Monthly Archives: February 2007

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West

Taliesin WestLast weekend I was lucky enough to make it out of wintery CNY for a trip to Phoenix (Arizona, not NY, wise guys) for my brother-in-laws wedding. On the day of the wedding I had some downtime while the girls were off doing their prep stuff; so, I found it the perfect opportunity to duck out for a few hours and check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, Taliesin West, with my father-in-law. A family friend in the area had recommended it as something I might find interesting.

I was already somewhat familiar with the site from various books and TV shows covering it, but to see it in person was a real treat even though the weather was cold (by Arizona standards) and rainy. I could totally understand his selection of the site, the views are spectacular; the mountains behind the house, and amazing view across the city in front. I’m not sure how he managed to get any work done while he was there. I would have just sat stared out the window all day long myself.

I did manage to take a bunch of pictures. I’m generally pleased with how they came out. A few of the darker indoor shots were kinda fuzzy, but I guess I can’t really expect too much out of my 8 year old 2.1 megapixel Olympus.

The tour (unfortunately, all access to the site is guided) was a little pricey (we did the 90 minute INSIGHTS version), but I think it was worth it. I also think that if I go back to Phoenix again, I’d like to check out one of the later dusk/night tours. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to upgrade my camera before then.

Wow, 200th Post!

birfday cake

I’ve been watching the post counter in my WordPress dashboard ticking up. Today is post number 200! Even though it took a while (about 2 and half years), I’m still pretty surprised I’ve stuck with it this long.

Good time to catch up on some of my previous ramblings:

I look forward to more blogging fun in the future. Look for an upgrade to WordPress 2.1 and new theme in the next few weeks.

Thanks to all my readers!

I Just Wanna Watch TV (part 33)

Tuesday, I hit up my local Best Buy on the way home from work. I headed over to the service counter and talked with a rep. I explained the situation. She disappeared for a bit to talk to a manager and promptly returned. She asked if I had selected a replacement TV yet. I said no, because no one had told me that how much the extended warranty was going to comp against the cost of the originally. I was pleasantly surprised when she said they were giving me the full cost of the original tube.

I was again surprised when I incorrectly remembered that I paid $899 for the TV originally; I had actually paid $999. Hmm, $999 should be able to get a pretty decent LCD replacement TV. The only sticking point was that I had return the original tube or pay a delivery fee on the new TV and they’d haul away the old one with no extra charge. As nice as that sounded, I opted out and said I get the TV back in on my own. Didn’t really have the patience to wait a few days for a delivery appointment, then sit around all day waiting for them to show up.

With that, I retreated to the home theater department to start scoping out some new TV options. I looked around on my own for a bit and then found a sales rep to talk to. I asked what he thought the best 32″ LCD was in the $1000-ish budget. He pointed out some models that right at the line that were pretty good, and a few that about $200 more that were a little nicer. I agreed that the more expensive ones did indeed a lot nicer, but said it just wasn’t in the cards at the moment.

Purely, by display quality, I inquired about a Toshiba (32HLC56) model. Its picture quality was significantly better than the other models in the sub $1000 range. He said it was a pretty good screen that it was currently on sale for $799 (down from $999.) Sounded pretty good to me. He then warned me that it was just a monitor, meaning that it didn’t have a built in tuner. I said that doesn’t really much because to get HDTV content I’m gonna need to use a cable box of some sort anyway (be it from Time Warner Cable, Direct TV, or FIOS.)

I was digging this TV, so I asked if he could hold it for me for 24 hours, so I could bring in the old tube in for the swap. He banged away on a computer for a bit to make sure they had one in stock. I got the normal, “well, we’re not supposed to hold items; but, since you’re doing an exchange, I’ll put a told tag on it.”

For kicks, I asked him about an extended warranty plan on the new TV. I needed a good laugh. He said that it would be $129 for 4 years. Eh? I paid $300 for 4 years on my old TV. He said the warranty plans have gotten more reasonable in the last year or so. I guess so. Geez, at that price its probably worth it. I thanked him and said I’d be back in the next night to finalize the deal.

