Selling My House

I’ve decided to sell my house in Bethel. Given that my wife has a house in Gaysville and we own a multi-use building downtown, I really don’t need to be paying the upkeep and taxes on a house that I can’t live in right now.
I’ve engaged the services of a local realtor, Paul Rea from Rural Vermont Real Estate, and so far, he has been a joy to work with. We are thinking along the same lines, and he is being very proactive and clearly communicating with us.
If you’re interested in a very nice house in a sweet, quiet location with 5.7 acres of land, let me know!

What Went Wrong With NBC's Heroes?

I’ve been watching NBC’s new hit show, Heroes, since its debut last year. The show is awesome, and I can honestly say they’ve done just about everything right. The storyline is awesome. The plot threads and how they interlace together are terrific! It reminds me of the X-Files, only I believe there the plot really is going somewhere. The special effects are sprinkled in a bit at a time, but the show does not rely on them at all, focusing more on the people behind them and how their powers and abilities are affecting their lives, rather than on the powers themselves. The acting and delivery is also very good, something which is painfully absent in most TV shows today.
Heroes has been a great show. That is, up until last week’s episode, Unexpected. All I can say is “What happened?” The episode really felt like it was thrown together quite hastily. The first scene, opening in the desert with Ted and Hannah, was awful. Her acting and delivery was nothing short of pathetic. It felt like I was watching Jennifer Garner in Daredevil. I’d say it felt like Alias, but I’ve never made it through an entire episode because I can’t stomach the bad acting.
Mr. Bennet giving Isaac the gun, telling him to “Save the world,” was ridiculous. Mr. Bennet (aka “HRG” for “Horn Rimmed Glasses”) is a smart guy. He would know better than to just hand a gun over to Isaac and imply that he should blow Peter Petrelli away when/if he shows up. Come on, HRG! You just give the guy a gun and don’t even tell him where the safety is on the thing?
Later in the episode, we see HRG and his Haitian sidekick using tasers. I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t have made more sense to give Isaac a taser isntead of a gun, don’t you think?
The acting by the Nevada Gaming Commission Officer gone bad was pathetic. Every scene in which he or Hope appeared was weak and felt poorly staged. The way he busts in and shoves his gun in Hiro’s face just felt like a move from a soap opera or a cheesy sitcom, and did not jive with the quality of the acting and delivery we’ve come to expect from Heroes to date.
Mohinder Suresh – You’re an idiot. You may have all of your father’s book-smarts, but you’re as dumb as a box of hammers when it comes to common sense. Sylar is so obviously a nut-job, brain-eating, power-stealing psycho. My wife calls a person’s “gut instinct” her “coockoo bell.” Mohinder, you need to listen to your coockoo bell and wake up! There’s something wrong with the guy you’re travelling around with!
The show was not without its high points. The scenes with Claire and her mother were delivered with excellence, and the “training” sessions with Claude and Peter, culminating with Peter finally breaking down his emotional barriers and being able to tap powers on demand were excellent. I did not expect him to make anywhere near as fast a progression as he did, and it was terrific. Adrian Pasdar continues to deliver his lines with excellence, and Nathan Petrelli is probably the most realistic character in the whole show.
However, I’m very concerned at the way the episode felt thrown together, and I really hope tonight’s episode returns to its roots and has the quality acting, direction, and writing that we’ve come to expect from the series so far. Despite the high points, I have to give this episode an overall thumbs down.

Why I am "Very Hard To Reach," or "How to Use Voicemail"

