Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Broken Nook

I really don't like to use my blog to rant and rave, but sometimes I just have something important that needs to be said.  Less than two years ago, I bought a Nook, which is an e-reader made and sold by Barnes and Noble.  It was a present for Valentine's Day 2010.  And it was from the second batch received in the Bay Street store in Emeryville, California.  Okay, so I'm an early adopter (meaning I jump into new technology right away) and a huge, big, big, big reader.  My husband liked that it would cut down on the books coming into the house, because they could all be stored on a little device.

While initially examining the device before purchase, I noted the design flaw seemed to be that the page turn buttons were under the case rim, so the case rim would have to flex with every page turn.  I noted at the time to the salesperson that it would be problematic, eventually causing the case to crack in that area.  Being an early adopter with an advanced degree in electronic communication, I tend to notice the design flaws right away.  But I was of course assured, "Oh, no.  We have considered that, and the case has been built to be able to handle it.  After all, page turning in a major function of the device.  But you can by the warranty to cover that."  So we bought the two year extended warranty to cover this concern.

My Nook:  you can see the crack in the case below the right next page button.

I have to say that for the past year and 9 months I have been very happy with my Nook.  I bought it a cool black leather case (to protect it, and hey style, too) that fits nicely inside a fabric sleeve (so I can carry it everywhere in my purse without being subjected to those nasty purse crumbs and lint).  I literally have hundreds of books on it.  There are even books on it that I have bought waiting to be read.  I have "borrowed" books (most notably The Hunger Games Series) from friends.  I have read books from the Oakland library on my Nook.  I have the e-ink version, which was the only version available when I bought it.  But honestly, I have no desire to upgrade to the color or new tablet version.  I read a lot, and e-ink is important for a user like me.  As I have said before, I know a computer professional who had cataracts removed at age 42.  And her doctor told her it was from too heavy computer use, and he warned her against further too heavy use.  Another friend had a series of seizures after too many super long shifts on a new team assignment, and again the doctors noted that very extended periods in front of a computer caused his health problem.  So ~ regular computer use + reading time = health problems.  Just not a good idea.  That is why the e-ink technology was invented.  I was a happy e-reader.  And Barnes and Noble had secured the vast majority of my purchases, because now I was downloading virtually everything I read directly from their website to my Nook anywhere with my Nook on the 3G network.

Let's talk dollars and sense for a moment.  Being an early adopter, I paid the premium introductory price for my Nook-- $239 plus 10% tax and $80 for the warranty.  I was informed that the warranty is a "replacement" warranty service through customer service.  My version of the Nook is no longer made, because of course there have been a whole series of upgrades and new releases in the past year and 9 months.  I'm not bucking for the new model here.  I like my Nook.  I have all the accessories to fit it.  And it operates on the 3G network, an option which is no longer available.  But I can and do search the Barnes and Noble site for books and order them at playgrounds, beaches, parks and other places that have no WiFi service.

So here's my problem: a crack in the frame surrounding the device just under the right page turn button.  Admittedly, it is basically an aesthetic issue at this point.  But this is early in the failure process.  This problem will progress until the case is no longer functional,  possibly exposing the interior technology, etc.  And I am still under the warranty period.

the crack

The crack can actually be seen as a separated split, or break in the case.

This is the problem!  Early on.  This will only get worse, I'm sure!

So here is how the warranty claim process is going for me.

I went into the Barnes and Noble where I purchased the device, on Bay Street in Emeryville and showed them my problem.  I was coolly informed to call "customer service."  I have put that in quotes because there is no kind of service involved whatsoever.  When I called, I was of course put through to someone in a country on the other side of the world from the United States.  This Barnes and Noble representative could barely speak English.  Every word of the conversation was a struggle.  He was barely capable of spelling, apparently not at all even functional with the basic alphabet.  During this painful conversation, I was required to provide credit card information as a good faith measure.  They would send me a new Nook, and I would send them back my old one in that packaging, only being charged if I did not surrender my old Nook within the required 2 week time period.  Now I am waiting and checking the delivery status.  Eight days later, UPS leaves the box on my porch without so much as a knock on the door.  I was informed of its arrival by my 7 year old daughter who was waiting for its arrival so we could depart to a playground.  Leaving a box of valuables just out on someone's porch is basically not a good idea for most people anymore.  Two-thirds (2/3) of Americans live in an urban environment today, not Mayberry.  Most companies, including Barnes and Nobles leading competitor Amazon, offers a wide variety of shipping options to account for individual situations.  Not Barnes and Noble-- they just put your device on your porch without notification, after that the problem is yours.

The device I received was not a new replacement.  It was a used device not placed in the packaging correctly therefore arriving broken.  AND--- importantly--- it was not even the correct model.  It was a WiFi Nook not the 3G version.

