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Tastes Like Chicken

Last Saturday, Mrs. Kharmin, our daughter and I piled into the Tahoe and headed to my parents’ house for the day.  The granddaughter was most excited to spend the day with her grandparents and her cousin who would be there as well.

I was looking forward to the steaks.

Earlier in the week, when discussing the Saturday plans with my mom, steak on the grill was the menu du jour.  Vernal equinox, after a long snow-filled winter, practically called for a cookout especially since the day called for loads of sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures.  Coupled with a cold brew, what could go wrong?

Dinner-time came and you probably guessed it… no steaks.  Buh? Instead, we had some chicken glazed with peaches and almonds.  I asked, “What happened to the steaks?”

“Well,” my mother replied, “your brother and sister-in-law were over last night and we had the steaks with them.”

The chicken dish was actually quite good, but try as I might it just didn’t taste like steak… and it wasn’t for lack of effort.

But I did get the last of her prized Blastin’ Berry Cherry Kool-aid which she and I both enjoy but can no longer find in the supermarkets so the day wasn’t a total loss.  Maybe,  if I play my cards right, I might score a chocolate pie on my next visit as it is my brother’s favorite.

© 2010, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


Kharmin 2, Mother Nature 1 (Final)

The biggest snowstorm to hit the east in my memory has finally abated. The game began last Friday and finished around 11pm local time Wednesday night. The score? Kharmin 2, Mother Nature 1.

The first wave, we overcame easily enough.  We had all weekend to dig out and by Monday we were able to get to wherever we needed to go.  Even though the snow emergency routes weren’t cleared as well as I thought they should be, I was still able to get to work and home again without incident.

Tool of the Champion.

Tuesday afternoon, the second half of the game began in earnest.  Mother Nature really must’ve had some inspirational half-time speeches because she blew in with a vengeance.  I was able to snow-blow the driveway that night, but the darkness made it too unsafe and I retired for the evening.  Still, every few hours I had to dig the heat pumps out from the drifting snow.  Mrs. Kharmin helped, too, and it was a back-and-forth battle.

Wednesday, she kept blowing snow.  I had expected to be able to get up and out of our driveway, but Mother Nature wouldn’t hear of it.  After progressing to the top of the driveway once with the snow blower, I decided that we should just resign and call in our plow-guy on Thursday after the storm.  The arrangements were made and the score was tied 1-all.

Take that Mother Nature!

The sun peaked out right on schedule Thursday morning, so I decided to give the snow blower one more crack at the driveway, hoping that once cleared the sun would melt the remainder and make our driveway dry.  Cresting the top of the hill, my machine and I would not be denied (although we had to manually shovel a 15 foot long path near the top) and we persevered!  A late come-back play netted our victory over Mother Nature.  To celebrate, Mrs. Kharmin, my daughter and I took the truck and headed out to McDonald’s (and no, they didn’t ask if we wanted fries).

Snow Truck Ready!

Tomorrow, Friday, is the last day of the week.  Mrs. Kharmin’s office might still be closed and I’m fairly sure our daughter’s school will be as well.  Me?  I intend to strike out and test those snow emergency routes and return to the office.

I think I need a vacation from being stuck at home.

© 2010, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


Pffft! You Call This A Blizzard?

During the weekend here on the east coast we experienced what the experts termed a “blizzard.”  Loosely defined, a blizzard is, “A violent snowstorm with winds blowing at a minimum speed of 35 miles per hour and visibility of less than one-quarter mile  for three hours.”, so I suppose that I can accept their hype.

In all actuality, it started snowing at my office around 9:45am local time on Friday and didn’t stop until 3:30pm Saturday.  No official measurement at the Kharmin household, but our best non-snowdrift including calculation puts the amount of snow received at around 26 inches… or, as our five-year old daughter put it, “Too much snow.”

Saturday morning, around 7am, I started by digging out the heat pumps.  They are on the windward side of the house, thus bearing the brunt of the drifting snow.  Having already dug them out once at 11:30pm the night before, I thought the job wouldn’t be so hard in the morning.  The “blizzard” gifted me with an additional foot of snow around the heat pumps– a foot beyond the foot I had already shoveled the night before.

Blowin’ snow; Kharmin-style!

