Sunday, June 30, 2013

[Patriotism] Happy 146th Canada Day!

I was going to write a serious post here about the awesomeness that is the "Great White North" but I figure I'll save that for another day. Canada Day is about having fun in the name of our nation. BBQs and fireworks, eh?

Canadians are Great!

1) We are naturally conversational. We don't say "Nice weather" and pretty much kill a conversation before it started, we say "Nice weather, eh?" so you can rebutt with "It's 33C, it's 85% humid, and I can't justify spending $800 to have AC for three weeks a year!" without seeming a bitter bug or rude. Okay, mostly without seeming rude.

2) We are [ridiculously] polite. The way to tell the difference between a Canadian and American is a Canadian will apologize if a glass door is opened into them, the American is the one holding the door. (I love my American cousins! Honest! .. please put down the weaponry..)

3) We are friendly. Come on over and watch the game! Come on over and have some BBQ! The fact that these two things may be said together, when there's two feet of snow on the ground, is perfectly natural.

4) We had the world's prettiest spring Winter Olympics. Beautiful, majestic mountains and cherry blossoms! You could walk around and take in the culture (and beer) wearing a t-shirt and cut-offs. Probably not what the IOC had in mind for a Winter Olympics, but it certainly was uniquely Canadian!

5) Give a Canadian a choice between shaking the hand of our Prime Minister or driving a Zamboni, and we'll choose the Zamboni every time! The leader of our country is just another person, but a Zamboni? It's a ZAMBONI!

6) We invented a bunch of stuff, took part in inventing a bunch more, and will always claim the greatness like we did it all ourself. ("The CANADIAN arm, dude! Couldn't have built the ISS without it!" .. Lets not mention the space shuttle required to get it up there..)

7) We spell the English language the way the English intended. ;)

8) We appreciate tongue in cheek humour.

9) We may not all speak and/or read French, but every younger sibling in this great nation knows the names of cereal in French and English.

10) Log Driver's Waltz.

[Humour] Russell Peters - How to become a Canadian Citizen

Even on topic. :)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

[General Rant] They probably would do it for you.

I've been hearing "They wouldn't do it for me." and variants of it for years. It irritates me to no end. Typically it involves some being in power going out of their way for someone minority or group. (Gasp) Those bastards.
Let's start with today's of someone complaining that a City Hall in California was staying open later than usual so they could help with all the marriages being registered thanks to the U.S. Government saying "Of course gay people can marry."
Let's overlook that I bet if a hetro couple showed up in the line that they would get the same help as anyone else in line, what exactly are all these couples taking away from you? Even if City Hall wouldn't stay open for whatever large group of citizens you belong to finally getting a basic right of equality, what are you losing by all these happy people getting their happiness? What are they taking away from you? Are you a City Hall employee? Are you working for free? Are these people knocking on your front door and telling you that because they're now married you can't be? Are they stealing away your thunder as being part of a married couple? What exactly are you losing here that is making you cranky? And being the incredibly cynical woman I am, I would think City Hall WOULD stay open for any large group of constituents showing up for a service; they're all voters, and the powers that be do like their voters! They like making their voters happy!
Every so often I get emails from people that's perpetuating the immigrants are evil stereotype. What I think is beautiful is that the main proponent of these emails is an immigrant herself. Emails about how they're taking over our country, they're not becoming amalgamated, how their ways are interfering with ours and they don't want to become Canadian (or American), they just want to make it like home so why are they here type things. Let's look at this, shall we? First off, since the ESL classes are overflowing, I think we can start with that they are actually trying to join our country. The first step is learning the language. I know plenty of second or even third generation immigrants who still have the habits of their parents and grandparents' old country ways; their food preference, their method of speech, all sorts of things. I only spent the first seven years of my life in Britain and it flavours me very strongly, but I guess that's okay since I'm white, female, and my place of birth produces Doctor Who. Lastly, they don't want to make it "just like home."  Because, frankly, if home is a good place to be.. you don't leave. If you have a good income, a good environment, and a happy place, it takes something pretty drastic to get you to leave it. Picking up your life, and your family's lives, to trek halfway across the planet to start over again? You have a good reason; typically you see better opportunity for yourself and your loved ones. Perhaps better living conditions, perhaps more freedom, perhaps more mountains to climb and more oceans to swim in - who knows, but you don't leave somewhere just to transplant what you had unless that had is gone. Yes, they bring changes, but here's a fact - life is change. Canada is a patchwork. We take the best of everyone who sets up here and we make a beautiful and better country out of what our people have to offer. To tie this back in, is the perpetuated believe that these immigrants are somehow getting special rights above and beyond. There are services in play to help new residents because citizens and fit into our country, you bet, but to complain about those services in one breath, and then the other say they're not conforming is a bit silly. "We had to prove we spoke English or French!" Sure, but you didn't have to prove your parents did when you brought them in as family. Want that changed? Rally the government.
Next time someone says "They wouldn't do it for me/us!" I think the response should be "Really? Why wouldn't they?" If the answer involves them not being a part of a prosecuted minority trying to reach the same level of rights and opportunities as they who complains already enjoys, I think I shall be less than sympathetic.
Negativity only spreads negativity. Try a different outlook.


