Monday, September 20, 2021

Customer Non-Service #4 (What You CAN'T Buy)

 Author's Note: Got a great big essay coming later this week. Today's screed is about the trials and tribulations of trying to buy things that don't exist, except as a photograph on a webpage.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida, in addition to a poorly-wired mancave here at the New Death Star, combined to wreck my trusty computer.

This event also exposed some troubling circumstances about the availability of just about everything in this age of post-Chinese Lung Aids.

About the wiring: the Overlord's landlord is a very old man who "operates" his own construction business. Operates is in quotation marks because if there's anyone with any sense of responsibility working there, they'd keep him away from power tools or construction sites. He's 87, and still believes himself to be a very young man, capable of handling every household repair one could imagine.

Except that wiring is not one of those.

Prior to the Overlords moving into our new slice of Nirvana, one of the things we needed to be sure of was the electrical system/wiring. This is because of Mrs. Overlord's reliance upon external oxygen equipment and the condo's age. It's 25 years old.

So, our new landlord promised -- swore up and down -- that he'd ensure the wiring was up to snuff. After all, he was replacing the floors to suit Mrs. Overlord's needs as well as replacing all the windows in the joint because he just didn't like the old ones, anymore.

You'd think this would be a good thing, right?

Except that an 87-year-old Greek immigrant decided to do all the work himself.

There's three things one needs to know about older folks of Mediterranean descent. Being of Sicilian lineage, myself, I'm confident I can make these statements without fear of being called anything ending in -IST. The three biggest issues you will ever have in dealing with these sorts of people, are these:

1. They don't listen to you...or anyone, really. They know everything and you can't tell them a blessed thing, even if it is to point out an obvious mistake. You either get an argument or they "yes" you to death and then do whatever it is they were doing in the same fucked-up fashion as before.

2. They are stubborn beyond belief, so that even when their mistakes are pointed out to them and THEY CAN SEE THE RESULTS, it's never their problem. It must be something else, and we're going to try every imaginable "solution" to this problem, except the one that is glaringly obvious and most-direct.

(I must admit to this fault, sometimes, myself)

3. They are the cheapest human beings to ever walk the face of the planet. If you had to add a human ancestor to the old "Family of Man" graphic, they would be classified as a new species that could reasonably be called
Homo Thrifticus. This is part-and-parcel of my second point, that the obvious solution to any problem is to be avoided as if it came with a value-added case of AIDS if it means parting with a penny.

To summarize:

The wiring in the apartment is new, but it was done on the cheap. That is to say that the wiring is all lowest-possible-gauge, the electrical outlets are all on the same circuit in every room (so that when one fails, they all fail), the new windows have a pitch problem and one in particular leaks so that rainwater gets inside the frame, rolls down the interior of the walls and lands smack dab on an electrical outlet, causing it to short out. In addition, when the short occurs the breaker switch (which are all rated at 15 amps, and not 20 or more, unless there's an appliance at the end of it, which would be nice) does not automatically trip.

The breaker box, itself, is unlabeled, so that discovering which breaker was supposed to trip (but didn't) involves throwing every one (22 of them) until you get it right.

The power goes out in a single room, you'll never know unless you happen to be in it when it fails, the breaker does not reset, and then the power will come back on after several hours all by itself (because by then the wiring is dry?). Essentially, the four outlets in this one room are all wired together, in series, with the cheapest wire available, on the same circuit, and all attached to the same 15 amp breaker...that doesn't trip when overloaded or shorted.

I made an additional discovery in the master bedroom: I unplugged a fan, failing to turn it off before doing so, and the lamp plugged into an outlet on the other ide of the room went out. I plugged the fan back in -- but did not turn it back on -- and the lamp mysteriously came back on.

So, I did what any would-be dictator worth his salt would do: I called Homo Thrifticus and told him what's what. To his credit, he came right over, and after the problem recurred as he was here, he suggested that maybe the problem was that I was using too much electricity. Perhaps it would all work better if we didn't just have so much stuff plugged in all over the know, like oxygen equipment, computers, televisions and the four relatively-new air conditioning units that he installed.

Why, this was unacceptable. And I told him so. He promised to fix it. This creates additional problems, the first being that he wants his guy to do the work. That would probably be the same his guy who fucked the job up in the first place. I have visions of another 80-year-old Greek who learned his trade when Pythagoras was still struggling with addition. But his guy, you see, is busy, so who knows when he'll be available.

But in the meantime, cut your electricity use and let him know if it happens again. 

