February 4, 2007

Laundry Etiquette

Ian complained about the lack of rants on this blog lately. Fine. This one's for you, Ian.

My apartment has over 30 units and only three washers and dryers. That means some days there's some contention over the laundry room. Today is one of those days.

Now I always practice good laundry etiquette: I clean out the lint screen after every load (not to mention before), I'm always mindful not to leave clothes for too long in the washer or dryer after the cycle is done, and if someone has a pile of wet clothes on top of a dryer, I give them a laundry cycle's worth of time to claim the dryer before I grab it. No one taught me to do these things, I just see them as common courtesy in shared living quarters.

Today I went to collect my laundry, only to find someone had taken my still wet clothes out of the dryer, and mixed them with someone else's clothes in someone else's laundry basket.

At least after picking out my damp socks and t-shirts from some stranger's pile of damp underwear, there was a free dryer I could put my clothes in. That's right, had this inconsiderate clod waited five minutes, another dryer (full of dry clothes) would have become available. Then I wouldn't be in trouble from hiding behind the laundry room door with a family size bottle of meadow fresh scented Tide, waiting to deliver a blow to their inconsiderate head.

17:49 | Rant | Comments (4)

November 13, 2005

I Only Watch The Weather Channel

Ever since I moved to my current apartment, I have been without a television. I’m not writing about this to tell you all about some sort of life decision I’ve made, or how TV is the downfall of society, I just personally don’t feel I need one in my life right now. The reason I bring it up, is because in the Seattle neighbourhood of Capitol Hill, I can’t bring it up without bizarre one-upmanship from people who claim not to watch TV. A typical conversation goes like this:

A: "Did you see that commercial with the monkey wearing the hat?"
Me: "No."
A: "Seriously? I mean it’s on all the time."
Me: "Actually, I don’t have a TV."
A: "Oh... well, I only watch mine on weekends."
Me: "Um, ok."
B: "I have a TV but I don’t have cable."
Me: "So what about this monkey commercial?"
C: "The only reason I have cable is so I can watch The Daily Show. The rest of the time I keep my TV unplugged."
Me: "Uh... That’s great."

For some reason, people need to try to justify to me their possession of a television set. It’s like they need to convince me that they’re not couch potatoes. The truth is, I don’t give a shit.

There are some TV shows I do enjoy, and when I want to talk to my Capitol Hill friends about them, the conversation is reminiscent of the conversation from Pulp Fiction between Jules and Vincent about pilot episodes, but with none of the chemistry:

Me: "That reminds me of a great Family Guy joke. Do you know the show?"
D: "I don’t watch TV."
Me: "Fine... but are you aware of this humorous animated television program?"
D: "My life is too busy to sit in front of a TV all night."
Me: "You’re an asshole and I hate you."

So to avoid any further awkward conversations, keep this in mind: I may not have a TV, but if there’s an interesting program you want to tell me about (or a commercial involving a monkey), I’d love to hear it, and I promise not to bring up the fact I don’t have a TV. If the subject comes up, promise me you won’t tell me the only reason you have a TV is for your cat.

15:49 | Rant , Seattle | Comments (2)

October 10, 2005

Can You Hear Me Now? Finally!

It's been four weeks, but I finally got my new mobile phone account switched from Cingular to Verizon and got my new phone in the mail.

Ever since I moved into my current apartment, I've been plagued with crappy phone reception (I don't have a land line); dropped and missed calls; and general phone service badness. I had originally signed onto AT&T Wireless before it was swallowed up by Cingular (which I expect to someday swallow up Verizon, making this whole effort moot). Teresa, on the other hand, always seemed to have 5 bars of mobile signal, so clearly my apartment wasn't situated in the Bermuda Triangle of cell towers.

I had been growing bored with my phone too (the Motorola MPx200). Originally it was such a novelty; it runs Windows Mobile OS, it plays MP3s, it syncs with Outlook (I feature I still miss), but it didn't work very well as a phone. Even in places where other Cingular customers had 5 bars, I couldn't receive calls. So to Hell with it, I thought. I'm going to look for a new phone plan.

T and I decided that since the majority of our time on the phone was spent talking to each other, we should get some sort of shared plan. Together we shopped around and finally settled on Verizon. T had been a 4-year customer with no complaints, and the coverage was great.

Week 1

We try to sign on through the website, but were unable to sign on to the plan we wanted. Granted, it was a little complicated: port my Cingular number over, get a share plan, move T's account onto mine, get an international calling plan and make sure I get my Microsoft discount (ASIDE: it's almost criminal how Microsoft employees get all kinds of discount at various stores and service providers while teachers like T get squat). All that, and I only wanted to sign up for a one-year contract. So I left feedback on the website, explaining what I was trying to do and how I couldn't.

The next day T and I went to the Verizon location in downtown Seattle, where we were treated very rudely by the staff. I asked her what the reception was like on a particular handset, and her answer was "Yeah, it's pretty good, I guess" Not exactly the ringing endorsement I was looking for. When pressed with questions about contracts, she got visibly irritated with us. She was rolling her eyes, running hand through her hair, and even walked away from us at one point!

So T and I tried a different Verizon outlet, where we had an awesome sales rep who answered all our questions, made us feel good, and finally told us he couldn't give the discount, and that we had to call the 1-800 number. Fine.

I called customer service and spoke to a very friendly and enthusiastic sales rep. He assured me that I could have everything I wanted, and only required I fax certain pieces of ID. I did so, and then began the playing waiting game, expecting my phone to be shipped to me in 2 business days.

Week 2

Two days had passed and no word from Verizon. So on the weekend I called to check the status and maybe get a tracking number. Turns out the phone never left the warehouse. Since it was the weekend, nothing could be done, but it would definitely ship on Monday.

Week 3

Monday came and went, so I called back. After being put on hold for half an hour trying to get in touch with someone who knew what was going on, I finally spoke to someone in the warehouse. He said the phone was being shipped out that very morning (what a coincidence!) and that I would receive my phone in 2 business days. He was right. There was a package waiting for me when I got home, so I excitedly opened it, admiring my new Motorola E815.

