Modernism Monday: “Live and Learn,” The Cardigans



Every problem can be compartmentalized into bite-sized chunks.  You take care of the problem one chunk at the time.  Some chunks are fly-swattingly easy.  Other chunks are boulders.  None of this is news to you, Tune-Up fan.  But what’s news to me is that each individual problem chunk has a separate timeframe to solve.  That is the crux of the suck.  That is a new lesson for me.

I’m not a very patient person by nature.  I am goal-oriented, I am anxious, I dislike uncertainty, I want to know the future, and I put far too much mental energy into controlling how others perceive me.  I sometimes care more about being considered A Person Who Solves Problems Quickly than solving the problem at hand.  I’d rather have a guaranteed 70% solution now than a 100% solution in a little more time with maybe one or two variables out of my control.  It’s really weird and it gets in my way and it makes me nuts.  

One of the myriad benefits of getting older is that the cumulative experience of living longer and longer allows you to take the long view.  You can benchmark a bad day, a success, a heartbreak more accurately, having had more of them.  This context can cool you off and help you break apart problems into their components and attach importance and timeframe to each.  So, while I might be an anxious person today, I was a high-powered tension rod a few years ago: one slight readjustment could have me shooting off into space.  I’m grateful for the difficulties that have provided the necessary context to unwind myself.

The greatest thing I’ve learned, so far, is that once you’ve attached the timescale to each problem chunk and set your solutions in motion, the best and most Zen thing to do is just throw your hands up in the air and say “f$%& it.”  And I mean doing this literally – physically throwing your arms in the air and saying “f$%& it” out loud.  It feels wonderful.

Live and learn.


Sacred Sunday: “Calon Lân,” lyrics by Daniel James, tune by John Hughes



So today I spent another four hours dealing with my air conditioner problem.  I’m one blog post away from making myself a stiff gin and tonic so forgive me for making this not only a delayed post but a short one.  Forgive me, too, for this sweet but dippy video.  I was absolutely set on having a recording of Bryn Terfel, the marvelous Welsh opera singer, and this was the only video that had that recording.  (Though you do get to learn little interesting factoids about Wales, such as Wales is filled with “amazing Welsh spirit.”  Better bet than Belgium for locating Welsh spirit, I suppose.  Or England, for that matter.  Though maybe England has “mediocre Welsh spirit.”  …I sense I’m going off-topic.)

I figured this delightful Welsh hymn was appropriate, given I’m not, in fact, asking for a luxurious life.  Just a habitable dwelling.  Which will give me a happy heart.  I’m guessing the G&T will deal with the honest and pure business.  Let’s find out.

I don’t ask for a luxurious life,
the world’s gold or its fine pearls,
I ask for a happy heart,
an honest heart, a pure heart.

A pure heart full of goodness
Is fairer than the pretty lily,
None but a pure heart can sing,
Sing in the day and sing in the night.

If I wished for worldly wealth,
It would swiftly go to seed;
The riches of a virtuous, pure heart
Will bear eternal profit.


Evening and morning, my wish
Rising to heaven on the wing of song
For God, for the sake of my Saviour,
To give me a pure heart.


Funk Friday: “What’s Golden,” Jurassic 5



It’s a good Friday, Tune-Up fans.  The universe is moving in our direction, and things are looking up.  My air conditioner, which you may remember from Tuesday’s post, is getting removed today (maybe even put into a box!  Crazytown!), friends who are looking for jobs are getting interviews, I scored a major professional victory (to which Señor Boyfriend, when hearing about it, responded with “HUGEATHON!”), and the U.S. soccer team advanced to the knock-out rounds.  I think we all deserve a little celebration today.

Throwback Thursday: “Fanfare for the Common Man,” Aaron Copland



No matter how many times you listen to this, it never fails to stir the blood.  It’s amazing how such a simple melody can have such power.  The tide is finally turning for some good friends of mine who have been a funk, so I send this out to them.

