, not just twice, but every single time we’ve called. It’s an exercise in patience. It’s practice in being assertive and telling them what you want them to do. Yes, they pick up the phones pretty quickly, but that’s the only point where I would give them an above-average rating. What happens after they pick up the phone? Here’s an excerpt of what my experience today was like:
me: “I need help setting up my voicemail, it’s not working the way it says it’s supposed to like it says on your website.”
her: “You have to be calling from a different line.”
me: “I don’t have a different line right now. Can you look at my account and see if there’s any error in the account somehow?”
her: “You have to be on a different line so we can troubleshoot your phone.”
me: “I don’t HAVE a different line. Can I put you on 3-way with my voicemail so you can hear what I’m hearing?”
her: “You have to be on a different line. As much as I want to, I cannot help you.”
me: “I do not have a landline and am home alone, so I cannot borrow a phone. I DO NOT have a different line. Can we TRY what I’ve suggested?!”
her: “OK but I cannot guarantee it will work if you are not on a different line.”
me: “OK well it appears I cannot do 3-way with my voicemail. Can I just switch between the calls and tell you what the error messages are?”
her: “I cannot help you unless you are on a different line. I have to do a system update that requires you to switch your phone off and on and we will be disconnected.”
me: “How about you do the update, tell me when you’re done, make a note on my account of what you did, I’ll reboot, and whether it worked or not, I will call back and follow up with the next person?”
her: “We cannot guarantee that things will work unless you have a different line. I will not give you confirmation for this call.” etc etc.
Finally, it magically started working, and then even at the end before hanging up:
her: “If you have any other problems with voicemail, please call back, BUT WE CAN HELP YOU ONLY IF YOU CALL IN ON A DIFFERENT LINE.”
Wow. I made sure NOT to thank her.
From what we can tell:
- they are possibly handling multiple calls at one time and so it takes a lot longer for them to help you. They put you on hold, work on someone else, and then come back to you. (Example: I overheard Chris saying, “Look, I can hear your voice in the background talking to other people. No, that’s not other people, your voice is pretty distinct, I can tell it’s you. I want you to stop that, I’ve been on the phone for an hour waiting for this to be resolved.”)
- they DON’T WANT to help you. (I had to be transferred twice to get to someone who could possibly help me, with each person explaining, “I do not have the capability to help you with this” and never telling me I needed to be on a different line. Also, as from the above rough transcript, I felt like the lady was just trying to get me off the phone so she wouldn’t have to help me. She claimed she “wanted” to help, but I’m sorry, customers can tell if you really want to or not.)
- they will say they CAN’T help you, and that there is nothing they can do. (They have told Chris that the system was “updating” and there was no way to manually override anything.)
- they will lie for no reason. (Example: Phone rep: “I’m going to walk over and catch the supervisor up on what we’ve talked about and they will help you.” [ hold ] Supervisor: “Hi, can I help you?” Chris had to explain everything again, AND when he said, “The guy said he was walking over to talk to you” the supervisor said, “What? We’re in totally different call centers.”)
- they will say things to get you off the phone. (After Chris had been on the phone for hours with them, they said they had done all they could, and then Chris ended the call. Next day, the daytime rep said, “Actually, they didn’t do anything. Nothing was changed.”)
The only thing they have comped him is some airtime. I’m not sure that all that frustration was worth it. It really does always go back to that adage, “You get what you pay for.” As long as my phone works okay, I’m good. I will update here in a few months and see if the savings is still worth the unhelpful and unwilling customer service. At least there’s no contract so I can leave if I want to!
== Google results for “Straight Talk Reviews” ==
Seen today at the local grocery. I had to do a double take!
Thanks to a tip from a friend and my husband (yah! isn't that crazy? I HAZ A HUSBAND!), Mashable brought Grumpy Cat to SXSWi in Austin! OMG! The line was about 1.5 blocks long when I arrived, and it had to be over 2 blocks long after an hour of waiting.
I waited for 1.5 hours to even SEE THE DOOR to see Grumpy Cat.
And then … OMG … there she was … in all her grumpy glory … AIEEEEEE!!!!!!
And then … OMG … there I was, at the front of the line! But alas … she was asleep already.
I imagine if she could caption this, it would look a little something like this:
This post was brought to you by the letters O, M, and G! OMG OMG OMG! I got a picture with Grumpy Cat!!!! I <3 her!
[ Official Grumpy Cat website ]
Dear Mrs. Neuls,
I know I’ve never been good at keeping in touch, I’m so sorry. I wanted to write you today because today is your birthday. Happy birthday!
So my wedding is coming up soon … can you believe it? I know you hate flying, it’s OK, I’ll be sure to send pictures afterwards. Do you use email? Do they have computers up there? I can email you a link to a video. Well, maybe you don’t need it – I imagine you can probably see everything from up there.