Inside the package were instructions on how to get my account set up. For starters, I needed to activate my account by calling an automated service. I had to enter numeric information like social security number, ZIP code, date of birth, etc. I got all the way to the last question, which asked me to agree to a two year contract. What the Hell, I only signed up for one year! I entered 2 for "No" and was supposed to be transferred to a live representative, but their offices were closed.

So I called up customer service to get this straightened out. The guy I talked to said his computer told him that I was signed up for one year. So we went ahead and activated my handset. Then he tried to do a conference call with us and the automated service. I got through half the questions when my phone died. What the Hell? Then it dawned on me that I was using my Cingular phone to make this switch. I tried my new headset, but since my service was not yet activated, I could only call the automated system! I was now locked out with no phone!

I borrowed T's phone and called customer service back. This time I got a clueless woman who said that based on the price I paid for my phone, I must have the two-year contract, and to call the automated activation service. No amount of pleading would get her to look up my account on her computer. Nope, the price of the handset was all she needed to know. Exasperated, I hung up. And that's when T got angry.

She called customer service, chewed this poor rep out (basically summarizing this increasingly rambling blog entry) and demanded to speak to a supervisor. After waiting on hold for 15 minutes, T was talking to her. Then the supervisor wanted to speak to me. I explained the situation, as she listened sympathetically. When I was done, I heard her type a couple things into her computer, then she asked me to try to make a call on my new handset. Lo and behold, it worked! And for our troubles? A $15 credit on our next bill.

Week 4

I've been using my new phone for about a week now and am pretty happy. No dropped calls, it's slightly smaller than my old phone, and has a camera. I figured I had put this whole mess behind me, when I got an email this morning from the Verizon website support, telling me they had finally opened a ticket for the issue I had emailed them four freakin' weeks ago! I replied that I thought that kind of turnaround was shitty and demanded it be escalated. But honestly, I'd be just as happy if I never heard from them again.

22:30 | Misc Rambling , Rant | Comments (2)

August 30, 2005

$500 On Red

You know those trite, pithy sayings people like spout out and make themselves feel cleaver? I've been noticing that everyone seems to know of a particular one that drives them insane. For example:

Ryan hates The K.I.S.S. Principle. You know, when you're unintentionally overcomplicating some solution, and someone (who usually doesn't have a better solution) tells you to apply The K.I.S.S. Principle: "Keep It Simple, Stupid". Try as he might to appease them, nodding and expressing his recognition of the principle, people feel the need to explain to Ryan exactly what K.I.S.S. stands for.

Teresa's most hated saying is when something is "the exception that proves the rule.", mainly because it doesn't make sense. To this day she hasn't heard anyone actually use it in any applicable context. Because I love her, I try to use it on a weekly basis.

For me, it's when people decide they know better than Webster, and insist on enlightening us. "Do you know what the definition of insanity is? It's doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." Which is usually followed by "That's the definition of insanity." With an emphasis on definition, as if the person is daring me to look it up and prove him wrong. Forget the about schizophrenics wearing tinfoil hats who try to kill their demon neighbours, clearly the insane are the people not betting on black when the last roll of the roulette wheel came up red.

21:17 | Rant | Comments (1)

June 20, 2005

Retraction and Rant

So it turns out my resident managers did not in fact sign for my package. I had to stay home sick from work today (I'll mercifully spare you the details of my gastro-intestinal hardships), and was able to sign for my delivery. I guess DHL decided to try the managers, and when they weren't home, silently decide to re-deliver on the next weekday. This is all kinds of stupid, since I was home all day Saturday, and had no idea where my package was. I couldn't ask my managers, since they're still MIA.

So what's in the package, you ask? It's my (new) iPod. One day my iPod just stopped working. Instead of the friendly Apple logo when I turned it on, I would get an icon of a folder with an exclamation point. Not the most descriptive error message. I searched online, followed all the troubleshooting tips I could find, then eventually had it sent back to Apple. They replaced it with a brand new iPod (sweet), and since it was still under warrantee, all I paid was shipping.

So to sum up:

18:04 | Rant | Comments (2)

June 19, 2005

Open Letter To My Resident Managers

Dear Apartment Managers,

Thank you for signing for my package that arrived on Friday morning while I was at work. The package is worth several hundred dollars, and I appreciate you holding it, and not leaving it in the lobby. However, I would appreciate in the future that if you sign for a package, then promptly go away for the weekend, to at least call me and try to arrange some time for me to pick up my delivery.

Granted, this was only a piece of personal electronics, not vital by any stretch. But you had no way of knowing what was in that package. For all you knew, it was my much-needed insulin, without which I could have slowly slipped into a diabetic coma as you enjoyed your weekend away from the stresses of on-site apartment management.

Speaking of which, what's the deal with the on-site managers leaving for three days and not letting the tenants know? What if an emergency occurred, like, oh, I don't know, our apartment flooded? It would be nice to have a contact number for such an occasion.

Again, thank you for signing for my delivery. I hope when you get back, well-rested and suntanned, we can arrange for me to pick it up.


11:34 | Rant

June 9, 2005

Doggie Bag

There are two kinds of dog walkers in my neighbourhood. One consists of the people who let their dogs crap on public sidewalks. They don't care who sees them either. I once stared down a middle-aged lady as her pug deposited a steaming curl of processed kibble five feet away from me. The whole time she just stared up at the sky, as if she had no idea what was going on at the end of her leash.

Then there's the other kind of person who goes to all the trouble of bringing a plastic bag while they walk their dog, picking up the doggie crap, tying the bag, and then just leaving it on the sidewalk. It's like a sadistic little loot bag for whoever comes by next.

I don't know which of these people piss me off more.

22:14 | Rant | Comments (1)

May 15, 2005

Apparently Beggars Can Be Choosers

On Saturday, T and I grabbed a quick bite at one of the many Thai restaurants in Capitol Hill on our way downtown to catch The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. We couldn't finish all of our cashew vegetable dish, so we got our leftovers boxed up. Instead of leaving them for the restaurant to throw out, we took them with us in the hopes of giving them to one of the many panhandlers we would undoubtedly see on our way downtown.