I also have to send this out to our boys in Brazil who play Germany today.  I’m fully versed in the esoteric soccer rules that render today’s game one of the many scenarios in which the U.S. team makes it into the group of 16, but still.  I can’t not post a piece rooting for a win.  To all of my German readers: Es tut mir leid, aber ich muss mein Land unterstützen. Sie haben ein außergewöhnliches Team und ich wünsche Ihnen viel Glück. Mögen die Besten gewinnen.

Worldly Wednesday: “Calda Estate (Dove Sei),” Raphael Gualazzi



There is nothing remarkable about today that I know of, certainly nothing that I feel compelled to dwell on.  So I turned to the history books.

One entry for June 25 particularly caught me.  (And no, it wasn’t the introduction of the fork to American dining in 1630.  I’m not that predictable.)

Some guy named Wibbert was chosen as anti-pope Clemens III in 1080.

And I have no idea what that means.  But I think it’s marvelous.

AND!  Wibbert – sorry, Clemens – was from Ravenna!  Italy!  Sold!  Hooray!

So here’s my favorite song by totally swingin’ Italian pianist Raphael Gualazzi.  Lyrics below with slightly triply Google Translate translation.  ITALIAN READERS I am so sorry for this terrible Italian.

Calda estate non si riesce a far più niente
che morire sotto il sole tra le gabole e la gente
e non so più dove andare ma non voglio questa gente
dove sei,dove sei,dove sei,dove sei
Mi rinfranco faccio un bagno dentro il sole
gioco a scopa nella scuola vuota come un capannone
mi distendo sopra un pianoforte forse sciolto e mi chiedo
dove sei, dove sei, dove sei, dove sei

Ah che bella questa estate questa gente,
tutto immagine e poi niente
e nessuno vuole dirmi
dove sei
faccio stragi ma se passo da perdente
prima o poi la stessa gente
mi telefona e mi dice dove sei
Sono stanco delle mie stesse parole
qui si fanno solo prove
non si sa chi diventare
per fortuna che ti ho visto
per fortuna almeno tu sei come sei
come sei,come sei,come sei
Ora basta questa estate,
questa gente non mi portano più a niente
ma che importa se mi dici dove sei

Pensa un po che mi travesto da pezzente
sparo lacrime abbronzanti
prevedendo per scoprire dove sei

Calda estate non riesco a far più niente
qui si muore con la gente che
non sa cosa vuol dire insieme a te
ti ho trovata sopra un panfilo lucente,
l’ammiraglio è inconcludente
ma che importa se tu sei vicino a me…

Hot summer, you can’t do anything
who die in the sun between the Gabola and people
I do not know where to go but I do not want these people
Where are you, where are you, where are you, where are you
I am heartened – take a bath in the sun
Game of cards at the school as an empty hangar
I lay on top of a piano maybe loose and I wonder
Where are you, where are you, where are you, where are you

Oh what a beautiful this summer, these people,
whole image and then nothing
and nobody wants to tell me
where are you
massacres but if I step away from losing
sooner or later the same people
calls me and tells me where you are
I’m tired of my own words
here you are only testing
no one knows who become
luckily I saw you
fortunately, at least you are as you are
as you are, as you are, as you are
Now just this summer,
these people do not bring me anything
but who cares if you tell me where you are

Just think that I disguise as beggar
shot tears tanning
expecting to find out where you are

Hot summer I can not do anything
here you will die with the people who
do not know what it’s like with you
I found you on a yacht shiny
Admiral is inconclusive
but who cares if you’re near me …

Termagant Tuesday: “Hora Decubitus,” Charles Mingus



You know what’s really fun, Tune-Up fans?  Really curl-your-socks, better-than-pancakes fun?

Spending four hours on the phone with Sears customer service.  YOLO. 

Actually, I need to back up.  This was an actual saga.  This whole thing was cursed from the start.  First of all, I made the mistake, ten years ago, of moving to Washington, D.C.  For those of you who have never visited, let alone lived here, it is habitable for, collectively, fifteen days out of the year.  Beginning in late May and petering out in mid-October, it is brain-bendingly hot and humid.  It’s like the rain forest with more food options but fewer parrots.