With a little digging on the Best Buy website, I figured out that the extended warranty is now provided by a different company (AIG WarrantyGuard, Inc. hmm, can’t seem to find a website for them; don’t know wassup with that) than the one that I’ve been fighting all along (National Electric Warranty Company). Also, its a lot less expensive because its not ‘in-home.’ Ok by me. Bringing in a 40 pound TV is a lot practical than the old tube.

With some begging and pleading, I was able to talk a friend at work into helping move the old tube with his muscle and truck. So, after work on Wednesday we met up at the apartment and the ordeal began.

Step 1 was measure the TV to see if it would fit in the back of the SUV without removing the seat in the third row. Tape measure in hand, it seemed like it would be close fit (the top of the TV would probably hit the window.) So, out the seats came. Thankfully, in Tahoe’s, the back seats are individually removable, which makes them slightly more manageable. Pulling the double back seat in the in-law old suburban was always exciting.

Next, I rummaged around my coat closet to find my grippy gloves. I figured they might help a bit. Then, it was on to the main event: moving the TV from the living room down 2 floors (2 double back turns) and down the sidewalk to the truck. After picking up the TV a few times in the recent past for the repair guy, I didn’t think it would be a big deal.

Wrong, I knew I was in trouble when my arms were screaming before we even made it out of the door of the apartment. Actually, I was pretty happy that it was my arms that were a hurt’n rather than my hernia area. We stopped for a break at the top of the stairs. Carrying the TV at waist high is ok; at knee high when we hit the stairs with out tumbling over is tough. We decided since the TV was toast anyway, sliding it carefully down the stairs wasn’t gone hurt anybody’s feelings.

Lather, rinse, repeat for 2 more flights of stairs and we were at the door to the apartment building. A couple of knuckle scrapes and curse words later, we were in the winter wonderland of Central New York. Some shuffling along and an aptly timed push from Sandy and the TV was safely in the back of the truck. I quick trip back to the apartment to grab the remote and paperwork and we were off.

A block later, a big ka-klunk as the TV tipped back into the door. That didn’t sound good. We pulled over and turned the TV a bit to make it less tippy and put my buddy’s trunk liner on the corner of the TV so if it tipped again it wouldn’t go through the glass. In a flash of brilliance, I got in the back seat to hold the TV for the rest of the way there. I was pretty glad I did, it probably would have went over again. A few minutes later we were ready to unload.

I wasn’t gonna bust my neck again to get the TV into the store. So I went straight to service and had them send one of their staff guys out with a cart. 5 minutes later some one came out with a hand truck. Not my cart of choice, but the TV’s broke already, so what’s the worst that could happen? As I opened the back door on the truck, I could watch the guy’s shoulders sink as the 32″ tube was revealed. He said, “that’s a Trinitron, right?” “yep, all 205 pounds of it.” I stepped out of the away and the Best Buy guy and my buddy got it on the lip of the hand truck. A good shove and he was able to roll it way for good.

I returned the service counter and started talking to a rep. I asked them to note the TV that was being rolled into the back room right behind them as the old TV that I was returning. Unfortunately, the person I was working was either new, or not familiar with the warranty exchange process. Thankfully, someone else took over and finished up the paper work. They then sent me back to the sales floor to pick the replacement TV.

I worked my way back to the TV department. Doh, the guy that I talked to the previous night wasn’t anywhere to be seen. So, I grabbed the guy that was there. I explained the situation and after a little back and forth got him to understand that I just had the guy the hold the TV and that it was paid for yet because it was an exchange. He said he’d find the set with the sold tag and wheel it up.

While I was still in the TV department I dug through the cables section to find an HDMI cable to connect the new TV to my cable box. With cable in hand, I returned to the service counter. The guy was a little surprised that the guy in the back just sent me back up with no additional paperwork. I pointed out that the new TV was just rolling by and he was able to get the details he needed to finalize the transaction.

He banged away on the cash register for a while and asked how I was going to pay the $200 difference. Eh? Originally TV: $999, new TV: $799. Whoops, he said, and muttered something about a negative number. He then asked if I wanted the extended warranty and if I wanted to pay for the HDMI cable. I said yes. Ok, the new total is $205.89. Eh? shouldn’t I have the $200 difference between the two? Sorry, the TV is a straight exchange. Doh. If I wasn’t so damn burned out on the process, I would have gone back for another more expensive TV to cash out the full original cost or fought for them to just give me the difference for all my troubles. But, since I just wanted to be done with the whole ordeal, I just charged it.