Monday, June 24, 2013

[Consumer Rant] The ongoing @Virginmobilecan saga..!

In the continuing Virgin Mobility saga..
I was actually kind of surprised how much feedback (and bile!) I have received about Virgin Mobile Canada. Stories about how they'd bill people and not bother notifying them, just send the issue to collections when it eventually rolled over the $100 collection minimum. How they would pad fees without warning. Stories about price gauging (to be fair, they're a Canadian telecommunications company, it goes without saying they price gauge.) People who have had to call multiple times just to get their phones that were somehow locked out of Virgin's network working -- and these phones bought from Virgin! Stories upon stories about grumpy customer service agents, and service nightmares. A quick trip to the BBB today to get Virgin's mailing address showed me they have an "F" rating with the BBB. That's actually kind of impressive unto itself.
So, I told their agent no less than five times on June 19th I wanted to cancel my service since my sim chip hadn't shipped and I thought I'd been more than reasonable in my waiting. We argued, I hung up on him. I then informed the company three more times via email that I'd cancelled my account. (I didn't quite tell them they could suck it.) On the 21st I received a package from "Bell Mobility."  This package was not tracked, it was not from Purolator and I had received no notification of its shipping. Its shipping date, pure coincidence, I'm sure, was June 19th. I refused the package, so back it went.
Today (the 24th) I went down to the mall to see if the nice guy at the kiosk could tell if my account had actually been cancelled yet or not. He was busy trying to unlock a phone a lady had just bought that was apparently not able to connect to the virgin network. (I resisted asking if it could connect to Bell's.) He asked if he could help me while he was waiting on something, I gave him the brief overview of why I wanted to check if my account had been cancelled or not. (The nice lady didn't look particularly surprised, apparently she'd been having "fun" with Virgin's customer service too.) Unfortunately, he said, he needs a phone, an account number or a sim card to do anything for me. I thanked him and went back home. I then wrote Virgin a very nice letter about my account being cancelled, why and effective when.
I just got a e-bill via email from them for $30.
I figure it'll only take 15 years at 18.9% interest for it to reach over the $100 minimum collections filing limit in Canada. That gives me lots of time to argue with them.. after all, I have nothing but time on my hands and they have to pay their so called customer service agents $10/hour. I wonder how long it'll take me to rack up a mere three hours of their time to make it even less worth their while to come after me..

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

[Consumer Rant] Five Days with Virgin Mobile. (@virginmobilecan)

I recently did the dance with Rogers. My budget drove me elsewhere. Their service was impeccable; their staff awesome, the selection of phones and the deals on them was incredible. It's just too expensive for a new phone and a plan. I then had the brilliant idea of unlocking my old phone and shoving a sim card in it. A bit miffed that this hadn't been suggested by Rogers when I returned my phone (they just destroyed the sim card instead) I decided to try another company. With an iota of research (ie, I glaze-skimmed websites) I went with Virgin Mobile.

I placed the order for the sim card on Friday, I kind of expected to be notified on Monday that it had shipped. Nada. Tuesday came and went, again, it hadn't been shipped. So by Wednesday (today) I was starting to get a bit WTF. When it hit noon on the east coast and it still hadn't shipped, my patience ran out. If this company can't even get someone to find a sim card in their warehouse and shove it in a box within 3 days, what does it say for the rest of the service they will offer? (And I'm betting they have staff in house on weekends in the warehouse, most do, so it'd actually be 5 days.)

This was the point I phoned their customer support line. I didn't know my number as I hadn't activated a phone/sim card. (It was probably on the account info, but since I didn't know my number I couldn't get into the members area on the site. Not their fault there.) I was put through in a very timely manner. I had to wrestle with their phone system a little, BUT, that's hardly unique to them. (Telus is still winning as worst automated phone system in my world.) I got a nice person on the phone, I chatted with him, I jumped through the hoops of proving who I am. I shall call him Justin. He rattled off my phone number right before he transferred me to their "cancel accounts department." (They have an entire department for this? Somehow, I don't think so.) 

