The Ice Cream Curse

Coldstone Creamery opened a new store in Germantown last year. I’ve never been in it and at this point, I don’t ever plan to go there.
Laura and I have a running joke about how we’ve been cursed. We’re not really sure who put the curse on us, much less why, but it seems as though every time we go out for ice cream, we find that the store closing time was five minutes before we got there, or else the place has gone out of business.
It’s not universal. We’ve had very few problems with national chains such as Dairy Queen, and on more than one occasion, we actually arrived five to ten minutes before Baskin Robbins closed.
On the other hand, there’s a small hamburger and ice cream shop up in Frederick that we took a liking to last summer. It’s definitely not a franchise store and at the time we started going there, it had been owned and operated by the same family for several decades. Shortly after we decided that it was one of “our places” to go for food, we learned that the place had been sold. We’ve been afraid to go back since.
Early last fall, Laura and I went up to the Germantown Town Center and on the way to dinner, walked past the new Coldstone Creamery. The store had been in the works for a while, but this was the first time I’d seen it open; and not merely open, there was a line reaching out to the sidewalk and down to the next storefront. We made a note to stop there on our way back to the car.
After dinner, we decided to take a walk around the new Town Center and around 7:00, we stopped at Coldstone. Despite the fact that the store was packed with customers and one of the workers was sitting out front on a break, the door was locked! We each tried the door again to no avail at which point the fellow taking his break looked up and told us, “We’re not open.”
The store was full of customers, the time was 7:00 and (according to the sign anyhow), they were supposed to be open for another two hours. But they weren’t open?! What an interesting business model that must be! I’ll laugh about being cursed when I arrive after closing time, but to refuse service during business hours when they’re open to other customers, that’s just plain rude.
Several people have told me that Coldstone’s product is good. I wouldn’t know; they wouldn’t serve me and thus lost me as a potential customer. I doubt I’m missing much though, several other people have told me that they’ve also experienced service problems with that chain.
The staff at Ben & Jerry’s always treats me nicely though.

I'll get around to it

I saw a great bumper sticker the other day, "I’ll procrastinate tomorrow." It quickly reminded me of my plans to one of these days join the American Procrastination Society.
Of course, any club for procrastinators is going to have problems. First you have to get around to recruiting some members and then, once they join, you still have to wait for them to send in their dues. I haven’t researched it – not yet anyhow – but I’m certain the Procrastination Society is having financial problems because of that. In fact, they’ll probably have to file for bankruptcy.
Assuming they ever get around to forming in the first place.

Stephen King edits my life

Some years back, I ran across a short story by Stephen King titled, “Word Processor of the Gods.” In the story, a writer is given a word processor (the kind that’s halfway between a typewriter and a computer) that his nephew had built for him, shortly before the nephew’s death. When the writer tries out the word processor, he discovers that anything he writes on it becomes true. For example, if he writes, “There is a bowl of ice cream on the corner of my desk,” when he looks up, the ice cream is there. You can see where the story gets it’s title, and you can probably imagine some uses for that sort of power.
I think I’ve stumbled across something similar.
A few weeks ago, I was midway through writing an email to an acquaintance when my phone rang. Marc denies spying on me, and if that had been the only incident, I wouldn’t have given it too much thought beyond the initial incident.
A funny thing happened though. In another entry, I mentioned my classmate Donna. Less than a week later, Donna happened to run across my blog and left a comment.
This has some potential. For example, just imagine what could happen if I were to mention Jessica Simpson, Nicole Kidman or Jennifer Aniston. This could be fun! 🙂
On the other hand, anyone who’s seen a few episodes of The Twilight Zone will recognize that this sort of wish fulfillment can have a variety of unexpected, and fairly horrific, consequences. Consider the rather frightening possibilities if I were to mention Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton or the hot but strange Angelina Jolie!
There’s only one possible course of action: Hi Laura!!!


A *wireless* cellphone? I spotted this gem on Wednesday and all I can say is Wow! This is a fantastic idea! We’ve all had the experience with the older style cell phones where the wires have a tendency to get tangled. And if you go more than a few hundred feet from the tower, even if the cord doesn’t get tangled in a tree, there’s still a good chance it’ll come unplugged.
Yep, making wireless cell phones was a brilliant idea!
With bold new innovations like that, flashlights that don’t plug into the wall can’t be far behind.

Coffee – bleah

I’ve run across a few mentions recently about Starbucks’ plan to give away free coffee today and passed it along to a few friends who are coffee drinkers – or so I thought.

It turns out that I was wrong about at least one of them. Foo Foo’s response to the entire thing was summed up by line, “Plain coffee tastes nasty!”

And here I thought I was the only freak who felt that way about coffee. I tried drinking coffee back in college (after all, isn’t college supposed to be all about experimentation?), but just plain didn’t like it.

So, sorry Starbucks, I won’t be coming by for the “National Coffee Break.”

But I’m definitely looking forward to the next Ben & Jerry’s free scoop day!