I went back down to the Bay Street Barnes and Noble that night.  The customer service person told me that they could not help me, and I had to call (their foreign) "customer service" representative.  I asked to speak to the manager.  She apologized for my problems.  She was very nice and seemed genuinely interested in helping me solve my problem.  She called "customer service"  After a long phone conversation, she asked me if I could return the next morning to resolve the problem.

I returned the next morning, and she handed my problem over to her Nook specialist.  Again a call was placed to "customer service."  I spoke to representative after representative, and I was asked to repeat my credit card information over the phone in the middle of this store 2 times.  Finally, after all of the frustration they put me through, a supervisor admits that the problem is really that my Nook is not made anymore.  Again-- not my problem.  I paid top dollar.  They sold the warranty.  At least offer me a discount on a model that is currently available!  Ultimately, after over another hour of frustration, I left that store with 2 broken Nooks and nothing resolved.

I am going to have to deal with this problem after the Thanksgiving Holiday.  I HAVE to --- I mean, at least figure out how to return the broken thing that they sent me. 

So what does this mean to you?  Here is my advice for people who may be considering a e-reader this holiday shopping season:  I loved my Nook.  But DO consider it a disposable device with a lifespan of probably not more than 2 years.  DON'T waste your money on the warranty-- they won't honor it.  And maybe consider competing devices, such as the one made by Sony.

Monday, November 14, 2011

BlytheCon 2012!

Art by Lirije (aka effluo-lost)

I had such a great time in Portland at BlytheCon that I am really looking forward to going to BlytheCon in Dallas this August.  It has been decades since my last visit to Texas.  Oops, showing my age there a bit.  But I'm looking forward to going back with my husband and daughter.  The venue and hotel look so excellent!  We are planning on staying for a while to enjoy the resort.  You should take the time to check it out online-- Gaylord Texan Resort.

It really made the idea of going to BlytheCon again super appealing--- even to my husband.  I am planning on preregistering in early January.  I hope that is early enough to guarantee us goodie bags.  I suppose I should start working on an outfit for our Blythes to wear right after Christmas, so I get it done in time.  I wonder what I should make?  Chaps?  A vest?  Cowboy shirt?  Something with fringe?  Or that low-pile cow-print fur?  Hmmmm. . . (I'll make sure to post my pattern when I figure it out.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

More Flavors of Fall

The last of Halloween has finally been boxed and stored.  Thanksgiving is approaching.  The few baskets and bunches of Indian corn that are the entirety of decorations seem sparcely appropriate considering the Pilgrim roots of the holiday.  And the minimalism is refreshing after the clutter of Halloween and before the extravagance of Christmas.  A welcome respite.  Many people take this time to renew with a cleanse.  Well, maybe next week for me. 

Right now, I'm going to share a recipe for Loaded Pumpkin cookies.  They are a somewhat cakey type cookie with all the flavors of fall, like a pumpkin bread; except, all the morsels push it into that decidedly sweet range that is definitely a cookie.  Tonight, I'm having mine with Tazo Calm tea, a blend of chamomile and rose petals.  It's very mellow and light.

Loaded Pumpkin Cookies

2 ½ cups flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cup Libby's Solid Pack Pumpkin
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.  Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Cream butter.  Gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, beat well.  Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in chips, raisins and nuts. 

Drop by scant ¼ cup portions onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake approximately 22 minutes until cookies are firm and lightly brown.  Remove from cookie sheet immediate or they will stick.  Cool on rack.   Store between sheets of parchment.

Makes 2 ½ dozen


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall Comfort Food

The trick-or-treating is over.  The pumpkin seeds have lost their crisp.  The pumpkins' faces are turning black and caving in on your porch.  Time to put away those Halloween decorations and make some comfort food to help move you forward into the fall season.  My family loves homemade chicken and dumplings.  And it is easy to prepare, as all comfort food should be.

Chicken and Dumplings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1tablespoon butter
1 whole chicken breast, chopped
3 large stalks celery, diced
½ onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 c. chicken broth
4 c. water
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black paper
¼ tsp. garlic powder

3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
 4 ½ tablespoons butter
1 ½ c. buttermilk
extra flour for rolling dumplings

Heat oil in large Dutch oven or other large pot.  Melt butter in oil.  Add chicken and brown.  Add celery, onion and carrots and sauté several minutes to soften.  Add broth, water, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Bring to a boil. 

Meanwhile prepare dumplings:  combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is the consistency of coarse meal.  Add the buttermilk, and stir just until ingredients are moistened.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and sprinkle with flour, knead 4 or 5 times, no more or biscuits will be tough.  Roll the dough to ¼ inch thickness.  Cut into strips about 2 inches by 2 inches.

With the pot at a low rolling boil, drop in the biscuits one or two at a time.  Stir in some of the flour from the board, too.  Reduce heat to medium and occasionally gently stir so dumplings do not stick together.  Cook dumplings for 10 minutes.  The flour in the dumplings will thicken the broth.

Serves 4

Another Fall ritual:  don't forget to turn your clocks back one hour when Daylight Saving Time ends this Sunday, Nov 6.