Maybe I'm a heartless bastard, but I decided not to give the leftovers to the street kids on Broadway. I've seen these kids out there with their cardboard signs and their piercings every year around this time, which leads me to believe they are not in fact homeless. Maybe you think I'm wrong and misjudged the kids, but they were my leftovers, so screw you.

At the bus stop we were approached by a man who looked obviously homeless. He was trying to sell his two 50-cent bus coupons.

Homeless man: "Would you buy these coupons so I can get something to eat?"
T: "No," turning to me.
Me: "But you can have this food," I offered him our doggie bag.
Homeless man: "No," not taking his eyes off T. "Can I have a dollar?"
T: "No."

Just then the bus pulled up and we started to get on. The homeless man walked away, but not before calling T a bitch. Lovely.

Once we got downtown, we saw four men camping out in the bus terminal. We walked over and offered our food. The men took it graciously.

Man: "Oh! Thank you. Because my girlfriend is pregnant!"
T: "Um, ok. Enjoy."
Man: "Thank you! You see, me and my brother are drinking!" He held out a half-finished 40 oz bottle as proof.

We walked away as the man continued to heap thanks on us. I'm not sure if there's a lesson here, but we left the bus stop feeling better than when we got there. Also, we really enjoyed the movie.

21:26 | Rant

February 10, 2005

Runoff Voting Unamerican!

David Goldstein has an interesting post about why Washington State should adopt an Instant Runoff Voting system, considering all the hoopla surrounding the last gubernatorial election. Personally, I think IRV is a good idea, especially since I'm from a multi-party Canada, and loathe the American two-party system. One of Goldy's commenters however, is opposed to IRV, and points to a Northwest Progressive Institute article which gives the lamest argument against IRV I have ever heard. (NPI is a self-described left-wing institute "against corruption and ignorance". Keep that in mind when you read the article). For some reason, I felt the burning need to refute their arguments.

In today's fast paced society, many voters don't have the time to look at all the candidates in detail and decide which ranking they would give each of them.

Today's fast paced society? You mean the kind that will let a voter research the candidates for free on the Internet, from the comfort of their own homes? Even if voters have no interest in other candidates, they don't have to rank them all, just like people don't have to vote for regional sanitation commissioners, but they're on the ballots anyway.

Instead of the traditional system of where the candidate with the most votes wins...

Clearly this guy has never hear of the Electoral College.

Instead of voting in a contest for your favorite thing (say, ice cream) you have to rank all of them.

Um, no you don't. Just vote for the candidate you want, if you don't care to rank them all. Your ballot will not be thrown away (unless you vote for Tiger Tail. That's got to be the nastiest ice cream out there).

Your "second choice" or even your "third choice" could become the winner of the election.

Um, I think that's the whole point.

Instant-runoff voting actually gives third parties more power. This is because under this system, third parties cannot suffer from negative publicity that they were a "spoiler". But third party voters can still influence the election.

Ain't democracy a bitch.

The Democrat now has over 50% of the votes and has the majority vote. The Republican, who recieved [sic]the most of the votes, is the loser.

Yup, and Gore got more votes than Bush in 2000. What's your point?

Instant runoff voting has few advantages. It's too complex to suddenly force onto voters, and it will discourage part of the electorate from voting. This gives a smaller percentage of the electorate more power in deciding elections.

I would love to see the studies they've done to back up that conclusion.

It also serves the interests of third parties. America has a long tradition of a two-party system, and that is part of what makes this nation so strong.

Ah yes, the old "But we've always done things this way, and I'm too old to change!" argument. This guy needs to brush up on his history if he thinks the US has a long tradition of only two parties.

So if voters don't know much about the candidate, they can still confidently vote for or against that candidate despite the fact that they weren't acquainted with the campaign or the race.

Um... what?

While instant-runoff voting may work well in some cities, and in Australia, where the laws and culture are different, it's not a viable option for our state or our country at this time.

Ipso facto (dusts hands after a job well done). What a closer! 'Cause I'll be damned if we end up like those Aussies, with their vegemite and their dingoes.

Sorry about that rant, but the idea someone was using this to support their position really tells you how weak their position must be.

21:54 | Rant | Comments (5)

December 1, 2004

Customer Service

Due to my aversion to mall shopping and dealing with people in general, I decided to start my Christmas shopping online. I found a gift on Amazon.com, and noticed that I could save over $10 if I chose the "pick up in store" option. Instead of shipping the item to me, I could walk downtown and pick it up at my local Borders book/music store. And here is where the system broke down.

When I got the store, they had my order (already paid for through the website) ready for me behind the counter. When they gave it to me, there was a big markdown sticker on it, for less than I paid through the website. I asked if I was charged the markdown, and was told no. So I asked if I could. The clerk got her manager who went on a diatribe about how Borders.com and Borders are two different organizations, and she couldn't refund me the difference, and she needs to make money too and blah blah blah.

Eventually I decided the return the online purchase, then buy the item at the discount price, despite the manager's bitchiness. The manager knew that the item would be sold before Christmas, so didn't feel the need to accommodate me. I guess during the holiday season, customer service takes a backseat to just getting more customers through the door. Needless to say, I'm in no hurry to shop at Borders any time soon.

07:48 | Rant | Comments (1)

May 3, 2004

For The Dogs

The building I live in has a strict No Pets policy. Why then am I getting junk mail for a pet food store sent to Resident at my address? Don't you think this store could save themselves a bunch of money by not mailing flyers to people contractually prohibited from using their products as intended?

19:45 | Rant

April 13, 2004

Open Letters

To Eddie

I understand you must be a popular guy, and I guess you just got a new phone number. Please tell your friends so they stop calling your old number, which just happens to be my new mobile phone number.

To Sound Transit Bus Drivers

I know we all have bad days. But if you're not going to even going to show up, at least try to make sure the driver after you isn't late. I'm sure the commuters standing at the bus stop for over a half an hour just to be refused entry to an overcrowded bus would agree.

To The Guy I Held The Door For This Morning

Now I realize I'm a foreigner in this country, but where I'm from, when someone holds open the door for you because you're pushing a heavily-laden dolly, silently staring him down isn't the customary response. A "thank you" is much more common, and appreciated.