I'm gonna call guy #2 Steve. I couldn't hear him when he introduced himself, but that was probably my landline rather than anything else. The connection was quieter than the one with Justin but who knows, I file it under 'technical difficulties' and those happen. Anyway. He was in a bad mood. He decided to take it out on me. I guess he was as sick of their "groovy, awesome" customer service persona as I was.  He made me prove who I was, because apparently, doing it already for Justin wasn't sufficient. Great, whatever, I repeated that I wish to cancel my account. I may as well have said I want to stab his pet hamster on a spike and roast him for dinner. Steve wasn't a happy camper, he was going to do his best to make sure I wasn't a happy camper either. I missed Justin already. Justin was happy and friendly, Steve was bitchy. He apparently thought 3 business days was a perfectly reasonable amount of time to take to ship a sim card. He thought that up to five business days was perfectly reasonable. Steve thought that if I wasn't happy with that time table I should have dragged my disabled ass down to a store.  Okay, okay, to be fair, Steve didn't know I was disabled until I told him, but really, if someone is getting something shipped rather than go down to a store when they live within a city with one, they probably have a good reason.

I was gritting my teeth by this point. My Daddy had taught me you always start off nice. If you start off nice you can always move to angry. If you start off angry you have nowhere to go, back peddling to nice doesn't work. Not to mention, when you're nice to people, they try to be nice to you. Steve started off angry, Steve had nowhere to go from that position and Steve was making me angry. Steve said fine, if I wanted to cancel my account I had to give them thirty days notice and they were going to charge me for the month. I tried to ask about their 14 day "buyer's regret" policy ('or whatever you call it') but he talked over me. That's about when my patience ran out. I'm not long on patience, anyone who has talked to me for an hour can figure that one out. I was actually kind of proud of myself for lasting this long. I happily pointed out that I'd paid by Mastercard and had received no product or service from his company so therefore he CAN'T charge me for it. He argued with me. I said he can try and charge me if he wanted, but I'd dispute it and Mastercard would charge it back to him for his pleasure. (I may actually be wrong in this policy, but that's how it was a couple years ago.)  At this point, he probably should have said "Fine, whatever," cancelled my account and let billing worry about it. I probably would have paid in disgust rather than now having a stubborn about it. No, he decided to argue with me some more.

By this point, I had stated on, at least, five occasions, that I wished to cancel my account. When I started this phone call I had been feeling mostly okay about virgin mobile and they hadn't made my mental "F you and the broom you rode in on" list. (A list Chevron is still on over 17 years later.) Then he started arguing with me. As soon as that happened he shifted towards the "Why would I ever come back to this company?" list. He slowly managed to move them to the "I would not recommend this company." list. Then he finally parked at "Not only would I not recommend this company, they've cheesed me off enough to write a blog post about it that has the potential reach of 500 people."  I also took the time to email them to reinforce the status of my account should be "CANCELLED!" and I feel I have made every reasonable attempt to see that it achieved this status.

I think it's fairly safe to say I'll go back to Rogers. Why I ever keep leaving them I have no idea. Chronic stupidity, probably, but I won't be using another Virgin product.. and they've moved off my "Eh, why not. If you need cheap cell service, they'll do you" recommendation list to the " I will never support your company again " list. I'm sure they'll try and notice and try to care when they inevitably send me a bill.

Maybe the problem is actually I just have too many mental lists.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

[My Opinion] Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it's bad.

Just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it's bad.

Seriously, it doesn't. I appreciate that you don't like Justin Beiber, steampunk or anime, however, just because you don't like it doesn't mean it's bad. There is a difference between quality and personal enjoyment. What harm is Beiber actually doing to you that you find it necessary to post hate messages?

The kid is hardly a great example for tweens and teens alike, but, seriously? The guy sings pop songs on a station you probably don't even listen to. Unless you have kids, no one is making you buy his music and if you have kids I'm sure you've done things much more distasteful than buy his music. He doesn't affect you in any shape or form. We get you don't like him, but seriously, saying how you wish he was dead? What kind of lesson is THAT? You wish people you don't know, will never meet, never interact with, don't even have to have in your universe, dead. You wish some human being on this planet harm and his biggest crime is you don't like the way he sings? This kid, like him or not as an artist or human being, brings a hell of a lot of genuine happiness to a lot of people and you wish him ill. I think that says more about you than it does him.

