Posts Tagged humor

The Price of Printing or Planned Disappearance


Stairway to Printer Heaven

Stairway to Printer Heaven

My printer passed away last night. The print head had a massive heart attack. I performed several emergency medical procedures prescribed by my HP Solutions Center–all to no avail. Funeral services will be announced.

A helpful store clerk at Office Depot informed me that printheads often break within two to three years. “It costs nearly as much to repair them as it does to buy a new printer,” he added, smiling. I did not argue with the man. Some critcal part of every printer I have ever owned has broken down within this time-frame, and it never makes economic sense to replace the part.

Yet, I continue to buy HP printers, despite their limited life-span and the outrageous prices of the ink they voraciously consume. HP is a market leader, and I follow the herd because I shudder to think what catastrophes await the buyers of lesser brands.

Most printers displayed on major retail shelves are made in horrid factories by underpaid workers somewhere in China. I tell myself the HP factories are less horrid and produce better products than the others. At least I know what I’m getting when I buy an HP printer–a short but trouble free life span and high quality inks at unconscionable prices.

My new printer cost $149.00 (on sale) and the new ink cartridges cost $93.99.  At the risk of sounding unsympathetic and disrespectful to the dead, my old printer expired with about $50 worth of unused ink. My new printer is the updated version of the old printer. Naturally, the ink cartridges are not transferable. I had no choice except to buy new ink. This brings the total cost of my new printer to $292.99, not including sales tax.

As we all know, it’s not the cost of the printer that hurts. It’s the cost of the inks. I find that my color ink cartridges last about three months each, and the double size black cartridge lasts about six months. I am convinced the life span of HP ink is controlled by a secret technology kept ingeniously under wraps by the manufacturer.

My cartridges need frequent replacement regardless of the steps I take to economize on ink. If I avoid printing in color, my color cartridges still need to be replaced. The only explanation I have for this is that the secret HP technology enables the color cartridges to combine mysteriously to print in black.

My New Printer

My New Printer

If I cut down on using my printer, it makes no difference. In this case, the secret technology causes the ink in the cartridges to evaporate at a predetermined rate, thereby ensuring a three-month replacement cycle.

Adding to my consternation, it took me three hours to set up the new printer. This included a few breaks to watch my beloved New York Giants lose in the last two minutes to the Dallas Cowboys. This did not help to elevate my mood.

It used to be easy to set up a printer. There was basically one way to install the damned thing, and it was easy to follow the idiot-proof instructions. Now, there are several options at every step of the process requiring an advanced degree in engineering to decipher. On one of the setup screens, none of the options fit my setup criteria. I finally decided to go on to the next step without checking any of the boxes. I expected to see an error message pop up, but lo and behold, nothing happened. I had made the right choice, that is–no choice. I had guessed right, but I ask you, doesn’t that sound a bit counter-intuitive?

At some point, we will no longer need printers, paper, or ink.  Documents and images will fly through the air directly into our heads. Until that time comes, however, I could use a little advice on the subject.

“Stairway to Heaven” image by Sigurd Decroos / www.cobrasoft.be

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Can We Make Fewer Babies?


All this talk about overpopulation is finally beginning to hit home. Lately, it seems like almost everywhere I go, hordes of people come crawling out of the woodwork.

It’s really becoming annoying. Take, for example, a trip to the mall. You have to use a slide rule to calculate the ideal time to go, to avoid peak hour pedestrian traffic trampling you underfoot.

At the rate the world population is growing, many of us will have to consider living on another planet in some distant galaxy.  It won’t be long before scientists discover a suitable planet to colonize and they build a faster-than-light-speed spacecraft to take us there. I’m going to make sure my retirement account is healthy enough to buy a one-way ticket for me and my family to make the journey.

Starting over, however, is not going to be easy.  There won’t be any NFL or NBA games to watch, golf to play, books to read, or computer games to play—save the ones we take with us.  My wife and daughter will miss Lifetime, Housewives, nail salons, and shopping malls, to mention only a few life staples, before civilization reasserts itself.

