Monday, July 30, 2007

City Services

I tried calling the Water Department this morning to find out why I've been billed for service from before I bought my house. The woman who answered the phone did a terrible job of explaining my bill to me. She kept quoting numbers that didn't match the numbers on my bill, and she couldn't clearly explain if I was being charged an estimated amount or an exact amount. She did explain that when I bought the house, I bought the water bill (although the seller made a payment to them at closing which was supposed to cover the expenses). I tried calling my attorney, but he couldn't figure out much either.

My house does have a remote water meter sensor attached to the front porch. In theory, the water bill is an accurate reflection of the water usage. The numbers on the meter inside, however, are a lot higher the numbers on the bill. This caused me to panic, because it seemed to suggest I might end up owing hundred of dollars for water used before I bought the house.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for one of the city-issued blue trash receptacles. My house used to have one, every other house on the street has one, but mine is gone. The orange recycling bin is also gone, but the refuse department was able to get me a new one immediately. For the blue trash bin, the best they could do was put me on "a list." This was several weeks ago. Not having a trash bin means I have to store the trash in the basement and bring it out in time for pickup on Monday mornings. Home Depot has bins that look compatible with Waterbury's trucks. Maybe tomorrow I'll call the refuse department again, ask how long of a wait there is for the blue bins, then ask if the HD bins will work. It's probably too much to hope that I could get a refund on my taxes for buying my own bin, but storing my trash in the basement isn't a lot of fun.

The phone line isn't a city service, but this seems like a good place to mention that it isn't working. The phone thinks it's in use and has been since sometime last night. AT&T says they'll send a repairman on Wednesday between 8am and 5pm (I don't have to be here). The problem seems odd to me, since anyone calling me will get a busy signal, even though I have call waiting. Tech mysteries.

Back to School

Summer's almost over. Judging by the weather, I'd say that summer is in full swing with no end in sight, but a shopping trip last week for new sandals taught me otherwise. I had a hard time finding new sandals, because the stores are almost completely sold out. I strolled past swimsuits to see if maybe there was something better than what I currently have, but all that is left are the dregs, and even they are being crowded out by winter coats. Forget trying to by a new summer dress. There aren't any in sight. Just endless miles of back-to-school clothes. Worst of all are the stores that decide to do a Christmas in July sale. I'm thinking about visits to the beach, and the stores are trying to get me to buy Christmas ornaments.

I'm sure the seasonal changeover is a system that works for the merchants, but I can't help wishing that I could buy my clothes when I need them.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lucky Pennies

As I've been fixing up each room of my new house, I've noticed that each room, closet and hallway has a dusty old penny lying face up. In most rooms the penny is on the floor near the baseboard and would have been under the wall-to-wall carpeting the previous owner installed. There's also a penny on the molding over the front door.

I did some googling and learned that this is possibly a Catholic tradition. I found postings from people saying that this was something their Irish Catholic or Italian grandmother taught them. The basic idea (there were many variations) seems to be that you should leave a penny in each room to bring good luck for the next person to live there. Which is really very nice, doing something to bring good fortune to a stranger.

I wonder how long this has existed, and why pennies? Once, on a tour in Bath, England, I learned that the ancient Romans may have started the wishing well tradition--in their case making an offering to the gods by tossing coins into a well. What, then, is the origin of pennies in each room bringing good luck?

I think there must be a lot of superstitious things for the home. Crickets on the hearth, horseshoes over the doors, pennies in every room.

There is a store at the Brass Mill mall that sells mostly Chinese goods. I strolled through there a few weeks after buying my house and bought a bundle of white sage, because it had a label stating that burning the sage would dispel negative energy. It seemed a little bit like having a priest bless your new home. If nothing else, it smelled very nice.

My thanks to whomever it was who left the pennies. When it comes to luck, every little bit helps!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tabitha Again

The woman who has been using my phone number for her credit scams is still at it. Wachovia called me today with an important message for Tabitha. Her name nowadays is Tabitha Hollister. It really amazes me that she's been able to keep this going for five years (at least). She applies for credit using other peoples' phone numbers and a PO Boxes in nearby towns. Collection agencies have tried hunting her down, apparently without success. She's changed her name only a few times, but sticks with similar-sounding names.

I guess what amazes me now is the length of time she's able to use the name Tabitha Hollister with my phone number. Given the pervasiveness of computers, I would think that creditors share information, but I guess they don't.

