I generally am not a whiner, but the pile of things going wrong here, most particularly things attributable to incompetence and lack of support on the part of manufacturers, service providers and businesses in general is so stunning as to have actually become entertaining. I am trying to lead a relatively simple life off the grid in the Colorado desert of Southern California. My life is made much more complicated by the compound failures I have experienced so far this month. So, dear reader, put on your caustic rant helmet and get ready for a verbal onslaught, some good clean poo-flinging at companies that are really pissing me off right now…

non-working & unsupported

EXHIBIT A: Bosch 1600A on-demand water heater: Dead out of the box, have troubleshot every possible angle and am still receiving NO SUPPORT and NO WARRANTY RETURN AUTHORIZATION from Bosch. Reason? “Nonstandard installation.” They don’t like their products being used off the grid, apparently, even though I have double- and triple-checked my work against the mfg specs and plumbers have signed off that I did everything right. After about a dozen calls to tech support, I finally threw in the towel and decided to return the damn thing. Oh, no, but the friendly, unhelpful folks at Bosch must authorize the return under warranty. I got an email from the original seller, with notes from Bosch’s various support techs taken during our many conversations, and the thing reads like a chapter from Tobacco Road. If William Faulkner had written it. This is why I still bathe at the hot spring, which is frequented by carneys, nudists, rainbows, and the dead. Only the rainbows worry me.

the little email engine that couldn't

EXHIBIT B: Lorex 8-camera surveillance system: Got this from Costco, thinking it would save me a few weeks’ worth of tinkering. WRONG! Not only is the user interface straight out of the 8-bit stone age, but the alarm email notification does not work, no matter how many known working permutations you program into the thing. Support takes about 45 minutes hold time on the phone, and email takes 2-3 days for a response. And nobody there seems to have the faintest idea about what the fuck they’re talking about. The basic functionality works OK, so it’s not a total Fail, but I am simply going to stop wasting my time expecting any help from them and just roll my own email server that triggers directly off one of the alarm outputs. Merry Christmas, folks, and thanks for absolutely nothing.

see the UPS truck? neither did i.

EXHIBIT C: United Parcel Service: I’m really, really sad to report this one. To me, UPS has, up to this point, been like a shining beacon of reliability and competence. But yesterday, a package I’d already been waiting two weeks for (a solder gun from HRO for working on antennas) got left on the front door, according to the tracking report, only there was no package at my front door, and the surveillance system revealed that no UPS truck had even been near my place that day. Must be a driver not accustomed to this route; the two regular drivers know my place and know me by name. In any case, either this was a misreported delivery or my solder gun is someplace far from where it belongs. None of my neighbors received it. Grumble, grumble…

[Addendum 2009.12.22.1357: I just found the package out in the sculpture garden!! What an odd place to deliver a parcel! Anyway, at least this story comes to a pleasant and happy conclusion, and I can go homebrew that 70cm ground plane… – c]

EXHIBIT D: AAG Electronica & TAPR T238+: Mea culpa, I should have looked a little more closely into this homebrew wx kit before I dove in. The 1-wire anemometer the T238+ kit was designed for is deprecated and has been replaced by a model that for some unknown reason has bright, blinky Mexican disco lights in it that have nothing to do with the measurement of temperature, wind speed or direction. After flying the anemometer for a few days to test it, everything failed except the blinky lights – only I failed to realize that until I had doubted and tested everything else. I thought I had miswired the RJ-11 to RJ-45 adapter, and checked in with the designer of the T238+, who basically confirmed I had done it right, albeit a month later (inquiries to AAG Electronica went unanswered.) Long story short, I’ve been working on this damn kit nearly three months and I still haz no wx. No nothing. The anemometer was returned a couple weeks ago; I expect a new unit some time before 2011. The T238+ is a really cool wx logger/tnc/modem, but STAY AWAY because it’s about to be shelved by the designer in favor of a different wx instrument paradigm…hopefully I can repurpose it as an APRS beacon for the missing alarm notification on the Lorex… Fail + Fail = ??

one of these things is not like the others…

EXHIBIT E: Outback FlexMax80 Maximum Power Point Tracker: This is the third one to fail on me. Luckily it is still under warranty, albeit just barely. The first one smoked, the second one went nutty after its neighbor smoked, and this one just stopped being able to track and now cannot even boot itself. Happened just this morning, right when the days are short, the AGM bank is struggling just to hold a 50% charge, and I have the Monster Batteries in trickle charge mode. Awesome timing. I’ll have the new one probably in like 10 days. I *hate* burning dinosaur bones.

home at last...

home at last, after some long hurdles

EXHIBIT F: Monster Batteries From the Shipyard to East Jesus: First, I had to literally send someone on foot to tug at Jim Mason’s shirt sleeve and ask whether these were still for sale, and for how much. I got a fairly prompt response, and the deal was sealed. I put out a call for bids on uShip.com, a service I’ve used to fair satisfaction in the past. First winning bidder had no idea what he was doing, dragged his heels for a week, arrived to pick up a day late without notice, and then refused to pick up the load, even though all information regarding the nature of the shipment had been known to him. And he didn’t even bother putting down the crack pipe to notify me. Waste of two weeks. Next shipper accepted the bid, then upon finalization asked, “Wait….are these *used* batteries???” Third shipper, who came up just a few hours later (thanks uShip for the very quick cancellation turnaround) and swore up and down he knew this was hazmat, was hazmat certified, driver was hazmat certified, yadda yadda. He actually got the job done, though it came in a 53′ trailer rather than the van he said was coming, which required Plato’s memorial park to be partially dug up….anyway they’re here now, but The Shipyard sent along a set of connecting bars that don’t fit and I either have to wait for them to return my calls and get this straightened out, presumably after this silly religious holiday nonsense, or spend another $500 or so on rolling my own. Never mind. I’m just having a rough day. No, make that a rough month.

EXHIBIT G: Sore throat and so no singing (my primary form of psychotherapy.)

EHXIBIT H: Another cracked molar.

EXHIBIT I: New bad-apple neighbors screaming at each other past bedtime. I was thankful someone went out, fired three rounds, and shouted, “STFU!” It was quiet after that.

All I want for Christmas is a day without calamity, where nothing breaks and nothing goes wrong. Nothing big, anyway. You know, just as a reminder that such days do come along every once in a while.

The future is work, hard work, and no end to it. — John Cage