Monday, October 26, 2009

"Installing and Configuring The Fahm's Dish Network HD DVR" or, "Why Be a Dish Guy If You're Afraid of Heights?"

Saturday, while I was washing dinner dishes from the night before and the morning's breakfast dishes, doing 8 loads of laundry, filling the kitchen wood box, replenishing the kindling carrier, sweeping the kitchen floor to get up the worst of wood/leaf/log/ash detritus, and keeping the kitchen fire burning NO MATTER WHAT, Raj was having an entirely *different* set of adventures. After some deep confusion on the part of the Dish people, we were finally to have our Dish Network HD DVR installed, and Raj was especially primed for that; Celtics season opener is thundering down the lane toward us (tomorrow night, as a matter of fact), and he was getting a little antsy. The Dish Man arrived at the very last minute of his time window (when else?) in an unmarked minivan, honking, and for the hundredth time in a week, Raj and I murmured to one another chagrined, "We really need to get some street numbers to put on that mailbox!" before letting him in.

As I've mentioned, it was rainy and cold and windy but what's a little rain and cold after all to a New Englander when there's work to be done? David O. gave us a call, wanting to know if Raj would work with him to clear more of the downed trees straddling the two properties. It meant working with a gas-powered chain saw, and since Raj is never one to pass up that opportunity, I told him I would deal with the Dish Man. He put on my dad's old red windbreaker, pulled up the hood over his woolen watch cap, donned his work boots, then splashed off, whistling.

I was in the kitchen minding my own business, going back and forth between chores while listening to Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! on WBUR (Boston's Public Radio Station!) when it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't heard any sounds coming from the Dis (that's a typo but it's staying) Man for what seemed like a very long time though earlier I had seen him go past the house carrying his very tall, yellow, sturdy-looking aluminum ladder.  I was just going to check on him when he emerged looking somewhat strained, from the French Room, asking me to telephone Raj.  As I turned to reach for the phone Raj walked into the kitchen via the coal room, soaked to the skin, announcing brightly, "Hey! It's RAINING out there!"

The Dish Man pulled Raj aside for a whispered consultation before both disappeared toward the back of the house. Moments later I saw Raj go toward the barn before reappearing with Frank's very old, tall, rickety-looking wooden ladder (the scofflaw roofer made off with The Fahm's very tall, sturdy aluminum ladder but that's a whole 'nother Better Business Bureau issue) and heading back toward the French Room.

Raj told me the rest of the story after the Dish Man finally - and wearily - departed from The Vortex (aka The Fahm), too traumatized to do anything other than wave weakly at me as he drove away. 

As I think I've mentioned, it was rainy and cold.  The Fahm, as it happens, has very high and steeply pitched roofs, and, our particular Dish Man, as it also happens, is afraid of heights. The Dish Man asked if Raj wouldn't mind going up to the roof and adjusting the dish since Dish Man didn't feel it was safe for him to go up and do the adjusting.  This struck Raj as a rather odd request but being the good sport - and mountain goat - he agreed to climb right up the very old, tall, rickety-looking wooden ladder which he had leaned against the face of the house. But first, Raj and Dish Man spent 20 minutes using a rope as a hoist to get the ladder positioned where Dish Man thought it should be.  Raj finally got up to the dish and sat up there in the rain tweaking it, doing his best to follow Dish Man's less-than-descriptive instructions. Sample:

Dish Man: "Just turn it a little bit."
Raj: "Okay - I'm seeing at some numbers on the dial here..."
Dish Man: "You don't need to use those numbers."
Raj: "But,uh..."
Dish Man: "C'mon, just turn it a little bit, man!"
Raj: "OK. I turned it a little bit. Anything?"
Dish Man: "No. Not yet. Just turn it a little bit."
Raj: "OK. I turned it a little bit. Anything?"
Dish Man: "No. Not yet. Just turn it a little bit."
Raj: "OK. I turned it a little bit. Anything?"
Dish Man: "No. Not yet. Just turn it a little bit."


As Raj had plenty of time to take in his surroundings while sitting on the roof in the rain tweaking the dial, he happened to glance across the roof toward the back of the house where lo and behold: there was Dish Man's very tall, yellow, sturdy-looking aluminum ladder, leaning against the rear of the house. As Dish Man had never actually mentioned that ladder to Raj - even as he watched Raj haul the wooden one from the barn before leaning it against the front of The Fahm, and struggled with him to position it, Raj found that odd as well. Adding insult to injury, the devised method was not at all successful in getting adequate signal; after just over an hour of sitting on the roof in the cold windy rain, Raj came back down. Dish Man was very discouraged. Raj was very determined.

