Bugaboo Stroller Rolls Over Gravel

We got the Bugaboo Cameleon stroller because it seemed the most likely to be able to handle rough terrain. We live on a farm, and are not near paved roads, let alone paved sidewalks.

This video clip shows us pushing the stroller down our driveway, through a decent layer of gravel. We're satisfied with its performance in this respect. When it's not so muddy, we'll have to take the stroller out into the field to see how it handles in tall grass.

Check Out Politifact Website

I heard the Politifact site mentioned on NPR news today. It has a "truth-o-meter" to evaluate statements made by political candidates and their supporters. It doesn't appear to be partisan, and I've found it useful. Because you know politicians say things that might be technically true, but you know they're not telling the whole story. This site lists the statement, its rating, and if you click through to read more details, you'll get the whole story.

Virginia Blood Services

I've had it with Virginia Blood Services. I'm going to ask them to take me off their donor list next time they call.

When I was in college, I donated blood all the time. I've got O-negative blood which is special because you can give it to anyone, you don't have to match the blood type. I remember there would be blood drives all the time, and you'd just walk in and before long all your paperwork was processed and you were sitting in a chair giving blood. Relatively quick and convenient, if not painless. I still have my blood donor card after all this time.

A couple years ago there was a blood drive at my church in Charlottesville, so I signed up. It seemed like it would be convenient, I signed up for a time slot right after mass. Well, I go down there at my appointed time, but they make me wait over 30 minutes to start my paperwork. And then I had to wait in another area holding the empty blood bag for awhile before I got called over to chair where they hooked it all up and began the process. I think the whole thing took about 2.5 hours, which is ridiculous in my opinion. Anyway, I wrote it off to just being a bad setup in that one location and didn't think about it again.

Since then, VA Blood Services has been calling me up all the time, trying to get me to donate again. I never return their calls, but if they catch me when I actually answer the phone, I always say ok, where is the nearest blood drive? And it's always in Charlottesville and I tell them there's no way I'm driving 1 hr (round-trip) to give blood, only call me when they're having a drive in Crozet. So finally the Bloodmobile would be at the DQ. So I made an appointment for 8pm.

PROBLEM #1: They call often to pester me to donate, ignoring my requests to only notify me when there is a blood drive in my town.

I arrived twenty minutes early, thinking that maybe we could get Terry in to donate blood also, and I knew I had the last scheduled appointment of the day so he'd have to start before me. There was a sign on the Bloodmobile that said "Please enter through the rear door" so we did. And stood there for several minutes before a woman acknowledged us and said there were already four others waiting up at the front of the bus ahead of us. I asked if that meant they had enough donors for the evening but she said no, she was just telling us so we would know that we wouldn't be next, and we should go wait in the front of the bus, where people were supposed to wait.

PROBLEM #2: A technician gave different verbal instructions than the written instructions posted outside the bus.

Twenty minutes before my 8pm appointment, there were four people ahead of us. But after 5 minutes, one guy gave up and left, and then one woman left after 10 minutes, and a third after 15 minutes. So by 8pm there was only woman ahead of me.

PROBLEM #3: Donors are expected to wait around indefinitely before anyone starts their paperwork.

If three people hadn't given up already, who knows when the woman in front of me would have gotten started. And they didn't have seats, or magazines, or anything. It was a miserable wait.

To their credit, they did get me in there exactly at 8pm which was my reserved appointment time. A woman spent about 2 minutes verifying the information on my form, then told me to wait. I waited 30 minutes. So much for their prompt service, eh? Finally, they called me into the booth where you do what used to be paperwork.

PROBLEM #4: Donors are expected to wait around indefinitely before anyone takes their blood pressure and otherwise determines their eligibility.

When I gave them my blood donor card to fill out the guy said they're not "evil" like the Red Cross. My card was for blood donations to the Red Cross, not Virginia Blood Services. He said that all the blood they collect stays here and only goes to VA hospitals, while the Red Cross sends blood all over. So my donations to VA Blood Services don't count on my Red Cross donor card. Hmmm. I found his attitude completely inappropriate, but I continued.