School News

Every so often, Mom will send me a newspaper clipping she thinks I’ll find interesting. Once was when my friend Brian was interviewed when he first made his mark on the Pittsburgh radio market. Another time it was when a girl I graduated with (Donna Rorabaugh) was named as a finalist in a gingerbread house competition. Most recently, Mom sent me an article about Mr. Maljan, my social studies teacher from my senior year of High School.
It’s been 22 years since I graduated from High School and I don’t remember much about any of my teachers. There’s a few I definitely didn’t like, such as the sixth grade English teacher who made fun of my last name, in class. Or the eighth grade algebra teacher who wouldn’t answer questions during class and then got mad at me because I didn’t want to stay after class to ask my questions and miss the bus.
On the other hand, there were also a few teachers who I liked and still remember warmly. Such as Mr. Fresch, my tenth grade biology teacher who confided to us on the first day of class that some people occasionally referred to "BSCS Biology" as "Bull Sucking Cow Something." Or my sixth grade math teacher who I first knew as "Mr. DeVincentes" and who five years later became "Nick" when I was an ambulance attendant and he was a Paramedic. (I have no idea how Nick felt about the transition from a student/teacher relationship to friends/colleagues, but years later I still think that was one of the most interesting things that ever happened to me.)
Mr. Maljan was definitely in the latter category. Sad to say, I don’t remember much about the class itself, but I do remember him being friendly toward his students. He teased me occasionally because when I needed to remember a name, I’d look up toward the ceiling, as if expecting to find it written there. He was never mean about it, just making a friendly joke. (Bill Cosby used to have a routine about how you have to look up to remember names and down to remember numbers, because that’s where the names and numbers are stored. Perhaps Mr. Maljan knew he was right about that.)
The article Mom sent me had a couple surprises. One was that Mister Maljan is only 15 years older than I am. (Of course, that’s an eternity from the perspective of a High School student.) The greater shock though was that Mr. Maljan had been arrested for burglarizing the school’s athletic director’s office.
He’s reportedly admitted to not only that burglary, but also to another one a week earlier. The fact that he’s admitted to it is encouraging; perhaps there’s hope for him.
But I much prefer my original memory.


