Month: October 2009



Forty years ago today (October 29, 1969) the first electronic connection was made over ARPANET, the foundation and predecessor of today’s internet.

On that date the intention was for one programmer in one city to make a connection to a computer at a different location. It was accomplished by sending the message/command “login.”

Not very exotic nor sexy I assure you. But I was listening to NPR on the way home tonight and they were talking to the gents who shared that first transmission forty years ago. It brought to mind yet another thing that bugs your ole Uncle Aaron: the misuse of the word “login” or “logon.”

My first logon experience was at Western Michigan University where I connected to the DEC/VAX mainframe for my BASIC programming course. I remember the 100-year-old building that housed one of the computer labs (the following year it was leveled to make way for the new library complex). I remember dozens of very loud, foundation-rattling, tractor-fed, 9-pin dot-matrix printers. I also remember the filthy keyboard (with missing and mis-labeled keys) and the bright-amber display that almost immediately induced a headache.

I couldn’t do any computing task without successfully logging in. And that was a task in itself. Once logged in I was equally lost as to what to do next.

So I remember the dark old days when logging in meant something! In MY day I had to LOG IN to a computer before I could ask the computer the age-old question of ‘what is the sum of two and two?’.

Of course, many of us log in to company computers and networks now. We are accustomed to the “first-initial-last-name” or “firstnameDOTlastname” drill. And most losers out there probably understand that going through the logon process is what grants them access to the amazing secrets inside that mysterious box. Yes, I’m talking about Solitaire.

So what has got Uncle Aaron’s sneakers full of bubble gum? The fact that so many adverts suggest that potential customers “log on” to such-and-such a website.

“If you want to make stock trades for thirty-seven cents, log on today to”

When was the last time you ever “logged on” to a website?!?! You “navigate” to a website. Maybe you “go to” a website. But you do NOT “log on.” You aren’t asked for your name, rank and blood type. You aren’t asked for a secret code like “rover” or “betty” in order to see the latest video of cats diving for goldfish.

Now maybe after you visit a website you might be asked to provide user credentials in order to access your banking account, your charge card details or your fantasy poker league. But you do NOT log on to a website.

So all of you Madison Avenue types who are hanging on to my every keystroke, please stop doing this. Invite people to “visit” your very fine website…but don’t ask them to logon. They don’t know the difference, but I do and that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

Logging off now….

Recent Oddities


Arsenio Hall used to have a schtick on his late-night program where he would talk about things that struck him as odd. He’d precede each bit with: “Things that make you go hmmmm….”

Well kids, that’s me tonight. The past several weeks have been very busy for this sedentary one. I bought a house and have been busy doing my preliminary move-in (that means getting my meager apartment stuff into the house) and preparing for the primary move (that being the one where a Mayflower big-rig pulls up and disgorges itself of my life’s treasures).

Dealing with lots of people, agencies, situations and entities these past many weeks has generated many a “Hmmm…” moment.


Adhesives are good. They hold stuff together. I’m a woodworker so most of my work relies on a good glue to hold Part A to Part B. This is especially important if Aunt Nellie is going to sit on the bench I just made. But there should be levels of adhesion, and well-understood rules about when to use each level.

For example, if you’re going to stash some very volatile radioactive waste in something, please use some really strong, permanent, impervious adhesive to affix the “WARNING — THIS STUFF COULD MESS YOU UP” warning sticker. But on the other hand, if you are the bank that owns a foreclosed house and you want to winterize the plumbing, do NOT, I repeat do NOT use that same adhesive to affix warning labels to every faucet and toilet in the house. It is not necessary.  A simple sign that says “The plumbing in this house has been winterized. Please call us before using any plumbing fixture.” would do the job.  Simple. Easy. And that sign should be attached to the front door with an adhesive that comes off very easily. Otherwise you risk making Aaron really extra-special ornery when he wastes money and time trying to de-stick these very important porcelain pots.  His level of frustration only grows as the urgency of his need to return his India Pale Ale to Mother Nature grows.

And to those of you who make windows…same rule applies to you. I (or the builder) bought your glorious glass gateways. You got your money. You win no extra sales by having a PERMANENT sticker of your logo on MY windows. I will try to pull them off and will fail, leaving a fuzzy, ugly, sticky piece of paper on the glass. Nobody likes that. And it isn’t getting anyone else to stop in to the Andersen Window Showroom. It is not.

And can someone at Oven Central ‘splain to me why the energy-use label has to be permanently stuck to the oven door? I mean, I want an efficient appliance, sure. But I don’t see the need to advertise my oven’s 2009 energy score for the next 25 years. I’ve tried to remove it and short of breaking the glass and ordering a new panel…I think it’s going to be there through turkeys, cookies and casseroles.


The customer isn’t always right. The customer is not king. I know that. But the customer is the one paying the bills. But a couple of recent experiences have made my brain twist in its bucket.

The first incident was with a local plumbing contractor. The water here isn’t as bad as it was in Virginia, but I still wanted a water softener and water purification system in my kitchen. I contacted the company that provides drinking water in my office. I called on a day to schedule an appointment and surprise, surprise, they could be at my new house the very next day! Now that is service, indeed!

I met the sales dude at the house and talked about what I wanted and made my selection from several options. He called to the office to get me on the schedule. Guess what? No, I am not wearing a cowboy hat right now, be serious! No, they were able to be out at my place the very next day to install the system! Isn’t that something? My level of satisfaction was quite high before I even spent a dime.

So they came and they installed. The plumber dude said the softener would run for a few hours after he left then it would shut off. After that it would run every third day at 2 a.m. Cool. I wrote a very large check and was quickly distracted by the 2,744 other chores that I was neglecting.