Next, the driveway.  Four hundred plus feet up an incline of about 30° once past the pad by the garage.  This is why we bought the snow thrower years ago.  A Yard King 33″ wide, 12hp beast of a machine, capable of handing snowdrifts in excess of three feet.  The initial foray from the safe confines of the garage (where the outlet is, you know, for the electric starter on the snowblower?  Yeah, like I’m hand-cranking this thing.) was arduous, however it was very much throwing the snow.  The pull up the driveway though proved to be a far different scenario. The heavy snow proved too much for my beast to drive through.

Mrs. Kharmin came out with our daughter (who, for a time, entertained herself with her sled down the part of the driveway hill that I had been able to mostly clear to this point before making her aforementioned comment and retiring back inside the house) and she helped to clear a path wide enough for the snowblower– the plan being that once up the hill gravity would help drive the machine back down through the snow.  Four hours later we found success in our endeavor and cleared a path wide enough for a vehicle to pass.  Unfortunately, during that four hour trial an additional four inches of snow fell, re-covering our efforts.

Up and out!

Figuring that the snowblower could handle a measly four inches, I returned to the bottom pad to clear the snow that had been ignored during the assault on the hill.  Defeated, I retired to the garage after only 10-15 minutes of that work, however I had cleared enough to get both of the vehicles out of the garage if necessary.

Normally, with five or so inches of snow or less, I hardly consider clearing the driveway as both my truck and Mrs. Kharmin’s Tahoe have four wheel drive and can handle it.  This time, with snow still falling, we called in for additional help and paid a local with a bigger truck (and a plow!) to finish the job that I was, by now, too exhausted to accomplish.  By Sunday afternoon, we were dug out.

Daughter: “Too much snow!”

Now, it’s Monday.  Both Mrs. Kharmin’s work and our daughter’s school are closed today, but I decided to brave the roads with my truck.  Funny how roads marked as a “Snow Emergency Route” were in pretty sad shape.  Several trees had fallen across the road, partially blocking them.  Snow plows just went around them– one was marked with a road-worker’s reflective vest lying atop the mound of snow.  It’ll probably take a few days for crews to make some semblance of order on the secondary roads… just in time for the next wave which is predicted to drop an additional 8-10 inches in two days.

Bring it on.

© 2010, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


Would You Like Fries With That?

Has it come down to this? Are we all finally so lazy that we are unable to make choices for ourselves without someone prompting us?

Yesterday, I stopped at a McDonald’s restaurant, close to my daughter’s school. I hadn’t had breakfast, so I decided to make a quick run through the drive-thru (see? I’m lazy already.). At the speaker where I am to place my order, I was greeted by a friendly, pre-recorded voice which welcomed me to McDonald’s and inquired if I were interested in a hot, mocha-latte? Then, the actual order-taker-person spoke up and asked to take my order after which he tried to tempt me with a hot apple pie (actually, two… they’re only $1!). No, thank you. I ordered what I wanted to order; no more, no less.

Ok, I completely understand capitalism and the harsh times of the current economy, but does McDonald’s really need to squeeze out that last dollar from me? Heck, they’re lucky I have the money that I do have to order my meager Number One, Egg McMuffin value meal (value? Ha!) with a large Dr. Pepper– no ice.

Click here! ->

This is one aspect that makes people dread shopping for a car, new or used — ah, sorry I meant “previously owned.” They try to sell you on the options packs, those bundles of nuances that really make the car your car. Nevermind that they tell every other prospect the same sing-song. Small electronics? Major appliances? Just try shopping for them without the stress of the decision on the extended warranty. If they are so hung up on how great their product is, it shouldn’t require an extended warranty!

No, I don’t want your mocha-latte. No, I don’t want your apple pies, as un-American as that may sound. I don’t need you to tell me what I want.

And I certainly don’t need some mass-marketed, fast-food chain jockey pushing product for their quarterly quota. You can keep your fries. Really.

© 2010, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


What Defines a Classic?

The online American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition defines a classic as:


    1. Belonging to the highest rank or class.
    2. Serving as the established model or standard.
    3. Having lasting significance or worth; enduring.

It’s that second definition that troubles me.  I don’t find that it holds true in all cases, for what one person considers a classic, another might consider it mundane at best.

Take baseball.  The Great American Classic.  Although I am hardly a baseball fan, I can certainly relate it to the time in which it became “classic”.  In the pre-television era, fans huddled around vacuum-tube filled monstrosities, closed their eyes and peered through the static hum of relatively virgin airwaves to experience the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd and the passion of the team’s announcer.  But more than that, baseball comes from a time long past and, outside of its basic rule-set, is nothing today like it was then.  However, it is still considered by many to be the ultimate standard of sports in the USA.  Classic?  Perhaps.

