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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mexican Coke
In our local grocery store, there's a Mexican section where one can find a number of things ranging from candies to molcajete (mortar & pestle).  They always have 355ml glass bottles of Coca-Cola that is hecho en Mexico.  Some time ago, I was intrigued, so I purchased Mexican Cokesome.  The reason I bought this imported Mexican version as opposed to paying less for the "American" Coke was that I prefer a glass bottle.  It may all be in my head, but Coke in a glass bottle seems to get colder, stay cold longer, and simply taste better.  Well, sure enough, I enjoyed the Mexican coke much more that the domestic.
 
Today, while enjoying my peanuts in Coke (a Southern tradition).  I decided to do a search on Mexican Coke.  In this Associated Press article, I discovered that Coke made in Mexico is made with cane sugar as opposed to high fructose corn syrup as has been the standard here in the United States since 1985.  The reason we switched to corn syrup here in the US was to cut costs.  Virtually every other soft drink maker did the same thing.  Now, the only way to get Coca-Cola made with pure cane sugar is to either purchase imported Coke or purchase it in a metropolitan area with a large Jewish population during Passover.  During this time, observant Jews avoid primary grains and cereals including corn (called chametz). So, for this brief time, domestic Coca-Cola bottlers make "Kosher for Passover" Coke, obviously to avoid a drop in sales for this period. 
 
But clearly, at least for some of us, cheaper Coke is inferior Coke (Coca-Cola, that is).
 
Now, I wouldn't normally recommend imports over domestic, but along with cigars and beer, I must add Coca-Cola to the list of products that are simply superior to domestic.  So, next time you're in Mexico or in a market that sells Mexican Coke, pick up a bottle and see if you don't get all sentimental and longing for the old days.  Viva la Coke!
Wed, June 20, 2007 | link

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Snakes, country folk, and the meaning of life...
Wednesday night after arriving home from Bible study, I walked around the back of the house to "release the hounds" (let the dachshunds out of their kennel).  An unusual site caught my attention.  There was a 2-3' snake wrapped around the handle of the south entrance storm door.  The only reason I can fathom his being there would be to feed on the bugs and moths that were swarming around the nearby porch light.
 
Anyone that knows me knows that I kind of have an affinity for snakes.  Furthermore, my wife and I, having lived most of our lives 'in the country', are no strangers to snakes and other critters, and we've adopted the philosophy of live and let live.  In fact, when I happen upon a snake that could potentially be in the path of my pets, I usually attempt to capture it and 'relocate' it to the other side of the creek.  I also like to take pictures of unusual or colorful snakes before relocating them.
 
An unfortunate side note is that I'm not very good at identifying snakes.  Therefore, I have a healthy respect for all of them and thus treat them all as if they are venomous.
 
My wife was getting out of her truck, so I summoned her to, "Come see!"  She humors me.  That's why I love her.  She agreed to go in the house to get the new digital camera for me while I kept an eye on the snake and fended off the dogs (who are also no strangers to snakes and the resulting swollen extremities).
 
So I hear the typical 'beep-beep-beep-beep' from the keyless entry bolt lock on the front door.  Then my wife flatly asks, "Why did you lock the knob?"
 
You see, we never lock the actual door knob lock on the front door because we have installed an electronic deadbolt that only requires you enter your secret PIN.  We don't even know where the key to the knob is.  Hence my wife's frustration when she discovers I've absentmindedly locked the knob.  I tried to explain my actions stating that I, for some reason, exited the side door when leaving the house earlier that evening, and I must have inadvertently locked the knob from the inside before exiting the side door...blah...blah...blah...I could tell she didn't appreciate my logic, but she didn't verbalize it.  Another reason I love her.  Although I must admit her pompous silence is quite frustrating.
 
We weren't actually locked out of our house.  The side door (the one where the snake had set-up shop) was locked, but we keep a key hidden on the property for just such an occasion.  So theoretically, we could scare the snake away and enter the side door with the spare key.  But we really want a picture of this snake in this unusual position.  Seeing no other viable option, my wife resigned herself to this end and decided to just take a picture with her cell phone camera--clearly an inferior quality picture to that of the capabilities of the fancy new digital camera that was currently locked-up-tight in the house.
 
Still determined, I proposed that the spare key might actually fit the front door, too.  We'd never tried it.  We aren't the original owners of the house, so it was feasible that the knobs share a common key.  It was worth a shot.  So, my wife, humoring me again, agreed to postpone scaring the snake away while I went around to the front door to try the key.
 
The key was rusty after having been exposed to the elements, so it didn't slide right in.  It took some coaxing...and forcing...and fumbling.  Ok, so I dropped the damn key!  It bounced once...before slipping right through the spacing between the boards on the deck.
 