Many times over the last several years I have been told that I am “a hard guy to get a hold of,” “very hard to reach,” or “a hard guy to track down.” I admit, if you are a salesperson peddling a product I have no interest in, I won’t always return your call. Actually, I probably won’t return your call. If you call repeatedly, the frequency with which you call will be inversely proportional to the amount of time that elapses before I press “delete” in my voicemail.
Sometimes, these comments come to me by way of clients or customers of mine. Usually they come from former clients or customers of mine, if you get my drift. What these people are really saying is “I do not know how to use voicemail.” I know this to be the case because sometimes I will look back at my caller ID logs and see that someone has called me 4 times in the last two days, and left a number of voicemails that approaches 0, and is certainly nowhere near 4.
I have news to these people who accuse me of being “hard to reach.” I am one of the most accessible people in this state. I have voicemail. I have email. I have a pager. I have a cell phone. I have an answering machine at my house. At one point I had another cell phone in my car. And the only info I ever give out to anyone is mybusiness phone number. Why? Because I check it. When I get a call at the office it forwards the message to my cell phone. If I don’t answer, it goes to my pager. I do not give out my cell phone or pager number to people because they do not need it. Apparently this is one of the reasons I’m “hard to get a hold of.” The fact that I have actually simplified things seems to confuse people though.
If you call the office looking for technical support, and I am not available, my voicemail greeting even tells you how to transfer to technical support so someone can help you more quickly. Of course, this process requires pressing two buttons (sequentially, not simultaneously), and this seems to throw a lot of people off because I regularly receive voicemails from clients who are having technical issues which could be addressed by any of my staff, but for some reason, these requests wind up in my mailbox. Despite the fact that my voicemail has, for years, said, “If you require any technical assistance with a computer, network, or website, press…” People don’t hear that. They also don’t hear the part where I say “I will be out of the office until…” and go ahead and leave messages which go unanswered until I return, at which point they have thrown a conniption because I dared to not be checking my voicemail while I was on vacation or away on business (despite the fact that I clearly stated that I was on vacation or away on business and not checking voicemail). Unbelieveable.
This is right up there with the people who call, listen to an entire voicemail greeting (sometimes as long as a minute), hear the tone, and then hang up! I love getting those 4 second voicemails with nothing more than breath and the *click* of a hangup.
It is clear that these people need a primer on voicemail, and of course, being the helpful guy that I am, I’m happy to help!
Here’s a synopsis:
Pick up the phone
Dial the number of the person you need to reach.
If you reach a voicemail system,

Hang up immediately in a huff, complaining about how hard I am to get a hold of.
Immediately press 0 to get to an operator, then hang up in a huff when you get the operator’s voicemail, complaining about how hard I am to get a hold of.
Call me at home. Despite the fact that your issue is not remotely urgent or even important, and get on my “good side.”
Call my parents’ house, and ask them how to get a hold of me, because at age 35, I love getting a call from my mom telling me that so-and-so is trying to reach me.
Listen to the greeting and follow the instructions given.

When you reach the extension of the intended person, if the person is not available, and you receive his/her voicemail,

Hang up immediately in a huff, complaining about how hard I am to get a hold of.

Listen to the greeting and follow the instructions given.

If the voicemail contains information, such as a vacation notice, or instructions on how to get immediate help with your issue,

Hang up immediately in a huff, complaining about how hard I am to get a hold of.

Follow the instructions given to receive the help you are seeking.

Leave a brief, descriptive message. State your name, your telephone number, and what it is you need. Note, what you need is NOT a phone call, so do not say “hey Peter, call me.” That’s meaningless. If you leave me a voicemail and all it says is “call me,” be prepared to receive your own *click*, either on your voicemail or answering machine or even live if you answer the phone, because if all you needed was a call, then I’ll happily call you. And hang up. If you need something, tell me what it is, and I’ll call you back as soon as I can with the information, and the cycle of Eternal Phone Tag can be broken!

See how easy that is?

What Do You Want for Christmas?

It\’s that time of year again, and I figured I\’d save everyone who is thinking about getting me a present the trouble. No, not the trouble of getting me a gift. Of course I want gifts! No, I will save you the trouble of thinking of what to get me, you silly person!
Here are some great suggestions that I’m sure I would like:

  • A case for my iPod (30GB, black) which allows me to still sync it, but not worry about it being scratched.
  • A gift certificate to Borders or
  • DVDs (widescreen editions always):
    • Superman Returns
    • Superman II (the Richard Donner Cut)
    • X-Men 3: The Last Stand
  • Books:
  • An iPod dock of some sort that includes speakers.
  • A ViewSonic Viewdock Monitor.
  • A MacBook, MacBook Pro, or Mac Pro. Hey, if you don’t ask…
  • Jox Sox! These are great athletic socks which let my smelly, sweaty feet breathe! I have several pairs of the ped size, but could use some larger ones for use with
  • Slippers.