Two straws!

Yet another classic, whose origins are still in dispute, is the infamous ice cream soda.  A simple root beer float, if you will please?  Not so celebrated today as it was way back when, but you can still get one at your local Friendly’s or non-franchised ice cream parlor.

Of course, you also have classic cars.  Many people deem the muscle cars of the 50s and 60s to be the ultimate in this category whereas others look farther back still to the antiques of old — classic merely in the fact that they changed a generation.

About a year or so ago, I purchased and installed a new radio in my not-yet-classic 2002 Dodge Dakota truck.  An Alpine ida-x100, with a direct connection for my iPod.  There is even a screen on the radio which mimics much of my iPod’s functionality. Since I’ve had my iPod (going on six years now?), I haven’t listened to broadcast radio– I’ve not needed to.

Until last week.

I took a short jaunt to town from our rural domicile, leaving my iPod at home.  I decided that I would just use the radio for the quick ten minute down, ten minute back trip.  Scanning the band, I found one of our local classic rock stations.  Yeah.  “Classic” rock.  In order, I heard: Dazed and Confused (Led Zepplin), Money (Pink Floyd), Sympathy for the Devil (The Rolling Stones), Break on Through (The Doors)… at this point, I scanned for the other local station.  I landed my dial on Van Halen (And the Cradle Will Rock) near the finale.  Next?  Money (Pink Floyd), Whole Lotta Love (Led Zepplin)… /click/

Is this really a classic car?

Not to detract from the talent and their place in music history, but when classic rock radio is full of the Stones, Zepplin, et al, I really have to wonder what has become of the industry.  That day, I was reminded why I purchased my iPod and stopped listening to the radio.  Just because something is air-played beyond its death does not automatically make it a classic.  Things which endure aren’t necessarily classic-worthy just because of the definition of what classic means.  In many states, a classic/antique car is one which has been out of production for only fifteen years … ah, the memories I have of my 1980 Ford Fairmont, now considered a classic in many parts of the country!

I still have some of these.

I don’t mean to come across as an old codger.  Music isn’t a sport with specific rules for the purpose of fair competition and sportsmanship.  Music is fluid; it changes with the times and is part and parcel of society, for good or ill.  Am I to understand that the only classic rock music is from a time of my infancy (or even earlier!) and is the definitive sound and style for the entire genre?  If so, I’ll keep my iPod, thank you very much.

Not all classics are things of the distant past, and they shouldn’t be.  Some things become classic simply by being the best there is of its kind.

Like me– a true classic!

© 2010, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


I Am My Father’s Son

Yes, it’s true.  Exactly so.  It occurred to me over the Thanksgiving weekend in two, undeniable truths.  Let me explain.

My daughter was away at my in-laws for a few days and Mrs. Kharmin was out of the house on some social event which left me all alone to find my own dinner.  Now, I am a capable enough cook when I want to be (which is almost never) and I am handy around the kitchen; however, when left to my own devices I take the easiest, laziest route: microwave popcorn.

Is there anything that doesn’t go with microwave popcorn?  Not only that, but it is easily one of the most filling of foods depending on how many bags you make.  And that’s the best part– with multiple microwaves (one in the kitchen and one in the downstairs bar) you can quickly immerse yourself in a veritable treasure-trove of buttery goodness!  Oh, and there is some nutritional value as well.

Now, this isn’t to say that my father is lazy– no, not at all!  But, I can remember times when popcorn would have been his preferred bachelor-evening dinner just as it was mine.

But wait, there’s more!

NOT me and Dad, but you get the idea.

Sunday, we headed to church. As far back as I can remember, my dad always wore his suit to church. Regardless of how I feel on Sunday mornings, I wrestle that neck tie around my collar. I don’t pull myself into my whole dress suit, but I do get that tie around my neck — I can at least do that. But it is my father’s example which, to this day, still impresses upon me the importance of dressing for church as a sign of respect. It makes me wonder just what some of the other parents must be thinking when their kids come to church in ripped jeans and sneakers or mini-skirts which are barely mini! At any rate, the neck tie is yet another way of connecting me back to my dad.