How did we get ourselves into this situation? According to an actuarial study commissioned by the US Social Security Service, life expectancy has increased by 28 years for men and 26 years for women from 1900 to 2001. According to the same study, this is due to several factors:

• Access to primary medical care for the general population

• Improved healthcare provided to mothers and babies

• Availability of immunizations

• Improvements in motor vehicle safety

Clean water supply and waste removal

• Safer and more nutritious foods

• Rapid rate of growth in the general standard of living

I’d like to add one more item to this list: Thanks to medical science, people are living longer. In my humble opinion, some people are living longer than they should. Please allow me to explain.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a cancer center waiting for a vitamin B-12 shot and thanking God I don’t have cancer. I see people shuffle in, many in their eighties and nineties, supported by walkers and canes, wearing bandages, heads bent, half asleep. You have to feel sorry for these people while praying you don’t wind up like them.

Certainly, cancer has many causes, but one of them is simply the aging process. We reach a point where our immune system grows too feeble to protect us. At this point, the party is over. We become like AIDS patients before the curative cocktail, with nothing to look forward to but one disease after another.

Yet people hang on, thanks to the wonders of medical science, hoping life will one day be worth living again. Maybe that day will come when full-body transplants become available. If this doesn’t happen in the next ten or twenty years, I hope I will have the wisdom to know when it’s time to gracefully exit stage right (or left.) To put it another way, to have the courtesy to make room for someone else and stop contributing to escalating healthcare costs.

In the meantime, I’ll go on meditating, exercising and pursuing the interests that make me feel happy-from-the-heart. And for the sake of EVERYONE’S quality of life, can we PLEASE be a little more conscious by making fewer babies?

Planet Colonization

Planet Colonization

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Chicken Necks


Why would anyone want to be in the same room as a chicken neck, much less eat one? Consider the shape of a chicken neck, for starters. Does it remind you of a piece of cow intestine, or a giant snail without the shell — or maybe a biceps muscle severed from the bone? Now imagine one of these succulent items simmering in a saucepan flanked by mushrooms, carrots and celery. Add pepper if you like. Hold the salt—it comes with.

In China, chicken necks are a delicacy. This, no doubt, is a direct result of the overabundance of Chinese people and a perennial shortage of food in the country to feed them. In addition to the Chinese, dogs and pigs enjoy chicken necks as a regular staple. Cats, on the other hand, are much too dignified to eat them.

Here’s a thought. It’s entirely possible chicken necks could become a popular dish in America. If the banks fail, we might all find ourselves homeless, grilling chicken necks on street corners surrounded by the few sticks of furniture left over from the foreclosure sale.

If you are wondering what chicken necks taste like, please ask someone else. If, however, we turned out to be the last two people on the planet due to a natural disaster, I might hazard a guess. In such a case, I would be in the unenviable position of the sole remaining authority on chicken necks. It would be my duty, out of human decency, to attempt some sort of an answer. After considerable thought, I’d say chicken necks probably taste like dark meat chicken—very stringy, dark meat chicken accented with a gristly texture. They might also taste a bit like stuffed derma, a Jewish folk dish I have only seen but never eaten. On second thought, stuffed derma probably tastes like ice cream cake compared to a fried or boiled chicken neck. I can’t really be sure of this because I never summoned the courage to ask what stuffed derma is made of. As far as the smell of chicken necks is concerned, let’s not even go there. We’ll just say that chicken necks don’t smell. They stink.

If you are the curious, adventurous, or self-loathing type, you may wake up one morning with an uncontrolable urge to experience the taste of a chicken neck. To these people I offer one final word of advice. Chicken necks may taste better in a strong chicken or meat broth. Remember, this is only an assumption. If you must try a chicken neck, you do so at your own risk. Please also note that a serving of chicken necks will provide you with a decent amount of vitamin A. The idea that they are a good source of vitamin C is, sadly, only a rumor.

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David and the Insurance Goliath


You would think a company like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida has its act together. Think again. Dealing with this company’s bureaucratic minions is a nightmare and a slapstick comedy rolled into one.

My eighty-six year old mother needed to convert her supplemental health insurance to another carrier. Since Medicare provides her primary coverage, I thought switching the supplemental would be no big deal. Just to make sure we got it right, I enlisted the help of an insurance agent referred to us by Blue Cross.