Oh, sure, you can jump on the band wagon. Nickelback sucks, Nickelback is everything that's wrong with music, Nickelback this, that, blah blah blah. But, if everyone hates Nickelback as the web tells us, how are they selling millions of albums? Is Nickelback as musically complex as Queen? Hell no. I buy their music and I'll be the first to say they're the cheap beer of rock and roll; however, sometimes you just want a cheap beer. They're not harming you any. "All their songs sound alike." The same could be said for Kiss, and I'm sure there are people readying their pitch forks and torches every time I say that. Their sales alone tell us that someone's finding them enjoyable and their art is making said people happy, and that's not a bad thing. I wouldn't say Chad Kreuger is a paragon of virtue or great leader of the people when he's well known for his drunk driving, but I'll still enjoy his music.

It's no secret I don't like Stephanie Meyer. I think she's terrible writer in value of quality of writing, I think she sends horrible messages to young, impressionable, people, I think that her books should never have sold as well as they should have, however, that doesn't mean I think she should "die in a fire." Having lost my home, my pet rabbit and about ninety percent of my possessions in a fire, I wouldn't wish that kind of damage on a human being. I wouldn't even wish her computer to explode. (I think all computer geeks will agree with me that that's a trauma best avoided.) Do I wish she could stop selling books? Sure. Badly enough to actually wish her or hers harm? Of course not.

I think we've just become so desensitized to violence that we don't think twice when we say "I wish those fangirls would just die" or "I think Nickelback should be shot, drawn and quartered."  Of course we're employing hyperbole, but for one moment actually think about what the words you're saying mean. I'll fully support Meyer's rights to write poor quality novels with poor life lessons and sell them; I'll also fully support humanity's right to buy said books to use as entertainment or toilet paper as they so choose. After all, just because I think her work is less than stellar, it doesn't mean I'm necessarily right.

Separate the art from the artist and think about your view for a moment; you're saying an eighteen year old kid should be harmed for being an eighteen year old kid. That's pretty f'd up.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

[Consumerism Rant] I do not need the shiny.

I think its no national secret I am addicted to quite fond of Tim Hortons' coffee. I could quite happily drink a double double a day if my budget allowed me to. So, naturally, when Timmys started advertising that if you bought a $40 Tassimo mix box for them that they'd throw in a free Tassimo coffee maker half a dozen friends automatically thought of me and forwarded me the deal.

It's a hell of a deal. $40 of product I'd drink anyway AND a free coffee maker? Hot dang, you bet I was eagerly awaiting June 12th at 2pm!

And then it started to sink in. Where would I put it? I live in a fairly small (by North American standards) apartment with limited counter space. I'd have to keep moving it out of cupboard and back again or give up prep room. It wasn't a huge hurdle, but it got me thinking. I already own a coffee maker, do I really need a new one? That answer is no, I don't need one.

I have started to look at the consumerist attitude of 'Oh, new, shiny, want!' and how it seems to turn into 'must buy NOW!' My parents did their best to teach me about saving of money and rewarding myself. But, somehow, I wracked up credit card debt to buy things I don't actually NEED. 

Yes, I need housing and a mortgage + strata is cheaper than renting (at least in this part of the world) so I feel justified in my mortgage debt. I do need a car to get doctors appointments, buy anything heavier than ten pounds and for days when my body just isn't cooperating with this whole walking process, so expenses there aren't wasted. But do I need a new couch? The futon sure is hard a rock, but it serves its purpose. The love seat is comfy as heck but a little short, but again, it serves its purpose. If someone showed up with a couch version of my love seat I'd be in heaven, but I can't justify toddling off to the Brick to purchase one just for a want. I do not need a food mixer. I baked cookies with a fork and hands. I do not need a food processor (as much as I may like one to help me be lazy.) I do not need all these shiny, flashy, items of convenience. 

I want a new laptop so badly it hurts. Mostly because this one is failing and no longer serving its purpose, so I feel no guilt in going without other things to afford it. I enjoy visiting my boyfriend (he's kinda cute) so I feel little guilt about putting money towards airfare and parking and all the other little things involved in travel.  But beyond that.. I have food, shelter and clothing. I don't really NEED much else beyond entertainment. That's what my pets would need (okay, they have fur, they don't need the clothing) why should I splurge and put myself in debt more? Because I'm bored? Because it fulfills some need I can't identify or because society tells me to?

