Friday, December 29, 2006

All is Not Happy in Roomba-land

You're supposed to clean your Roomba every three days.

(They do not mention this in the promotional materials.)

But after every three uses, you're supposed to dump the bin, remove the brushes, clean the brushes, take the ends off the brushes, remove whatever has wrapped itself around the ends of the brushes, give the whole thing a once-over, and slap it all back together.

The advantage of the "Easy Clean Brush" that comes in the Roomba For Pets model is becoming more and more apparent.

ANYWAY, I have two kinds of carpet in my place.  The "good stuff" -- which is the green carpet in my bedroom (which I bought a number of years ago) and the, er, "less good stuff" -- which is the beige carpet everywhere else (which I bought a couple of months ago, with the intent of selling the place).  Now, the good stuff is what I really have to clean each morning, because Jasmine's litter box is inside the master bathroom and she trails litter all over the green carpet.  (And if any of it happens to get out to the beige carpet, well, it's beige.)

Two days ago, I figure I might as well Roomba the second bedroom/office.  It's been a while since it has been vacuumed, so I thought I'd let Roomba at it.

This was the first time Roomba malfunctioned.  He made an "uh-oh" beep and then made five more beeps.  I checked this against the manual -- it meant something was blocking his "cliff sensors."  It appears that the cheaper carpet sheds fuzz and (continuing with the whole anthropomorphizing of the Roomba) it appears that Roomba got some of it up his nose.  So, I cleaned the sensor and sent Roomba back on his merry way.

A few minutes later, I caught him, um... there's no way to put this delicately.  You know the track the closet door slides on?  He was humping it.  I kid you not.  He'd apparently gotten one of his wheels caught in there, but rather than beep out for assistance, he just sat there rocking back and forth, with his little disc-shaped body rising and falling against the track.  He finally got himself out of there, and I couldn't help asking, "Was it good for you?"

That was two days ago.  I've been running him just in the bedroom since.  This morning was day three of the three-day cleaning cycle, so I figured I'd clean him out after work tonight.  As per usual, I set him to cleaning the bedroom while I showered and got ready for work.

When I got out of the shower, I found him sitting in the middle of the carpeted section of my bathroom.  Not cleaning, just sitting.  And all around him -- maybe a dozen pieces of carpet fuzz from the beige carpet.  I don't know if he farted them out or what -- but he clearly must have noticed he was making the carpet dirtier rather than cleaner, seeing as he stopped on his own and just sat there waiting for instruction.

So I hauled him into the kitchen (near the trash), flipped him over, and did a superficial cleaning.  His brushes were COATED with beige carpet fuzz.  And when I took one of the brushes out the clean it, the little end cap piece fell off.  Into the trash.

So, here's me -- upside-down Roomba balanced on my kitchen counter (dropping litter all over it), shirt covered in carpet fuzz, going digging through my trash to find a tiny little yellow cap so I can put my Roomba back together.

And this is supposed to be a great big time-saver.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Uh, um, well, this is embarassing

See, for the past week or so, I've been looking for the Victoria's Secret gift card I'd ordered for my sister.  I've looked everywhere.  I couldn't find the damn thing, and I eventually just bought a replacement one at the store, so I could give it to her on Christmas.

And every time I went looking for it, I'd think, "Where did I put that?  I know I received it."  And I'd think, "I would've put it in the closet with all the other presents."  And I looked high and low for it.  I pulled everything off the closet shelves and looked behind, thinking maybe the gift card & envelope they'd sent had maybe slipped behind the shelving.

And, of course, when I'd come across the flat, vaguely calendar-shaped thing, I'd think, "That's the 'Lost' calendar" and just move right on past it.  Never even thinking that the return address of "VSD" might have been, oh, significant.

Yeah, right.  So when I get the 'Lost' calendar at work today and realize that the parcel in my closet cannot, in fact, be the 'Lost' calendar, I pull the parcel off the shelf, see the "VSD" and think, "Oh.... crap."

I'd never even opened it.  (It all rushes back to me now.)  When it came, I had realized that it was the gift card for my sister, so I correctly put it in my closet with all the other presents (thinking it was safer remaining in its original packaging rather than as a loose card).  My mistake, obviously, was in completely forgetting this and instead thinking it must be the 'Lost' calendar.