There are, I’m sure, a host of other things that have been passed down to me from my dad– too many for me to count– and I’m sure that my older sibling has his share of memories and other trivia from our youth. In all, it seems that he must’ve done something right because both my brother and I have happy, successful families and a strong foundation to relate to our own children.

It is my hope that I can do just as good as a job as my dad.

© 2009, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


When Next Day Air Isn’t

I returned my Garmin, you remember the one that became a brick without warning? I talked about it here. Well, I had hoped that I would have either a replacement or my repaired unit back in time for my July 4th travels. My email conversations with the CSRs (that’s Customer Service Representatives for those who don’t know) were quite encouraging. They showed empathy for my need and appeared to do everything that they could to resolve this issue to my satisfaction.

Shakespeare said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

On July 26th, I was told that my return order had been “expedited … to next day-air using UPS”. My return was finalized and shipped on July 1 which would have it at my door on July 2, the day before I was planning to leave on my holiday weekend trip. You can probably figure out what’s coming next. Yep, you got it– and I didn’t.

I frantically emailed the CSR looking for a tracking number. A second CSR chimed in the email chain and the tracking number I was given was not valid at either UPS’s or FedEx’s web site. Where was my Garmin?

I hope it didn't go to London!Well, come to find out, it didn’t ship via UPS. It shipped via DHL. Apparently, not Next Day Air. DHL then tendered the order to USPS — the United States Postal Service. Not to harp on the USPS too much, but have you ever had anything go through there with any urgency?

So, my continued communications with Garmin encountered a third CSR who explained that they could not guarantee Next Day Air shipments especially during a holiday weekend which may delay shipments. Um, what? When did my return change from Next Day Air to standard ground shipping through the DHL/USPS tandem? My return shipped on 7/1 which would have arrived well before the weekend had it gone Next Day Air as I was led to believe it had.

I purchased this unit mainly because of the Garmin name. I have really enjoyed using my nuvi — I even gave it a name — and have made travel plans that the use of this GPS would make easier. The defect of the unit was not my fault; rather it was an issue automatically sent over the air from Garmin. I returned the unit on my own dime and used UPS so that I would have a dependable tracking number as well as the assurance of a high probability of delivery based on the UPS name. In my opinion, the least Garmin could do for my inconvenience would be to return my unit (or replace it) by Next Day Air especially since I had expressed my need to have it for the weekend. Where the breakdown occurred, I can’t say.

I can say that based on this particular incident, I will be more hesitant in the future to recommend this product to my friends. I had thought that a company with such a large stake in their market would be more appreciative of their customers, especially in this current economic situation.

Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be the case.

© 2009, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


Give Me Back My Focus!

One of the most annoying things (to me, anyway) is the way that applications think that they are the important application that you must run on your computer. They simmer to a slow boil in the micronic confines of the system’s processor and just when you need it least, they present themselves in their full splash-screen splendor before presenting themselves in a panoply of majesty which commands every last electron of your computer. Whatever you were working on, you can forget it– the newly spawned app has stolen your focus.

I use a SanDisk Cruzer Titanium U3 thumb drive for just about all of my every day computing and surfing wants and needs. It goes everywhere with me and has every application on it that I use on a daily basis. When plugged in, it automatically fires off the on-board anti-virus application which I trust will keep my thumb drive safe from whatever might have infected the host computer. After that is loaded, the following are launched in rapid succession: Thunderbird, Firefox and Opera (yeah, I know what you’re thinking: why two browsers? Hey, I’ve got my reasons!).

Invariably, Opera comes up first. This is because my Firefox has a lot of extensions that need to load. It is an acceptable trade-off; my browsing sessions are as secure as I can get them.

Next, Thunderbird pops up. Now, understand, I have five different email accounts in my installation of the app so loading my email client takes a little time as it solicits each account in turn for new mail. I usually minimize Thunderbird and allow it to do its thing, promising myself to get back to it in a little while.

Instead of waiting for Firefox to announce its presence, I start working with my Opera session. Somewhere in my browsing, a small pop-up materializes next to my system tray to let me know what, if any, new mail has finally arrived in Thunderbird. Bringing my mail app to the fore, I check the messages and start replying to those that require action:

Dear Sir,

I am more than happy to recieve your funds in the amount of USD$1.5M as your overseas partner to hold the sum in trust for a modest percentage…*

BAM!…Firefox loads and steals my focus!

*This is actually something that I don’t do– I never reply to any of the 419 or Nigerian Email Scams. You shouldn’t either.

© 2009, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.