Trolling for dollars

It’s the weekend in the non-winter. That means there must be an assortment of garage sales for Mrs. B to visit. This is a lady with an eye for a bargoon, but when she returned (triumphant even) with two plastic trolls among her trophies I was beginning to wonder … and, even more so when she explained that she had only paid CDN$3.25 for them.

Since it’s possible that persons of tender years could be reading this stuff (judging from my server logs, somebody is reading it), I won’t repeat some of the more creative comments made by my kids about the aesthetic quality of these plastic beauties. One big troll with two heads and stringy tangled hair, the other troll with only one head and stringy tangled hair.

Continue reading

Travel broadens the mind …

… and other things.

It’s the weekend. That means – almost invariably – that some of my kids will decide they ought to visit, and they ought to bring assorted grandchildren. And of course, they need to be picked up at the subway station.

That’s all fair enough. Mundane, even. But today was quite a different story.

I drew the short straw and was elected to pick up my middle daughter and 5-year old grandson. I get to use my car as for some inexplicable reason the child seat and baby seat are still in it from last weekend. 20 minutes later, I arrive at the ‘kiss and ride’ exactly on time and am pleasantly surprised to see them both there are ready to get into my car. Door opens, grandson throws up in the back seat.

Continue reading

Power of Babel

One of my kids brings me a form received from the Health Department of the Centre of the Universe (aka City of Toronto). Toronto is in Canada – officially a bilingual country (English and French in case you care). Said form is accompanied by a legal sized piece of yellow paper with the following note printed boldly across the top:

This is an important message.

Take this form to someone who can read English.

OK, fair enough – almost. Since Canada is bilingual, why isn’t the message to take the form to someone who can read English or French.

Continue reading

Chain Reaction

A personal electrifying experience, with major economic impact.

‘Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it’s enemy action’ – Goldfinger to James Bond.

Once upon a time the electrical outlet in one corner of our kitchen worked fine. Then it ‘broke’, and I instantly fixed the problem (moved the microwave to another spot).

Many years later, Mrs B. decided it had to be fixed properly as she had ‘waited long enough’. She overcame my inertia by bringing in an electrician to fix it. He showed up, messed around – $60 later we have power in the kitchen corner. Microwave relocated and functional.

Continue reading

Getting your own back

Voodoo economics – sticking a pin in it

Mrs B. and I live in Toronto – the fifth largest city in North America – with a population well in excess of 2,000,000. So it’s not exactly the outback here, but sometimes you wonder who’s running the show.

We get a letter from the City’s Supervisor of Accounting, Finance Services Division, that begins:

Dear Sir or Madam

There is a credit on your realty tax account relating to overpayments. In order to issue a refund cheque or to process a transfer of funds, we require proof of payment for the following payments:

blah blah blah

You may send in your proof of payment either by fax, etc. etc.

Now let’s think this through. Before they sent me the letter, surely they were certain that we had overpaid – or else why would they write this letter? So can I just say that the proof of payment is the fact that they sent me the letter. If they are satisfied I overpaid, I’m satisfied.

Continue reading

Don Quixote rides again

Only this time, he’s tilting at bus shelters

An acquaintance of mine noticed that utility boxes at the side of the road are often protected by bollards.  For anyone who doesn’t know what a bollard is (in this context), bollards are those concrete or steel posts that stop idiots from driving into things when they drive where they are not supposed to.

He also noticed (well it’s hard to miss – no pun intended) that bus shelters just sit out there at the side of the road with nothing to stop vehicles from running into them.  And since bus shelters often contain people, he wondered why protecting a little utility box was more important than protecting a place where people stand and wait.

Continue reading

Harbingers of Doom

The ‘Internet of Things [IoT]‘ – a network of ‘smart’ digital devices – represents the future. In the context of the IoT, a thing can be a person with a heart monitor implant, a farm animal with a biochip transponder, an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low – or any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network.

If you feel the need for more detail on the IoT, then Dr. John Barrett’s TEDxCIT presentation on YouTube is a great place to start.

Experts estimate that by 2020, the IOT will consist of almost 50,000,000,000 smart things.

So, the future is bright. Right? No so.

Continue reading

Hello world. Again.

If only my database had been more secure and/or I had been more diligent, there would have been just a single instance of my ‘blog’.  Even then there would have been serious discontinuities in my blogging for many reasons – mostly categorized as ‘reality’ intruding into life.

My earliest attempts at a blog used a very home-brewed piece of software running on an HTML personal web site which has disappeared. Fortunately or unfortunately – depending on your point of view – not all was lost. I had a series of what I called rainy day stories – a collection of short, this-is-what-real-life-is-like, accounts of what was happening at the time. So, old news is it. And Now & Then is where to find it.

Welcome to ‘Hello world version 3 or 4 or whatever’. I’ll try harder this time.

Water, water, everywhere – Part 2

Paraphrasing Madam Pompadour – Après le déluge, moi

Predictably, after the flood we need to deal with the damage.

First call is to our home insurers to get that going. Yes, we’re covered. They will send an inspector and we’ll go from there. By the time the inspector arrives a few days later, edges of our beautiful new floor tiles are curling. The inspector says, OK you can remove the damaged tiles and replace them. Wait a minute, I’m not going to remove them. I expect a professional installation – I mean if my car had a dent, do you expect me to beat it out and get recompensed for the hammer rental?

The inspector agrees. get three quotes and send them to us. Once the work is done, we will re-inspect and if the work is finished, we’ll send you a cheque for the cost less the $250 deductible. I get one contractor – who is acceptable to the insurer – to visit.  He pulls up a couple of the swollen-edged tiles and say “These are done for”. I point out that there are more curled-edged tiles now than the day after the flood and that the underlay is damp. “Yes” says the contractor. “I’ll quote on replacing all the tiles and any underlay that’s visibly damp.” I disagree. Let’s do all the underlay since it’s inexpensive and easier than working around the ‘damp’ areas. And, since the tiles were on special (end of run), you need to forget about replacing some – they all have to go and be replaced with like quality. “OK”, says contractor. He will inform the claims adjustor and they will be in touch. I tell the insurance company if they want more quotes, then they need to find qualified installers willing to come and do the work. They concede and accept the one-and-only estimate.

Continue reading