To The United States Government

Ok, so I think I understand why Easter isn't a holiday here in the US, like it is in Canada. It's because of the whole church-state separation in the first amendment, right? So why then is Christmas Day a federal holiday?

To The White Reggae Band I Heard Play At Gasworks Park

Wow, you guys were pretty good! And I appreciated the free concert, really I did. But just because you claim to have amps that go up to 11, doesn't mean you have to prove it.

To The Clerk At Bed Bath And Beyond

Thanks for giving me my pre-paid $200 order without asking for ID or a receipt. It really instills confidence in your establishment.

To The Hippies Dancing In The Drum Circle


22:53 | Rant | Comments (8)

March 21, 2004

Worst Receptionist Ever

Phone conversation with H&R Block:

Me: "Hi, I'm a Canadian citizen working in the US on a visa. What information do I need to bring you guys for you to do my taxes?"
Receptionist: "Your ID, last year's tax return, and your visa information."
Me: "That's it? Don't I need to bring my W-2?"
Receptionist: "Well of course you do."
Me: "I'm sorry, I've never done taxes in this country before, that's why I asked what I need to bring."
Receptionist: "Well I didn't know that. You should have told me you've never done taxes here."

So I made an appointment for later that evening. When I arrived, I had this exchange with the same receptionist who had taken my call a mere three hours earlier:

Me: "Hi, I have an appointment for 6:00"
Receptionist: "Ok, I have a few questions for you first... (generic tax questions) Are you a US citizen?"
Me: "No, I'm on an H-1B visa."
Receptionist: "Oh... well the only person in the office who can do non-citizen taxes has an appointment now. You'll have to reschedule for next week."

Can I really trust these people to not get me audited?

13:53 | Rant | Comments (3)

March 4, 2004

Doctor Foot-In-Mouth

I went to the optometrist yesterday for a long-overdue checkup. I happened to be wearing my University of Waterloo sweatshirt, and the doctor commented on it, noting that UW has an optometry program.

He then went on to tell me how when he was in Victoria, BC seemed "like being in a different state, not a different country". He then told me jokingly how the US should just invade Canada.

After having me read blurry letters off a chart, he asked what the deal was with "those Quebec people". He dropped the subject when I told him I was born in Québec.

This doctor was of Korean descent. I guess I could have brought up Korea's invasion by Japan, or how the once-united peninsular nation is now bitterly divided, but I didn't.

I figured it was just his way of making conversation.

07:28 | Rant | Comments (3)

February 27, 2004

Can You Tell Me How To Get...

Yesterday, a man who looked obviously from out of town sat next to me on the bus ride home. I say he looked obviously out of town due to his suitcase and Mappoint printout. When we got into Seattle, he turned to me to ask for directions:

Man: "I need to get to 5th and Pine."
Me: "I think the bus stops there, but it's after I get off."
Man: (pointing at his printout) "Yeah, that's what the printout says. I actually need to get to 5th and Stewart."
Me: "Oh, well we're on Stewart now, so you'll want to get off before we turn onto Pine. Get off when the bus turns left onto Westlake."
Man: "Yeah... You know, I think I'm going to stick with the computer's directions and get off on Pine."

If you trust the information you found on the Internet more than someone who lives here, then don't ask for directions.

07:52 | Rant

February 26, 2004

Advice To Those Moving Out Of The Country

When you call your credit card company to change your address, make sure they actually change your address. I got an email from my mom yesterday saying the credit card company has been calling about an overdue payment. Funny, I thought, since I hadn't received a bill in months.

So I called them up, and found out they only changed half my address. They got the street address right, but instead of Seattle, WA, USA, they were sending it to Brampton, ON, Canada. They had been billing the wrong address since November, and only thought to speak up now.

I straightened it all out, but now I'm wondering who else I might owe.

06:54 | Rant

February 13, 2004

Conan The Bigot

I was all ready to write a lovely blog entry about my trip last weekend, when I read this news article.

Now I can appreciate a good jab at being Canadian. I also like to think that I don't get offended easily by ignorant remarks, but this just made my blood boil. I don't think going into another country and insulting, no ridiculing, their largest minority group is funny. I can't imagine any American talk show going on the street of America and making fun of blacks or Hispanics. But for some reason, French Canadian is seen as less of a culture, and more of a way of life chosen purely to annoy the rest of the country.

No, I'm not French Canadian myself, but I was born in Québec, and am proud that I was raised to be bilingual. I am proud of a Canada was built on two very different cultures, and I hope the delicate balance we currently have can be strengthened. I hope younger generations work to help heal the century-old wounds, not reopen them by indulging in tripe like this.

I don't know what to be more offended by, Conan's obviously poor taste, or the Canadian audience who cheered him on.

08:13 | Rant | Comments (11)

January 27, 2004

The Strep

It turns out my weekend sickness was not, in fact, the bird flu, but rather strep throat. It's like swallowing razor blades. As a result, I've missed the last two days of work, and have been taking plenty of antibiotics. Now I know most of you are intelligent people, but I feel the need to point out two very important things about antibiotic use:

  1. If the prescription tells you to keep taking all the antibiotics until the bottle is empty, take them all. I don't care if you feel better, keep eating those horse pills.
  2. This relates back to point #1: don't save antibiotics for the next time you or a loved one is sick.

So, what am I a doctor now or something? What do I care if you abuse your medication? Because antibiotic-resistant germs affect everybody. I don't want ten years from now to get the strep and not have any medicinal recourse because strep has become immune to antibiotics because of misuse.

Ok, I'm done ranting. Back to bed.

14:34 | Rant | Comments (3)

January 21, 2004


I really hate how some companies (credit cards, insurance, etc) use a 10-character field for first names. I'm sick of receiving legal documents addressed to "Christophe Lyon".

And don't give me the argument about that being the maximum length word the computer system can hold. I write software for a living, I know it's not beyond a computer's abilities to save words longer than 10 characters.

08:10 | Rant | Comments (4)

December 6, 2003

Stupid Amazon

Oh sure, as soon as I buy my phone, Amazon.com has to go and give the damn thing away for free.

