Sunday, January 24, 2016

Doesn't Anything Come Assembled Anymore?

Right off, I have to admit that I am not the handiest man around. I understand the mechanics of putting things together, hell, I went to a polytechnic high school where we had to learn about a whole bunch of things - automotive, electricity, machine shop among other things I thought useless as the time but with what little experience I had, has helped me as an adult. Well, until yesterday.

A few years back I purchased a new computer work station / desk complete with a hutch all boxed up. I never got around to assembling it which in retrospect was a good thing. After moving to Palm Springs and digging myself somewhat out of the piles of boxes that literally filled my rental condo, my two neighbors and I labored all day to get it assembled. When my iMac wouldn't fit in the opening of the hutch we had to move the hutch!

Attempt 2 - it had been opened too!
A few days later, my neighbor came over to help me assemble a 5-shelf bookcase that was to go alongside the workstation. I had forgotten I had bought it at Target, not Staples where the workstation came from. He looked at the box and said, "Its been opened and taped back up. Did you do that?" " No. I never got around to opening it," I replied. And sure enough, my three year old Target bookshelf, still in the box, had no instructions. After assembling the workstation we were not going to try assembling this without instructions. I knew Target would never give me a refund so I looked first in the store and then online and found a bookcase that looked exactly like the one with no instructions. I ordered it online and it came a few days later.

When I decided to put it together yesterday this is what I found. ALL of the parts, screws, wooden dowels were either laying around of the bottom of the box or jammed into slots in the styrofoam. The packet that had originally held them had been opened and just dumped back in the box. See photo on the left.

The assembled bookcase after I attempted to move it.
I was two for two. Target appears to just take their returns, tape them up again and sells them. If you are a Target shopper I would urge you to be aware.

I spent hours by myself trying to put the bookcase together. While the boxes were mostly gone or stored, there were piles of books lining the walls. I wanted them up and out of the way. Right off the bat I put two of the pins in backwards. The instructions have little wording and illustrations so tiny that you are never quite sure which end was what. So a trip to Harbor Freight Tools to get an electric drill and bits to make the hole a bit bigger so it would fit the backwards pin.

That as I discovered was the least of my problems. Even when put in correctly the pins and their locking screw wouldn't always work. The pin would go too far into the pre-drilled hole the nut couldn't go around it. Somehow I did manage to get the bookcase upright and while wobbly figured with enough books it would stay in place. There were gaps everywhere so I decided it could stay in the bedroom next to the workstation. With hardly a touch to lift it to move it, it suddenly fell sideways completely coming apart.

Yup, you guessed it. The next stop was the dumpster. It took about that long to make that decision. There was my money down the drain. Several friends have said I should take it back but ... well, have YOU ever tried to repack something in the box it came in? It is next to impossible. All the particle board pieces are very heavy and even if packed would be impossible to return.

Is anything assembled today when you buy it? I even had to assemble my Shark Vacuum. It seems that the only thing you can buy today that IS assembled in your car, well you hope, and maybe your home ... assuming its new and not a fixer upper like just about every home you will buy today. Companies have passed on their labor costs to you, the often unskilled not on the clock public that may or may not have the skills to complete the tasks. When we complain they say, "Well, you wanted cheaper prices." I don't remember saying that. All I see is that their profits are often huge and our skills, or at least mine, are minimal.

What to do. There are many consignment shops here in the Coachella Valley and I will start looking there, or Staples and Office Depot to see if they have bookshelves that are already assembled. I have a pickup! Then there is always the tried and true from my college days; decorative concrete blocks with planks. Everyone looks at me when I say that. Why? Some of those blocks are pretty nice looking. I can tell you one of the things I will not do ... visit Target.

Thank you for reading my blog. Our lives are designed for us. Its our job to make the best choices of whose designs we are going to use! Please check out my other postings. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Our Lives Are Complicated Because We Let Ourselves: TV Adventures

As I continue to create a new home in Palm Springs, one of my first purchases but only realized last night was the installation of a new Visio flat screen television. Because we had already set up the stand for it the day before (another tale on how NOT to write instructions) it needed to be removed from its box and mounted on the pole that lifted it from the shelves with enough room for the new sound bar.