Now, ladies and gentlemen, we are officially locked out of the house.  The only key we have (had) to get in was under said house. The house is 'pier-and-beam', so I could have crawled under the house to look for the key, but the entry point is on the opposite end of the house.  Did I mention there was a snake wrapped around the door knob?  I wonder how many snakes are under the house.
 
It's amazing how at this point the outside temperature seemed to climb 30 degrees; it seemed much darker outside than before; the hour was much later than before; and the snake was no longer all that interesting to behold---clearly not even picture worthy.
 
I then frantically began inspecting the large windows which are easily accessible from the front deck.  If just one of them is unlocked, I could quite easily step through to enter my air-conditioned, comfortable, well-lit home.
 
Nothing's that easy.  C'mon, God, it's not like I just got in from an all-nighter at a strip club---I just got home from Bible study!  But He will hear nothing of my pleading and ranting.  So I turn my frustration to my wife, "Why do you lock these windows?!"
 
Her silence was broken, "Oh...don't you make this MY fault!"  Sheesh...I'm just blowing off a little steam.  She didn't have to cut so deep with the whole dehumanizing, emasculating, 'incompetent husband' retort.  Understanding I'm defeated, I withdraw my complaints.
 
Ever rational and vigilant, she continues to inspect the other windows on the house.  We discovered the large windows in the living room were not locked.  The lower panes of these windows are at least 6' above ground and behind bushes.  Hence the reason we're not real concerned about keeping them locked.  Any burglar motivated enough to use a ladder and brave the dogs (and snakes), wouldn't be thwarted by a mere lock.
 
Guess where our ladder is.  It's under tons of junk in the very back of a storage building 50 yards deeper into the woods.  Oh, and there's no light in the building.
 
We will not be beaten.  We. are. countryfolk.
 
I suggested the hoist method.  I've seen it on TV.  I interlaced my fingers and had my wife step into my hands.  I hoisted her up and with surprising ease, she gracefully entered through the window.
 
She proceeded to unlock the front door for me (a gesture for which I will be eternally grateful).  We got the camera and went back outside to capture this moment in time.snake on door handle  Now, we're doing to this out of pure self-preservation.  Without a picture our friends would never believe the story.
 
Of course, with all the ruckus, the snake decided to exit the scene quietly, and I was unable to get a picture of him.  So the only picture we have is this fuzzy low-light picture taken with my wife's camera phone.  Enjoy.
Sat, June 16, 2007 | link

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Customer Service, Making A Comeback?

I've recently upgraded to DSL after almost 10 years of dial-up internet.  My dial-up ISP was Earthlink.  Rarely did I have a problem with Earthlink, and if I did, the problem was minor, brief, and easily remedied...hence my reluctance to change internet providers. 

 

The fact is, the cost of bundling my internet and phone with one provider, Embarq, meant a savings of $20 per month...and that's with the fastest DSL Embarq offers (5.0 Mbps download / 768 upload).  It was a no-brainer. 

 

Given my remote location, I shouldn't even be able to receive DSL.  Fortunately, about 18 months ago, a gated community sprung up even further out of the city limits than me.  This resulted in fiber being laid past me in order to serve the new community, thus giving us 'country folk' the rare opportunity to have high-speed internet. 

 

My only concern was that the DSL service would not be as reliable as the dial-up had been, and that customer service would be lacking as compared to Earthlink's.  So far, neither of the aforementioned has come to fruition.  I set up the DSL a little over 3 weeks ago. I've contacted Embarq on at least 4 different occasions, though:

 

After about 4 days of the DSL, I thought I was having intermittent drop-outs, but it turns out it was a communication problem with my wireless router which is now resolved with the help of an Embarq support tech---this was not Embarq's issue or equipment, but the tech immediately recognized the problem and how to fix it. 

 

I called once on behalf of my parents' newly installed DSL because the connection was painfully slow.  The tech support person was patient, courteous, and methodical.  Ultimately, he could not resolve the problem via telephone as he suspected the problem was related to a physical line problem.  He therefore arranged for a service tech to inspect the wiring.  (He set it up.  He didn't give me another number to call unlike the Samsung Camera fiasco I experienced a while back.)While waiting for the tech to arrive, my father and I discovered we had a bad phone cord.  We swapped it out---problem resolved. 

 

On another occasion, I had SMTP server settings issues with my offline email client, Thunderbird.  Even though Embarq doesn't recognize Thunderbird as one of their supported email clients, the Embarq internet support tech was able to identify and resolve my issue---again, he fixed a problem that wasn't even related to Embarq.

 

On each of these occasions in which I had to contact Embarq's High Speed Internet Technical Support, the personnel were methodical, knowledgeable, courteous, and patient.  Exactly what tech support should be, right?  Unfortunately this kind of service is becoming quite rare, now.  I am quite pleased with my decision to switch to Embarq.  I highly recommend them!

Sun, June 10, 2007 | link


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