So, now, besides having a spare 'Lost' calendar on my hands, I now have a second Victoria's Secret gift card.  Anyone up for a gift exchange?

The Mystery Parcel

When I order stuff from Amazon, I generally have it shipped to my office.  This bypasses the annoying back and forth with UPS over whether they can get into my building and safely leave items in front of my door.

A couple weeks ago, I ordered some gifts from Amazon.  There was a book for one friend, and a "Lost" calendar for another.

And the day after I placed this order, the intended recipient of the "Lost" calendar reminded me of our "no gifts" agreement.  Uh-oh.

A couple days later, I received a couple parcels at work.  One was vaguely book-shaped, and, upon further investigation, it revealed the book I'd purchased.  The other was flat and calendar-shaped.  I figure it must be the "Lost" calendar.  Since I'm in no hurry to wrap this gift and hand it out, I take it home in its nice cardboard packaging, and store it in my closet with all other presents.

Today, I came back into the office after the holidays and found an amazon flat parcel on my desk.  I wasn't expecting anything else from Amazon, so opened it, confused.  The contents:  the "Lost" calendar.  It even had the invoice in it, so I knew that this was, in fact, the "Lost" calendar I'd ordered a couple weeks ago, and not some other "Lost" calendar that coincidentally showed up on my desk.

Which leads to the question:  What strange flat, vaguely calendar-shaped item has been spending the last ten days in my closet? 

Thursday, December 21, 2006

From the "Time = Money" Files

A friend was recently explaining to me the Technology Adoption Curve.  Looks like this:

I generally pick up new technology somewhere around Early Adopters or Early Majority.  Actually, I generally pick it up right before it becomes so commonplace that the price really goes down.  Yeah, I remember my first digital camera.  Weighed a few pounds, had a tiny screen, and "megapixel" was still a dream.  And it cost, like, $300!

(Could be worse.  I coulda been one of those "innovators" who invested in a Laserdisc machine.  But the "early adopters" never went for it and it never ended up as the alternative to VHS they'd been hoping for.)

But, yeah, I like being a bit ahead of the herd.

Which leads us to my latest jump into new tech, the robot vacuum.  Or, more precisely, the Roomba For Pets.  Honestly, I never would've even considered being the first person I knew with a robot vacuum, but I'd read about the low-end models dropping substantially in price (like, a remanufactured basic model for $110) and I started thinking that the fifteen minutes I spend each and every morning Swiffer Carpet Flick-ing the tracked kitty litter off the carpet is perhaps worth the investment in new tech.  And when I discovered the Roomba for Pets (with the easy-to-remove-and-clean brush, so you're not trying to unwind cat hair from all sorts of important robot vacuum bits), well, it called out my name.

I've had it for a couple days now and must admit he's a cool little piece of tech.  (I call it "he."  You are apparently encouraged to personalize your Roomba, as the messages on it are written in first person.  You know, like, "Clean my brushes regularly."  There's a problem with such personification though.  When it does something you don't want it to do, you have a tendency to yell at it.  And then you're like, "Um, idiot, you just yelled at a vacuum.")

It comes with "virtual walls," which are little objects you put beside doorways that give off "don't go here" rays.  The Roomba sees the rays and backs off from the room.  In theory.  The manuals say to put the virtual wall on the outside of the doorway, so that the Roomba will clean all the way up to it.

I don't want the Roomba vacuuming in my kitchen.  This is because the cat food (and water dish) are on the kitchen floor, and I don't especially need the Roomba plowing into either item.  (He "sees" things by plowing right into them, then backing off, turning a bit, and changing direction to go around them.  Tough little bugger.  The impacts are fine when he's hitting sturdy things like a chair leg, but a little too strong on lighter objects.  He tends to move my bathroom scale an inch or so before realizing he has to go around it.)  So, I put a virtual wall inside the entryway to the kitchen, thinking Roomba will just clean on down the hallway and not go in the kitchen.

