Archive for August, 2007

Without going into too much detail, I’d been fighting a losing customer service battle with my cellular/home phone/TV/internet provider.  A few simple questions and some service changes ended up completely screwing up my services.  After getting the runaround in their stores and on their spirit-crippling voicemail system, and being repeatedly told that my issue had to do with problems with their computer system, I finally decided to switch to their competitor in frustration.

The lesson I learned is that when you try to cancel a few hundred dollars a month worth of services in order to switch to a company’s competitor,  you get a lot of very positive attention.  A lot.

After about 20 minutes, I’d been convinced to stay (with perks and treats) and although I’m skeptical about their service as it took me nearly two weeks of grief to get where I am, I also know that aside from paying my bill, I don’t have to deal with them much.

This proves something that I’ve been learning my whole life—when in doubt, complain so loud the whole world hears you.  Be sure to do it from your home phone line though.  And make sure your cordless phone battery is fully charged.

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You all know how much I like to pick on the TTC.  I mean, if they aren’t cutting services, they’re raising fares and if they aren’t doing either of those, they’re asking for permission to do them.  Frankly it’s not the TTC’s fault that they’re over-employed and overpay workers while providing terrible (which isn’t a strong enough word) customer service to paying patrons.

So was this rant brought on by the recent service cuts forced on the TTC by the City of Toronto?  Nope.  Was it brought on by recent announcements of cancelled service improvements because of a lack of union involvement?  Nope.   This rant is for purely selfish reasons.

As part of a long-scheduled track improvement for the 506 streetcar, Dundas street has been undergoing MAJOR repairs.  It started near Yonge Street and Dundas has been effectively closed at each section of repair as they tear up the street.  Recently, those closures came to the foot of my street and our quiet little one-way became a two-way thoroughfare.

Granted, I don’t play much street hockey or street basketball, so the traffic isn’t much of a concern to me.  Even the construction vehicles aren’t a concern (after I called the TTC to complain that their contractors were working in violation of Toronto By-Laws for noise late at night and early in the morning).  I don’t even really mind that the sidewalks are nearly impassable now. No, it’s much more than that.

Have you ever seen a stream of water and put your foot in in it?  The water just finds a way around the blockage and keeps on going.  That’s the nature of all things.  Well, in our neighbourhood, Dundas is a major cruising street for both drugs and prostitution.  Once the sun goes down, everything is up for sale on the sidewalks and the sales techniques get pretty aggressive.   With Dundas closed, the gears of commerce must keep spinning, so the sales move with the traffic… right up our sleepy little side street.

That’s meant we’ve seen a marked increase in loud arguments and petty fist fights in the evenings, and louder arguments and full on brawls in the wee hours.  It’s more sad than terrifying, but it’s not a good way to be woken up at night.

So why am I mad at the TTC?  After all, they’re only doing the repairs to improve service and it’s not their fault that traffic had to be diverted up my particular street.  Well, I’d rather blame them than blame the poor folks cruising for drugs and sex.  I pity them, not hate them… and I already hate the TTC.

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I was sound asleep at 6am when it started.  At first it was a light scratching above my head and I woke up just enough to know something was wrong.  I rolled over and pulled a pillow over my head.  About 15 minutes later, the scratching turned into a rustling and then the whining and fighting started.  The evil raccoons have once again figured out how to get into our chimney and have made themselves at home.

Toronto is experiencing a huge boost in the raccoon population.  Thanks to a mild winter that resulted in an early litter of raccoonlets (or whatever the evil babies are called) on top of the usual spring litter, their population exploded.  Homeowners are not allowed to cull them in any way either through poisoning or trapping, and hiring pest removal experts only helps so much.  The captured raccoons are merely driven to a spot outside of the city and many make their way back.

The downtown core has a seemingly endless supply of food for scavengers (in the form of poorly contained garbage cans and dumpsters) so there’s always enough food to support them, and finding homes is never difficult for the clever little beasts.  The make houses under porches, in abandoned buildings and yes… in my chimney, just inches from my head.

Sadly (for them), I don’t have ‘Fornicating Raccoons’ on my list of stuff to pack, so they’ll remain a fixture at Pembroke Castle when I leave.  For Jared, Ethan and Dalton, I named the big one ‘Bitey’.  Enjoy!