He’s a very nice man. I met him through a mutual friend. I didn’t think things would work out and didn’t give him a chance at first. But he stuck around and was very patient and continues to be patient with me. I have always looked up to you and Mr. Neuls, you two were always so sweet together. I hope he and I can be like you two in our married life. I am excited about it and you will be with me at my wedding in my heart. For our processional music, I have chosen a piano version in your memory.
You have always been such a huge supporter of April and me. April wanted to honor your memory somehow. She called me and we talked about it, and she had this great idea to start an annual scholarship in your name at the Calgary Kiwanis Music Festival. Your heart and soul was dedicated to teaching your students and encouraging them to compete and perform, so we thought it was perfect. So we started a website, tried to tell as many people as we could about it; your friends Linda and Carol were so so helpful. Every time April talked to the ladies at the Kiwanis office, they all remembered who you were and had wonderful things to say about you; that’s the impact you had on the Calgary music community. Everyone knew you were involved and were always supportive. They knew you because year after year you would go into their office to donate.
Well, I have wonderful news. With the help of friends and family and even complete strangers who never knew you but were touched by your life story, we managed to raise the funds to start a perpetual annual scholarship for the winners in the “Two Hand Piano Class” piano duet category, where April and I were once winners also. No further money is needed – the seed money is there in their trust fund, and the interest will serve for the scholarship forevermore. We are currently working on seeing if we can have a little pamphlet given out to the winners each year with your story on it, or maybe a link to our website, where people can learn more about you and why it was important to many people that you were remembered and honored by the Calgary music community.
While my piano skills are a shame now, I hope to have made you proud by helping April with this project. Please take care.
Caroline’s note to readers: if you are still interested in contributing, anything more will go towards a bigger Calgary Kiwanis scholarship amount in Mrs. Neuls’ name. She was also active in supporting CASSA, so donations are certainly always welcome there also.
Today a black guy and a white guy walked into our clinic. (Sounds like an opening line for a joke, right?) The white guy started to introduce himself … in really good Chinese. The black guy speaks … in Chinese also. They were both clutching bibles. After about 30 seconds, I wanted them to stop, and blurted out, “Sorry, I don't speak Chinese." Our front desk girl said, “I don't speak Chinese either." (Truth - she is Korean.) Then the guys said, in perfect English, “Oh! Sorry. And we don't have any materials in any other language. We saw the Chinese sign out front and thought that someone here would speak Chinese." And they turned and left.
(By the way, our sign is not in Chinese; it’s in Korean and English.)
So bizarre!! I later turned to our front desk girl.
Me: "Hey … now that I think about it … they have to know I was lying."
Me: "Because … if I really didn't speak Chinese ... how would I know they were speaking Chinese in the first place??? Oooooops."
I am so bad at lying, and I try not to speak untruths, and so I am a little ashamed. It won’t happen again … I will just shoo them out of the clinic outright next time. :)
This is late … but Happy 2013, everyone! And early Happy Chinese New Year! It’s my year … year of the snake!!! So much for the “devious” part of my character. :P
AND! Speaking of Chinese New Year … guess who’s brother is going to be an emcee at this weekend’s CCC Lunar New Year activities? Mine! Follow the bro on twitter and get more info on the event HERE!
A dear friend was kind enough to lend me a much-needed keyboard. My OCD / frugal / nerdy / curious sides kicked in all at once and I decided that this would be the perfect time to learn how to pop all the keys off of a keyboard and clean it. Yes, I realize that a brand-new keyboard can cost as little as $4 … :) Have you ever wondered what lurks inside your keyboard? Especially if you are a household with children and pets (as was the case with this keyboard)?
First I did some reading:
Some of the articles said that it might be best to leave the spacebar on since it is more difficult to put back, but I felt it needed cleaning and it ended up not being very hard.
I was determined not to spend any additional money on this project. I used a screwdriver, a can of compressed air, some antibacterial wipes, rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, and some dishwasher detergent and some paper towel for the keys themselves.
I covered the tip of the screwdriver with the antibacterial wipe and got into the crevices. The screwdriver was also used in popping the keys off.
grime on the cotton swabs
keyboard explosion! i put them all in a small tub of soapy water and used a paper towel to wipe each face off briefly. i let them dry for about 8 hours (all the articles said 24 hours, but I think that’s just to be super duper safe)
Before and after pics! (Before pics are on top, after pics are on bottom; click pics to see closer up)
Really feel like getting grossed out? See ALL the pics! (WARNING: GROSS PICTURES! I WILL NOT BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR ANYONE VOMITING ON THEIR KEYBOARDS AND I MOST CERTAINLY WILL NOT HELP YOU CLEAN THAT $HIT UP!)
While the cleaning was not perfect (I would have loved a handheld vacuum!), for me, the keyboard is more than adequate for what I need and it’s looking and working like new. (See the green Num Lock light in the full keyboard photo? Proof that it works after the whole procedure! In fact, this blog post was typed entirely on this restored keyboard!) And I can’t beat the fact that I am getting to use it for free. When it comes time to return this keyboard, I will be proud to return it in great condition. I need to thank my friend for the opportunity to get super nerdy and learn something new! :)
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