Thursday, July 31, 2008

Maritime Trip - Day 1, Ottawa to Saint John

We packed last night and set the alarm clock for 2:00am. For some reason, it didn't work. Luckily, Sandra woke up at around 2:30am.

We loaded the truck and woke the kids and managed to leave by 4:00am.

The scenery along the way is awesome. It really makes you appreciate living here in Canada. I'll summarize our day in point form:
  • Quebec has the most awesome rest stops. They're large, clean, well-kept, and the buildings that house the washrooms are huge and clean.
  • Our auto GPS sucks because it clearly has old maps. The new Trans Canada highway from around Edmonston to the Fredericton offramp doesn't exist on its map. So what it showed us, between its attempts to reroute, was that we were driving across fields, through forests, and over mountains. It's a good thing that we didn't have to make and route changes in that large stretch of highway.
  • It's the first time I've seen fences that follow a highway to keep deer and moose off the highway! They even have one-way gates every 1/2 kilometre that stop them from leaving the forest, but allow them back in if they should manage to find their way onto the highway side. Every so often, they have tunnels that pass under the highway to allow them to cross safely. Very cool idea!
  • They sure have a lot of "Watch for moose" warning signs along the highway to Saint John.
  • I love the 110km/h speed limit on the Trans Canada highway in New Brunswick! Driving 120kmh sure cuts down the travel time. :)
  • There are endless Tim Hortons along the highway. That is, until you really want one.
  • Downtown Saint John reminds me of Montreal... but a lot smaller, and with steeper streets.
  • The people here are super friendly.
  • The inside the Lafontaine Tunnel in Quebec needs some serious repairs.
  • Driving 14-15 hours is tiring, but not as brutal as I thought it would be.
  • It's more difficult to sleep in a moving vehicle than it used to be when I was a kid. (No, I wasn't driving at the time... Sandra was) :)
  • Driving across the Hartman bridge (world's longest covered bright) that crosses the Saint John river was pretty cool.
When we arrived at the Delta Brunswick in Saint John, it was around 7:00pm. There's a shopping mall under the hotel and it closes up at around 8:00pm. By the time we got down there to look for a place to eat, it was 7:50pm and too late. :( We went back to the restaurant in the hotel and ate there. It was fairly inexpensive and the food was good.

Shortly after 9:00pm we were done and decided to come back to our room and call it a night. We've got a big day tomorrow, going to do the touristy thing. I'm not entirely sure where we'll go and what we'll see. I know I want to see the Reversing Falls for sure. The kids seem more exciting about swimming in the hotel's indoor swimming pool. We have to find a Zellers or some store so Sandra can buy a new bathing suit -- she forgot to pack her's.

That's about it for today. Need sleep. I'll write again tomorrow and will post lots of pics on Flickr when we get home on August 9th, unless I manage to find time before then.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rock Band Drum Kits & Warranties

Rock Band (video game)Image via WikipediaHere's something I found out today, that some of you Rock Band owners may not be aware of.

EA has extended the default 60-day warranty on the Rock Band hardware.

I quick search of the web will bring you many links to complaints about the drum kit failing. An indication of a failing drum kit would be hits on the pads that don't consistently register as hits.

When we first got the drum kit earlier in the year, I dismissed many of my missed notes as bad timing on my part. I had heard of faulty drum kits, but since we were beyond the 60-day warranty, I just accepted it. I could still get a fairly good percentage on songs, so it didn't take away much from the enjoyment I got from the game.

It seems that the kit in question is one with "EL" in the serial number underneath the pads. They later fixed the problem with a second series that has "QM" in the serial number. You can find information about the serial numbers at various sites on the web, but this one has pictures to help you determine which one you have.

A friend at work, who recently got Rock Band, said he was pretty sure his kit was faulty and not registering all hits on the red (snare) pad. Since he was still within the 60-day warranty, he looked into getting it replaced.

He discovered that EA states on their support web site that they will continue to make "exceptions" to the 60-day warranty until October 1st, 2008. By "exceptions", I mean no questions asked. No proof of purchase required. No asking for the date of purchase. Nothing. Just fill out the RMA request, provide a credit card number for a $125 "hold charge", and they send you replacement pads along with a pre-paid shipping label to send the old kit back to them. Once they receive the old kit within 28 days, the will remove the $125 hold.

This was good news to me.

This evening a ran a few tests of our drum kit. I switched to practice mode and chose The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again". I picked the part in the song where there is no instrument playing required and set it to 50% speed to lengthen the passage. I hit each pad repeatedly, with a steady beat. Sure enough, not all the hits on the red "snare" pad registered. The other pads seemed to work OK.

Is it any surprise, or coincidence, that both my friend's drum kit and mine are both the EL series?

I went to http://support.ea.com/rockband, answered a few questions and then filled out the RMA request. Sure enough, no proof of purchase was requested. Unfortunately for us Canadians, the only option is to use a credit card for the $125 hold. U.S. residents have the option of requesting the pre-paid packing to ship the old kit back first, and then receive the replacement.