Okay, scratch the slippers.

My Mac Mini's Oddities

I purchased a Mac Mini a few months ago to act as my “media hub” (read “DVD player”) a while ago.? Unfortunately, I still have an old Sony Wega (with a tube) and I’d forgotten how low the resolution is on old style televisions.? It was so bad that I couldn’t even use my Mini with it because I couldn’t read the menus.? So I quickly gave up on that idea and put the Mini on my desktop, nestled under my flat panel displays, where I occasionally would switch over to it via a KVM switch.? Unfortunately, since the mini only supports one display, and my Dell has four, it’s really hard to make the switch in any serious fashion.? As a result, the Mini has gotten very little use.
Plus, despite the fact that I upgraded it from 512MB to 2GB of RAM (using the putty knife technique that you can read about), it is still occasionally very painfully slow.? With no other apps running, Thunderbird was taking something to the tune of 16 bounces on the dock to load, whereas it would load in just three on my 800MHz PowerBook.? Not having a lot of time to troubleshoot things, I pretty much just let it sit and would fire it up to record the occasional podcast or whatnot.
Last night I decided to try to install Ubuntu Linux on it.? After all, I’d put it on all of my other machines, so why not, right?? Unfortunately, I didn’t bother reading any howtos or suggested procedures first – I just slapped the CD in, booted from it, nuked my Boot Camp partition, and dedicated it to Ubuntu. Unfortunately the installer crashed and that was the end of that.
When I attempted a reboot, the Mac wouldn’t load into OS X.? Furthermore, it would not boot from my installation CD! Now I was starting to get concerned.? I called Apple tech support, and they advised me to press and hold the C key to boot from CD (tried, failed).? I also tried the Alt (Option) key (failed).? One time I was able to hold down the mouse to get it to eject the CD, but subsequent attempts failed.
Finally, I figured there may be a problem with my KVM and the PC keyboard I was using.? Remembering that you can use the remote control to select? your boot drive, I held down the Menu button while booting.? Presto!? I was given the option to boot from the CD again.? Not having any data on the drive which wasn’t already backed up, I simply repartitioned the drive and continued on my merry way reinstalling.
I’m going to give Ubuntu on the mini another shot, but I may use an external drive this time instead.

New Toy: The Kona Jake

Since I’ve been doing more biking on the road lately, I decided it was time for a road bike.? So I went to my pals at Green Mountain Bikes today and tested out a few, finally settling on a new Kona Jake. It has a nice balance of mountain bike features and road bike features. I can’t wait to try it!

Bikers and Moose and Bears, Oh $#|+!!

I went mountain biking down one of my favorite trails with my friend Peter? Merrill yesterday. Before we started out, I told him that we had seen a bear a couple of weeks ago near the bottom of Camp Brook Road.? The trail that we picked up starts at the top of Charlie Wilson Road, and empties out on Gilead Brook Road.
The trail was very wet, or as my friend put it, “the river was a bit dry.” As we navigated our way down from the top of the trail, I saw a (very) large hoof print in the middle of the trail.? Knowing that moose live in that area, this was not a surprise, but I was a little extra vigilant because running into a startled moose is not what I would consider the high point of my bike ride.? Fortunately, we did not see any actual moose, just moose prints.
About an hour later, as we were nearing the end of the trail, I kept thinking what it would be like to come up around a bend and see a bear.? As we reached a straight part of the trail and I could see more clearly ahead, about 50′ in front of my friend was a young black bear.
I could hardly believe it.? At first I thought my mind was playing tricks on me.? I tried to yell out “It’s a bear!”? But I couldn’t find the words and all I managed was “Peter stop!!” He did, and the bear took one look at us and bolted into the woods.? For a big, heavy thing, it could move pretty quickly!? We took a picture of its claw prints once we were sure it was gone, and then decided not to stick around any longer.