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Moving day is getting closer, and that means that the stacks of boxes in my house continue to grow while easy access to many of my belongings begins to decrease.  Yesterday afternoon I went looking for a book, but had to give up when I realized it was in the bottom of a box that was on the bottom of a stack of boxes.  The silver lining to this cloud is that I’ve been able to get rid of a lot of crap that I don’t need to bother moving, which is always a good thing.

How is this weekend already Labour Day!?  Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was complaining that it was the start of summer and I was going to be miserable and uncomfortable all summer?  How times flies when you’re planning a wedding, moving all your possessions and having fun.

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It’s been a bleary-eyed morning for me, but one thing I’ve thoroughly enjoyed is watching the unfolding news story of the undercover police officers at the Montebello protests.  Two days ago I watched the really strange video of the incident in question, and then today came the official statement from the Sûreté du Québec (which in no way matches the video evidence).

So would the Sûreté have saved face by admitting straight up that they had officers there and that the officers may have acted inappropriately?  I’m not sure, but they’re in pretty deep now.  I fully expect a legal battle to start over this, and that will be equally funny.

You have to admit that instigating a riot is a pretty effective form of crowd control.  Had a riot started, the police could have made arrests and cleared protesters with tear gas and clubs.  No more protest.  Very effective.  So did the Sûreté figure this out on their own, or learn it from previous incidents (like G8 protests, and the like)?  Will the investigation into this reveal that it’s a widely used crowd control tactic for these kinds of protests?

At the very least, this’ll make for some interesting banter on CBC radio.  Well, if the cops don’t throw rocks in the windows and shut everything down.

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I recently ‘discovered’ something about myself that I already instinctively knew, but hadn’t quite processed mentally, nor had I been able to articulate it simply.  Those days are at an end as of shortly after midnight last night.

Lying in bed shortly before sleep set in, I was thinking about how great it would be to go camping sometime soon.  I still haven’t been with my new camera and I’m sure I could get some awesome shots.  Thinking about photos, I wondered how long it would be before I could start building some of the little projects I’ve been designing over the last few months and take some shots of them.  Then I thought about upgrading my electric guitar and maybe getting a mandolin.

Bam.  It hit me.  I have WAY more hobbies and interests than I do time.   So in the interest of enjoying the rest of my life, I plan on quitting my job and surrendering all my adult responsibilities.  If you really need to find me, I’ll be camping in the middle of nowhere with my camera, guitars and a small selection of woodworking tools.  If you do show up, bring beer… and food.

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Packing tape tastes terrible.  It doesn’t help that the stuff I’m using to seal up my boxes is of suspect quality, so when I tear it with my teeth, little bits of it come off and I have to spit them out.  If only I had one of those packing tape guns that dispense the tape and then cut it with ragged teeth when you tilt it upwards.  Alas, I’m left to let my incisors do the work.

What also tastes terrible is when you put your Sharpie marker in your mouth… with the lid off… writing end first.  What can I say?  I was distracted.

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At the wizened age of 29, I’ve made some significant life-long purchases already.  I’ve bought my first car (which is a saga unto itself), I’ve purchased a few quality musical instruments and more than my share of expensive techno-toys (computers, cameras, stereos and home entertainment equipment).  I’ve signed my name to leases, varying service contracts and banking thingmajigs.  I have no fear of commitment, and I rarely experience so-called “buyer’s remorse”.   Despite my negative attitude towards housing prices and the present market, I’m even looking forward to buying a home in the not-to-distant future (not THAT soon though, Andrew).

Last night was one of those once-in-a-lifetime purchases.  Guitars, cars, homes… these things will change over time.  Due to life circumstances, you upgrade, downgrade, replace or just switch.  When you buy all these things, you often aren’t thinking “I’m going to have this for the rest of my life” and that thought certainly doesn’t affect your purchase decision.

So around 6:30 last night, Danielle and I walked into People’s to pick out our wedding rings.  What a weird experience.  I saw some cool ones and found myself thinking “How will this look on my hand when I’m 85?”  That was a weird thought to me.

We looked at Titanium and Tungsten-Carbide rings as well, but apparently those can’t be resized, so if I gain 200lbs, they’ll have to cut me out of the ring and I’ll have to replace it.  For the first time in my life, I had to make a purchase decision that took into account massive life-long weight gain.

In the end, I decided on a very simple and traditional white gold wedding band.  I think it’s classy and timeless and it can easily be resized when I balloon after our wedding day (sorry Danielle, I’m letting myself go on October 14).

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