I would expect that EA will send the QM series as a replacement, or the newer "SL" series which is apparently just as good as the QM. We'll see how it all plays out.

Coincidentally, while I was testing our drum kit this evening, my nephew called me to say that he just bought the drum kit and was having problems. Whenever he hit the red and yellow pad at the same time, the red wouldn't register. I told him to try the same tests that I did, and also check for the serial number.

He called back to tell me that the red pad was definitely a problem, and his serial number has "EL" in it. I told him he could try exchanging it at EB Games, or he could try an RMA through EA.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Just winging it

We're about three days away from our trip down to the Maritimes, and it feels like we're still not ready for it.

I suspect it'll be a mad packing rush at the last minute, which means not getting much sleep before our departure time of 3:00am in Thursday.

Despite the impending madness, I'm really looking forward to it, and I think my family is as well. This will be the longest drive we've ever done. The last long drive was from Ottawa to Niagara Falls, which went surprisingly well and didn't really feel like a long drive.

This time around we're looking at 12-13 hours, at least, to Saint John, New Brunswick. We'll spend two nights there before grabbing the ferry across to Digby, Nova Scotia, on our way to Mount Uniacke where we'll be staying with some friends.

We have a short list of places and things to see in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but haven't really decided when we'll go see them all. We're pretty much just winging it.

There's a possibility that we may cut our stay in Nova Scotia short a day early and drive across to PEI for a night of camping, so we can visit Charlottetown.

We're so disorganized. :)

The cool thing is that I'll have internet access at the hotel we stay at in New Brunswick, as well as my friend's place, and the hotel on the way home. I can write a daily update about our trip. I'm sure it'll be worth reading. ;)

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii

How could anyone in their right mind name their child "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii"? It sounds like a cheap porno.

Thankfully a judge put a stop to it, but still, this girl had to endure 9 years of hiding her name from here friends because she was so embarrassed.

Girl's name, Talula Does The Hula, won't do, New Zealand judge rules

The article goes on to say,
"Registration officials blocked some names, including Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit, he said. But others were allowed, including Number 16 Bus Shelter "and tragically, Violence," he said.
What the hell is wrong with some people? Is it not bad enough that kids often make up rhymes with normal names to pick on other kids? Do you have to do the work for them?
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing complaint letters

We stopped at LensCrafters on the way home to pick up my reading glasses. The optician had trouble finding my tray until she realized that I had brought my old frames for the new lenses. I like 'em, and I can now read without having to hold a book or newspaper about 2ft away from my face.

I'll hold off on sending the letter that I started writing. I'll just wait for the feedback/comment letter they usually send, and I'll fill it out.

Speaking of comments and feedback. I finally got around to filling out the one that Ford sent us about our recent service visit. I also included a 4-page letter (with 4 pages of photos!) explaining why most of the ratings I gave were either fair or poor, rather than good or excellent.

I'll be interesting to see if they follow up on it, even if it's just to thank us for the feedback. If you're confused, check my blog archives from 05/25 up to today and catch up. :)

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LensCrafters: Quick follow-up

Minutes after posting that last entry, my phone rang. It was LensCrafters. I was shocked.

She said that my tray had been located and that my glasses would be ready today. I can pick them up before 7:00pm tonight.

I'll drop by there around 6:00pm on my way home from work.

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When Next Week isn't Next Week

I called LensCrafters this afternoon to find out if my glasses were ready. After many rings, someone answered the phone. I told them why I was calling. The woman asked me for my name and tray number. I told her my last name and tray number. I was then asked if someone had called me yet. I said no. She then said that someone would have to call me back and again asked for my name and my phone number. I repeated my info and also gave her my work number. She then confirmed my tray number, again.

She said someone would call me today.

Why, oh why, did I trust that "next week" meant next week. I could kick myself for trusting them a second time after going through the same shit a year and a half ago.

I am so confident that "today" won't be today, that I've already started writing a complaint letter to their head office.

I hope I'm wrong, but I am fully expecting to be disappointed. Again.

Regardless of the outcome, we won't be taking our business to LensCrafters EVER again and I would strongly recommend to anyone willing to listen that they too take their business elsewhere.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rogers Television Sucks

I woke up early this morning to watch the live broadcast of the Landsdowne Park South Side stands demolition. It was supposed to be broadcast from the City of Ottawa web site starting at 7:50am, with the actual implosion at 8:00am.

I was sure there'd be plenty of replay broadcasts available later in the day, but it's not the same as actually seeing something like this LIVE.

I got up at 7:30am and loaded up the web site at 7:45. The Rogers Television logo stared back at me from the web page. That should have been my first indication that this was going to go very well.

On cue, the live broadcast began at 7:50am. As 8:00am approached, the streaming broadcast began to stutter.

"Great. Rogers can't handle the demand", I said to myself.

A few minutes after 8:00am, according to my PC time, the warning horn sounded.

More streaming stutter.

My wife and I joked that we're going to miss the implosion. We'll see one frame of the stands still intact, and on the next it'll be gone.

That's pretty much what we saw.

The broadcast stream continued to get worse. Pausing for 10-15 seconds at a time.