So, here's Roomba, jauntily bouncing off walls and cleaning his way through my condo.  As he comes down the hallway, he approaches the kitchen, recognizes the virtual wall, and bounces back.  (So far so good.)  Then he moves a little farther on, and vacuums right on up to the virtual wall.  Problem:  The hallway is carpeted, the kitchen is not.  When Roomba vacuums up to the virtual wall, he leans off the carpet and partway into the kitchen.  At which point, gravity takes over, and Roomba tumbles right through the virtual wall into the kitchen.

Heads straight for the water dish.  ("Noooo!" I yell.  Like he hears me.)  Plows right into it, splashing a bit of water on himself.  He keeps going in the kitchen, but seems confused.  I think he recognizes he shouldn't be in here, but now he's on the other side of the virtual wall, so (as far as he's concerned) he's stuck in here.  I pick him up like a wayward kitten (unlike a kitten, he stops moving the second you pick him up), pat him dry, move the virtual wall to the other side of the doorway, and reset him down in the hallway, pushing his little power button and letting him go.  Poor little confused guy.

This morning, however, he was absolutely perfect.  I set up the virtual wall right outside my bedroom door, powered him up, and went about my business of showering and getting ready for work.  About 45 minutes later, he had driven himself back onto his little charging station, having removed every stray bit of litter and cat fur from the floor -- and I was ready to go to work. 

I'm keeping him.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cake... in a second

My neighbor baked a chocolate cake.  She invited me over for a piece.  I had to run to my place to get some fruit to give her, and I said I'd be right down.

I open the door.  I see the cat barf.

My cat has, to this point, studiously avoided barfing on my new carpet.  She's barfed on the old carpet, the glass end table, the tile entry hall, and the little plastic mat I keep her food on.  But today -- the new carpet.

I go into the cabinet and reach for the top shelf where I store the cat barf carpet cleaner.  I have several different bottles.  I go for bottle #1.  Spray on stain, it says, and then blot ten minutes later.

I spray it on the cat barf.  I kill time.  I look for a dry towel to blot it.  All my rags are in the washing machine.  I forgot to put them in the dryer a few days ago, so they're still a bit damp.  I use one on the carpet and then throw it back in the washing machine, thinking I'll definitely have to wash those rags again.

More importantly, though, the stain is still there -- just moved around a bit.  I go for bottle #2.  Bottle #2 proudly announces "no blotting required."  This is good, given the rag situation.  The details aren't as promising -- I'm supposed to spray it and then "agitate with fingertips."  This translates roughly into "stick my fingers in cat barf."  Mmm, love to.

I spray.  I agitate.  I wash my hands.  I look at the stain.  Faded somewhat, but still there.  I'm thinking now that I really ought to call my neighbor and tell her I'm gonna be late for cake, but think I'll go a second shot on bottle #2.  I spray.  I agitate with fingertips (yuk!) and wash my hands again.  Thoroughly.

Stain is faded somewhat, but still there.  I've still got bottle #3.  It doesn't have much left in it, but it looks like good stuff.  Unlike the others, it is totally toxic -- you're supposed to use in a well-ventilated area and all that.  Says that all I have to do is spray it and the stain will go away all by itself.  I spray.  I go back into the cabinet to put this stuff away back where I found it. 

At which point, I knock bottle #2 ontothe ground.  I'm not sure where it fell, but I see the spray bottle top a few feet away.  This means the bottle is open somewhere.  I turn around.  There it is.  Dumping carpet cleaner on the floor.

(Well, if you're gonna spill something, ...)

I take more damp rags out of the washer and throw them on the spill.  It dawns on me that damp is probably not the best way to go for absorbancy.  I finally get this cleaned up and return to the cat barf.  Definitely fading.  Still damp.  The bottle had said to wait until it dries completely before reapplying -- and since I've doused the carpet with everything this side of Clorox, it will take some time to dry.

I figure I should turn on the fan in the nearby bathroom, what with the fumes being toxic and all.  I turn it on and hear some bizarre noise.  I trace the noise to one of the lights in the ceiling.  I think maybe the light bulb is screwed in funny (how did that happen?) and I go get a stool and stand on it and readjust the light bulb so the sound stops.

Given the night I've been having, it dawns on me that climbing on anything is probably not a good idea, but I manage to survive it.

