Not-So-Thrifty Car Rental

October 10th, 2021

We took a trip to San Francisco and decided to rent a car from Thrifty. The price was decent and everything about our experience from pickup to dropoff was fairly smooth. But there’s one thing to be careful of especially around the Bay Area: tolls.

If you don’t choose Thrifty’s toll plan, then you’re on the hook for tolls plus a $15 surcharge per toll if Thrifty is charged. The agent may tell you that it’s easy to pay tolls online through the Bay Area’s FasTrak program, but it’s not so straightforward.

Our agent told us we’d have no problem paying our final tolls to the airport within 24 hours of returning our car, but it was more complicated than that. When we flew back home after our trip, I immediately logged on to FasTrak’s website and attempted to make a one-time payment, but the website wouldn’t allow me to. Why? I later found out (after waiting for an hour on the customer service line) that after I returned my rental car, the next person who rented my car registered the plate with FasTrak, thereby preventing me from making my one-time payment! The FastTrak agent assisted me in making a payment and I even received a confirmation email. But FastTrak ended up charging Thrifty anyway, so I received a bill from Thrifty with its $15 surcharge tacked on.

So if you are renting from Thrifty at SFO, do not listen to the agent if they say you can pay for tolls after the fact. As soon as you pick up your car, register on FasTrak at the start of your trip. And confirm that your credit card is being charged during your trip so that the charges don’t end up at Thrifty. If they do, Thrifty will make you pay those hefty surcharges.

Ode to “No Art”

September 14th, 2021

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? If a man tags in a city with no artists, is he an artist?

PsPrint, What Happened?

August 7th, 2021

My last few orders from PsPrint have been less than stellar. They used to be good, even printing offset for low quantities. Now, everything is digital and the colors aren’t as vibrant. On top of that, they have quality control issues. The last couple of orders for greeting cards have had weird smudges on a large number of them:

What happened?

Mortgage Protection Life Insurance

November 13th, 2020

If you receive a piece of spam mail from Mortgage Protection Life Insurance right after you refinance, just return the postage paid envelope with a note saying, “No thank you.” I’m not sure how they get access to your loan information, but it’s super-creepy.

A New American Flag

November 7th, 2020

South Shore Live-It Cozy Couch

November 6th, 2020

We absolutely loved our IKEA Manstad couch. It fit perfectly in our little living room, folded out to a bed, and provided extra storage:

But alas, it’s discontinued. There are a number of knockoffs out there, but none with the same dimensions and, most important, full back along all three sides.

We thought we hit the jackpot with this sofa by a company called South Shore. They sell through Home Depot, among other outlets. Their “Live-It Cozy” couch fit the bill. But what we found was that it was, in a nutshell, “IKEA price without IKEA quality”. All of the materials throughout the couch are cheap.

What’s worse is that when we got the couch, one of the particleboard pieces was damaged:

When we notified the company, they said they’d ship a replacement part, but that took forever. And when it finally arrived, it was the wrong color!:

I seriously doubt this couch will last as long as our Manstad (10 years!). But only time will tell. (Is that a spring sticking in my butt already?)

Trick for Forgetful Cooks

September 24th, 2020

Do you have a tendency to forget that the stove or oven is on? Here’s a trick: Get “Gym Boss”. It has an “interval timer” feature; it beeps at a set interval. I have mine set to beep every 60 seconds. Now, whenever I use the stove or oven, I click on my “Gym Boss” and when I hear that beep, my brain is trained to pay attention!

TIP: Paste a magnet to the back so that it can be attached directly above your stovetop.

Delta Kitchen Faucet, Loose Handle

April 18th, 2020

Do you have a Delta kitchen faucet with loose handle? (Does the handle “wiggle”?) If you unscrew the handle, you’ll see that it sits on top of a cheap plastic nub. That plastic nub wears away over time. How did I fix he wiggle? I wrapped the plastic nub with a small piece of duct tape. That provided the right amount of material for a tighter fit.

UPDATE: This worked for about 6 months before I had to reapply more tape. Better than nothing!

Glade Plugins are wicked toxic

April 12th, 2020

Watch out for those Glade Plugins. They smell nice, but I would definitely recommend using a drip tray under them in case they malfunction. I had my laptop sitting underneath one whose oils started leaking. Ate a hole in the plastic cover! Luckily it did not damage the screen. I’m actually glad my laptop was in the way because who knows what it would’ve done to my hardwood floors! SC Johnson sent me a $50 check for my trouble, so we’re even.

Fire Alarm Control Panel Replacement

March 29th, 2020

We have fire sprinklers in our house. (Don’t ask, it’s a long story.) They were controlled by an ESL 1500 Series Fire Alarm Control Panel in the basement:

One zone on this panel was repeatedly misfiring. The alarm wasn’t going off, but every few weeks the “trouble” light would trip. That would cause the dreaded sounder to beep repeatedly.

I hired an electrician to check it out. Big mistake. Electricians who aren’t familiar with fire panels overcharge you for work that doesn’t need to get done. This particular electrician claimed that the problem was with the actual detectors throughout the house. He replaced every single one and promised that the problem was solved.

Old detectors.
New detectors.

But it wasn’t. The “beep beep beep” of the panel returned. What the electrician should have done is simply attached a resistor to the panel to pinpoint that the problem was with the panel, not the detectors, as shown in this video:

That was my mistake, hiring an electrician to do a job that an electrician was not required for. (I didn’t know this originally; fire panels can be serviced by alarm technicians, they do not require electricians.) Luckily, I heard about a great alarm technician in a nearby town. He came by and knew exactly how to diagnose the problem: the circuit boards were failing. For a 20-year-old panel, it’s not worth replacing the circuit boards. Just have them install a new panel. Of course, once they’re done, it’ll have to be inspected by your city. They only found one problem: The breaker that controls the panel must have a locking device attached so that it can’t be turned off:

Simple enough. All in all, this project cost thousands and required the work of 3 people:

  • The original electrician who installed the new detectors.
  • The alarm technician who installed the new panel.
  • A second electrician who installed the breaker lock.

What a mess, during the pandemic no less!