The setting:  Our house.

The Day:  Thursday
The Time:  Sometime between 18:30 and 22:00.
The telephone rings.
Background:  David curls in a league from 18:30 to 22:00 everyThursday.
[SARAH] (answering the phone):  Hello.
[AMERITECH]:  Hello, is Mr. David Bogen available?  This isAmeritech calling.
[SARAH]:  No, he's not.
[AMERITECH]:  Is this Mrs. Bogen?
[SARAH]:  No, it's not.
[AMERITECH]:  When might be a good time to reach Mr. Bogen?
[SARAH]:  Any evening except Thursday.
[AMERITECH]:  Thank you.
Time Passes
The setting:  Our house.
The Day:  Thursday
The Time:  Sometime between 18:30 and 22:00.
The telephone rings.
Background:  David curls in a league from 18:30 to 22:00 everyThursday.
[SARAH] (answering the phone):  Hello.
[AMERITECH]:  Hello, is Mr. David Bogen available?  This isAmeritech calling.
[SARAH]:  No, he's not.
[AMERITECH]:  Is this Mrs. Bogen?
[SARAH]:  No, it's not.
[AMERITECH]:  When might be a good time to reach Mr. Bogen?
[SARAH]:  Any evening except Thursday.
[AMERITECH]:  Thank you.
Time Passes
The setting:  Our house.
The Day:  Thursday
The Time:  Sometime between 18:30 and 22:00.
The telephone rings.
Background:  David curls in a league from 18:30 to 22:00 everyThursday.
[SARAH] (answering the phone):  Hello.
[AMERITECH]:  Hello, is Mr. David Bogen available?  This isAmeritech calling.
[SARAH]:  No, he's not.
[AMERITECH]:  Is this Mrs. Bogen?
[SARAH]:  No, it's not.
[AMERITECH]:  When might be a good time to reach Mr. Bogen?
[SARAH]:  Any evening except Thursday.
[AMERITECH]:  Thank you.
Repeat ad nauseum If you ran a normal business, the following might be signs that yourbills are too complex: - Your cashier cannot understand and explain the bill. - Your sales representatives cannot understand and explain the bill. - Your billing department takes ten minutes, sitting in front of theircomputers, to understand the bill well enough to explain it to a customer.

Such was the situation in which I found myself at the local Saturndealership last week.  Sarah took the car in to get a new clutchinstalled, as well as suffer some other bank-breaking routine car-ownershipmaintenance hassles.  We needed to have three tires replaced, and sincethey were taking all the tires off the car anyway for an alignment, tie-rodreplacement, and whatnot Sarah talked them into giving us the fourth tirefor free.  I dropped by the dealership the next day to pick up thecar.  The cashier handed me a four page invoice detailing the nearly$2000 worth of repairs performed on the car.  I stood there studyingthe invoice, trying to figure out if we'd actually gotten the tire for freeor not because the invoice seemed to indicate that we'd been charged areduced amount for the fourth tire, instead of not being charged atall.  When I asked the cashier to explain the bill to me, she nearlypanicked (weird...), and asked if she could get me the service manager. "Sure, if you've got him handy," I said.  When the servicemanager arrived, I showed him the bill and asked him to explain it tome.  He puzzled over it for a while and conceded that he could notdetermine if we'd been charged for the tire or not.  The servicemanager then called for the lady in charge of the billing department. She puzzled over the bill for a minute before declaring that she needed toconsult her computer.  She disappeared for ten minutes while I stoodthere at the service counter reading a book.  Finally, the biller cameback and explained that I hadn't gotten the tire for free, but I hadn't beencharged full price for it either.  They were going to take off theprice of the oil change to make up the difference.  When I got home, Itook a calculator to the bill to verify my gut feeling that we actually gotthe tire free and then some.  The calculator helped me determine thatwe got the tire, tire labor, and the oil change for free; a better deal forus than the one to which the dealer originally agreed.  If Saturnwasn't part of GM, there might be hope that someone, somewhere couldconvince them to produce clearer, easier to understand bills.  While wemade out better than we should have, I wonder how many people pay the dealermore than they should simply because they don't understand the bills.

Sarah and I came to the conclusion that while we like eating atrestaurants, it is very rare that we like the food we get whileeating in restaurants.  Since moving to Madison, we've gotten trulytasty food at exactly one restaurant.  We ate at a restaurant on Fridaynight that is a local favorite.  Uh, huh.  If you like mediocrefood in an ugly, loud, wood-paneled environment with unfriendly service, theStamm House is for you.  On Saturday, we made Roasted Squash (withbrowned butter and sage) and jalapeno sausage and rice and that was 100times better than the food we got on Friday night.  So, rather thaneating out once a week and getting mediocre food (I hate paying formediocre food), we're going to make more interesting, creative meals at homeand eat at a restaurant every two or three weeks.  This should spreadthe mediocrity out over time a bit better.  Yesterday, Sarah madechicken and dumplings that were really good.  This week, we're makingturkey pie, calico beans, a pork loin smothered in a sauce of prunes andcranberries (or juniper berries, if I can find them) that have been soakedin bourbon and port and some other, easier dishes.  If nothing else,the drinks are cheaper at home.

On a side note:  Sarah and I would happily sell ourselves intoslavery for a really good burrito or some really good sushi.

Of course, by their very nature, mediocre restaurants must exist. If every restaurant produced tasty, affordable food, mediocre must cease tobe applied as an adjective.  or mediocre would slide up the scale so far thatexcellent would cease to exist for all intents and purposes and everythingwould be either mediocre (currently a good restaurant) or good (currently anexcellent restaurant).

My Schwinn is still having problems with the cold weather here.  Thebasic problem is that the chain and sprockets can spin wildly withoutaffecting the rear wheel's revolutions.  This has basically renderedthe bicycle non-functional and has forced me onto the bus for the last weekor so.  My current theory is that the cold weather is somehow affectingthe grease between the freehub and the gear cassette on the backwheel.  As the bike gets colder, the rear sprocket is less and lesslikely to be engaged to the rear wheel, even as the chain (driven by thecranks) spins around and around without encountering any resistance. As the bike gets warmer, this ceases to be a problem.  Since the bikewas converted from a ten-speed to a single speed in California, my theorysays, a grease that was never meant to see windchills below zero was appliedto the freehub and the sprocket.  So, now I need to get a chain whipand some solvent, remove the rear sprocket, and possibly and hub, and soakthem both in the solvent to remove the grease.  Then, I need to get ahigh-quality synthetic lube, apply that lube to both components, reassemblethe back wheel, and test the bike.  All this so I can ride my bikethrough snow and cold.

Yes, George W., the economy is in the tank because of the people you justfired, and not your economic policies.  Uh, huh.  We really dobelive you.  Now, if you'll excuse us, we need to get back to watchingthe sky for flying saucers and ICBM's launched by bin Laden with Hussein'sbacking.  How stupid do you think we are?

Rumor has it that Dick Cheney will leave his undisclosed location andmake an appearance in Madison.  I thought I felt a disturbance in theForce.