When I recently purchased a washing machine at Sears, I was able to see the names and addresses their computer associates with my phone number. There were two other people from years gone by, but neither was Ms. Tabby.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fear Factor Home Edition

When I bought my house a month ago, the garage was locked and the seller had lost the key. Today I finally worked up the courage to go in through the broken-out, boarded up window (and successfully unlocked the door). Half the window board had fallen on the ground sometime last year (I'm guessing), and when I lifted it up while cleaning the yard, I got a good look at the creepy crawlies living in my yard. I had seen the same creepy crawlies weeks earlier in the back yard. I've wimped out and swiped photos from websites instead of taking my own photos (I might remedy this in the future).

The first photo (swiped from the state DEP wildlife website) is of the one non-creepy crawly. Northern Redback salamanders. They're really kind of cute. They have a funny side-to-side way of running. Sort of a mix between running and slithering. I saw them when I picked up a tarp in the back yard.

The woodlouse (below) is the least creepy of the creepys. They are living under every rock, board and log. When I pulled off the last remaining board from the metal window frame I had to crawl through, there were woodlice (and cobwebs) which had to be brushed away.

Woodlice are the cattle of the bug world. They huddle together in large numbers and get picked off by extremely creepy crawly predators. Which is why climbing through a window possibly hiding the creepy crawly predators made me think of Fear Factor.

Here's a Dysdera crocata (woodlouse spider) doing the predator thing:

I couldn't find a single photo of the woodlouse spider that really captured the full extent of its creepiness. The above photo gives you a good sense of its color--bright red legs and head, shiny beige body. The below photo gives a better sense of the view I get of them, although the brown body is typically fatter, almost ready to explode, like a tick that's completely engorged. So nasty. Some people are allergic to its venom, although supposedly it rarely bites.

I couldn't find a photo of the creepiest crawly, so I used this photo (below) of a centipede found in Hawaii. The centipedes in my yard are bright red and just plain mean looking. They make this Hawaiian centipede look tame.

So there you have it. Waterbury's creepy crawlies, some of which can cause a fair amount of pain when they bite. All yard work will be done with gloves, heavy shoes and thick socks!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Farmer's Market on the Green

The Farmer's Market on the Waterbury Green, an event organized by Main Street Waterbury volunteers, returned today. It's held every Thursday, 11am to 3pm, until mid-October.

A new feature this year - a different chef each week will grill up recipes using ingredients for sale that day at the market. This week was Rich Yost from Bay Leaf Gourmet.

Olive oils. Sadly, the organic bread maker didn't show this week. The fresh fish vendor was sick, so he didn't show either. Next time.

The live green pepper and eggplant. You never know what path volunteering will lead you down....

Joe Geary, representing the City, with Main Street Waterbury's Carl Rosa hiding behind him, and the Market Maestro, Marianne Vandenburg, to his left.

After the speeches, Market-goers got to enjoy the music of Carnegie Clapp.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


One of the big news items this weekend was the announcement that Shaw's will be closing. Shaw's is an extremely conveniently-located and always-busy grocery store. The corporation claims that the store is "under performing," whatever that's supposed to mean.

Today while I was at Shaw's, the PA system ran a commercial that started by criticizing the way other supermarkets have been closing their fish departments, then cheerily assured shoppers that Shaw's will never close their fish department. Ha-ha! Very funny.

I haven't heard anything about what will replace Shaw's. Certainly I hope for another grocery store. I kind of hope we can get a Whole Foods store, even though they don't carry some of my staple foods--but they do have so many other good things you can't find anywhere else, and it would be a lot more convenient than driving to West Hartford.

Home Depot en Espanol

The other day the self-checkout machines at Home Depot had a glitch that defaulted their spoken language to Spanish, even if you selected English. The woman monitoring that section immediately came over and overrode the machine for me, apologizing for the inconvenience. I really didn't mind at all. I can cope with a register in Espanol--numbers are numbers.

Just as I was finishing my transaction, a man (white) started using the register next to mine and became furious when the machine started speaking Spanish to him. He absolutely could not cope with it. Nearly 25% of this city are native speakers of Spanish, 40% in the downtown area (where Home Depot is located), and this man freaks out when the register speaks Spanish.

Maybe he's from the suburbs.