Now I Know How Amazon Makes Its Money

I did a quick report and since this date in 2006 I have purchased 285 items for a total paid price of $11,366.95. This includes items I have purchased for other people because they didn’t have an Amazon Prime account of their own. Still, over 11 thousand dollars!
The most expensive item was some dog crates used to ship dogs via airplanes. I bought 10 of them at just over $63 each and they came by FedEx.
On the opposite side, I bought (if bought is the correct term) a number of free books for my Kindle.
I downloaded the file from Amazon and loaded the .csv file into Excel so I could sort it and do some totals. Besides sorting by obvious categories such as purchase date or amount of order, I also sorted and looks at who I shipped the items to.
If I wanted, I could also compare list price and what I paid, or to just see what tax I paid on items.
They say that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When I see data, everything looks like data needing analyzing!
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I Guess It Could Be Worse

Normally on Friday nights I go to the beach and meet up with neighbors and friends for a weekly sunset pot luck dinner. I didn’t go tonight.

My truck safety inspection is due by the end of the month. Although I have seen others who for months and in one case about a year overdue, with my luck I would get pulled over and ticketed days from now.

Well, I had renewed my registration a few months back but can not find the registration card which is needed for the safety check. Although the date is shown on the vehicle tag sticker, i is not enough, you need the paperwork and I misplaced it. It should have been in the truck, but the expression ‘should of’ makes the world go around. I needed a few things in town anyway so I headed up there at about 1:15 PM.

The DMV was fairly empty so I hoped for a fairly quick time. Here in Hawaii they have a greeter who makes sure you have your proper paperwork and then assigns you a number. You sit outside in the courtyard and over the P.A. and on a TV screen your number is announced along with which counter to go to. Back on the mainland many places make you stand in a line to be directed to another line. Here we sit outside in nice weather. The tickets are not called in order and I think I have cracked part of the code. Tickets have a letter first like M, C or R and so on. I think M is for licenses (M for Motor), C for Commercial, R for Road Test and license tests and so on.  So as I wait they called varios numbers. Mine was M-307. The person called a few before my was M-703. I didn’t have dyslexia so I waited.

The greeter had told me my replacement registration would be $6. I had cash, my insurance info, my license and my old expired registration. The wait outsie was almost exactly 1 hour. It seems that there was not a full compliment of clerks inside today; still, 1 hour is not a horrible wait. When my number was called I headed inside to the proper spot and found a seasoned worker was training a new hire for that position. She was efficient even though she asked if each step was correct. The fee was only $5 because I did not need new stickers for my tags, just the new paperwork for the inspection. Time inside was 5 to 10 minutes.

The inspection station I normally use it nearby DMV and Costco. I figured I could do both and still get to pot luck. When I pulled into the space where the inspection takes place, they had moved! As I backed out and was turning around, there they were! They now have a pull through warehouse slot! I didn’t have to go anywhere after all to get the inspection. One person ahead of me so I had a short wait. My truck passed inspection easily. We don’t do any emission testing here, probably because of the volcanic smoke we get that is worse than all the vehicle smog.

I went into Costco and noticed there was easy parking today and the lines were fairly short. I looked around the prepared food area and didn’t see anything I could get that did not require me to head home and prepare. I opted for a bagged salad with a dressing packet inside. I was out of Costco by 4:11 PM and that cost was only $5.21. It IS possible to get out of Costco without paying over $100.

Traffic was heavy and although I needed to pick up some things from Walmart along the way home, I opted for the pot luck and passed Walmart. I hit even more traffic and heard sirens and would have just headed back to Walmart but there was no easy way to back track. As I got closer to home it started raining and I could see down the coast that our spot by the ocean would probably get rain tonight. Since we don’t have a good place to take shelter, I knew by then that I would be eating at home tonight.

I finished what was left of a chicken salad plate and had a beer because one of the things I was going to buy today was soda. Beer is pretty much the only cold drink I had handy.

I went to bed early partly because I was up early this morning to participate in a weekly radio show from the U.K. which begins at 6 AM my time, but the sound of heavy rain woke me up at 10:30 PM. To keep the dogs from waking up, I quietly went into the hall bathroom, lit by only a night light. The light keps me from having to have a bright light on which would totally wake me up. I felt water against my leg and my first thought was that the there was a leak in the ceiling and this was rain. IT turns out the hose from the floor to the tank was spraying water. I ran down stairs and brought up the carpet shampooer and suctioned up the water on the floor. It had not done enough damage to leak into the down stairs and I plan upon having the floor redone in that bathroom within 2 years.