I really need that cake.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

.... and back to square one

The buyers backed out.

Apparently, the reason they'd wanted to close so fast was that their landlord wanted them out by the end of the year.  Landlord was planning to sell the building or convert to condos or something, so gave everyone notice.

So, after I counter-offered with the middle of January, they went back to their landlord and said, "Hey, could we have another two weeks?"

And the landlord said, "Y'know, I'm not selling.  And I'm not letting you out of your lease.  So you're stuck here through August."

And when this information finally trickles down to me, I'm thinking, "OK.  Good to know."  Probably would've been better if their landlord had let them know about this before they started making offers and stuff. 

So, I'm a little disappointed.  But also pleased that we went through this little journey.  I'd been getting really depressed that nobody was making any offers on the place, so it made me feel much better to know that there are people out there who are willing to meet my price on my condo.  Now I just have to find someone who isn't, y'know, stuck in a one-year lease.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Well, at least I found the cat barf

Still nothing on my counteroffer.  Unofficial channels suggest that the buyers are, in fact, still interested in the property, and that they're trying to figure out the lastest possible day when they can close escrow for it to work for them.

Hey, um, buyers?  If you're out there?  I can be out in a week if you pay me enough.  I'm just sayin.  Time equals money and all that.  :)

On the bright side, I did find Jasmine's other little present for me before I left for work this morning.  In the entryway.  The tile is sort of beige-colored, so it was easy to miss.

What's worse than finding cat barf on the floor?

Not finding cat barf on the floor.

This morning, just as my alarm goes off, I hear what I think is a clicking noise.  Is this Jasmine playing with the new clicking toy I just bought her?  No, this is Jasmine's insides doing a reverse on her food.  I know this because I see a little pile of cat barf next to her by my bedroom door.

She walks out of the bedroom.  I immediately hear the clicking noise again.

I hit the snooze for a bit, and finally haul myself out of bed 45 minutes later.  I'm going to clean up the cat barf (obviously).  Want to find the other pile so I know what I'm dealing with (and whether she nailed the new carpet).  Check the hallway:  no barf.  The guest bathroom:  barf free.  The office:  nada.  I'm pretty sure she didn't get all the way to the living room or kitchen, but I check there, too.  Still no barf.

I see her curled up.  "Honey?" I ask, sweetly, "Where's the cat barf?"

She is, of course, unhelpful on this count.

I retrace my steps (watching very carefully where I'm putting my feet).  There's gotta be barf in this house someplace -- and in case the buyers want to come over again, it would be a real good idea to find it.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

In position at the starting line...

Yesterday, at the office, the phone rings.  It's my real estate agent.

"Do you time to talk?"

"If it's something good, yes."

"We got an offer on your condo."

Yes, I think I can find the time.

She tells me the price of the offer (which is in a range we can work with), that the buyer is already pre-qualified, various and sundry other information, and it all sounds good but I sense a "however" coming.  I almost hold my breath waiting for it.  And then...

.... "they want a 21-day escrow."


21 days.  I got the offer on the 6th.  Assuming we reached an agreement within a few days, that would be ... that would be out by New Year's.

My agent is still talking.  She's trying to arrange a time we can meet and go over the offer but I'm still trying to deal with the reality-shift that comes with the idea that a prospective buyer would like to wrap this whole thing up before the end of December.  I tell the agent "I need a moment to ..."  I'm about to say "wrap my brain around this," but that doesn't quite express my level of gobsmackedness.  I instead say, "... soil myself."

She suggests that maybe she could ask the buyers' agent if they're really glued to taking title by the end of the year (like maybe for some sort of accounting reason) and if they'd be willing to give me a couple weeks rent-free thereafter.  (I mean, I always knew that by putting my condo on the market before looking to buy a house, that there'd be a good chance that I'd have to move into an apartment in the interim.  But I'd been envisioning a 60-day escrow in which I'd have an actual chance to find a house.  Not to mention a little more time than three weeks to pack up my life and relocate it.)  This seems reasonable to me.  We plan to meet later that night.