What followed were lengthy negotiations between Dish Man, Dish HQ, and Raj; apparently Dish Man is compensated PER JOB and per diem, not per hour. Raj couldn't help but overhear - as Dish Man spent interminable minutes on the phone with Dish HQ - that Dish Man was trying to convince Dish HQ to implement their "Inclement Weather" measures. Implementing such measures would mean that Dish Man would be compensated right away for our job as if he had finished the job, and then he would receive additional pay for the same job, when he returned to finish the job after the weather was not so inclement. Raj got on the phone with them and argued for Dish Man's dispensation. Dish HQ wasn't having any of it. Dish Man was even more discouraged. Raj was just as determined.

Raj hung up the phone and looked at Dish Man. Dish Man rolled his eyes skyward and heaved a deep, deep sigh. He turned around resignedly, stepped outside to the back of the house, climbed right up his ladder, adjusted the dish, and within moments, had acquired sufficient signal. Dish Man, not at all happy that he had ended up on what he clearly viewed as "Suicide Roof," slunk down from the ladder, and returned to the French Room (for what we all hoped was the final time) with visibly quaky knees.


Raj gathered up all the cash we had in the house and raided the Accord's ashtray for coin so we could give him a tip.  We hadn't been to the bank yet, and had paid Chip in cash just the afternoon before, so Dish Man's tip came to the grand sum of only $20 - in singles, a $5 bill, a $10 bill and $1 coins.  He appreciated the gesture though, and could certainly see that we had given him everything we had on hand.  Raj and I haven't independently tested the DVR function yet but we will, and before tomorrow night's 7:30 p.m. EDT tip-off against the Cavs!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Open Season!

Raj and I heard what we thought was gunfire in the distance, this morning, very early.  I checked the Massachusetts Division of Fishery and Wildlife's website for information, and got a link to another online document, this one very useful, simply called Hunting Dates. Sure enough!  Today, October 17th, marks the beginning of hunting season in this area for pheasant, quail, ruffled grouse (uh...i'd be "ruffled" too!), cottontail rabbit, coyote, deer (only for archers - deer hunters with shotguns have to wait another 6 weeks), gray squirrel (sorry, Joel!), opossum, raccoon, and snowshoe hare. However, NO HUNTING ON SUNDAY.

We've already got our bright orange and neon yellow safety vests to wear as we wander around outside in the woods - David Oles recommended we have them on hand, and wear them, as a precaution when we're out and about during the Season.  It seems that the Season is indeed upon us! 

For someone who has spent the vast majority of her life in sub/urban areas, gunfire in the distance is almost always a very bad sign. I've got a little bit of a learning curve obviously, since in this neighborhood, gunfire in the distance is actually a sign of good times, and will likely not be followed by the wail of emergency sirens, hostage negotiations, and S.W.A.T. teams. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Bernard Family of Wendell, MA

On Sunday Raj and Colin and I took a long overdue drive to visit our friends in Wendell, Dean and Kristen and their two kids, Marley and Astha.  It was a clear and crispy day, perfect for the fall foliage tour that unfolded around us as we headed for Wendell.

We visited, read books, played indoor games, ate fresh homemade applesauce, drank hard cider, root beer, and chai, sampled all the apple and pear varieties growing on their land, visited the chickens, ate home-cow-grown ghee, clambered up in the tree fort, jumped from the 2nd story barn window onto the trampoline, and feasted on a bounty from Kristen's 'earnings' for midwifery: cheeses, beer, chicken with fresh pesto sauce, fresh ice cream (vanilla, chocolate and pumpkin), potatoes, butternut squash pesto, milk with cream on top, and stewed apples.

We drove home in the starry starry darkness, and fell into bed, filled to the brim with country living (in a good way).

The Barn.

Random building on Dean and Kristen's land.

Marley's Tree Fort, Downstairs.

Marley's Tree Fort, Upstairs.

 Astha's not allowed up here.


Astha peeking at the camera.

Riding her bike.

That candy necklace was gone before dinner.

Kristen cooking and telling a story. Doesn't she look like a Brennan?!

Moving fast.

Dean, Raj's oldest friend from their shared childhood in India.

Slaying slaw.



Astha in her Fairy Hat.

Later, Astha added earrings...