I strongly remember a friend ranting about how she can't possibly afford a new pair of shoes she desperately wants. Yes, the woman was a parent and kids ARE expensive little darlings, but she and her hubby both made good money. She didn't live in a particularly expensive part of the States for food or real estate. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how someone whose household clears over $100k a year (and this was some years ago!) could be so out of money she can't afford a pair of shoes. Then I recalled she'd just bought herself a new car. What was wrong with the old one? Absolutely nothing. Did it serve her purposes? Absolutely. Why did she replace it? Because she wanted the new model. She didn't need it, she just wanted it. Oh, and the shoes were close to $250. 

What does it say about our priorities when we want something for our feet that costs that much? I could understand it if its running shoes, or ballet shoes, or shoes that serve a specific purpose as a part of our lifestyle, but a pair of shoes she MAY wear to work once every few weeks because her closet is already full of them? Talk about first world problems.

So, I think of her when I look at the latest round of adverts for the "free" coffee maker and sternly tell myself "I do not need the shiny." It really, is in essence, $250 shoes. When I start thinking I'd love to find a micro SUV, or even a sub-compact one, to drive, I tell myself "My Yaris is still fully functioning." (Even if my grrrr neighbours put a new dent in my door.) When I started to miss that shiny Note II I had to return because I really couldn't afford a $63/mo cell phone bill, I tell myself it was too big and my current phone is still mostly working.

What's kind of nice, as I've told myself this about these, and other, things, is that its actually starting to sink in. I am no longer feeling so very deprived of whatever it is I wanted. Would I still LIKE them? Well, sure, who wouldn't? But I don't NEED them and ignoring commercials on television sure is helping.

But I still miss KFC. If they ever go gluten free, my pocketbook and waistline are screwed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

[Canadian Politics] Dear Prime Minister Steven Harper..

Dear Prime Minister Steven Harper,

I know you are a father and I have to wonder if you've considered what lessons you're teaching not only your own children but all the children of Canada.

There's the lesson that bullying is okay if the person is a threat to you or something you want. Your attack ads are certainly a new low in Canadian politics and broadcasting. How can you expect children to learn and understand bullying is bad if the leader of our country partakes it in regularly? Bad enough that its splattered across the television during elections, but to make fun of a man raising money for charity in a good humoured and harmless way? What lesson do you mean to teach instead of the one you are actually teaching? You also seem determined to silence the voice of the people; CBC. Is your that if you don't like what someone's saying, silence them through any means?

You keep repeating the lesson that it's okay to run away from your problems and to not let anyone hold you accountable for the actions or those you lead. You have prorogued parliament twice. You refuse to ask direct, pertinent questions. You refuse to let the Canadian people see into how you're governing and why you're doing it that way. You've shown that lying is perfectly okay too, if it gets you what you want. You promised more accountability, smaller governments and better spending. Unfortunately, you've given us less accountability, increased the size of the government and we have no idea about your spending because you refuse to let us see it. Do you want your own children lying and avoiding responsibility if it gets them what they want?

What about the lesson of changing the entire government to your own name? That's quite the lesson in egotism. An entire country's administration named after the man who is supposed to be the representation of the people.  Or how about not hosting the portraits of past prime minister to remind yourself of those who came before you and who helped make our country great?

And what kind of country do you want your kids to inherit? One with oil spills, a shortage of education, arts and science? One where the government controls the air waves, where the green space is shrinking and the rights are being slowly taken away?  Our middle class is disappearing, do you hope your own investments are enough to keep them in the upper crust or they'll be fortunate enough to get incredibly well-paying jobs? How about their food, do you think they'll be okay eating harmful GMO food, dangerous pesticides and insecticides, and products that are inspected by the people selling them rather than someone independent and unbiased. What about water for your kids to drink? You have declared that clean water is a luxury, not a human right.

Your government have been found in contempt of parliament, your party willfully violated election spending limits, turned the Liberal surplus into a deficit and claimed yourself a brilliant financial leader, you opposed healthcare, and wanted us to go to Iraq and reaffirmed that even after the damage it's done to the U.S.A and the U.K. Members of your government have been convicted of fraud, several close to your own position of Prime Minister. Your party's fascination with other people's electronic laundry is frightening, how many laws have to get voted down before you realize no one wants this?

I'm sure you consider yourself a good parent to your children, Prime Minister Harper, but what about the rest of children of Canada?


Lorna Appleby.

[New Blog!] Welcome!

I got tired of posting rants to Google+ and then having to repost the link to Facebook and Twitter.
So I started a new blog.

You'll find my thoughts on things here, probably mostly Canadian politics.