Sunday, February 26, 2006

Big Brother is Watching!

Technology is wonderful - and kind of creepy, too! Yesterday I went out to the new truck to get the OnStar phone set up. The vehicle comes with a phone built in that is activated through OnStar and you can either get prepaid minutes through them, or if you already have Verizon Wireless as your cell phone carrier (which we do), then you can just have the truck's phone number added to your current Verizon Wireless setup as an additional phone and share the minutes with your existing phones. Anyway, that's what I climbed in the truck to take care of yesterday. I got out the OnStar instruction book and began to read. First I needed to push the OnStar button to retrieve the truck's phone number. Simple enough. I pushed the button and a voice told me that all OnStar representatives were busy but that someone would be right with me. Almost before that sentence was finished, a perky voice came on and said, "Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Bowen! Congratulations on your new 2007 red Tahoe! What can I do for you this morning?" Whoa. I felt a little prickle of strangeness and it was a moment before I regained my composure to tell her what I wanted to do with the phone. Well, we got that taken care of and then she asked me for my email address. I gave that to her and she said that my first vehicle diagnostic checkup would be emailed to me within the next 48 hours. What? I asked what this was and she said, "Oh, we just run a diagnostic check on your vehicle every 30 days - you know, check the fluid levels, the brakes, airbags, engine and transmission just to let you know if there's anything that may be needing attention soon". Oh my. This was getting weirder. After finishing my call with the perky-voiced lady from OnStar, Andy and I set up the calling commands for the phone. That's where we said the number, said "home", "Karen", or whatever name corresponded with that phone number, and it was stored by that name. Now we can push the little phone button either on the steering wheel or the mirror and you just say "Call", and then the name and it will call that number. After Andy and I had finished entering in all the names and numbers, we decided to try it out. He pushed the button and said, "Karen". Almost as soon as we heard the phone start to ring, one of the gauges on the dash changed and now read "Calling.....410-474-......", and stayed that way until the call ended, and then went back to it's normal digital readout. We are still figuring out what this vehicle can do! Jerry has it mostly figured out, but I haven't spent too much time in it (this past week was the end of the pay period for both jobs, so I was mostly in front of the computer all week). Jerry discovered a button on the dash that gives you a readout of the tire pressure in each tire. Now if only it could drive itself.........

We went to Jerry's mom's house last Sunday and decided to try the navigation system. There is a screen on the console that either shows the radio information, a map when you use the navigation system, or when you are backing up it shows you a view of what is in back of you which then changes back when you put it back into Drive. We entered Jerry's mom's address and then left the driveway. Almost immediately a disembodied voice said, "Turn left in 2/10 of a mile". Then a little gauge showed up on the map that was going to show us when we had reached 2/10 of a mile. But we didn't need the gauge, because when we got to the end of the street when we needed to turn left, a little bell sounded twice and the disembodied voice commanded us to turn left. Things were going along just fine until we got about halfway to Jerry's mom's when the voice told us that we would be making the next left off of the main route. Huh? That didn't seem right . That would be taking us off of Route 2 to head in a different direction. We weren't sure where it planned on taking us, but we weren't going to find out. We ignored the voice and continued on our normal route, like stubborn children. Apparently the system behind the disembodied voice figured this out too, because it did a rapid recalculation and then adjusted itself to the route that the stubborn children had insisted on taking. We were half expecting to hear at the next turn, "Turn left - if you feel like it", but the voice maintained it's composure despite our ignoring it's earlier command.

Today I received an email with our first diagnostic check. It told me how many miles the truck had on it, the amount of miles the oil had left before it would need a change, the condition of the engine and transmission, the condition of the brakes and airbags, the information about our OnStar service, our telephone number and information about our Verizon Wireless plan, the status of our satellite radio subscription and when that expired (along with a link that you could click for "one-click renewal" - how convenient), the VIN number of our truck, and a little picture of a truck. But alas, even though the little picture of the truck beside our diagnostic report was indeed a 2007 Chevy Tahoe, the one in the picture was gold - not red. I guess there are some things that it can't do!