But no point dwelling on the past.  I moved here.  I stayed here.  I will doggedly continue to stay here, idiot that I am.  But to do that, I need an apartment that is cool.  For that to happen, I need window unit air conditioners.  “Easy peasy,” said I!  I ordered one from online from Sears.  (Let me say that again.  I ordered it online.  This will come up again later.)  A few days later, it was delivered.  Excellent!

Except not excellent.  Not even remotely excellent.  It was delivered, alright – to my old address.  My old address is a quick ten minute walk away, if unencumbered by a 78-pound metal box filled with toxic coolant.  So I had to figure out a way to get it out from inside the apartment of the woman to whom it had been delivered (and who had taken possession of it without notifying the super, which was a little weird, but that’s neither here nor there).  Thanks to the ministrations and car and forbearance and arm strength and all round good-person-ness of Mr. Yankette, I got it out of the old apartment, into the elevator, down the stairs, into the car, down the street, around the corner, up the stairs, into the elevator, and into my new apartment.

Just in time for the installation guys (who charge about a hundred dollars) to arrive.  Phew!  

Except not phew.  Installation Man did his groovy installation thing, popped it in, screwed it to the window, caulked the gaps, turned it on, and *beep!* went the air conditioner.  It might as well have been programmed to say, “Hello!  I am an expensive piece of equipment and am programmed to disappoint!  I have a hidden camera to record the number of times and different ways you will fiddle with my wires and read my instruction manual and after you’ve collapsed in tears I will send the tape electronically to my manufacturer for the company’s blooper reel!  It’s a real hit at our holiday party!”

The air conditioner blew hot air.  That’s all it did.  It looked very pretty blowing hot air – like so many humans – but hot air was not what was required.  “$%&!,” said I.  So I did what anyone with an as-yet-unmaxed credit card and a grudge does: called an independent third party to verify the results.  So two hours and two phone calls later, Verifier Man shows up.  “Yep,” said he, “you got a dud.”  He urged me to call Sears and get them to fix the problem.  “But it’s not going to be easy – they’re going to fight you on this one.”

Tell me, O muse, of the ingenious air conditioner repair man who warned the unsuspecting client of the vagaries of Sears customer service, before the death of charity and reason.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to identify the correct number, amongst the fourteen options provided, to dial in order to tell a company their product is defective?  It turns out they really don’t make it easy for you to do that.  Amazing.  Anyway, I found the general customer service hotline and three minutes later, I got a human.  I explained to the human my situation.  The human sympathized in a pre-programmed way and transferred me to their online purchases department.  After four minutes on hold, I spoke to Online Purchases Department Human.  Online Purchases Department Human said that she can’t find my records online but since it got installed today she would transfer me to the installation department.  “What?  Why?”  “Hold please.”  “What – …okay.”

The installation department now had the con.  After a five minute wait on hold, I got another human.  I explain to the Installation Department Human my situation.  The human sympathized in the most believable way out of everyone I spoke with over the course of these four hours – but, because life loves irony more than the French, was absolutely unmoved in helping me solve the problem.  Here was the problem.  You ready for this?  This was awesome.

Even though I bought my air conditioner online, I had to bring it into the store to get it repaired.  Why?  Because it crossed the “weight threshold” below which electronic items are considered too puny and unimportant to send someone out to deal with.  Never mind my air conditioner weighed 78 pounds, that I had no car, and that, even if it were four pounds and I had a jet pack, that rationale made absolutely no sense at all.  This human: unmoved.  She urged me to call a Sears store and tell them about the problem.

So, I did.  I called a Sears store.  The line was busy.  I redialed.  The line was busy.  I redialed eight times.  The line rang.  I told Sears Store Man the problem and what Installation Department Human had said.  Sears Store Man’s reaction?  “That’s insane.  Call this number.”  The number I got?