I’d been sick for a few days, so when I first heard the noise on Tuesday night, I puzzled over it for about five seconds and then fell asleep. But on Wednesday morning as I came out of the bedroom on my way to take Wylie out for his morning walk, I heard it again.
Strange, I wonder what that was? It definitely wasn’t Terry. For starters, she’s downstairs and more to the point, this sound had an “electronic” quality to it. Needing to get my day started, I decided to solve the mystery later and took Wylie out for his walk.
A bit more than a mile later, I started getting ready for work. And as I was coming out of the bedroom, there it was again.
Aha! It must be the smoke detector letting me know the battery’s running low! So I took the smoke detector down so I wouldn’t forget about it, removed the dead battery, and threw it out with the plan of stopping sometime during the day to buy a new one. I never did get away from the office at lunch and ended up working late as well (this, I’m sad to say, is pretty much the norm these days). So I didn’t get a chance to buy a new battery.
As I was getting ready to go to bed that evening, I was in the upstairs hallway and heard it again.
I thought that was pretty cool. Apparently the smoke detector holds a charge so it can still warn you, even if you have to take the battery out for a few days while you try to find time to replace it. How many other products have that much thought put into them? Not many I can think of!
Thursday morning, it was still going and I was quite impressed at how much the manufacturer cared about its customers.
That afternoon I got away from the office long enough to buy a package of batteries. Just the generic store brand, but they’ll last a long time. I got home that evening and once I’d taken Wylie out for his “Home from Work” walk, I went upstairs and put the new battery in.
I thought that was strange. Maybe it needed a little more time before whatever internal system came up to the proper voltage and then the chirper would turn itself off. So I had dinner, watched a movie, read some emails and took Wylie out for his evening walk.
I was headed up the stairs, giving some thought to calling it a night when it happened again.
Well now, this was starting to get annoying. A few years ago, the downstairs smoke detector started chirping for no apparent reason. Even with fresh batteries, it wouldn’t stop chirping. You do have to replace them every so often, so I’d taken it down and put up a new one. Perhaps the upstairs one was starting to go bad as well. Standing at the top of the stairs, I began weighing my options.
Hey, that wasn’t coming from the right direction to be the upstairs smoke detector! Son of a gun! Maybe it was the downstairs smoke detector that needed new batteries! That one uses AA cells and I have a good-sized stash of those that I use with the camera.
So I took the downstairs smoke detector off the ceiling, and replaced the batteries in that one too. Hah! Now I wouldn’t have to worry about changing the batteries in either detector for a while. Satisfied, I started to go upstairs.
At this point, I was starting to really wonder what was going on. Perhaps there was some thing beginning to smolder somewhere? More confusing, the sound didn’t seem to be coming from the right place to be the downstairs smoke detector either.
So I spent about five minutes downstairs, listening for the telltale chirp.
I was still confused, but at this point I’d pretty much ruled out the downstairs smoke detector as the culprit. Perhaps there was a robotic cricket that been programmed to add some confusion to my life? With thoughts like that going through my head, I went upstairs and as I passed beneath the upstairs smoke detector…
I stood there for a few minutes trying to decide where the sound was coming from. Maddeningly, the chirp was only a fraction of a second long and only happened once every 60 to 90 seconds.
I finally went back downstairs to the kitchen, got the step stool, and stood in the upstairs hallway with my head a foot from the smoke detector.
It definitely wasn’t the smoke detector. That was something of a relief, but that did leave me with the mystery: If it wasn’t the smoke detector, what was chirping? My home office is on the upstairs, and there’s plenty of stuff in there that could chirp (although none of it should be chirping). Maybe the computer’s battery backup needed to be replaced? That would be annoying since it hasn’t been terribly long since the last replacement, but still, better to find out now, before it failed. So I went into the office to listen.
It was still audible, but it didn’t seem to be coming from anything in the office. The source of the chirping was still a mystery, but at least I wouldn’t have to replace the battery back up right away. So I stood in the hallway again.
Maybe it was coming from the bedroom? Again, there were a few things in there that could chirp, but nothing that should. Maybe my cell phone was going nuts? Maybe there really was a robotic cricket? So I stood just inside the bedroom door and waited.
It wasn’t coming from the bedroom. That didn’t leave much. I kind of doubted it was my razor (for starters, since the only outlet is on top of the mirror, I don’t leave it plugged in when it’s not in use). Maybe there was something radically weird happening with the compact fluorescent bulbs in the bathroom? Yes, I actually stood in the bathroom to listen.
That eliminated both the light bulbs and the razor as sources of the chirp. All that was left was the guest bedroom.
A few of my friends have occasionally made comments in which they referred to me as being some sort of practical joker. I can’t really speak to the accuracy of those claims, but if they are true, then it’s also true that I come by it honestly. My parents are both known to play jokes on their children and it’s well known throughout the family that the best way to tell whether Dad’s pulling your leg is to look to see whether his lips are moving.
Mom and Dad came down to visit in late January. They’re good people and I love them dearly; but I think it’s safe to say that anyone who’s known them for more than three minutes (which is to say, long enough for Dad to start telling one of his tall tales) will certainly understand that at this point, I was beginning to seriously consider the possibility that they were playing a practical joke on me. On a previous visit, Mom left a foot-long plastic lizard buried halfway down through my sock drawer. It therefore wasn’t hard to imagine the possibility that she was an accomplice to Dad leaving some sort of diabolical electronic chirping device hidden in the guest bedroom.
So I stood in the middle of the guest bedroom and I waited. It wasn’t long before my patience was rewarded.
It was definitely louder. No wonder I hadn’t noticed the chirping before, I keep the guest room door closed when it’s not in use. Trying to narrow down the location of the noisemaker, I went and stood by the closet.
It was still loud, but it wasn’t coming from the closet. Perhaps it was over by the window?
Not quite as loud as the closet, it must be closer to the foot of the bed.
The desk! It was coming from my old desk! I moved a few things off the top of the desk and I listened.
Definitely the desk, but it wasn’t anything on the top. Maybe one of the side shelves?
No. Nothing on the shelves was making that sound. Could it be something under the desk?
Yes! It was definitely something under the desk! I moved an old shirt and listened again.
A few years ago, the downstairs smoke detector started chirping for no apparent reason. Even with fresh batteries, it wouldn’t stop chirping. You do have to replace them every so often, so I’d taken it down and put up a new one. The problem is, some smoke detectors contain a small amount of radioactive material. Not enough to pose a health risk, even in your house, but they still don’t want you to chuck it into the landfill where it’ll end up in the groundwater.
I’d put the old smoke detector aside until I could figure out the correct way to dispose of it. Amazingly, several years later, the batteries still had enough juice in them that it was still making the periodic chirping sound that had convinced me to replace it in the first place.
This leaves one final mystery: Why the heck didn’t I take the batteries out in the first place?
Addendum: The new smoke detector in the downstairs portion of the house also has a carbon monoxide detector. On top of that, instead of just making a shrieking sound that’ll scare you to death, the new detector features a recording of a woman’s voice which in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide build up will calmly tell you to evacuate the premises immediately.
Dad predicts that I’m going to end up like a friend of his who awoke in the middle of the night to hear a strange woman talking to him about replacing batteries.

Do NOT read this entry!

Aaaack! You’re reading it! You really should go read one of my other posts instead. Don’t read any further into this one.
Still with me, eh? Well I warned you, so it’s your own darn fault.
As everyone who attended last month’s Farpoint discovered, the new owners of Marriott’s Hunt Valley Inn have been doing some rennovations over the past six months. I was up there two months earlier and on the spur of the moment, took a few photos with my camera phone. They’re not the highest quality, but you can view them if you like.
Before viewing the photos though, be warned. The old hunting theme is gone, replaced with something they consider more “corporate.” Almost everyone who attended the convention had about the same reaction – whoever chose the colors must be insane. It’s worth noting that several wedding receptions have reportedly decided to book other facilities after viewing the new decor.
So bearing all that in mind, if you feel that you really must view the photos, at least put on sunglasses first, or better yet, turn off your monitor.
You’ve been warned.
View the Hunt Valley Inn’s new look.
– Blair