14:14 | Rant

December 4, 2003

Bus Rider

Sometimes taking public transportation isn't all I make it out to be. Yesterday morning the bus was late picking me up from the downtown bus stop. By the time we got on the highway to Redmond, there was standing room only. And it was one of those long accordion buses too. Luckily for me, I managed to get a seat, and was just cracking open my book, when the bus driver made an announcement:

"Hello? Uh, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is, you'll all make it to your destinations. The bad news is, we need you all to get off at the next stop and switch buses."

The collective groan of frustrated commuters emerged from the bus. One agitated guy was asking if we'd get the same seats on the new bus. He then threatened an imaginary passenger who had taken his seat.

So we got off our large packed bus, and got onto a smaller bus. I wasn't lucky enough to get a seat this time, so I was wedged between two other gentlemen near the front doors. For some reason, I was reminded of a Tokyo subway ride.

By the time we got to work, everyone was a little grumpy. Even though I was three people away from the front door, seated passengers decided it was their god-given right to get off before me, almost pushing me out of the way.

Anyone wanna carpool?

07:15 | Rant | Comments (2)

November 30, 2003

Retroactive Billing

Just because I don't have a car, that doesn't absolve me of the responsibility pleasure of picking up my girlfriend Teresa from the airport. So last week I called up my friendly neighbourhood Flexcar.

Flexcar has a touchtone based (and now a new web-based) interface. After struggling with my phone for a few minutes, I was informed that instead of reserving the car for Nov 30, as I had intended, I had in fact made a reservation for the day I called. At least it got the time right: 6:30pm to 9:00pm. I looked at my watch: 8:50pm.

I called customer service and got it all straightened out, and they promised to fix the bug of being able to reserve cars in the past.

I'm a software tester. The first thing I would try to do would be reserve a car in the past. After that, maybe try to reserve a car for the year 10000.

I guess it would have been ok if the car I had reserved was a Delorian, but it was taken.

10:55 | Rant

November 21, 2003

Bon Nuit

One of Seattle's largest department stores, Bon-Macy's, which until recently was called The Bon Marché (pronounced like the bonn in bonnet), is currently having a sale on evening wear. They decided to stick with the French naming convention and call the sale "Bon Soireé" [sic].

You'd think there'd be at least one person in the whole marketing department who had taken a French course in high school.

07:17 | Rant | Comments (2)

September 23, 2003

Be American... Hire American!

In tech news, the US is cutting back the number of H-1B visas offered by more than two thirds. Now normally the US's immigration policies wouldn't be of note to me, but I happen to be a foreigner on such a visa.

As I looked for more information, I found this website. It's an anti-H-1B visa site, claiming that the visa program "has no serious safeguards to protect American workers from being replaced and is abused to provide cheap foreign labor." Like any other policy, this visa has the potential to be abused.

In November 2001, representative Tom Tancredo gave a speech suggesting that scrapping the H-1B visa would give jobs back to Americans, and improve the US economy. He even went so far as to imply that H-1B holders and other immigrants are terrorists.

Let me tell you something, Mr. Tancredo. If the H-1B visa is abolished, do you really think companies wouldn't outsource more? At least immigrants spend their hard-earned American wages in America and help the local economy.

If you think the only reason high-tech companies are hiring immigrants is because they're cheaper, I think it's worth noting the number of Indian employees at Microsoft in managerial positions. And no, anecdotal evidence doesn't prove your point.

Maybe I'm just an exception to the rule, but I'm not from India, nor am I cheap labour (my salary is on par with my American peers). In fact, it cost Microsoft more money in recruitment costs and legal fees to hire me than to hire an American. What does that tell you?

Oh, and I didn't try to hijack the plane on my way here.

00:35 | Rant | Comments (3)

September 14, 2003

Two Very Important Questions

Ever since moving here, people have been asking the same two questions:

  1. When are you getting a car?
  2. When are you applying for your citizenship?

And I keep giving them the same answer for both: No time soon.

This answer blows most people away. They can't seem to understand that I get along just fine with public transportation, Flexcar, and the occasional rides from friends. Oh, and I don't mind not paying $2.00 a gallon for gasoline, thank you very much.

And citizenship? Well, since I already pay taxes I don't see what it could offer me. Protection from deportation? Well, I guess. The right to vote in American elections (not to mention the ridiculous number of referenda in Washington state)? Thanks but no thanks. I have enough trouble keeping up with Canadian politics.

15:04 | Rant

May 27, 2003

Grocery Story

I went grocery shopping the other day. The cashier who rang up my food insisted on giving me her opinion on my choice of sandwich meat.

Cashier: "Whoa! That looks really rare!"
Me: "Uh, yeah, I guess it is."
Cashier: "Hey well, good for you for being able to eat it. I can't even stand the smell of that stuff!"
Me: "It's roast beef."
Cashier: (throwing the bag of meat at the bag boy) "Ew! Get it away!"

Look lady, your job is to ring up my groceries and take my money. Keep the running commentary to yourself.

00:00 | Rant

May 4, 2003


I'm a tad annoyed. The mobile phone I got seems to have no signal is downtown Seattle. That make no sense at all, and I'm going to have a stern word tomorrow with the salesman who sold it to me. If I have to drive to the suburbs or wait for the one non-cloudy day a week just to make and receive phone calls, I'm moving back to Canada (well, more realistically, get a different provider).

00:00 | Rant

April 28, 2003

Big Bills

My new roommate Andy and I went furniture shopping on the weekend. We got lost for several hours inside Ikea before walking out with a bed and couches.

We stopped for lunch at a burger place. My meal came to just over $7, so I handed the cashier a $20 bill.

Cashier: "Oh, a twenty. Don't you have anything smaller?"
Me: (looking in wallet) "All I have is a twenty and a one."
Cashier: (sounding annoyed) "So you don't have anything smaller?"
Me: "I have a one."
Cashier: (sighs as he takes the twenty)

I don't get it. He's the one with the register full of money, so why is the burden on me, the customer, to provide him with exact change?