So now I am wide awake and hungry and still don’t have anything cold to drink. I may make some Tang drink or a cup of tea. For food I may dig into that bag of salad I bought.

I will be up now for many hours and I have two things I must do tomorrow. I will stop by the post office and then go to a memorial service for our Vet who passed away suddenly. I hope the weather holds up as we are having the service in a nearby park. Afterwards I’ll go back into town and do the rest of my shopping.


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Almost Productive

I had a bit of time this morning to address two broken items on the farm.

The first was the washing machine which has a water level issue. As water fills the tub, it pushes water into a tube filled with air. That air compresses and presses upon a rubber diaphragm which triggers a switch. That switch tells the washer to stop filling the tank and begin agitation. There are two failures which can happen with this system. One is that the tub will keep filling and overflow, never shutting off. The second is that the water can stop, such as mine did and never start agitation. I disassembled the unit, checked the contacts and oiled the seal. It seems to be working but I have a new unit on the way (Ebay) for a delivered price of less than $10. I will also find a replacement plastic tube just in case.

Then, having had mostly success with the washer, I headed to the truck. Recently the window came off the track. I had checked a video online and armed with that info, took the door apart. The window glass had popped off the track and I readjusted it and it is working for now. A better solution will be to replace the adhesive that attaches to the glass. I will consider that because after putting it all together, I found one part left over! It is a plastic ring with some foam that keeps the speaker in the door from rattling. If it rattles, the door will come back apart sooner than later.

Still, almost two for two and total repair times only about an hour or two.


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It Is Always One Thing Or Another

It is not just living on a farm that brings work. On a farm you may be always repairing the tractor, mower, fences, roadways, irrigation systems and so on. My farm is no different. However, at the moment I have outside stairs that need replacing before they totally fall apart.

Then there is the washing machine. The other day I started a medium-sized load but when I came back, it had stopped mid-cycle. I have done some testing and found that the problem seems related to the water level control. The timer switch also has given me problems in the past and has already been replaced perhaps 7 or more years ago. I seem to remember buying this washer however the previous one was a giveaway I found.

Then there is the truck. A couple nights ago I pressed the switch to roll down the drivers side window and it jerked and fall at a slight angle, obviously off its track. There may be a broken part which needs replacing. I think the inside panel is held on with some screws and if so, it may be somewhat easy to remove. Older vehicles with hand cranks took more effort. Also they may still use a heacy paper glued to things to keep parts in and dirt and moisture out. Time will tell.

All of these projects will have to wait a while as I am gathering paperwork for taxes.

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No One Is Available To Take Your Call

A nearby farm wanted to streamline their business office.

The person in the office steps out on the porch to give a tour, leaving the phone unattended. The phone would ring and they had to make a decision; whether to excuse themselves or answer the phone. Oftentimes the caller was asking if they were giving tours that day or what time they start, etc. Voice over IP (internet phone service) came to the rescue.

I installed an adapter (about $35 or so), connected it to the Internet and connected the phone to it. (You should note that there are a few more steps here but I glossed over them for clarity. This is because they wanted to keep their traditional phone number with the phone company, rather than port it to the Voip company).

I set up what is called an ‘automated attendant’ to handle the calls. I created an extension which the phone is connected to. Then I started recording messages. There is a main message thanking them for calling. Then I created messages explaining the tours, another for hours for tours, a message explaining the company and some other options.

Then I set up the controls and enabled things. Now when a caller hears the main message, they have choice to get company info, hear about the tours, get direction to the farm and so on. They also have an option of pressing Zero and ringing that phone.

One of the messages is changed when they are closed for holidays however the rest are static unless something needs be changed.

What became immediately apparent is that the automated attendant served its purpose by eliminating constant phone calls which the new recordings handled. No one complained about not getting a human. All seems to work fine.

There is an added convenience that this system adds, an almost complete elimination of telemarketer calls (robo calls). Robo calls are automated calls trying to spam you or steal your information or money. These computer-generated calls don’t know to press zero and if they start to do that, we just change that option to some other number (and change the announcement which computers can’t hear anyway).

