Sunday, August 17, 2008

Yay, toast!

two slices of toasted white breadThis morning, as I was waiting for the 4-slice toaster to do what it's supposed to do, a question occurred to me.

Why do toasters have a "9" temperature setting?

Is there anything that we can stick in the toaster that would require such a high temperature setting without setting off every smoke alarm in the neighbourhood?

We've gone through many toasters over the years, and I've never seen the need for any temperature beyond the mid-point. A 4, 5 or maybe even a 6.

So what exactly are the other high temperatures for? Perhaps thawing frozen bread before toasting? Ok, that might require a 7. On the other hand, has anyone ever thawed frozen bread and have it toasted to perfection in one go? Or does it inevitably pop and require that you push the toaster plunger back down for another few minutes?

Maybe they're in cahoots with the bakers of the world.

I wonder if the toaster manufacturers have an answer to this question.
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Days of our children as the young and restless world turns

Back in the early 80's, during my first few years of "job hunting" after finishing high school, I used to sit with my mother and watch "the soaps" in the afternoon. It worked out really well. If she happened to be out shopping, I could fill her in on what she missed so she didn't fall behind with the story lines. Days of our Lives was the main one, but we also watched All My Children.

I have a TV card in my PC, that I don't use very often. I decided to open up the TV application this morning and maybe catch a little of the Olympics as I browsed Facebook.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire was on and it caught my attention, so I left it on. Once it was done, a soap opera came on.

Now, for some reason, I didn't change the channel and started to watch little bits of it, as I continued Facebooking.

I recognized a few faces. Pudgier... older... but I have no idea what the name of this show is.

The whole appearance of the camera work is different than I remember. The outside shots are real outside shots, not done on some phoney set. But there's something else about it that looks weird. Almost like it's being shot with a hand-held camera. It has a bit of shakiness to it.

And the acting. What's up with that? Soap opera acting was never the best. Very dramatic and forced. But this seems even more so.

Have they always been this bad?

I still have no clue what they're all arguing about... or what the story line is... or who these people are... or what the show is about.

Must... change... channel...

[Edit: it seems to be Guiding Light]

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rock Band drum kit warranty replacement

A follow up to my past posting about warranty replacements for Rock Band drum kits...

Me warranty replacement kit arrived while we were on vacation. Fortunately for me, my sister inlaw happened to be outside when it arrived so she signed for it.

It seems that EA isn't sending the newer models out as replacements afterall. I, and two friends, all received another "EL" series kit to replace our defective kits.

I tested it out over the last couple of days and it does work better than the one I'm sending back, so I still happy with it. But it would have been nice to get one of the newer series to avoid any future failures.
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Ford follows up on our complaint letter

While were on our vacation, Ford's Customer Service called us regarding the letter I had written and included with their feedback form.

I called them back today and spoke with one of their reps. He then read off our complaint in point form to ensure that they captured the details of our letter.

This took about 5 minutes to go through, and it sounds like the managed to get all the key points. He then said it would be submitted as negative feedback to the dealership and the owner.

Anyway, he apologized on behalf of Ford for our bad experience and said they hope it doesn't tarnish our view of Ford Motors... yada yada.

It was nice that they called, but I don't know why they don't just send a copy of the letter to the dealership. I guess sending paper via mail is too old school in this high tech age.

It'll be interesting to see if the dealership follows up now. Or maybe we'll be "flagged" as troublemakers? ;-)

If anyone is interested in reading the letter that I wrote, here it is. It's rather long. :)

To whom it may concern;

Please find the enclosed and completed feedback form regarding our recent service with Jim Keay, or more specifically, FixAuto, who repaired the defective paint job on the rear bumper of our 2008 Ford Escape XLT.

In late May, nine months after the purchase of our 2008 Ford Escape, I noticed a few paint chips on the rear passenger side bumper, along with a small bubble in the paint. See enclosed photo #1.

Around the last week of May, my wife called the Jim Keay Ford Lincoln dealership and explained the situation. She was advised that they would have to see the damage before they could assess whether it was covered under the warranty. In the first week of June, my wife drove our truck to FixAuto, located at the dealership, and also gave them a printed photo that I had taken – the same as the enclosed.

In the time that we waited to hear back from the FixAuto, we also discovered a few chips on the inside of the driver’s side rear bumper. My wife called them up so they could make a note that this would need repaired as well. Unfortunately, I do not have a photo of that particular defect.

