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, 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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