Thursday, January 26, 2006

"The Ball"

I’m a Chicago baseball fan, but more specifically a White Sox fan. It was a very enjoyable season last year with the Sox winning the 2005 World Series. One of the Series highlights was the grand slam home run hit by Paul Konerko in Game 2. The game was played at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago and the ball was caught by a customer of the bank I work for. He immediately placed the ball in one of our safe deposit boxes.

Only 18 grand slams have been hit in World Series history.

On Wednesday, January 26th, our bank arranged for a memorabilia authenticator to come and inspect the ball. I was privileged to be able to attend and take photographs. It was fun to actually handle the ball…at least for a couple of seconds!

Monday, January 23, 2006


I just had to post this photo of my little Papillon, Mozart. I was playing around with my new digital camera and he seemed so willing to pose.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Too cold to smoke

On Saturday evenings during the summer, I like to sit out on the patio and smoke a cigar and drink a glass of wine (or three). Our house backs up to a forest preserve and it's fun to watch the birds, especially the golden finches and the cardinals, fly between the trees. Occasionally, I'll see a hawk in the taller trees.

Anyway, Friday evening we received 12 inches of snow. My summer refuge doesn't look too inviting right now! This photo was taken around 7:00 AM Saturday.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Toilet seats revisited

A few weeks ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about toilet seats. My point was that women often complain about the man in their life always leaving the seat up. I was wondering how fair that was and countered that, all things being equal, men should have the same right to complain about women leaving the seat down!

I was at our local Home Depot yesterday and they now sell a toilet that automatically lowers the seat after use. How lazy are we getting that we now have something like this to keep the peace in our households?

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Every Time Two Fools Collide

I was listening to some real bad '70s country music on iTunes tonight and Every Time Two Fools Collide by Kenny Rogers and Dottie West played. It reminded me that I saw them in the late '70s/early '80s at the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln. My girlfriend-at-the-time and I saw them at the Devaney Center and then saw Crystal Gayle a few days later. I guess I was going through a country ballad phase at the time -- or maybe hormones were raging, I don't recall.

This memory sent me hunting through my old photo albums and I found this photograph I took of Kenny and Dottie at the concert. We had pretty decent seats, but I never got a good clear shot of them using my trusty old Canon A-1 and my telephone lens.

Sadly, Dottie West was killed in an auto accident in 1991.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Rebate madness

I have a love-hate relationship with rebates. On one hand, I like the savings you realize when buying something with a rebate. On the other hand, I don't like the uncertainty, the delay and the hassle of claiming a rebate. I'm not alone. Here's some information about rebate scams.

I'm having a hassle right now with Panasonic in getting my rebate. Last June, I bought a cordless telephone for my mother from Best Buy. The phone was $105 with two $20-rebates making the net cost $65. I filled out the forms, made copies of all the paperwork and sent the rebates in. I do like the way that Best Buy lets you track their rebates. Every transaction has a PIN number and each rebate offer has its own unique offer number. That's fine if the rebate is a Best Buy rebate; when it's a manufacturer's rebate, there can be problems.

Late in August, I received one of the rebate checks, but not the other. I went on the Best Buy website and entered all the information. There was no record of my rebate. I e-mailed their support center and found out the rebate was a Panasonic rebate, not a Best Buy rebate. They gave me an 800 number to call which I did. [Side note: I always find it interesting that even when I call for the first time, the automated system always tells me the menu has changed and please listen for the options!] I was able to speak to a friendly, live voice. After giving her only my name and street address, she was able to tell me that they did receive the documentation and when the check was sent. Unfortunately, the check was sent a couple of weeks earlier and I still had not received it. She told me the check would expire on December 8 and to call back if I had not received the check by that date.

So far, so good. I verified the paperwork was processed and there was a record of the check being sent.

December 9th arrives and still no check. I called back hoping to speak to the same friendly voice. Instead, someone else answers and abruptly tells me that the Panasonic Rebate Center does not, surprisingly, handle Panasonic rebates! If I want to pursue this further, I needed to call Panasonic Customer Support! She gives me the phone number and I get a sinking feeling in my stomach that I will need to fight for my $20.

I called the number and got one of those awful voice response units. I have to tell the computer who I want to speak to! I first say "rebate" and the system tells me they don't understand my request. I then say "telephone" and then it asks me if I want to speak to technical support in telephones. At this point I figure it's worth it to get away from the voice response unit so I say "yes" and I'm connected to technical support. The call is answered by a techie and I begin to tell my story once again. The person tells me I should call the rebate center(!) and I relay what the rebate center told me. He tells me he will try to get some help for me and gives me a case (reference) number and someone will call me back.

A few hours later, I do get a telephone call on my home voice mail. The person tells me all they need is the unit's serial number and then they can process the rebate claim. Yay!

I call them back using my reference number and give them the serial number of my mom's phone. I'm told they will put this through and someone will call me back to verify the information.

Then nothing.

A couple of days after Christmas, I called back and once again repeated the story for the person who answers. I'm now told that they are busy this time of year processing other "cases" and because of the backlog and the holiday season, it may be a few more days before I hear anything.

I'm at the point right now where I am going to pester them until I get some satisfaction. Twenty dollars is still twenty dollars and I feel I held up my end of the deal by paying full retail price and then dutifully completing the paperwork and sending everything in. I know they are counting on consumers to just give up so they can pocket the extra money.

I was not aware that Panasonic was in such dire financial straits that they needed the extra money!

Like I said at the beginning, I have a love-hate relationship with rebates. I recently bought a Linksys wireless router and a wireless notebook card and received the rebates within the acceptable time period. Two weeks ago I bought another Linksys wireless PCI card and expect the rebate in late January or early February. Last weekend I bought an external hard drive and got a $20 instant rebate (the best kind!).

Does anyone else have rebate horror stories?

Monday, January 2, 2006

First post of 2006

Happy New Year to everyone!

It's Monday morning and I'm about to participate in the annual viewership orgy known as the New Year's Day bowl games. This year, actually, these bowl games are played the day after New Year's Day since pro football games are still reserved for Sunday, except for those games played on Saturday! Confusing?

In keeping with my own tradition, I have not made any resolutions since I never seem to keep -- or even remember -- them. I only resolve to be a better person than I was the year before.