Friday, October 9, 2009


Raj and I agreed the other day that The Fahm must lie in a tourbillon (a real word that I did not make up but that I lurve) along the lines of the Bermuda Triangle, or more benignly, the Santa Cruz Mystery SpotMurphy's Law trumps every other law including, occasionally, Newton's and Einstein's.

Things that should fit, do not. Items disappear with appalling regularity before reappearing in unexpected places.  Repair and/or replacement of virtually anything on The Fahm costs approximately 4x the national average for the same repair anywhere else AND is 4x more complicated. Latched doors open of their own accord. Lamps turn on and off by themselves in the middle of the night. As noted previously, kitchen utensils are capable of independent motion.

Brimstone Manor - aka The Fahm - is upping the ante!  ;)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Michele Has Arrived

...and has already helped immensely with my/our 'Sanity Management Project'...she cooks, shops, advises, entertains, and is entertained by our messy & chaotic situation - in short, she is the perfect guest for The Fahm and is restoring our spirits.

In addition to above, Michele also validated my sneaking suspicion/dawning understanding that living in a 250+ year old 5,000 square foot drafty wood stove-heated (for the moment) Fahm is a helluva lot of W.O.R.K.

Wednesday morning Raj went to Hartford to see his mom Nancy; I was wrestling a migraine and Michele and I opted to stay here for the day.  I went upstairs to lie down, while Michele entertained herself by minding the fire in The Gift Stove and thumbing through Joanna's cookbooks and cooking magazines. After a while I roused myself enough to stumble downstairs only to have Michele announce that she wanted to cook up the chili and corn bread recipes she'd discovered in a 10 year old Bon Appetit Thanksgiving issue.

This led to a conversation as to how to simplify some of the daily chores we're doing that are taking a toll on our bandwidth so far as everything else is concerned.  Cooking and shopping for cooking are two chores that, while enjoyable for me, are also harder here at The Fahm than at home.

The nearest grocery store, The Big Y (American owned since 1936!) is 6 miles away.  One cannot buy booze in a grocery store here in Massachusetts - one must go to a special store, The Package Store, for such things.  Farm fresh (!) peaches, apples, tomatoes, flowers, and pumpkins can be had at any one of the several honor system roadside stands.  Lovely, but still - any 'complete' shopping trip for groceries requires a minimum of two stops.  Oh big deal, right?

Anyfreezetodeathonyourway,  Michele suggested simple things, like buying pinto beans, potatoes and onions in bulk and keeping a pot of them on the stove all the time for cheap hot meals.  We made an elaborate shopping list and since Migraine was still lurking in the back of my skull waiting to reemerge, Michele decided that she would have a little adventure by going to the store herself. When I suggested she allow me to program the GPS navigation system we have in the car ("reCALCulating!"):

...she declined, saying offhandedly that she was pretty sure she could figure it out.  I drew a crude map (well & truly the blind leading the blind) and off she went though not before warning me very sternly that it was MY job to keep the kitchen fire going while she was gone: the Kitchen Fire must be kept burning NO MATTER WHAT.

After carefully building up the fire (not wanting to get in trouble if I failed to KEEP THE KITCHEN FIRE BURNING NO MATTER WHAT) I decided to start the brown rice and pinto beans and shred the chicken for burrito night (Michele's idea).  After cleaning up the kitchen (and tending the fire), I realized that Michele had been gone for a very long time.  I went upstairs with the kittehs trailing along and got on the Internets, taking my cell phone and the land line with me. 

Hm hm hm...

Finally, a phone call. Michele was at The Package Store in the Princeton Post Office Plaza and had been driving around and around, lost.  The turn on to Ball Hill Road from Worcester St./31 is very, very easy to miss and miss it she had, apparently several times.  In trying to get reoriented, she named a couple landmarks that she had driven by - none of which were familiar to me - not surprising since I don't get out much here. She hadn't actually made it to the market just yet but was using her time well nevertheless, having a lovely scenic New England Fall afternoon drive.

I told her that if she didn't use the GPS system I wasn't going to be able to help her; she turned it on immediately and I walked her through the interface so she could set up her route.  After that, success! Michele eventually returned to The Fahm with a car load of groceries and we continued our burrito night prep.

Last night Michele made turkey and pinto bean chili while baking first corn bread, then brownies.

Look at the speed of that right hand!

Turkey and Pinto Bean Chili

Fresh baked corn bread.
The Magazine.

The Fire Guard.