PROBLEM #5: A technician dissed the Red Cross.

Now one answers all the personal questions on a touch-screen when you are alone in the booth instead of being questioned by a technician. It's faster, so that's ok. The time in the booth up through completion of the questions was about 10 minutes. Then the technician came back to go over the answers from the touch-screen quiz.

It turned out that my vacation to Mexico disqualified me for giving blood since I visited a jungle area on a malaria list. But it took another 10 minutes for the tech to look it all up in his reference book and tell me.

The whole process wound up taking 50 minutes, and I didn't even give blood. If I had been eligible, I would have had to wait again after getting out of the booth for a chair to open up. Pathetic. At least they gave me my free ice cream cone coupon up front, so Terry and I got snacks at the DQ at 9pm.

Since I have given VA Blood Services two tries to make the blood donation experience reasonable, and they have failed completely both times, I will not donate blood through them unless they radically overhaul their process.

It's too bad, since I know my blood is very useful for accident victims, etc. and I would like to help out, but I'm just disgusted with the way donors are treated at VA Blood Services and will not subject myself to their process again.

Random Name Generator

Have you ever had to think of a random name? I have. Fortunately, I found the website Random Name Generator. It generates random names for you, and you can select as many as you need.

The internet is amazing. You can find just about anything now.

Beastie Bands Cat Collars

I used to buy regular safety collars for my cats from any convenient local discounter (WalMart, Target, KMart, etc.) or pet store. You know, the woven nylon ones with a bell and an elastic insert? I usually paid from $3.50 to $5.00 each. They actually worked fine for previous cats that I owned, but not so much for my current mix of three tomcats.

These little monsters are always sparring and those collars would be off in a heartbeat and kicked who knows where-- it could be weeks before I'd find it lodged under the sofa or in a heating vent or something, and you know even with indoor cats it's going to be the day they aren't wearing their collar that they run out and get lost (maybe I'm paranoid since it happened to me. . .).

Also, and I don't know if this has anything to do with their horseplay (is it still called horseplay when engaged in by cats?) or not, but the collars would also get fuzzed up beyond all recognition from their scratching, they looked disastrous. Which is probably how a little boy cat wants it, I imagine it's the same chromosome that makes their human counterparts think an old T-shirt fraying at the collar, with oil stains, is appropriate dinner attire. But I digress.

A friend recommended Beastie Bands collars, and I have been using them ever since. There is no elastic insert because the collar material has some give in it. But it's not all elastic, since that wouldn't be safe, either. They're made of some kind of foam-ish material. And they come in all kinds of cute prints. There are a few more sophisticated prints (at one point my cats were all quite handsome when I outfit them all in various colors of "Tribal Tattoo"), but I would definitely classify the majority as cute.

They are a little more expensive than standard collars, but since they really stay on very well and look better for longer I think they're worth it. They don't have a buckle for fit, they just velcro to themselves. You might think this wouldn't hold up to active cat activity, but it really does. And I think the cats tolerate a slightly snugger fit since there is no metal buckle, but I wouldn't say I put these collars on tightly, there's still plenty of room to scratch the cats beneath them without stretching the collar. But they do seem to stay on the cats more persistently.

Not that they're miracle collars or anything. The cats will still lose their collars from time to time, and they'll still wind up hidden behind furniture where I can't find them. And they don't last forever, eventually regular cat wear and tear cause the edges to fray and little nicks develop in the foam. But I do think they're a step up from the alternative.

They're available in many pet stores now, and also over the internet. Back in November 2007 I did an exhaustive price analysis, and determined that the best value is online from The Cat Connection. They're $6.95 each with free shipping. I just ordered some more today (not because the ones I got in November are worn out, but because I'm tired of seeing the cats walking around in snowmen collars. . .) and the price is still the same. If I recall correctly, there were other sites with lower prices, but when including shipping charges my total cost was lowest at Cat Connection. If you order other pet supplies at the same time you order collars, the economics might be different for you.

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