On or around June 13th, we were called by Jamie at FixAuto and asked to bring the truck in for repair, covered under the warranty, on June 17th. My wife was advised that the time estimate for the repair would be three days. As this is our only vehicle, my wife inquired about “a loaner” vehicle. She was told that the body shop does not provide loaner vehicles and that she would have to speak with the dealership manager about one. She did, and was advised that one would be provided for $20 per day. Although we were already aware, based on past experience, that loaners are not free, we are still not pleased with having to pay for one for warranty repairs on our vehicle. However, that is not the main purpose of this letter.

My wife dropped our truck off at FixAuto on the morning of June 17th, 2008, and received a 2008 Ford Focus as a loaner from Jim Keay. We were quite pleased with the vehicle. It should be noted, however, that the interior could have used a good vacuuming and we found a pair of men’s work pants in the back seat.

Our truck was at the body shop for three days while we waited for the repair work to be completed. My wife called on the third day, June 19th, and was advised that the work was completed, but our truck was currently being washed and vacuumed so we could pick it up in an hour or two. That was unexpected and we were pleasantly surprised.

I drove the loaner vehicle to the dealership that afternoon, parked it near FixAuto and entered the customer entrance. The office was empty, so I sat there for five to ten minutes waiting for someone to assist me. As I was waiting, I noticed that the keys sitting on the counter, in plain view, were my wife’s keys for our truck along with the repair paperwork. Anyone could have walked into that office and taken them. Thinking that I could be waiting there for longer, I exited the office and walked into the garage bay to ask one of the body shop people if there was someone who could assist me. I then walked back to the office where I was greeted by Jamie, the gentleman with whom my wife had dealt with regarding the repair. He picked up the key and paperwork off the counter and asked me to follow him to the cashier inside the dealership to settle the bill for the loaner. The bill came to ~$67.

We then walked back to the body shop office where Jamie handed me my copy of the paper work, along with the key to the truck. Before entering my truck, I made a quick visual inspection of the repair work and it appeared satisfactory.

After arriving home 20 minutes later, I made a closer visual inspection and noticed that there was a small paint bubble on the driver’s side, rear bumper, that was not there prior to the repair. The following day, my wife called Jamie at FixAuto to advise him about our discovery. He explained to my wife that they did not inspect the entire bumper. They only repair what has been reported. She asked about getting this new defect repaired. Jamie didn’t seem too pleased and explained to my wife that they can’t keep billing Ford for repairs on the same parts and would have to get approval.

On June 26th, I received a phone call from Jamie asking me to bring our truck to the body shop so that they could photograph the defect and submit to Ford for approval. Within the hour, I drove the truck to the body shop, Jamie took a few photographs and told me that they would be in touch once they heard back from Ford. See enclosed photo #2.

On Monday, June 30th, Jamie called my wife to ask us to bring our truck in on the morning of July 2nd. At the same time, my wife inquired about a free loaner, as we did not feel that it was fair that we should have to pay for one a second time for the same repair work. Jamie advised my wife that he could not make this decision, and suggested that she call the dealership Manager. My wife called the dealership Manager, but had to leave a message for him to call back. We never did receive a return call.

In the meantime, we discovered a few more paint bubbles (photo #3) as well as what we can only describe as a build-up of paint between the bumper and the truck’s body (photo #4). Clearly, the repair job was not done properly.

On the morning of July 2nd, my wife dropped our truck off at the body shop at 8:00am. She told Jamie about the additional defects that we discovered. He dismissed the “build-up” as “the way the bumper was designed”. It is rather strange that we did not discover this “design” prior to the first repair. My wife also mentioned to me later that Jamie’s demeanor was not as polite and friendly as during her first visit. She felt that he thought she was being too picky or a nuisance.

Once again, we received a 2008 Ford Focus as the loaner vehicle. This is where the customer service begins a fast decline.

Not only was the interior of this vehicle more dirty than the first one, the passenger side of the windshield had a large crack. Photos of the filthy interior (#5 & #6) and windshield crack (#7) are also enclosed.

Safety and legalities aside, you wouldn’t be able to sell a vehicle in that condition, yet we were expected to pay for its use? We found it ironic that the rental form is stamped with large, red, words stating that smoking in the vehicle is forbidden, and that there will be a cleaning charge as a result. Is that the only time a loaner vehicle is cleaned?

The following day, Jamie at FixAuto called us to advise us that our truck repair was completed. My wife asked if the repair had been inspected so we would not have to return again for any further repairs. She was assured that it had been inspected.

As we would not be able to pick up the truck before FixAuto closed at 5:00pm, we were advised that the paperwork and our key would be left with the cashier inside the dealership. Later that evening, my wife and I dropped off the loaner car at the dealership, paid the ~$45 fee for the loaner, and received the key for our truck. Again, we made a quick visual inspection before leaving for home.