00:00 | Rant

April 7, 2003

My Own Catch-22

One of my favorite books of all time is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. A black comedy and biting satire, it's best known for it's ridiculous characters and cyclical bureaucracy. For example:

Why bring up my literary preferences? Well, today I got in contact with Microsoft and the moving company hired to move me out. Here's the situation:

Yossarian had it easy.

So what now? Well, Microsoft is going to contact the movers themselves and straighten this thing out. But that will have to wait until tomorrow because the contact person at the moving company here in Canada couldn't make it into work today due to the season-defying blizzard we're experiencing here.

00:00 | Rant

March 19, 2003

Mr Coffee Nerves

I like drinking coffee. Scratch that. I love coffee. When people ask me what I will miss the most about Canada when I move to the United States, I answer without hesitation "Tim Hortons".

When I tell people that I'm considering buying the Tim Hortons coffee maker, I'm always told to write to Tim Hortons, like those Canadians in Scotland did in that commercial, and the company will send me free stuff.

No. This is what will happen if I write that letter: they'll send me a $1 coupon and tell me to cart my ass two hours north to the border.

My parents make decaf at home, so my sister Alexis and I go out to Tim Hortons for our daily caffeine fix. She gets a Double-Double, and I ask for a single-milk single-sugar. It sounds like a simple order, but you wouldn't believe how many times I've had to suffer through Regulars (cream instead of milk), or what tasted like double, or even triple-sugars. I didn't realize the concept of one serving of sugar was so subjective.

But the other day took the proverbial cake. I went through a Tim Hortons drive-thru and ordered my usual, and was treated to a big ole cup of black coffee. Did they just ignore what I ordered and give me what was easiest to make?

But I can't stay mad at Tim Hortons. In fact, I'm drinking one of their coffees while I'm typing this.

00:00 | Rant

January 31, 2003

That Baby Must Be Cold

For God's sake, it's January 31. I can understand leaving your Christmas lights up until the snow and ice have melted, but people, take down your front-lawn nativity scenes already!

00:00 | Rant

January 19, 2003

Pet Peeve #642

Nothing is more frustrating than checking your email inbox compulsively every half hour, hoping for an interview offer, and instead finding "funny" forwards from people you know you should never have given your email address to in the first place.

00:00 | Rant

December 21, 2002

I Hate The Mall And Everyone In It

Christmas shopping is done as of today. I hate going to the mall on a regular day, forget about the zoo-like atmosphere of the Christmas shopping season. Of all the stores I went to, only one place actually checked my signature against the one on the back of my credit card. Now that's security.

00:00 | Rant

September 9, 2002

Unequal But Opposite Reaction

For every good thing that happens to me, it seems like an even worse thing follows. Take today for example:

Good Thing:
My packages finally arrived, albeit a little banged up.
Bad Thing:
I found out today that the cashier's cheque I brought back from the US and deposited into my Canadian account last Tuesday needs 30 days to clear.

30 days to clear a certified cheque! All the money I have is sitting in my account, but it's on hold until October. So I called up my financial institution and spoke to a very friendly representative who put me in touch with his very annoyed-sounding supervisor. After giving her all my American banking information, she hung up to try to negotiate some deal with her superiors and the American bank.

This story does have a happy ending. She called me back and told me I now have access to one third of my money, and the rest is on its way. The kicker is that I phoned before I got this cheque and asked if there would be any complications depositing it. The representative at the time assured me that there would be no problems and I would soon be on my way to financial nirvana.

The supervisor told me she had no record of that call ever being made. I guess it's another case of some random miscreant answering phones and talking to customers.

00:00 | Rant

September 7, 2002

Back In The Great White North

Well I made it home safe and sound. My flight home was pleasantly uneventful, except that my connecting flight from Chicago to Toronto changed times, airlines and terminals, resulting in me getting some reading done while waiting for my ride home.

I'm almost completely moved into my new apartment in Waterloo. My subletters had cats, and I'm allergic to cats. They did their best to clean up, but there is still enough cat hair hanging around to form an entire new cat. I've already gone though a box of tissues from the sneezing and the nose blowing and the itchy, watery eyes.

The only things I have left to bring over are the packages I shipped from Redmond three weeks ago through DHL. First, the packages were held up in customs, waiting for me to return to Canada to clear them, then DHL tried to deliver them on Thursday. I moved in a mere 3 hours after they tried to deliver (2:00pm), so I phoned them back:

Me: "Hi I missed your delivery, but I'll be home for the rest of the day. When can I expect you to redeliver?"
DHL: "Sorry, the driver is done for the day."
Me: "When can I expect a redelivery?"
DHL: "Delivery hours are from 10am to 5pm."
Me: "Well, it's only 2pm, why can't it be delivered today?"
DHL: "Like I said before sir, the driver is done for the day."
Me: "But it's not 5pm yet! Fine, do you deliver on weekends?"
DHL: "No. But we can deliver it to your place of work, or leave it with a neighbour."
Me: "That's no good because I don't have a car, that's why I paid you guys to deliver it here. I can't leave it with my neighbours because they're at work between 10 and 5." Truth is, I haven't met my neighbours yet and I don't trust strangers with $4500 (USD) worth of software.
Me: "Fine, keep trying to deliver it until you get me."
DHL: "After 3 unsuccessful delivery attempts we ship it back to the sender."
Me: "But I am the sender! What do I pay you people for?!"

The conversation went on like this for a few more minutes before I got fed up, and told them to try delivering it on Monday, then Tuesday. Since I already have one strike against me, I had better miss class to be here for this delivery.

Right now my cheeks are swollen and I'm enjoying the general fuzziness that comes with taking codeine every 4 hours. I think I'll write a Misc Rambling all about my teeth extraction, for no other reason than the fact I can't leave the house and function as a productive member of society in this state.

00:00 | Rant

August 27, 2002

I'm Choking On My Own Rage Here

I'm in a bad mood. My mood has evolved past mere annoyance, past frustration and for the first time, I was actually so angry I made myself sick.

