Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Shipping gougers

This week, I tried to order a new guinea pig cage for Floyd - almost double the size of his current one. I started feeling bad after watching him turbo in ovals. He races to one end and makes a sudden stop, does a quick (almost instantaneous) end-for-end flip, and then he's racing back in the other direction. The changeover is so fast we can't actually see it happen. Then he races to the other end and does it again. The new cage is fairly large - on wheels. Supposedly it weighs 40 pounds.

The first online pet supply store I contacted agreed to send one with a shipping charge totalling $20 - which included a $9 Alaska surcharge. A day later they upped the shipping charge to $79, telling me the only way to send stuff to Alaska was priority first class mail, or FedEx overnight. I told them it was not true, that UPS ground-ships to Alaska - we use it all the time. They emailed back and said I was wrong, that UPS doesn't ship ground to Alaska, so they were going to have to mail it. Obviously they knew more about shipping to Alaska than I did, what was the point of trying to set them straight? I told them to cancel the order. The next online pet supply store I contacted said they'll ground-ship via UPS tomorrow for $17.

Everybody who lives in Alaska has at least one story about shipping gouges. Once we were gouged an extra $30 for a rather small package containing just three CDs. It showed up on our credit card after we got the package. We tried to return it, they said they wouldn't refund the shipping gouge. We appealed to the credit card company; they wouldn't help. That's when we learned that shipping charges are not disputable even if they are added after the sale is made. At least that first online pet supply store called before gouging us.

Usually Amazon gets it right with shipping. Once I even got a 200# shop tool shipped free! It took two weeks, but well worth the weight. But some of Amazon's "partners" still screw up shipping rates to Alaska. We constantly have to watch that. This year we'll probably do at least 90% of our christmas shopping online - no local sales tax and (usually) reasonable shipping.

After all these years it's disconcerting to once again encounter another myth about Alaska. That brings up another one. I've been holding this in for months, but I finally have to say it: There are NO Penguins in Alaska! The only penguin in the northern hemisphere is an occasional lost Humboldt penguin that strayed too far from his Galapagos Islands base. Coca Cola and Madison Avenue have created an urban legend that polar bears won't eat penguins at Christmastime if they can have a coke instead. Unfortunately polar bears don't live in the southern hemisphere where all the penguins are.

Actually there used to be an arctic penguin, "penguinosa borealis". Sadly we ate them all years ago, before the big oil discovery on the north slope. We rendered their fat for lamp oil and heating oil, then we ate the meat; I think the hides were used to make kayaks or something. There was a super-secret penguin slaughterhouse on a remote Aleutian Island that was quietly decommissioned in the late-1960s. Sorry, Coke. Sorry, Mike Gravel. Sorry, Dooce. Sorry, Dennis Miller. Sorry, Hannover Zoo. Sorry, Mike Lynch. Our secret almost got out in the late 1970s, when our distinguished senator tried to earmark federal research funds to find out what happened to all the penguins up here (that and a new domed resort near Mt. McKinley). We didn't want to face up to our part in exterminating a whole subspecies, so we quickly voted him out of office. After all these years, I just couldn't stand the guilt any longer and had to spill it out. No wonder we are so incapable of managing our resources that we have to rely on the rest of the country to do a better job for us. Sheesh. Even Tennessee Tuxedo had us all believing that penguins hung around with walruses. Here's a recent children's book that perpetuates the Tennessee Tuxedo myth. To be fair, Tennessee and Chumley did live in a zoo (I wonder if Randy, My Name is Earl's brother, channels Chumley?)

I did it! I ordered a Yamaha Electric Cello from Cellos2Go. I really like dealing with Ellen G. She doesn't have one in stock, so I'm not sure when it will come; but I can wait. Time will pass fast enough anyway.

I also ordered some new strings. I'm feeling a little frustrated with my d-string. Depending on where I slide the wolf-eliminator, I get this deep booming ring on the open D, even on the first finger D on the c-string. If I move it far enough the Es boom instead. It seems way too loud. My teacher said it didn't sound bad to her - it was a good ringing tone. To me, it's too loud. Still, something sounds different these last few days. There are three possible connections - the recent extreme cold/dry spell, the new strings, the new wolf eliminator. More than likely all three factors are involved to some degree. I want to take it to a luthier in Anchorage and have the setup checked out. Maybe the soundpost needs a little tweaking.

Lesson 21 today was much better than the last one. I like being the first student of the day, because I can arrive 20 minutes early, get set up and do a few warmup scales, so that when my teacher arrives I'm ready to start playing. I still had a few clumsy moments, at first, but all-in-all it went well today. We played a few duets; sight reading. Not bad. I played some of the harmony parts on a few Christmas songs, just for a change - that was interesting.

We spent a lot of time working through several of my "tough segments". I got some good ideas about how to work through these. I had been doing some of the cross string shifts wrong. I was essentially just trying to "reach" for it, rather than consciously shifting on the one string and then, when my hand is positioned right, cross over for the new note. Another fix involved a more rapid string crossing on an upbowed sixteenth note slurred set. I have to bring my arm out more, not just up, when I cross from the d-string to the a-string. Also the bow change needs to be almost instantaneous as well as accurate. (Like how Floyd does his turnabouts when he's turboing in his cage.) We worked through four or five of these, today.

After looking through my new rhythm book, she lent me one of hers. Mine is a quite a bit more advanced than I'm ready for.

By the way, as a followup to Sunday's blog, HP called to say my new laptop battery would arrive FedEx on Friday or Monday. Then they emailed back to make sure I was satisfied with their handling. Wow! I am impressed! Thanks, Hewlett-Packard!

Everything in life I need to know I learned from my... guinea pig? And I am shocked... *shocked*, I tell you, to learn that there are no penguins in Alaska.
Considering that he has no choice but to sit beside me and listen to me tormenting my poor cello every day, I ought to be able to learn something from him...
Congrats on your future electric cello! I'm curious to hear how you like it.
I admit, I'm starting to get antsy - like a kid counting down the hours to christmas.
Haha, at least my cats have the option of going or staying when I practice. One stays (and meows when I stop) and the other runs into another room as soon as I open the case.
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