Later that evening, while there was still daylight available, my wife and I inspected the bumper again. The small areas that were repaired looked great! However, larger areas of the corner of the bumper – on both the driver and passenger side – did not look so great. They were dull, and slightly rough to the touch. (Photos #8, #9, & #10) If you stepped back, you could see clearly that these areas looked as if they had been sanded with a fine grade of sandpaper, removing the smooth, shiny finish that the rest of the vehicle had. They were not like that before the last visit. It was clearly evident that the repair work had NOT been inspected, as my wife was assured earlier in the day. A quick visual inspection perhaps, but one would assume that when you are making the same repair for the second time, there would be a little more attention to detail given to ensure that a third visit would not occur.

The following morning, my wife and I drove our truck to the body shop before work. We asked to speak with Jamie. He was sitting in his office and said he would be with us shortly. We waited outside near our truck and about 10 minutes later, Jamie came to ask us how he could help us. My wife explained that the bumper now felt rough, and didn’t have the same shine as the rest of the vehicle – as if it had been sanded.

Jamie bent down and had a look at one of the corners. He then stood up and said something to the effect of “I don’t know... we could try to buff it out, or it would have to be repainted.” My wife said that this was his speciality, so they should do whatever he felt was necessary to return it to its proper condition. Jamie said that they would try to buff it out first, since it was the “quickest and cheapest”. My wife asked if they could do it immediately, Jamie said he would have to check and left us. He returned about 5 minutes later, asked us for our keys and drove our truck inside the bay.

Approximately 30 minutes later, our truck was backed out of the bay. My wife and I walked over and inspected the rear bumper. It was a 100% improvement. It was smooth, and shiny, like the rest of the bumper. There were no paint bubbles or other visible defects. We told Jamie that it looked good, he apologized for the problem, and we were on our way.

After three repair visits over the course of a month, over $100 for dirty and potentially unsafe loaner vehicles, and time off work for what we consider a simple repair, we are now satisfied with how our bumper looks. A simple, yet thorough, inspection of the completed work the first time could have prevented this unpleasant experience.

We have been customers of Jim Keay since around 1997 when we leased our first vehicle. We returned to Jim Keay for additional leases in the later years, as well as the purchase of our 2008 Escape last year. It’s certainly not the nearest dealership to our home, but we believe that good customer service earns customer loyalty, and up until recently we have always received good customer service. It’s a shame that this one bad experience paints a pretty bleak picture of what we can expect in the future. Perhaps it’s time to start shopping around.
That's it, that's all.
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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Maritime Trip - The Final Chapter

We woke up in Edmundston this morning at 6:00am, loaded the truck, went for a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant ($3.99 breakfast special!) and hit the road by around 7:30am.

We stopped a few times for bathroom breaks, and once for lunch in Drummondville. We were home a few minutes after 4:00pm, 3880kms later. We would have been a little earlier but we decided to make a quick stop at the Beer Store not far from home. :)

We found it rather amusing that we saw more Ontario licence plates in Peggy's Cove than we did on the Ontario side after crossing from Quebec into Ontario.

There an obvious difference between Ontario and Quebec drivers and Nova Scotian drivers. Drivers in Nova Scotia are way more patient than those from Ontario and Quebec. It's like night and day. In Ontario and Quebec, they tail gate you in the fast lane until you change lanes. I never saw this happen in Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick for that matter. Drivers in the Maritimes will also stop and let you enter a lane on any road. That's a rare occurence in Quebec and Ontario.

There were a few things that we never got to do, like visit PEI and whale watching. I'm sure we'll be going back soon.

All in all, a very fun, and successful vacation! It was a little tiring, but I'm sure we'll recover in no time.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Maritime Trip - Day 9, Hopewell Rocks (and more from Day 8!)

First an addition to Day 8's fun.

The weather did remain nice, so Colin and Sherri let Kaitlyn and Kyle ride their horses.

But first, they had to brush them and clean their hooves (the horses, of course!) :) The kids seemed to enjoy helping to care for the horses. Kaitlyn took to it like a pro, but I think Kyle was a little nervous being around and so close to such a large animal. I think he did pretty well though. Colin and Sherri showed them what to do, and how to do it, and they did it.

Once the horses were saddled up, Colin and Sherri rode them first to make sure they would behave, which didn't take very long. After some instruction on how to ride and how to dismount (especially in an emergency) they lead the horses for a short walk with the kids on them and then let them take over on their own. I was so proud of them. They listened well and did as they were instructed. The smiles on their faces said it all. I think this had to be the highlight of their the whole vacation, and I can't thank Colin and Sherri enough for taking the time and having the patience to teach them how to ride. Thanks guys! :)

On to today's fun.