Thursday I sent two packages home through Microsoft's intern shipping program: my bike and bike rack. On Friday I sent three more packages containing personal items, including software (bought at a significant discount from the company store). Well the first shipment arrived no problem, but the second one is currently being held at Canada Customs. Apparently since it's so valuable (over $200), I have to personally sign for it at the shipping company, take the paperwork to Customs, then give the packages to the shipping company to deliver to me. Did they tell me before I shipped that my packages would have to be signed for? No. Is this a major pain in the ass? Yes. Why? Because they're closed the day I fly home (Sept 1), and won't be open again until Sept 3.

That got me wondering how the bike and rack made it home without someone clearing it through Customs. I was told that the bike "slipped though Customs". A bicycle slipped though. Yeah, I can see how they missed the 1mx2m 50lb box! <insert angry emoticon face here>

I found out all this information this morning after playing phone tag with the Toronto representative since last night. Since I needed to make this call today (lest they ship my stuff back to Washington), I missed the bus going to the company meeting (since the company has over 50,000 employees, the annual meeting is held in Seattle's baseball stadium). So I'm here at work alone, occasionally running to the men's room to be sick.

00:00 | Rant

August 26, 2002

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way In To Work Today...

When I first got hired on as an intern at Microsoft, I was given a choice: subsidized car rental or a free bicycle with one week of free car rental. As I looked down at my soft, doughy body, I decided to opt for the bike, thinking I would ride it to and from work and somehow get into shape as a result.

I'll wait until you stop laughing before I continue.

Well, it turns out I was placed 5.5 km (3.3 miles) from my office, and it's uphill the whole way. Those of you who know me know I'm not the kind of guy to get up early just so I can bike 20 minutes uphill. So I decided to ask my roommate for a ride every morning, since his building is next door to mine.

I bought a bike rack so I wouldn't have to rely on my roommate (let's call him Sam) for a ride home as well. For the month of May I strapped my bike to the back of his car and rode home on my own. (I also bought a speedometer to see how fast the downhill ride would take me. I hit a top speed of 55 km/h (34 mph)!)

Once June reared its ugly head things changed. "Sam" started placing restrictions on the ride:

  1. I had to wait until he was ready to leave in the morning. This only became an issue when he started sleeping in until past 10:00am, meaning I wouldn't be arriving at work until after 10:30. Granted that's still earlier than my mentor usually arrives, but it's later than I'd prefer.
  2. He would not drop me off in front of my building, but rather in the underground parking behind his building (despite the fact he had to drive right by the front of my building in order to get there).
  3. On days when I did not bring my bike, he would not call me before leaving for home, thus stranding me at work.
  4. He wanted $60 a month for the inconvenience. Let's do the math here: 6.6 miles a day, 20 days a month, gas costs $1.50 a gallon, and his car gets 22 miles per gallon. Actual cost of driving 132 miles: $9. Net profit: $51. Now multiply that by 4 months, and you can see I would be getting fleeced. (By the way, the $60 a month was after negotiation.)

It didn't take me long to look for alternate modes of transportation. I started riding my bike, which resulted in me arriving at work sweaty and exhausted. Then my fellow intern Bryant started offering me a ride. He would pick me up before "Sam" woke up, and we usually worked similar hours so it all worked out. That is until 2 weeks ago when Bryant returned to Rhode Island. Coincidentally, that was also the time I had to send my bike to get boxed up for shipping. So once again, I looked down at my puffy abdomen, and decided to walk in the morning. Thanks to the portable CD player Angela gave me, the one-hour stroll was quite pleasant.

Now at that time, I was still rock climbing with Bryant's schoolmate Andrew. His girlfriend came up to visit him for his last week in Washington and used the car whil he was at work. When she found out how I had been walking 6.6 miles everyday, she was aghast. She insisted I let her drive me to work every morning after she had dropped her boyfriend off at work. I didn't have the heart to deny her a 7 minute car ride with me, so I agreed. Thanks Jessie!

Last weekend Jessie and Andrew left, and I was once again sans ride. I was telling this same rant to some other interns on the weekend (yes, I also rant in person, and yes, you can book me for weddings), and someone took pity on me. I'm now getting a ride to work with Tia, another intern. End result: no exercise for Chris!

I've always depended on the kindness of strangers.

00:00 | Rant

July 2, 2002

Try Harder

Ang decided to rent a car for the last week she'll be spending out West. She chose to go with Budget rental cars for two reasons:

  1. They will allow her to drive to Vancouver.
  2. They will only charge her $10/day underage fee (since she's under 25).

So I drove her to the rental office with on my last day with my rental car. I dropped her off at 9:00am and then drove off to find a gas station, to avoid the ultra-expensive gas charge my rental company charges. When I got back, she told me her car wasn't ready yet. The woman behind the counter insisted Ang's reservation had no mention of a trip to Vancouver and that we needed to wait for a car with BC plates to arrive from the airport. She was a heavyset black woman with frizzy hair and a lazy eye who felt no need to apologize. The car would be there any minute. Fine, we could wait. That was at 9:30. 10:30 rolled around before the car actually arrived. At that point a second woman arrived who handed Ang the bill.

$20/day for underage charge. Ang pointed out that she was quoted only $10/day. The woman was unfazed. She arrogantly informed us that $20/day was the cheapest underage charge in town. Who had quoted us $10 then? Clearly it was some miscreant who did not represent Budget, but was somehow put in charge of answering their phones. I then noticed a sign on the counter that described the penalties for paying with a non-American credit card: 2.5% surcharge + the exchange rate decreed by the all-powerful Bank of Budget. Ang was using her Canadian Visa, so I suggested I pay for it on my American Visa. The woman quickly snapped that only the driver of the car can pay for it. Ang reluctantly signed the bill for over $350. That's US dollars.

I could remain silent no longer.

While the lazy-eyed clerk led us to the car, I very loudly enumerated everything they had done wrong (including making me late for work) and topping off the list with their failure to apologize. The clerk stiffened but said nothing. She didn't even make eye contact. I insisted Ang reconsider. It wasn't too late; we could still get out and extend my car rental. We arrived at the car and the woman held out the key. Neither of us reached for it. Ang told her she had changed her mind, and we didn't want the car. The woman led us back to the counter, onto which she slammed the keys. The second woman looked up.

"They don't want it," Lazy-Eye spat out.
"Why not?" the other woman asked, genuinely confused.