The “customer solutions” number.

I went back to the Sears website and could not find this number anywhere which only makes sense if you are actively against providing solutions for your customers.  The plot thickened.

I called customer solutions, and after a seven minute wait (you see how this works? the closer to Olympus, the steeper the climb), I got Customer Solutions Human.  I explained the situation.  Customer Solutions Human said that because I ordered it online (yes!) I would have to be transferred to the Online Purchasing Department (what?!  no!  crap!  not them again!  I have so many plans for the rest of my life!) but in case that didn’t work, here was the number for…wait for it…

Online Customer Solutions.


So I was transferred back to the Online Purchasing Department.  Which is when I met Cody.  Cody is a real, honest to god, human.  Cody is not Online Purchasing Department Human.  Cody is like me – he has hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, and a healthy respect for the uses of freon and time.  Cody got me.  I spent 53 minutes and 17 seconds on the phone with Cody.  Here is roughly a transcript of what happened after I described the problem.

Me: “So, how can I solve this problem?”

Cody: “Well, let me pull up your records and take a look.  Would you mind if I put you on a brief hold?”

Me: “Sure, go ahead.”

— doooo dooddoe n doot dee dooo…—

Cody: “I can’t find any record of your online purchase, which is weird.”

Me: “That is weird.”

Cody: “Can I have your order number?”

Me: “Yep.  It’s **********.”

Cody: “Thanks.  Would you mind if I put you on a brief hold?”

Me: “Sure, go ahead.”

— doooo dooddoe n doot dee dooo…—

Cody: “Thanks for waiting.  Here is it.  So here’s the problem: because the AC was picked up at a warehouse and delivered by UPS, that’s why they told you you’d have to bring it back to a Sears store.”

Me: “Wait…isn’t that what always happens?  With literally everything you sell online?  UPS picks it up from a warehouse and brings it to the person who ordered it?”

Cody: “Yep.”

Me: “So…if this is standard operating procedure, how is this a problem?  Because I wouldn’t have to pull my fridge from the wall, rent a truck, put it in a truck, and drive it to a store to get it fixed.”

Cody: “Yeah…that’s true…  Would you mind if I put you on a brief hold?”

Me: “Sure, go ahead.”

— doooo dooddoe n doot dee dooo…—

Cody: “Thanks for waiting.  So I spoke to the installation department and the online services department, and I’m sending someone to uninstall the unit for you, for free, and once that’s done, give me a call, and I’ll have UPS come pick it up for you.  How’s that?”

Me: “That’s great, Cody, thanks a lot.”

Cody: “You bet.”

God bless you, Cody, wherever and whoever you are.

And now, since that all took up half of my work day, I will now go about doing the work I had to do during the daylight hours before I go to sleep tonight.  Which, in fact, is what “hora decubitus” means in Latin.  (See?  I always tie it together.)

Modernism Monday: “Beautiful Place,” Rockapella



Happy Summer, Tune-Up fans!  Oh – yes, it’s true, I used to watch Carmen Sandiego.  And yes, it’s true, a lot of my early musical tastes were created in the forge of the Carmen Sandiego cassette tape.  It’s also true that this song always goes through my head every time summer rolls around and it’s just immorally hot in D.C.  (It may be steamy but it’s still – a beautiful place.  ((Doo doo doo n doo n dooooo…))

This song also reminds me of lying in my bunk at camp in Vermont and listening to this tape on loop for the entire time I was there.  One morning I woke up early and looked out the window and saw baby ducks walking down the dock.  That really has no bearing on this song, or really anything at all, but I got a sunburn on the hike yesterday, so I’m a little loopy.

Sacred Sunday: “Creator’s Prayer,” Joseph Fire Crow


I’m off for a long hike in the woods. Every time I go for a hike I think of Joseph Fire Crow. I first heard of him through the “National Parks” series. So this song will be running through my mind as I’m scrabbling up rocks and hopping across streams.