Any unanswered calls go to voicemail which can either be listened to by a simple code entered on the phone. The recording can also be, if desired, emailed to an email address.

So, what is the cost for the above you ask? Nothing! those functions are free with the service we are using and are generally free with other providers. What you pay for is a phone number being held by them and either a flat rate monthly fee or a per call fee. This particular telephone service costs the farm about 85 cents a month for the number and calls are a penny or less a minute.

All in all this service costs them a few dollars a month compared to regular telephone service of $45 a month or so. It also allows them to call locally and long distance. For them to call 1/2 way around the world to London costs 1/2 cent per minute, although some calls to other locations might cost a couple pennies a minute. Still, cheaper than the phone company!

This service is cloud-based which means that if the internet connection to the box is down, they can’t call out. Inbound calls would still get the recordings and voicemail would still work, but pressing zero would go to voicemail instead of ringing the local phone. While this sounds bad, when the local phone service goes down there is no way to direct calls anywhere and no automated assistant, just voicemail. With this cloud system it is configured that if the internet goes down, calls could automatically be routed to their cellphone instead of voicemail.

For this service, the farm uses an Obihai 20x (200 or 202) adapter and Voip.MS as the telephone provider. I recorded the messages with the free program Audacity so that I could add some background music and splice some audio together. Alternatively, they could just use a PC and microphone. I think there is an option allowing calling into the system to record prompts, but the upload of a professional recording makes a big difference.


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High Tech Sweet Potatoes

I started experimenting with my Instant Pot. I got it on sale as a possible companion or replacement for my rice cooker and my pressure cooker.

This Instant Pot has wifi which links to my Android app. I can monitor my cooking and get notifications as the process continues.

The dietician said sweet potatoes were good for me. So a COSTCO trip netted me a 10 pound bag!

I took 2 potatoes, washed them, put the trivet in the pot and added a bit of water (enough but not so much to touch the potatoes).

I set it for steam and 18 minutes.

When it was done I let the thing cool without releasing steam.

Both potatoes were cooked and after a bit of butter and salt, disappeared quickly. I can imagine the rest of the sweet potatoes will disappear quickly. Their skin was more like boiled potatoes and not crunchy like baked, but think of all the electric I saved not using the oven.

The only things I will do differently next time is to remove the little nub where the stem grew. Also I need to lift the trivet to get the potatoes out. The potatoes were so soft they kinda fell apart trying to remove them with a fork.

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I love Tech Toys

I love tech toys and I saw a cheap remote controller which I could use for many tasks. It has a 1″ by 1″ cox, the relay board and a 4-button remote control. It works off 12 VDC and has normally-open and normally-closed terminals. It also allows for intermittent, while button is pressed, and delayed operations.

Recently a neighbor called with a problem. His garage door opener was broken and the remotes didn’t work. The repair guy brought a new remote but it would not link up. A new board for the system was over $100 and then there was some installation cost. It would almost pay to buy a whole new unit.

I asked the most important question and got the right answer. “Does the button on the wall work as it should?” and the answer was yes.

When you push the button on the wall, usually a press to open and a press to close, it shorts two terminals at the door control board. If you can simulate a short across those two terminals, the door will operate. Instead of a new board replacement, my relay came to the rescue and it was only about $12-$15 for everything.

I verified the button worked and then got the step ladder. I traced the wires from the switch to the opener and connected the normally-open and the common relay output across the terminals. I cut the end off a 12 VDC little adapter I had and powered up the unit. After setting the left-hand button to have an intermittent function I tested things out.

When I pressed the button the door opened. When I pressed it again, the door closed. PROBLEM SOLVED!

To avoid any issues, I also configured the other big button to the same code so both of them do the same thing. That is just in case one button gets broken, I don’t get a call back.

This particular unit can store up to 20 similar fob codes so could be used by employees. The company also makes multiple relay units that can control 4 or was it 5 different things like lights and doors and so on. Each device would need to have a wire brought to the relay board, and it does appear the contacts can handle 120 volts AC.

This is a photo of one of the single relay boards. The coiled thing is a wire used an an antenna which can be extended outside the box for more distance. The range of the unit is 30 to 100 feet in open terrain.

That black V-shaped plastic thing is a cover which slides up and down to protect against accidental pushing of the buttons. The remote also has small screws which can be used to probably remove the back to replace a battery.