Ang repeated my list to the second woman, and insisted her credit card charge be voided. The woman finally apologized, but it was a hollow apology. She sounded like she had done nothing wrong and that we were just a pair of finicky customers who were wasting her time.

We drove to Avis (my rental company) and got a week-long rental for $200. No hassles, no problems. Avis truly Tries Harder.

00:00 | Rant

May 17, 2002

Hungry Hungry ATM

Yesterday after work I went to the bank to deposit my paycheck. Since the bank was closed, I used the ATM with my Debit/ATM/Visa Check Card. After logging in, and specifying I wished to deposit a sum of money into my checking account, it then verified my PIN. "Incorrect PIN. Please try again." Ok, I must have made a mistake. I reentered the PIN, and got the same message. Well, I had other PINs for other bank accounts, maybe I should try one of them. After the third "incorrect PIN" message, the machine spat out a receipt telling me that due to the number of incorrect PIN attempts, it has retained my card. Great, it's not like I need my bank card for anything. The only form of American currency I had was the $17 in my wallet and my endorsed paycheck.

I went back this morning and spoke to a bank representative. He told me that the PIN I had entered was my online banking PIN, not my ATM PIN. Oh! How could I be so stupid? He issued me a new ATM card, and told me the new check card would be sent in a week. I asked him what my PIN was for the old Check Card, and he said it gets mailed a few days after the card, for security purposes. Wouldn't it make more sense to send the PIN first? I've got a lot to learn about this country.

00:00 | Rant

April 15, 2002

Redundancies I Hate

To keep this site living up to its (new) name, here's a small rant: Redundancies I Hate:

12 Noon
as opposed to "High Noon"?
Left-Hand Turn/Side
Ok, I understand "Right-Hand..." since "right" has more than one possible connotation. Whenever I hear someone say "Left-Hand Turn", I think of the joke about the blonde who wanted to go to Disneyland.
Tuna Fish
What's for lunch? Tuna sandwich. Tu... Na? Oh, you mean the fish!


00:00 | Rant

April 1, 2002

I'm Moving

Well, my time in this country is drawing to a close, so I decided to call up the friendly people at Bell Sympatico to cancel my account. The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: "I'd like to cancel my account, please"
Bell Representative: "Ok, are you sure you wouldn't prefer to suspend it?"
Me: "No, I'm moving so I need it cancelled."
Bell Representative: "Ok, and what's the reason you're canceling?"
Me: "Um, I'm moving."
Bell Representative: "Right. Are you just switching providers?"
Me: "No, I'm moving."
Bell Representative: "Ok. Well, if you decide to resubscribe, we have some new services, including up-to-the minute stock quotes.... blah blah blah"
Me: (uninterested) "Uh-huh."
Bell Representative: "... and this new game service where you can rent games for a low price instead of buying them."
Me: "That sounds cool."
Bell Representative: "Would you like to sign up for it?"
Me: "No! I want to cancel my subscription."

I guess this guy thought I was so moved by his powerful sales pitch that I would forget about my new co-op job and stay here and play rented games instead.

00:00 | Rant

March 19, 2002


This has been a bad week for me with respect to gifts. A few days ago the antenna broke off my cell phone. Luckily for me, Ang (who bought it for me for Christmas) bought a 4-year extended warrantee with it, so we took it back to the shop from which Ang purchased it.

Shopkeep: "Can I help you?"
Me: "Yes. My phone broke under warrantee and I'd like you to fix it."
Shopkeep: "What's the problem?"
Me: "The antenna broke off. See?"
Shopkeep: "Oh. Well, the warrantee doesn't cover physical damage."
Me: "What? What does it cover then?"
Shopkeep: "It covers manufacturers defects."
Me: "Well how do you know the antenna wasn't defective and that's why it broke?"
Shopkeep: (walking down imaginary stairs) "I'm needed in the basement."

I got a similar response from Bell World. It will cost me $20 to replace the antenna. I think I'll pass.

That's not all. This morning I played squash with John. Right away I noticed a strange feeling when I hit the ball. My birthday racquet is broken. The frame is cracked along one side. It's a brand new racquet! Upon closer examination I found a sticker on the handle that read "Because of the violent nature of the sport, this racquet is not guaranteed against breakage."

What?! Surprise surprise, companies are not looking out for the interests of their consumers. Ship a shoddy product, slap a disclaimer on it and charge for a warrantee. Oh, the product broke? Read the fine print. We're off the hook. Have a nice day.

00:00 | Rant

March 18, 2002

Khursed Khakis

I think everyone has one cursed article of clothing. You know the one. That white sweater, that funny T-shirt, the jeans that fit just right. For me, it's a pair of Gap khakis. It never fails; the day after laundry day I wear my nice clean khakis. Within hours of getting dressed I manage to get them dirty. Not just a little dirty, we're talking a saucy meatball dropping onto my lap, or soya sauce splash-back. A stain that's noticeable. I don't have the heart to throw it back into the hamper after only one wear, so I optimistically throw them onto the back or a chair (or usually the floor) and re-examine them the next day.

Oh, it's not that bad (brushes caked-on mud from pants). Who ever looks at my knees anyway?

But I couldn't face the accusing eyes of my peers on Friday when they see the grease stain from the breakfast burrito I ate Monday. So into the hamper with ye!

At this rate, I will have gotten 30 good wears out of them before the washing machine turns their sweatshop-quality stitching into rags.

00:00 | Rant

March 17, 2002

St Paddy's Day

It's funny how people celebrate cultural and religious holidays and festivals when there's something to gain. St Patrick's Day is a prime example. How many people actually know who St Patrick was? How many stout atheists are out there drinking it up today? How many people who bad mouth Christianity for sending missionaries to convert native peoples from their religions to Christianity are drinking in the name of the Catholic saint who converted Ireland from Druidism to Christianity?

Nah, it's just an excuse to get shit-faced, it has nothing to do with religion, right?

Don't even get me started on Easter and Christmas. I bet if the gifts weren't so crappy, most athiests would be celebrating the eight days of Hanukah for the presents family aspect.

00:00 | Rant