The same guy who unloaded the old TV was much happier to put the much lighter TV in the back of my pal’s truck. I thanked him for his help and we were on our way. Bringing the TV up 2 floors and into the apartment was a cake walk. Returning the 3rd row seats to my buddies SUV was the only hassle remaining and that turned out not to be so bad either.

So, three and half months later, we’ve got a working TV again. Other than the stretched out time line and having to continually beat status updates out of people, I’m pretty happy with the way things turned out. I think most of the hassle in the process was caused by an IT nightmare at the warranty provider company and the unfortunate timing in the demise of the old TV.

One thing I’d like to see in the warranty claim process in the future is more self-service in the process. Most of the time I spent on the phone was trying to find out if anything had changed in the process (and only to find nothing changed, argh.) If they gave me a claim number and a website where I could look it up myself and not have to suffer on hold for ages and having to re-explain the situation to every tech I talked with, I would have been much happier. To this end, the local repair center did have a self-service site, but I stumbled on it myself. No one mentioned it when I talked to them.

I burned through a lot of time on hold and in repeated trips to my local Best Buy. In the future, I’m going to document this kind of stuff better. I don’t think that I’d ever be able to get compensated directly; but, it might be an eye opener for Best Buy to know just how much effort it took on my part to get this resolved.

I’ll have a review of the new screen in a future blog. Out of the box it seems to work OK, but I wanna spend a little time messing around with it before I decide if I really like it. Stay tuned!

What the? Strange Icon for XLS…

Recently, I was downloading an excel file in Firefox on Mac. In the download manager, I got this strange looking jack-in-the-box icon:

XLS Strangeness

Strange, indeed. Never saw that for any other downloads.

At first I thought it was just because my Mac didn’t know what an XLS file is. But, then I remembered that I still have the Microsoft Office free trial installed. So, when I looked for the file on the desktop after the save, it looked fine:

Normal XLS Icon on the Desktop

Anybody else seen anything like that before?

I Just Wanna Watch TV (part 32)

Hmm, been a few more weeks. Time for another update!

Last time, the TV guy came over tried to install the part he thought was causing the problem. After a bunch of screwing around under the hood, it seemed to work ok, but died right as he was leaving. He said he was gonna report the TV as not feasible for repair and that his office would be back in touch in 5 business days.

The said 5 days elapsed with no word from them. So, I gave them a ring to check in. The first level tech pulled up my account info and said that someone in another department was handling the transaction with the extended warranty company and sent me over to their extension. I left a message with my account details and a request for a call back.

A day or so later, they called back and said that they were having trouble getting to the right person at the extended warranty company. Supposedly this person was out at some training session and not following up on their calls. The tech at the repair company swung for the bleachers and called the supervisor of the person being non-responsive. Rock on.

Eventually, they got the details worked out and the ball was completely in the court of the extended warranty company. The repair center said to hold tight and the extended warranty would be in touch in 5 business days to work out the details. I thanked her for going the extra mile. But, before I let her go, I said can you give me the contact info for the extended warranty company and my claim details when they drag their feet on getting back to me.

So, while I was waiting out the latest 5 day period, I was surprised to get a call from the Best Buy Warranty Replacement department. I almost dropped the phone.

She said that they had approved my exchange claim. She went on to say that they sent my claim details to my local Best Buy. After they get the info at the store I can bring my defunct TV and they will exchange it for something else. She gave me an authorization number and cut me loose.

I’m gonna try to bug my local store on Wednesday and see just what the details are gonna be. I’m still not sure what they’re gonna offer me in exchange. It won’t be a Sony tube HDTV, because they don’t make them any more. But a quick scan of the Best Buy website revealed a few tube HDTVs from other makers. Ideally, I’d like to that the opportunity to move to an LCD. It would be much easier to move when eventually depart our current place.

Hopefully, this will be a turning point in the saga. I’m looking forward to a TV that won’t make me squint.