Owning Property Sucks Even More

Okay, so I got my quotes on pre-buy oil prices for the coming year. The lowest we found in the area was $2.55 a gallon. I’d say it was $2.549 a gallon, like the delivery company did, but I really don’t like that game, so I’m doing what they do on the bill and rounding up.
The problem is that this particular company also happens to be incompetent, as is evidenced by the fact that they repeatedly screwed up my deliveries, causing me to run out of propane in the dead of winter, and also by charging me for my neighbor’s propane and vice versa, and don’t even get me started on the fact that they, after forcing me to shell out money to have them inspect my heating system to be sure it was “up to code,” completely missed the fact that the furnace was venting into my basement for years. Brilliant. Finally, they wanted something to the tune of $2,000 to put in a new above-ground oil tank at my new building, when the next bid I got came in at $1,250.
Needless to say, I am not dealing with them any longer. So that brings me to the runner up, CV Oil, whose pre-buy rate for #2 Fuel Oil is a whopping $2.69 per gallon. Note that these folks are decent enough to price it at $2.69, and not play the $2.689 per gallon game. So I had my assistant figure out how much we used last night (by calling these folks, who kept accurate records), and the total came to approximately 2,000 gallons. Here’s where I do math: 2,000 gal * $2.69/gal = $5,380. Ouch.
I’ll say it again: “Ouch!” Let me rephrase that. “HOLY $#!+!!” So, after picking myself back up off the floor, I called the friendly folks at Efficiency Vermont to see if there was anything they could do for me. Here’s where it gets fun. The first thing they told me was that, for a building this size (approximately 6,000′ sq.), I’m doing pretty well. Ouch. Okay, now it really hurts.
So, I’ve spoken with a couple of people and have gotten various recommendations which have included:

  • Adding a second furnace to the one I have because it is too small. Adding a second furnace would make it more efficient (to a maximum of 20%, says Efficiency Vermont).
  • Make sure that the walls are insulated. Right now I do not know what’s between the sheetrock and the exterior brick of the building. If open air, they suggest stuffing it full of cellulose.
  • Have an energy audit and follow their recommendations. This would probably run me something to the tune of $1,000 or more. Awesome.
  • Get storm windows. I’m sure that the main source of heat loss here is the ancient, single-pane glass on the upper two floors of this place, but since this is an historic building, allegedly I’m eligible for tax credits if we preserve the facade and don’t make exterior changes. Given the number and size of the windows in this place, I’m sure that would not pay off for at least ten years.
  • Get rid of the boiler and put in an on-demand water heating system instead.
  • Replace the controller on the furnace, or have it reprogrammed (if possible) so that it runs in shorter increments because right now it appears that it runs for a minimum of 30 minutes any time it calls for heat, causing some “hot pockets” in the building and certainly sucking down a lot of extra oil.

That’s the end of today’s rant. What are your thoughts on heating options in the northeast? Are we doomed to pay high prices and just suck it up? Or should we all start packing up and moving south to warmer climates?

Bethel Needs Bike Trails

Now that Bethel (finally) has two good places to eat (namely the Second Cup Cafe for breakfast and lunch, and the Cockadoodle Pizza Cafe for lunch and dinner), we have the dining infrastructure needed to support tourists who come in from out of town.
Now, we need a reason to bring them in from out of town, and I say that mountain biking in the heart of Vermont is as good a reason as any! We already have a network of trails maintained by VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travellers) and VASA (Vermont ATV Sportsman’s Association). What would it take to establish, say, the Central Vermont Mountain Biker’s Assocation? The Kingdom Trails Association has done a remarkable job maintaining many miles of prime bike trails in East Burke. They have something for everyone there, from beginner to double-diamond-wear-full-body-armor-totally-at-your-own-risk-you-nut-job-downhilling trails. Downtown East Burke hosts a small gas station/convenience store (whose gas prices are cheaper than here in Bethel), a small restaurant/pizza cafe (sound familiar?) and a bike shop.
Would the local VAST and VASA members appreciate some more help maintaining the trails in this area if it meant more use by mountain bikers? Is something that would attract a clean, non-polluting, environmentally friendly activity to the area, which would lead to more income for the local economy, worth exploring? Please leave a comment here with your thoughts!

I've Been Active!

I have been very active in the local community lately. I am currently the Vice Chair of the Bethel Business Association, working with Kirk White to extend the reach of the BBA, combining its efforts with those of the Bethel Revitalization Initiative.