We left Mount Uniacke this morning; I think it was around 8:00am and began our long journey to Edmundston, NB, but with a side trip to Hopewell Rocks.

We arrived at Hopewell Rocks shortly before noon, which was our plan because low tide was at 12:09pm. After paying the $20 Family admittance fee, we followed the path to the various lookout points, on our way to the many stairs leading down to the beach. The view was incredible! This is definitely something you have to see.

After what seemed like forever, following the trail, we arrived at the stairs leading down. And there were many of them. There was a warning sign at the top of the stairs advising of what NOT to do, and to make sure that you made it back to the stairs before the tide came in, which was still hours away. The funny part (or maybe not so funny if it happens to you!) of the warning said that if you don't make it back, not to panic, but to find a comfortable rock above seaweed level, sit down, and wait 2-3 hours for the tide to retract. WTF? That sure doesn't sound like fun, but if you're dumb enough to wait until the last minute to get your ass back to the stairs, you deserve to wait it out for a few hours. I would imagine that something like that rarely happens, because the have people walking and supervising the beach.

The walk along the beach was amazing. You can't really put it into words, it something that you have to see for yourself, at least once in your life. (Or before these massive structures erode and tumble... which I assume is bound to happen sometime in the future)

Many of the natural "bridges" are roped off for safety, in case anything falls. There is, however, one that you can walk under. That was pretty cool.

The ocean floor is pretty muddy in some places. Mud is very fine and smooth. It seems many people don't pay attention to the warnings and walked all the way down near the water where it was the muddiest, so they could walk around in it. Our kids stayed away, and chose to walk barefoot in some of the smaller muddy pools closer to shore. After about an hour walking around, we made our way back to the stairs and up, then rinsed off the kids' feet at the taps they had for that purposes, then walked back to the main entrance to grab a quick bite to eat at the restaurant. I think we were back on the road for Edmundston around 2:00-2:30ish.

The drive was long and tiring, but after a couple of short stops for coffee, snacks and gas, we arrived safe and sound in Edmundston at 7:45pm (again with my outdated GPS indicating we were off-road for 100kms of the trip after passing Fredericton. Piece of crap. ZERO engine troubles once again, thankfully.

After checking in to the hotel, we drove to Greco's Pizza, which the hotel clerk said was about 2 miles down the road. Downtown Edmundston is pretty nice. Small with an old-town styled, and diagonal parking spaces along the main road in town. Everyone here seems to be French too. All the signs are mostly French as well.

Our hotel is pretty cool. I guess it's more of a "motel". Our room has an outside access door, and our truck is parked right outside that door. Loading up the truck in the morning is going to be easy. Especially since we didn't need to take everything out of it.

After pizza, Sandra took the kids to the pool for a quick swim, while I sat here and posted pictures on Facebook. They weren't gone very long. She said the pool was busy, no lifeguard, and kids running around seemingly unsupervised and that stressed her out.

Everyone is in bed at the moment as I type this out. I think I'll step outside for a quick smoke and then hit the sack. We plan to leave early tomorrow, after a 7:00am breakfast, for the 8½ hour drive home.
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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Maritime Trip, Day 8 - Fisherman's Cove & Barnacle Bill and Friends

We (except Kyle) woke up really early this morning. Sandra heard a dripping sound in the room we are staying in at Colin and Sherri's place. It was coming from the ceiling and turned out to be the sink in the bathroom above. After Handyman Colin repaired the plumbing, we all left for Fisherman's Cove.

On the way down, we passed "John's Lunch" diner. Colin noticed it first and said he heard they had the best seafood. Coincidentally, I had also been told before we left that I had to stop there for lunch. So, that's what we did!

The verdict? We all agreed that it was the best fish and chips! We ordered the 2 piece fish and chips. It's a good thing we didn't get the 3 piece because the portions were quite large.

After lunch, we headed to Fisherman's Cove and walked around. It's very touristy and not what you might think of as a functional fishing village. Regardless, it was a good visit and we came home with 5 fresh lobsters to cook for tonight's supper. Mine has a few barnacles on it, so I named it "Barnacle Bill" (what an imagination I have)

The truck behaved perfect for the drive too, so we're feeling a little more comfortable about the trip to Hopewell Rocks and then Edmundston for our 1 night stay before hitting the road for the last leg home.

Our kids are hoping that the rain holds off this afternoon so they can get a ride on Colin's horses. We're also hoping for no rain so we can boil the lobster over Colin's "redneck" firepit. :)
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