Luckily my next door neighbor is a geek. He spent a better part of an hour setting it up. As I found out today ... if you're a senior you better find someone under 50 to help you. Brought back memories of my Motorola Razr, pre-iPhone, the latest thing in tech phones in 2007. Only it was impossible to set. I usually had to go to the AT&T store or find a 15 year old to change or add the settings for me. It might as well have been in Chinese. That's why the iPhone became so popular. You could actually make or download changes all my yourself.

This TV is an adventure in itself. I am 70. My family in the early 50's had the first TV on our block and maybe several others besides. You turned it on, the TV schedule was in the paper, turned the dial to the station you wanted then sat down to watch. Your menu choices were sound volume and maybe making the picture darker or lighter. The other, and often frustrating adjustment was getting the antenna right. A great deal of time was spent getting those "rabbit" ears just right. And once set for one station, it was no guarantee that it would be right for the other. Our station choices for many years were ABC, CBS and NBC. Slowly local channels came along and then PBS and a variety of channels from 14 - 98 often even harder to dial in.

Cable remote, Speaker Remote
and the TV remote
Today, with cable, you have 200, 300 and even more channels to choose from but you still often watch a handful.  One day as I flicked past every channel I could get on Charter Cable, I found that half or nearly half were channels selling something I would never, ever buy. I had to pay for this? Really?

Which makes Verizon's Fios deal a good choice.You get to pick, I think, 15 channels for $50 a month. Cable may soon be as dead as a dinosaur as more and more content is moving to the web. DirecTV broadcasts from outer space but basically with the same cable format. More and more kids are streaming directly from the web and getting their content far cheaper than cable. If I were a cable stock holder, I'd say that in a few years they will be superfluous. SELL! Invest in the providers directly. No more need for monopolies in restricted areas that have been cash cows to cities for years. With the web you can get your content anywhere there is wi-fi and that is becoming as ubiquitous as air.

But back to my adventure. We got the TV set up, synced the speakers and I was told to not touch anything except the on off switches and channel selectors. However, easier said than done. These are the remotes I must turn on or off just to watch TV. Not sure if the sequence makes any difference yet but what was frustrating to me was the fact that even with a 4K, 1080i, LED TV, there is no guarantee Time-Warner or the channels they provide will give you that resolution. A movie I tried to watch on HBO kept saying it was broadcast at 480i and I kept trying to change that setting as it was pretty fuzzy ... especially watching it on a 50" TV. My neighbor fiddled with it awhile and finally realized and demonstrated to me that this was the resolution it was being broadcast at. As we flicked through the channels we saw three different settings ... 480i, 720i and 1080i. The TV was just showing what was being broadcast.

Watching "The Incredibles" last night on the Disney channel I thought I was in the theatre. Glorious crisp image and sound, that compared to what I had ever had before, was stunning. So it is worth it but goodness what a lot to go through. I am tempted just to leave it on for fear I will mess something up yet again!

So yes, we live in a complicated society that has forgotten Coco Chanel's dictum, "Less is more." Just because we can add all these features, do we really need them? Remember the VHS recorder? No one could program them and one wag on TV suggested that you cover that blinking clock flashing 12:00 for ever with a piece of black electrical tape. A neighbor. a bit older than me. told me not to get too upset; he has the same problems. All he wants is to turn the TV on and watch the channel.

Thank you for reading my blog. It covers the designs of daily life ... the bad AND the good. Please check out earlier blogs. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Moving To Palm Springs, CA

If anyone ever tells you that moving is a piece of cake ... don't you believe it. While I was concerned about moving from the assisted living home to a rental condo in Palm Springs, I was NOT prepared for what I would pick up at my former home. I mean ... where did ALL those boxes come from and what was in them?

What the movers left in the living room!
The movers were late arriving at 12:30 pm while I was ready and antsy. They had my meager belongings loaded in under an hour despite having to go through an elevator, down a long driveway out of the building to the street. We met at my former residence and what a surprise I had in store for me. It took them about two hours to load all the boxes, bags of clothing and whatever else I was able to load up from my old office. Now I know where things I wanted had gone. Despite traffic and the distance to Palm Springs I arrived first at 6:00 pm and they arrived a bit later.