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News From The Front (so to speak)

When they went on sale, I broke down and got a DNA test and the results were posted this morning.

Years ago my Mom and I created a family tree and made updates to it. It went back a few generations, mostly on my Moms side. Meanwhile my cousin also did her family genealogy and it went back quite a bit further, however it generally covered my Dads side of the family.

The DNA results of ethnicity are as we expected, English, Welsh, German and perhaps French. I had uploaded what family tree I had before but it had not linked with my cousins tree. I called her.

While we chatted, she explained parts of the tree she had and then mentioned a few of the relatives. Her searches had gone back to at least the 1600’s and then she told me about one relative.

You always think that there might be a King or Queen or famous person in your lineage, but there may be nothing exciting. Then again…

So on my Grandmothers side going back to the 1700’s, part of the family living in Connecticut.

{Condensed from Wikipedia}

William Williams (yes, they loved him so much they named him twice 🙂 was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, the son of a minister, Solomon Williams, and Mary Porter. He studied theology and achieved law school from Harvard in 1751. He continued preparing for the ministry for a year, but then joined the militia to fight in the French and Indian War. After the war, he opened a store in Lebanon, which he called The Williams Inc.

On February 14, 1771, and almost 40 he married Mary Trumbull, age 25. She was daughter of Jonathan Trumbull, Royal Governor, and an American politician who served as the second speaker at the United States House of Representatives.

{It keeps getting more interesting}

Williams was very active in the protests that preceded the American Revolution. Williams was a member of the Sons of Liberty and later served on Connecticut’s Committee of Correspondence and Council of Safety. Williams was a staunch supporter of the non-importation agreements implemented in 1769 to oppose the Townshend Duties and the occupation of Boston by British Regulars. Williams was disappointed when merchants began disregarding the non-importation agreements after the repeal of the Townshend Duties, save for the tax on tea, and he never trusted the intentions of more established merchants, most notably Silas Deane.

On July 1, 1774, one month after the enactment of the Coercive Acts to punish Boston, Williams pseudonymously published an address “To the King” from “America” in the Connecticut Gazette. It was an angry satire.

{And then the kicker}

Williams was elected to the Continental Congress on July 11, 1776, the day Connecticut received official word of the independence vote of July 2, to replace Oliver Wolcott. Though he arrived at Congress on July 28, much too late to vote for the Declaration of Independence, he did sign the formal copy as a representative of Connecticut.

{His name appears along with 55 others on the bottom of the document}

I have to say that I was surprised. I am related to the second Speaker of the U.S. House and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. There may be more exciting relatives, but this was certainly exciting enough!


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Near New Years

I have already been to two Christmas parties and there is a New Years Day party to go.

I took the dogs for a walk this morning and didn’t use the training collars. While they went to the spot they like, I looked at a news item on my cellphone. I swear I did not look away for more than a minute or two but when I looked up, the dogs were gone. I whistled quietly and called them but they did not come. It was not yet 7am so I try not to make too much noise as sound carries far in rural Hawaii.

I drove up and back and they did not come when they heard the truck, which they usually do. I decided it was late enough to run the noisy ATV but it had a flat tire. I filled it but it went flat again. Sigh!


Finally O’Lena came back and had a bone in her mouth. I don’t know if there is a dead animal nearby or she found a neighbors dogs bone, but I took it from here and put her in the fenced run. Koa came back perhaps 15 minutes later. Both dogs are on my naughty list.

I went to town this evening and shopped for some food and soda. I also purchased a few more parts for my pending solar panel installation.

I have some news that will deserve a new posting.

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We Created A Land

We have created a land of people who feel entitled. Keep in mind that because they FEEL it is so, don’t always make it so.

They feel that just because something offends them, that thing is wrong.

They feel that just because they don’t understand the historical importance of an item, that no one else does and it should be removed. We don’t keep some things as a monument to praise, but sometimes keep these as a reminder of what has happened; Auschwitz and a Civil War Battlefield are examples.

They feel it is just to take things from those who have and give them to those who have not whether WE thing that is right or not, does not matter.

They feel that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one, even if those many didn’t work for it.

Just because YOU don’t celebrate a specific holiday or day of remembrance doesn’t mean others should be stopped from doing it. We call that Freedom!

Our country was built on the idea that you have a right to the pursuit of happiness. It does not guarantee happiness.

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