Seconds before you could hear the countdown, the tiny screen went all blue. WTF?

You could still hear the occasional bit of audio.

Then the countdown started. Or parts of it. Followed by broken sounds of the explosive charges going off.

Then a picture. A paused picture of the left side of the stands beginning to fall.

Then applause as the demolition crew cheered.

I sat staring at the one image.

All week, the newspapers were warning of road closures and advising people to watch the broadcast stream. That there was no way they could get anywhere near the site to see it live, and then Rogers totally screws up the broadcast stream.

I'm sure it was all due to their inability to handle the demand, but what the hell did they expect?

Way to go Rogers. Fuckin' morons.

If you're interested in seeing what most of Ottawa probably missed, they're replaying the event here: Implosion of the lower south-side stands at Lansdowne Park

Am I the only one who thought the entire stands was going to be demolished? It's still kinda cool to see.



This is a spectators video of the implosion. I guess you could get somewhat near enough to see it in person. Judging from a few comments you can hear on the video, I wasn't the only one who thought the entire thing was coming down.
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Hockey Scores?

With 1200 entries received for CBC's "Hockey Night In Canada Theme" contest, this entry -- "Hockey Scores!" -- is the most viewed and most voted entry:



Clearly, HNIC fans are still upset about CBC dropping the ball on the old theme, losing it to TSN.

According to this article, having the most votes does not guarantee a win for the entry.
The "ratings," "recommendations" and "most viewed" portions of the contest website are just some of the factors judges will consider when selecting the contest semi-finalists, who will be presented to the country and judged by a celebrity panel on a CBC network television special on Oct. 4.
It sure would have been funny though. :)
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Maybe I need more than new glasses?

Like perhaps a kick in the ass?

I went to the optometrist on Saturday for an eye examination. My former reading glasses weren't doing their job. I can read fine if the text is about 2ft away, but for anything closer I have to strain.

I tend to wear my old reading glasses all the time -- even when driving. They're comfortable and I can see well doing pretty much anything, except when it comes to reading a book, magazine, or newspaper.

As it turned out, my former "distance/driving" glasses are now too strong and my former reading glasses have become general purpose glasses. So, realistically I need new driving glasses and new reading glasses. He said at the very least, get new reading glasses as I can get away with using my now-general-purpose glasses for everything else.

So, that's what I did.

As usual, I went to LensCrafters since they're located right next door to the optometrist's office.

I'm using the frames from my old driving glasses, so all I need is new lenses.

Can you believe that the machine they use to make the lenses was broken down, AGAIN? They were waiting on a part that was supposed to arrive this past Monday. That's what happened the last time and I waited over a week. Here's my last experience there. She told me that they would be ready "some time next week", meaning THIS week. I asked her if that's what she meant, and she said it was.

To be fair, she did tell me that I could go to one of the other locations if I needed them sooner. However, since I'm not in as much of a rush (or inconvenience) as the last time, I told her that was fine.

5 days and counting. I'm giving them until Saturday before I call. When Sunday rolls around, it's no longer "next week".
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Coloured bubbles

My wife had a doctor appointment yesterday. While we sat in the waiting room, we flipped through some of the old Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines that they had in the waiting room. We had a good laugh at some of the "new" products of 1995 and how they've changed in the last 13 years.

After a long wait, my wife's name was called, leaving me alone to continue reading these wonder magazines. :) I found a more recent Popular Science magazine from 1995 and started flipping through it. It wasn't long before something caught my eye.

Coloured bubbles.

I've never seen a coloured bubble before. But how is this worthy of Popular Science? Surely it can't be that difficult to create? Apparently, it is.

I started reading the article. It took Tim Kehoe 11 years to perfect, and that was before this article was written in 2005. The article went on to say that in the toy industry, where the average shelf life of a toy is 18 months, bubbles are "the juggernaut". In 1995, 200 million bottles of bubbles were being sold every year. With a coloured bubbles, they could enter entirely new markets.

So, it would appear that coloured bubbles could be HUGE.
"Picture bubbles in NFL team colors, or bubbles that match charity ribbons. The potential market would grow to include every man, woman and child."
Unfortunately my wife was ready to leave before I was able to finish reading the article. :(

I did a quick search this afternoon and found the web site for the company and the product. The product is called Zubbles. I was rather shocked to see that they're still not available for sale. 13 years ago they were perfected and yet you still can't buy them? I guess that's why I've never seen them.

I also found the article online: The 11-Year Quest to Create Disappearing Colored Bubbles

It's worth reading. I'm sure you non-chemistry types are also curious about why colouring a bubble isn't as easy as it sounds. :)
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Man sues Tennessee church for $2.5 million over spiritual fall

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A man in Knoxville, Tenn., says he was so consumed by the spirit of God that he fell and hit his head while worshipping.

Man sues Tennessee church for $2.5 million over spiritual fall
For the sake of the human race, I hope at least one (or both!) of the following happens:
  • The judge laughs this man's ass out of court.
  • The man get a bigger dose of "the spirit of God" so that he doesn't get back up the next time he falls.
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