The fun began when my mother received a letter from Blue Cross denying coverage due to her application arriving outside of the annual enrollment period. The agent explained without apology that she was apparently confused about the application period. Three subsequent calls to this agent netted zero results. I was on my own in trying to resolve the problem — David vesus Goliath.

I called the 800 number listed in the rejection letter. The Blue Cross telephone representative promptly told me they could not help me. I had to call the Jacksonville office. “Where, by chance, am I calling?” I inquired. “The Sales Department,” the rep replied. “Aren’t you in Jacksonville?” I wanted to know. “No. You’ll have to call them tomorrow. They’re closed for the day now.” The telephone rep gave me the local number for the Jacksonville office. I had to ask for the toll-free number.I called the Jacksonville office the following morning. The experience turned into a multi-call ordeal for a number of reasons. Each time I called, the operator routed me to the wrong department. After copious delays, I finally reached someone who could help me. Each telephone rep gave me a different answer before putting me on hold for what seemed like forever.

I kept hanging up and calling again in the hopes of finding someone who actually knew what they were doing.The first telephone rep told me Blue Cross rejected the application because my mother’s supplemental insurance policy had lapsed. I told the rep, a nice woman by the name of Yvonne, that my mother’s policy was still very much alive and kicking. Yvonne then told me all we needed was the current policy number to resolve the matter. Great, I thought. I’ll just call my mother, get the policy number, and call sweet Yvonne back. Finally, we were getting somewhere.

Ten minutes later, I called Yvonne’s extension. “The line is busy,” the operator informed me. “Would you like to speak to someone else?” “No,” I replied. “Yvonne understands my situation.” The operator told me I had reached a call center where the reps take calls back to back. In other words, my chances of reaching Yvonne again were on a par with winning the Florida Lottery.

I was not going to ask if the call center existed within the confines of the Jacksonville office. I did not want to find out that the telephone reps who held my mother’s health insurance future in their hands were quasi-employees, or worse, independent contractors who cared exclusively about their hourly wage.I spoke to the next person, and the next one, until I reached David, my namesake, who seemed to fathom the arcane rules and closely guarded secrets governing the Blue Cross insurance application process.

David convinced me that we had to resubmit the application for insurance during the official enrollment period. I then discovered during the ensuing conversation that the application mailed with the rejection letter was misprinted. David promised to mail a corrected application form.I next asked David when Blue Cross intended to refund the first month’s payment mailed with the original application. David advised me to speak to my agent. I reminded David that I was speaking to him due to my agent’s total and complete incompetence, not to mention her unrepentant attitude.

After more haggling, David agreed to look into the refund. Five minutes passed during which I listened to irritating music interspersed with promotional messages aimed at motivating me to use more impersonal and less costly means of contacting Blue Cross to resolve my problems. I was about to hang up when David came back to advise me the refund would be mailed within two weeks. I asked him to fax a copy of the new application to me. He eagerly promised to do so. The fax never arrived.

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The Offending Cashier


Why do the cashiers at supermarkets insist on putting your groceries in as many bags as possible?

Do I look like I have five hands and three arms?

Do they think the load will be lighter if I carry fewer items in more bags?

Do they do it out of spite because they have crummy, low paying jobs?

The gross profit of supermarkets would go up at least 400 percent on average if they used fewer bags.

The other day I bought five items for eighteen dollars and thirty-seven cents. The bagger put each item in its own bag.

A pack of gum gets its own bag?

The plastic bags must have cost fifty cents. The same bags will cost a dollar next week with the way oil prices are going.

Why do baggers and cashiers do this? Here’s one theory.

Imagine a Store Manager giving these instructions to his cashiers before their shift:

“Remember not to overload those grocery bags. We just lost a lawsuit that cost us forty-two million dollars because a woman dropped a banana out of her overloaded bag, slipped, and dislocated her pelvis. The jury awarded punitive damages because the poor woman is unable to have sexual intercourse without shooting pains going down her legs.

“As you all know, every cashier is responsible for supervising their bagger. It is your job to insure all groceries are properly bagged, which is to say, not over-loaded.

“The forty two million is coming out of the offending cashier’s paycheck. So be careful. This could happen to you.”

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