Ironically they had all of the furniture unloaded and left by 7:30 back to the San Fernando Valley. Looking at all this I knew deep in my heart that I had days and days, if not weeks of work ahead of me. After a few boxes had been opened, I determined they would go where they belonged. Then and only then would I try to sort, put away or give away. 

Progress on day 2!
In living we design a kind of life force around us that determines what we like, who we like and what we will do. As we get older circumstances may change some if not all the perimeters but the one constant is that we accumulate things. Some might call it junk or crap but we definitely are accumulators. What's worse, as I discovered, is that we are reluctant to get rid of anything ... anything at all! That's what the folks at Public Storage and such are counting on. Once we possess, we just can't seem to give it away!

As bad as day one was, there was progress by day 2. I decided to work along the wall and by the end of the day pretty much had it cleared to the front windows. I discovered though that once a box was opened it needed to be put in the room where it would eventually go. Otherwise you get so bogged down in each box, it would take months! And I mean MONTHS! Many of these things I hadn't seen in years. I was surprised that I still even had them. Other items were new but I didn't realize just how many there were! 

Sunrise on the San Jacinto Mountinas
I wanted my living room back so I could watch the sunrise each and every morning as I drank my morning coffee. I mean with a view like this what's not to like? I couldn't have designed it better myself. I discovered this added treasure when delivering some of my belongings out here. I knew that I would never be able to pack many of my things just in my pickup so sitting on a dining room chair with a cup of coffee in hand, probably on my first morning, I looked out the window and was stunned by the view. The San Jacinto mountains run north-south directly perpendicular to my west facing living room.  

Part of the excitement of day 2 was the early morning earthquake! Not all that far away in Banning it was a clear glorious morning when suddenly my dog jumped up and started looking around. Then the shaking started; not all that much, a 4.9 on the Richter scale, but enough to let you know you are very close to the San Andreas fault.
The studio

There was plenty enough to do here than worry about earthquakes. Nothing fell which was a miracle in itself when considering how unstable some of the boxes were stacked. They were stacked everywhere including the smaller of the two bedrooms in the condo. I had always considered that to be my new studio. The work table would fit along with my two metal shelves and maybe even allow the blow up bed should anyone want to visit and stay here. However that dream soon evaporated as the boxes increased and room disappeared with the addition of more and then more boxes. I had all this? Really?  The facts don't lie as more boxes were opened and taken to their temporary home. I mean it was bad enough how many tubs there were of finished items ... these however, were waiting embellishment!!!

The end of day 3
I can see that I have my work cut out for me ... but not right away. I needed to get my living  room back so the work continued.

While it did try to rain Wednesday it came in earnest Thursday. Normally I would have stayed snug as a bug except for one problem, my dog. She was NOT to be ignored and walks were required rain or not. So, several times we ventured forth in often pouring rain. Well, it was refreshing and she seemed content. I think she does it so she'll get rubbed down. She loves getting rubbed with a towel all over.

As you can see by day 3 here in Palm Springs I was beginning to see most of my living room. It is a lot of work and I am amazed that my back could take all this. Well, those two little white pills from Tylenol helped too!

New workstation with sleeping dog!
I had a doctors appointment Friday in Alhambra so work on the condo pretty much came to a stop. 

However, it resumed Saturday as neighbors helped assemble a new computer workstation I had never gotten around to putting together. when purchased a few years ago. I am so happy that I didn't try it alone too! What a job. It took us just about all day to get it together and learn all over again what it meant when it said left and right. We thought it was one way and then learned they meant how you would look at it from the front. The only problem was a dowel went through the top of hutch but unless you are about six foot five or so you will never see it. The other problem was that I probably should have hutch on the opposite side as my iMac or the desk lamp are two tall for the opening. Now my 24" iMac and I are definitely close and personal. Not sure just what I will do to change this ... if anything. There are too many other things to worry about ... like getting a printer to work. Ironically the cheapie Canon I had finally did hook up on wi-fi while the larger Canon is telling me to abort an printing job that I cannot find or appears to have been happening. At least one is hooked up and has an Internet connection so that will do for now! Almost here a week and at least there is some semblance of normalcy!

Thank you for reading my blog. Our lives are designed ... either by ourselves or others ... I hope you find interesting observations here to read. Please check out earlier blogs as I explore the designs we have for living!