My agent comes over that night.  She said the buyers weren't too keen on letting me keep possession after title changes (which is totally reasonable -- and not to mention all karmically correct since when I'd bought this place, the seller wanted, like, two days to get his shit together, and I was all, "No -- you get my money; I get the keys.") -- er, anyway, they want possession with title, but she doesn't think they're absolutely wedded to the 21-day escrow thing and would probably go for just closing later.

Armed with this knowledge, we draft up a counteroffer.  Small increase in price and another two weeks for closing.  (Five weeks.  I can do five weeks.  Five weeks gives me a coupla weeks to try to find a house, and, if not, a little more lead-time on getting into a rental.)  We submit the counteroffer.

This morning, when I get to work, I find out the buyer (well, the wife half of the buyer) wanted to come by my place again this morning.  Cool.  (Glad I took the extra time to vacuum before work.)  I therefore expect a response to the counteroffer, like, by lunch.




I call my agent around 2:00.  She's got a call in to the buyers' agent but has heard....Nothing.

I try to focus on my job but it isn't easy.  Half of me has already jumped into the mindset of "ok, we've got less than five weeks to get a house or move into a temporary rental" and I'm ready for it -- but that really won't happen until we've got an actual signed agreement to sell this place.  I didn't think there was anything unreasonable in the counteroffer so couldn't figure why it wasn't immediately accepted, with cautious celebrations (contingent on the inspections...) to follow.

Before I leave work, around 6:30, I check my home answering machine.  Message from agent.  Apparently Mr. Buyer -- actually, Dr. Buyer -- was in surgery all day.  He and the Mrs. will go over the counteroffer tonight.

Oh.  Well that's good.  Can't blame the man for fixing people.

I'll just quietly go nuts in the corner over here, while I wait to hear from you tomorrow.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Laughing Alone

I don't think this has ever happened to me before.  I was sitting in a theatre, watching a play, I heard a funny line, I laughed out loud -- and immediately noticed I was the only person laughing.

First time.  Honest.  I can understand why it rarely happens.  I'm generally a pretty quiet laugher.  In fact, usually, if I'm laughing out loud at a play, it isn't because the line struck me as so funny I just had to laugh -- it's more of that laughter that comes from the fact everyone around me is laughing, and the line seems funny enough, and hey, why not just add a little chuckle to the general audience response.  If something really is so funny and so unexpected that it actually compels audible laughter to burst forth from me, it has always been funny enough to get that same sound from at least some other people in the audience.

Not Saturday night.  I was seeing this play (the name of which I'll just keep to myself, 'cause it's based on a book, and to even begin to tell this right sort of spoils the book, and you might read it someday...) so, ok, here's the thing about the play:  it has an element of science fiction to it, but you don't really know that going in.  In fact, the science fictiony bit comes as something of a surprise, if you're not familiar with the book.  So, I mean, it isn't in the advertising or anything.  They aren't marketing this thing directly to science fiction geeks.

OK, here's me, in the theatre.  Seats about 50.  I'm there on the show's closing night -- right away I'm figuring a lot of people in the audience are friends and family of cast and crew.  Others are just folks who've come to see the show.  Everyone seems to be having a good time at the show -- laughing in the appropriate places.  Actually, I don't laugh once.  I smile a lot, but nothing is all that funny.

End of the play.  The science fictiony bit gets revealed and it turns out there's a time machine involved.  They're going to try to use the time machine to save the world (or whatever).  "They," in this case, refers to three guys:  the dude who owns the time machine; the protagonist who figured out he had a time machine; and the sidekick, who still isn't persuaded that the machine, in fact, travels through time.  Time Machine Owner and Protagonist start discussing exactly what they have to do in order to make the time machine do whatever it has to do to save the world.  Sidekick pipes in with:  "Can we reverse the polarity of the neutron flow through the flux capacitor?"

I am, instantly, beside myself with laughter.  Actually, the "through the flux capacitor" bit was totally gratuitous; they had me at "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow."  I start laughing.

I instantly stop laughing as I notice I'm the only one enjoying this.  I've silenced myself, but now I'm still shaking with the funny of it.  I stamp my foot a few times just to get it at all out and the play moves on to its conclusion.

I spend the rest of the evening wondering if I truly was the only science fiction geek in the audience.