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Art of the Deal

We have been very busy and I haven't blogged in a while. We spent a lot of time looking online and comparing prices on vehicles before we made the decision whether to get another one or not. I mentioned in a previous post that it was a want-versus-need thing - well, the "want" won out! We did a lot of internet shopping - getting quotes from dealerships all around, and once we got the best price we could find, Jerry bargained with them for three more days before finalizing the deal. He's a shrewd shopper! He and the salesman went back and forth with figures and deals and on the last day they were dealing back and forth over the telephone with calls going back and forth with offers and counteroffers! The good part about it was that we weren't desperate for the new vehicle, and so we had already decided that, good as the price might have been, we would walk away and keep our old Tahoe if we didn't get what we felt was fair for our trade. That's why the dealing took so long. Anyway, we were happy with the way things turned out. Now watching Jerry deal with the real estate people when we're ready to buy in WV should definitely be interesting!

We have also been busy getting Tom's stuff in order. There is a LOT of paperwork that needs to be done for college, and we aren't finished yet.

Andy's school work is going well, but it's a little difficult. This particular curriculum is a little advanced and we find ourselves having to go back to pick up on things that we missed with the previous curriculum in order to make sense of what we're doing now!

Today is our 24th anniversary, but we're really not doing anything noteworthy. Jerry worked on the basement (finishing drywall and painting), Andy did schoolwork, Tom worked on the website he's doing, and I worked (what else?!) Maybe next year for our 25th we'll do something special, but the simple things we did today with everyone here, then sharing a big lunch together, was just fine with me .

I'll try to blog a little more consistently as it seems like things are slowing down a little around here!


.....and after!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

More Snow!

Yessss!! More snow! I was convinced that we had seen the last of the snow this winter, but what a nice surprise! As usual, Andy and I had a snowball fight, and had a nice walk through the woods. After we were soaked and half frozen, we came inside and made homemade hot chocolate and molasses snow candy. The hot chocolate was delicious. The candy was, well, sticky! We have been making the candy for a couple of years now, and you'd think we'd get the hang of it! To make it, you boil molasses and brown sugar until it gets to the hard ball candy stage. Then you fill a cake pan with snow and pour the candy syrup in ribbons on top of the snow. It hardens almost immediately. Then you just lift it off of the snow and it's hard candy. I think we should have boiled it a bit longer, though. Oh, well. We had fun!

This has been a busy week - busy physically and mentally. Jerry and I visited a car dealership this week. And fell in love with a vehicle. Now the whole want-versus-need thing is rearing it's ugly head! Also knowing that we need to definitely finish the house so we can list it, and find a place in WV.......I've had a lot on my mind this past week. Sometimes it seems overwhelming. It's one thing to have a plan in mind, and quite another to actually start implementing it.

I just finished a book trilogy that is very good. The books are by Lynn Austin and are the Refiner's Fire series. They are set in Civil War times. One book is written from the perspective of a woman who lives in the south, yet has relatives in the north, and personally opposes slavery. She eventually becomes a spy for the north. The second book is written from the north's perspective, about a woman who gets involved in nursing against her family's wishes and a woman who disguises herself as a man so she can fight like her brothers. Eventually the two women cross paths and impact each other's lives. The third book is written from the perspective of two slaves. One is a girl who is seriously mistreated at the hands of her mistress, but doesn't see it as such and doesn't believe her life can be any different. One is a boy who was sold at the age of 9 and was bought by an abusive slave trader. He had a horrible life, but knew it and was angry. Eventually these two also cross paths. These three books seriously cut into my blogging time! But they are very, very good books.

Well, now I'd better go do something constructive - so many things to do and I truly don't feel like doing any of them..........!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Nothing New Here!

I haven't posted in a while but there's really nothing new going on around here. Andy got his new curriculum for the computer and has been using it this week. So far he seems to like it. I really like it! It let us choose the dates for the school year and then broke his assignments up accordingly for the year on a lesson planner. Each day when Andy signs on, his lessons for that day are in front of him. The teacher portion is on my computer and the student portion on his. When I sign on, I see a list of all his subjects and a running grade average beside each. He has switched to Spanish for his foreign language. At the beginning of the year when he chose Japanese, I showed him that the language course he chose was a high school course - it said "for grade 9 through 12" on it! He said that he wanted to try it anyway, and I thought he did very well with it. It started getting a little hairy of late, though. When he needed to choose a language to go with his computer curriculum, he chose Spanish because they didn't offer Japanese. Well, he can speak a little Japanese, anyway, and now I guess he'll speak Spanish too.

Well, not much more is happening around here, so there's not much to type for today. Oh, I'm sure I'll make up for it and write a novel in the near future!


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