Several days later the softener had not stopped running. The water was great, but hundreds of gallons were going down the drain…plus the thing made noise in my basement. And even at my age, I’m still afraid of things that make noise in a dark basement. (He’s down there. With an axe. I just know it!). So I called the fine folks at the plumbing place to let them know I had a problem.

“Oh, Mr. Kuehn, I am so sorry you did not experience a perfect result from our visit!” the distraught lady on the other end of the line cried. “We need to get that fixed! Did the installer show you how to bypass the system?”

“Yes.” I said. “I have it bypassed and turned off.”

“Oh, goooood!” she gushed. “Let me get our service calendar here. Hmmm…. Uh, huh. Well. Yes. Okay, we can have someone out there in two weeks, Thursday the 22nd between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Would that be convenient?”

I paused, counted my fingers and toes a couple of times, then replied, “That’s a long time to wait…especially after just having this installed.”

She didn’t have to count her digits before making her reply “Well, sir, we are very, very busy. That’s the first appointment I have. Of course if someone cancels, I’ll give you the first opportunity at that appointment.”

So, only days before they were able to hop-to and take my money. Now that something is wrong and they have to come back on their own dime, they’re suddenly “awfully busy.”

Another “Hmmmm…” moment involved my temporary apartment. I accepted a new job in Utah back in November of 2008. While still in Virginia I was trying to find a Utah apartment to live in until I sold my Virginia house and found something out here. I knew the area fairly well having made business trips out here for the past 10 years. I found an apartment complex that fit my desires so after clicking the “Contact Us” link on their website, I made known my wish to become a tenant.

Well, they were unable to “process my application” until I had paid them an up-front processing fee. That fee would be deducted from my initial deposit if I chose to sign a lease. I paid. I applied. I was accepted. I signed a lease. In late January I moved in.

Yesterday I moved out. My lease stated that I needed to give them 30 days’ written notice that I was leaving. I did that…wrote it up nicely, printed it more nicely and nicely hand-delivered it to the lady in the office. It was all very nice and cordial and stuff.

Yesterday, with a different lady on duty, I went to tell her that I was finished cleaning and to return the key. She said I needed to fill out a “Tenant Departure Notice Form.” It was three pages long. It had a lot of writing reminding me of my “duty” to give them notice, to clean the apartment, to leave it as I found it, that if they found dead bodies in the under-sink cabinet they might deduct monies from my security deposit and etcetera. It also asked of me all the same information I had included in my letter: my name, my apartment address, my social security number, my lease number, the date of the notice, the date I planned to vacate and my shoe size. Okay…so I copied the information from my letter onto their forms.

I sorta thought the lady would walk-through the apartment immediately to make sure it looked okay and then give me my security deposit. Nope. Someone else does that, she told me. Okay, I was fine with that. Maybe sometime next week I’d get my money. But she tickled my “Hmmm….” nerve by saying that I would have my security deposit back “…within six to eight weeks…”

I know, my math isn’t very good But I think that’s something like TWO MONTHS!!! Not that long ago they wouldn’t even give me the time of day until I paid them to “process my application.” Now after eight months of rent, fees and other extortions, they need two months to give me back money that is mine to begin with.

That seems odd.


Throughout my life I have had a love-hate relationship with vacuum cleaners (Linda, you know what I’m talking about!). One of the last things I did before leaving the Norfolk newspaper was to write a review of a new vacuum cleaner. The freelance assignment didn’t pay by the inch…I simply got to keep the model that I reviewed. I gave it a good review because I was really impressed with the device.

Well, after moving it from the apartment to the house (a treacherous journey of some 15 miles over the freshly-paved Interstate-15), the vacuum started to be very finicky about when it would vac and when it would not. Over the past few days, it was of the opinion that it would much rather “not.”

In addition, I recently purchased the smallest, least-expensive Shop-Vac for use inside the house. Somewhere in the Mayflower Storage Abyss is a larger Shop-Vac Wet/Dry for the shop. But I wanted one for in the house. So I bought one. Yes I did. So there!

Friday night I was using the Shop-Vac and flipped the power switch and it made a noise, blue flame shot out of the switch, and there was no motory action. She, too, had decided to not suck.

Now, the upright vacuum for which I wrote the review owed me nothing…so I had little heartache about tossing it (shhh, I threw it in the Dumpster at the apartment!). But the Shop-Vac was nearly new…but I had no receipt. And I almost NEVER return stuff. I just hate doing that. But I was peeved. Blue flames shooting out near my fingers tends to do that to me. I have a short fuse, I know.

So I went back to my friendly local Home Depot. The lady behind the counter was very nice. Because I’d used my debit card she was quickly able to produce a duplicate receipt. So I was all ready to return or exchange it but she educated me that I would in fact NOT be doing so. Nope. Vacuum cleaners and sweepers get returned to the manufacturer…not the store. Hmmmm…? That’s right. That’s the policy with Shop-Vac and many others she said. She felt really awful about this. But she happened to have a photocopied form ready for me to fill out that I should include with the vac upon return. I took the form and the vacuum back to the truck. I then went back inside to buy a new upright vacuum. The purchase of the new vacuum (one of those clever models with a cyclone) went off swimmingly.

Then I went to the United States Postal service in order to send the Shop-Vac back to the place from whence it came (I still had the box…can you believe that?)

The Shop-Vac was on sale when I bought it. I paid $24.99 (I told you it was the cheapest model they sell). Shop-Vac requires that returns be sent “First Class.” Want to take a guess at the postage costs? $19.99.