Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Wrong Way to Size a Watch Bracelet

   I started with damn and worked my way up to sonofabi**. I think sonofabi** is quite handy. Especially when I start something I'm not sure I can do.
    I bought a watch, and Amazon sent me the one on the metal bracelet instead of the leather strap I wanted.
    I decided to re-size the bracelet by myself. Watched a YouTube video on how to do it. I have the tools.
    Bent the first tool I tried to use because I missed the hole. Damn.
    Then I watched a different video and used a different tool. Struggled from damn to sonofabi** in a hurry.
    Wasn't sure I was going to like the steel bracelet, but was determined to re-size the sonofabi** and put it on the damn watch anyway.
    I did. Poked myself three times and drew blood--three times in exactly the same spot. My cries of sonofabi** grew quite rapid and loud.
    Reassembled the damn bracelet and put it on the damn watch after removing one more link than I should have. Sonofabi** rang through the air in the room.
    Put a link back in. Stabbed my sonofabi** finger in the same damn spot three more times. Did the "sonofabi**" in sign language because I was already waving my damn finger around.
    Re-re-assembled the watch. Didn't like the result. It didn't quite fit.
    So I removed one of the micro-adjust pins. It flew in the air, bounced off my damn head, and now I can't find the sonofabi**.
    Then I took the damn bracelet off the damn watch and put the parts of the sonofabi** bracelet in a damn drawer...
    ...and put the silicone strap I took off the watch in the first place back on the watch.
Learned a lot, namely...leave well enough alone.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bought myself a good fountain pen, and I'm going to use it.

Okay, I'll admit it. I splurge on a regular basis. I usually splurge by buying a watch. I collect those and make no apologies for it.
   This time I splurged on a pen. It's a beauty. It's the Parker Sonnet. I got a good deal on it, but it was still $93 by the time I paid the sales tax.
   Why would any sane man spend a hundred bucks on a pen?

   I asked myself that very question when I skipped over pens that cost half that much and chose this one. That's the Parker Sonnet in stainless steel. The nib (that's the part that touches the paper) is 23k gold plate over stainless steel, and so are the gold accents on the cap and clip.

I have been using fountain pens for years, for reasons explained elsewhere in this blog. I have had cheap ones, and most of them are okay. They'll get the job done.

I think like most people who spend money they have to think twice about on an object they don't really need (my definition of a splurge), I feel a little guilt (and gilt--for the wordsmiths out there) when I think about the purchase.

I didn't test the pen at Staples when I bought it and shelled out my five $20 bills. I pulled it out of the box, saw that there was an ink converter--the device that sucks the ink out of the bottle--included, and felt the balance in my hand. It's not too heavy, nor too light. Unlike some fancy pens, it doesn't slide in my hand. I can write with it for hours.

My wife bought me some fountain pens when she visited Vietnam recently. They're made for students, and they work okay. They scratch the paper--sometimes even cut through it, and sometimes they just stop writing. It's beyond frustrating. Other fountain pens can leak ink inside the cap. Some make an annoying sound when put to paper. Some come unscrewed in your pocket. Even a fountain pen from Parker that I spent $40 bucks on and like a lot can become loose. I have to tighten it before I put it to paper.

My guilt went away when I got home and filled the pen with ink. It filled smoothly. When I put it back together, the balance was perfect. Not just good, but perfect. The cap fits tightly on the back of the pen. It's not too long. It's not too short.

And when I put the pen to paper and wrote my name, I swear I heard angels sing! They were singing about my lousy handwriting, but a song from angels is a song from angels. Here's where the gold plating really pays off. The pen slides smoothly, soundlessly, even over the roughest paper.  The gold shines in the light and calls attention to the fact that it is a fountain pen, a pen steeped in tradition, and--thanks to Pelikan--a very bright royal blue ink.

The guilt, but not the gilt, went away after writing a few pages. This pen is the most expensive pen I have ever purchased, but that's okay. I plan to keep it for a very long time.

I found myself wrestling with a dilemma. I have an excellent pen. Should I keep it at home and only use it in a safe environment, saving it from harm by using it only rarely? Or should I take a risk and carry it with me so I can enjoy it wherever I am?

The dilemma lasted roughly 30 seconds. I don't believe in not using things, no matter how much they might have cost to buy. Having a fine pen is good. Using a fine pen is better. If I drop it and bend the nib--which I've done, sadly--I'll save my pennies and buy another one.

After all, it's a pen. It's a nice pen...but it's just a pen.