So, I talked to my brother in law, who is a master electrician who does heavy industrial stuff (he works on all the high-rise construction in New York City), and he has a whole slew of buddies -- professional electricians who do similar work, but who are now unemployed thanks to COVID -- who can do the job. I don't care how much it costs me or that I have to violate my lease to have walls opened and wiring replaced, because it is manifest that Parsimonious of Athens is not going to do it, if it can be avoided at the cost of someone else's discomfort.

Except that you can't get the following items necessary to do the job properly:

Wiring of sufficient gauge to do the job properly in the quantities necessary.

Higher-capacity (is that even the right term?) breaker switches in sufficient quantity.

A new breaker box.

These materials are all in short supply, thanks to COVID-related interruptions in the supply chain.

This leads to the second problem concerning "what you cannot buy" thanks to COVID and dumbfuck.

That would be oxygen.

Since the electrical system in the New Death Star has proven unreliable, I have had to order extra oxygen for Mrs. Overlord, just in case. Normally, I would have 8-10 cylinders of oxygen on hand for an emergency and for going outside of the home (known as "E-cylinders", each holding approximately 4 hours of gas, in addition to an "M-cylinder", which represents a 24-hour supply). I now have 20 such cylinders in the house.

This represents, probably, more combustible and explosive material than the Taliban snatched from Bagram.

My home is now a bomb factory. I expect a visit from Homeland Security any day now.

And due to a shortage of liquid oxygen, thanks to Panda Flu, I'm not getting any more any time soon.

(Just because it has occurred to me right his minute, the term "breakthrough infection" used to describe COVID occurring in vaccinated individuals is NOT accurate: it would be more-accurate to say "the fucking shot doesn't work". We're being buried in euphemisms, these days, all intended to blur obvious truths).

And finally, Dear Minions, we come to the third thing you cannot buy, and that would be new computers.

The Overlord prefers desktop computers. I despise laptops, tablets and all the other things pretending to be computers with a seething hatred usually only reserved for liberal democrats and chihuahuas (which are NOT dogs, just barking rats). The reasons why would require another essay, so I shall spare you.

Go to any Staples, Best Buy, Target, Costco, etc. in these parts and you will find few, if any, desktop computers worth the money. You can order them online -- and suffer an incredible wait time for delivery, as I just have (16 days). 

You can have all the laptops and tablets you want, but the stores no longer stock desktops. I'm told they just take up valuable shelf space and do not sell. What's left is hardly worth the inflated prices being charged.

So, I decided to build my own. I've done it before. But, like everything else, you'll have a hard time finding the components because Worker's Influenza means the little yellow bastards aren't making chips, motherboards, and various and sundry other things. Which both makes the cost prohibitive and the expected delivery time for parts an iffy proposition.

Therefore, I had to buy a desktop online. Which I hate to do because I like to see what I buy before I purchase it. I'm old-fashioned that way.

So, the new rig arrived yesterday. I fucking hate it, but it works, and there wasn't much available that suits my needs at a price I was willing to pay (although I did get faster CPUs, twice the memory capacity, and twice the disk space -- solid state storage, which means fewer moving parts and a smaller case -- of the older 'puter, for about 2/3 the cost...because desktops "don't sell"). I will have to deal. I spent the entire day yesterday reloading software, some of which required Technical Support...which you can't get because Hong Kong Fluey has apparently decimated the Indian Tech Support Community.

Although there seems to be no shortage of Indians making spam calls seeking my Social Security number, access to my bank accounts and trying to sell me solar panels. In other words, all the shit I DON'T want to buy.

Go figure.


edlfrey said...

Did you consider

Matthew Noto said...

No, I did not.

Because of my business, I have specific requirements for a high-end machine, so I ordered a custom-built Dell and got a fairly good deal.

mtness said...

Would be nice to read the specs of your machine!

I'm the other way round - didn't use a desktop system for nearly 20 years now...
[it has always been thinkpads - everything else portable are just toys]
I couldn't stand to have my system system NOT with me.

Best regards, MT

Matthew Noto said...

Just for the geeks. The rig is custom. Because of my work (I wrote and compile a lot of code), because I'm a video game fanatic, and because I like to hang on to a system for more than a year before getting a new one (truth: I still use a Gateway desktop running WindowsXp, Pentium 3, 700Mhz, 15 GB drive! for work that I purchased in 1999!), I went overboard.

I now have two i5-11500 core CPUS (4 GHz each)

256 GB DDR4 (I installed an additional 256 I had laying around as soon as the thing arrived)

Samsung 870 EVO 4TB SSD

8 USB ports. I use a LOT of external (always Seagate) disk drives for individual clients.

2 CD-R/W drives. Because I can. One is for music while I work and the other for business.

mtness said...

Thanks for clarification!
I see your point - there is always the need for more RAM !
Cheers, MT