Friday, July 18, 2014

I Had Never Heard of Orient Watches, But I Bought One and Was Impressed

I collect watches. I'm not sure why, and I really don't care. There are lots of ways to tell time, and it isn't hard to find a clock.
I have several watches, and my favorite are automatic watches. They used to call them self-winding. Most watches today are quartz watches. They run on power from a battery. The second hand ticks along one second at a time. I find that lurching second hand to be a distraction, and I think it takes away from the beauty of the watch.
  Besides... I cuss like a sailor when I look at my watch and see that the battery stopped. Sometimes it's fun to cuss, but I like to know what time I started and what time I finished. I can't do that if my damn watch battery died.
   So, I started collecting watches. I have about 16 that I use quite a bit. Sometimes I change watches a couple of times a day, just because I feel like it. Yeah, that sounds like an addiction. That's okay. At least I know what time I started...
   I bought several Seiko 5 automatic watches. Seiko makes good watches in all price ranges. I like mine a lot. I recommend them.
   While lurking around eBay--shopping while my unsuspecting wife sleeps--I happened to see Orient watches pop up quite a bit. I was leery when I spotted them. They look interesting, but I thought at first they were another Chinese brand that might or might not work. 
   Orient watches are NOT, repeat, NOT Chinese.
   They are, in fact, Japanese. They're aren't many stores in the USA that carry them. If you want one, you'll probably have to buy it online.
   You won't be disappointed. They're good watches. They keep excellent time, they are very well made, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. I have three of them now, and I'm waiting for the one in the picture to arrive. I get the ones that come on a leather strap, and the quality of the strap is top notch. I've read bad things about the metal bracelets some of them come on, but can assure you that the leather strap is high quality.
   The quality is so impressive that Seiko bought a controlling interest in the company, but was smart enough to let Orient keep doing what it does best--make affordable, quality automatic watches.
   And now for my one and only disclaimer: I don't work for Orient, don't know anyone who works for Orient, and am not being compensated in any way whatsoever for writing this.
   I don't recommend buying the watches from Orient's site. They are priced significantly lower from other sellers on eBay--most of whom offer warranties. I paid $149 for the watch in the picture, about $100 less than manufacturer's suggested retail price.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bad Customer Service Before They Even Said "Hello".

I went to a local Chinese restaurant to get some take-out for my wife and I to enjoy for lunch. I've never been to the place before, and I doubt I'll go back.

They managed to offend me before they even said hello.

I had only a moment when I walked in before a friendly person greeted me warmly, but it was enough. I had time to read the signs on the wall behind the register. All five of them.

"No Returns!"
"What You Order is What You GET!!!!"
"No refunds!!!!"

"No Personal Checks!!!!"
"We Have The Right To Refuse Service FOR ANY REASON!" 
"No Phone Calls When You Approach the Counter!"

In short, these folks managed to say "No" to me six times before they even looked at me.

I ordered the food I went there to order, and paid a fair price for it. The clerk was friendly, the food was ready quickly, and it tasted good.

Very good.

I won't be back. They forgot something about guests, customers, whatever they want to call us.

They forget that without us, they don't exist.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Chase Bank (2014) and the Patriot Act

My wife and I bank with Chase, but not on purpose. We opened accounts at Bank One years ago, and now Bank One is gone and Chase is the bank.

I'm not a big fan of Chase Bank, but we stay with them because of the people at the Chase branch in town. We really like the people at our local Chase bank.

Yesterday, February 25, 2014, we each got letters from Chase. From my wife, they wanted to know her occupation. They wanted to know if I'm an American citizen.

Before I saw the letters, my wife called Chase to inquire about why they needed the information. Both requests seemed a little odd. The explanation she received was that they needed to know the answers because of the Patriot Act--which, as you might recall, was passed in October of 2001.

This is not the first time we've had trouble with Chase. I got ticked off at Chase a few years ago when I received a phone call from someone claiming to be with Chase. They wanted to "verify" my account and asked me to give them the number from the back of my debit card. I refused to give them the three digit number. I said, "You called me. You tell me the security code, and I'll tell you whether you're right or not." The called hung up on me.

The next day, I went to my local branch and asked about the phone call. They told me they had received a memo from the corporate office warning of the scam. Then I went online and found a statement from Chase indicating it's awareness of the scam. I was angry. At no time did they seek to warn me, the consumer, of the scam that endangered my financial security.

So it was with great skepticism and a bit of anger that I greeted their question of my citizenship.

But I trust the people at our branch, so that's where I went today.

I was told that the request for information is indeed because of the Patriot Act. Apparently, Chase is out of compliance because they do not have that information on file for everyone. They're scrambling to get the information, probably to avoid paying hefty fines for non-compliance.

I have no sympathy for it. First of all, there is the total slop of ignoring or not complying with a law over a decade old. Secondly, because they were sloppy and have continued to be sloppy with that same law for thirteen years, it makes me wonder what else they've been sloppy about. I want my bank to have credibility, and this shoots a hole in their corporate credibility.

The people I talked to at the branch were honest and open with me. One reminded me that she asked me for my driver's license a couple of weeks ago and said this was why. She was a little frustrated because she updated my records two weeks before Chase sent me the letter. That made her wonder if her efforts have been in vain.

Bad form, Chase Bank. Bad form.

She asked if she could update the record with my citizenship. I said, "Of course."

Then I told her that Chase wants to know my wife's occupation. I said, "She's a teacher, but you didn't hear it from me."

She asked, "Do you want me to update her record?"

I smiled. "No. Let's see what Chase does to find out. I like you guys, and I want to keep banking here, but if Chase pisses me off again...I'll bring you flowers and cookies when we close our account and move to a bank that has it's act together."