Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How can one small error be the cause of SEVEN THOUSAND PHONE CALLS?

I have few excuses for not posting lately; it's just a combination of a lot of small things. Once I got settled into the new job, I made a lot of changes to my personal affairs; I changed banks, paid off my student loan (although I still have to pay off the paying-off, it's on much better terms), set up a mutual fund and automated monthly payments into my RRSP, and arranged to re-join my gym (I'd stopped while living in Moncton, naturally).

I also had to arrange insurance coverage for my CI Processor after my 3-year warranty ran out. This completely flummoxed our broker, who had never had such a request before. Apparently the insurance agencies she deals with were just as puzzled. I got a replacement price quote from the manufacturer, Advanced Bionics, and forwarded it to the broker, who forwarded it to the insurance company. For obvious reasons, I requested the device be insured for the cost of replacing it with the newer model; I'm not even sure I could literally replace the model I am wearing now, as they have moved on to a more advanced unit. The insurance company kept sending me requests to "have it appraised by an audiologist", which, if you understand the situation, is ludicrous. It's not a freaking diamond bracelet. First, the value of my current processor is not the issue, for reasons noted above. Second, an audiologist asked to do such a thing would pick up the phone and call Advanced Bionics for the current price of a comparable unit, which is what I had already done the equivalent of via email.

If playing Insurance Games wasn't fun enough. my first experiences wading into the pool of Civil Service more than made up for it. In the three months since I've been there, the good people at divisions that shall remain nameless have managed to misdirect, misroute, misdate, lose, and foul up everything from my ID card to my health benefits card to my expense reimbursements at every turn.

Ah, government beaurocracy. You're turning out to be everything I'd expected, and more.

Meanwhile, the people at "Scotia SmartSwitch" are so smart that it took three weeks to close my old bank account and even longer to transfer the balance into my new bank account - something that I could have done myself in ten minutes by withdrawing the money from my old bank, literally walking across the street, and re-depositing it in my new bank, if I hadn't believed that "SmartSwitch" was going to be, you know, smart, and all automagical and stuff as advertised. (In this wired world it turns out my old bank actually creates a paper draught and snail-mails it to my new bank, which then deposits it. "That's, like... neanderthal," I said in exasperation to the customer service person who was attempting to explain why my old account was closed but not a penny of my entire worldly treasure had turned up, well over a week later, in my new account.)

Every one of these things above required phone calls and emails and meetings and chasing around and arranging and fixing, and that's what's been eating up all my time lately.

Well, that, and the bunny. The bunny thing only lasted two days but ate up some temporal real-estate, there.

I have hope that things after this initial frenetic period will finally calm down a bit. There's a lot of travel, especially intra-provincial travel, in my near future, but that's as much pleasure as business much of the time, isn't it?



Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Oh, snap!

A couple of days ago I wrote about the CBC's inane decision to a) squabble over rights to use "The Hockey Theme", one of the most iconic tunes in Canadian culture; b) take the argument public when things didn't go their way; and c) announce (before negotiations were even over) that they weren't going to use the song anymore, whipping up the sort of public frenzy that only this kind of tempest-in-a-teapot over something that people are emotionally attached to can cause.

Following that post, the CBC bollocksed things up further by putting out a press release - dated 4:59 pm on a Friday, children - that announced they were bringing in a mediator to help settle the dispute... and they were launching a contest to find a new tune.

I'm not sure what the network hoped to achieve by taking the whole thing public in the first place. I mean, the company representing the songwriter - an 80-year-old woman, just to hand them another card in the public-sympathy game - had no reason to be influenced by public pressure. The CBC, on the other hand, relies on public support not only as viewers, but for its very funding. And since response ranged from revilement to ridicule of the Corporation, the whole thing already looked like a pretty impressive gaffe.

And then, while CBC executives were busy pitching their public hissy-fit, this happens.

If you're not Canadian, you won't understand the significance of the song itself or of CBC's public bickering over negotiations to use it for another year. You certainly won't understand the irony of CTV being the network that slipped in and scooped the song up. CTV and CBC are bitter rivals; CBC is the dowdy public broadcaster who keeps serving you healthy Canadian whole grains because they're good for you, while CTV is the lipsticked commercial network who smokes and drinks and dates Americans in fast cars. A lot of Americans in fast cars.

CBC says CTV should be forced to develop more Canadian content instead of simply buying and rebroadcasting hit US shows. CTV says they could be all high-cultural-minded too, if they were living off the taxpayer's teat.

CTV also owns TSN (The Sports Network, Canada's version of ESPN), which shows NHL games throughout the week, another point of rivalry between the two networks. Once TSN appeared, CBC lost its role as Canada's sole hockey network. Knowing that the famous theme will now open TSN hockey games has got to be like salt in the MotherCorp's wound.

All in all, you have to admire CTV for the coup. I can only imagine the faces around the CBC boardroom table when this news broke yesterday afternoon. CTV wasn't even on anyone's radar in this dispute, which had been between Copyright Music and Visuals, which represents the theme song's author, and the CBC. In branding terms, this is a screw-up of epic proportions.

Don't worry, though. CBC, like a cat who falls off a shelf and then grooms itself calmly as if to say, "I meant to do that", is moving boldly forward with the aforementioned absolutely brilliant idea of holding a contest to write the new Hockey Night in Canada theme. To quote the Calgary Herald's Bruce Dowbiggin, "This is like launching a search for a new bride in the same press release that says your former wife has run off with your best friend. No one was fooled."



Saturday, June 07, 2008

Meet Ollie.

Meet the newest member of the Ronniecat household. This is Ollie. I've been looking for Ollie for some years, and today I found him. The moment I saw his pensive and impish face, I knew he was the gargoyle my garden had been missing lo, these last many years. (We almost found Ollie last year - or a gargoyle very much like Ollie - but his ear was broken and he was the last of his model.)

Ollie is going to live among the Bleeding Hearts, which, besides being aesthetically pleasing, is a nice metaphor.

This is how Ollie got home from the Garden Centre. People, I keep telling you, you simply can't be too careful with your gargoyles (as last year's discovery of the broken-eared fellow proved).

He was quite well-behaved throughout the drive home and didn't bawl at the top of his lungs as the cats do, so that was a refreshing change.

(Perhaps we should've adopted two gargoyles ten years ago.)

Veronica was extremely interested in meeting Ollie and asking him where had he been, what had he seen, etc.

Ollie was enigmatically silent but Veronica's nose told her many tales of his travels on the path to our garden.

Even Mojo couldn't get a word out of the mysterious Ollie, although he'll probably lie about the encounter when he blogs about it later.

(Ollie whispered his name to me as I took him out of the back seat of the car. It's a very good name, if less demonic than I had anticipated, and I think it suits him very well.)



Thursday, June 05, 2008

Worst. Decision. Ever.

If the CBC was sending roving gangs of assassins to gun down its few remaining fans, it couldn't be doing a more efficient job of killing off its viewer base than it's doing on its own with breathtakingly boneheaded decisions.

Red Wings victory last outing for Hockey Night theme?


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

He shoots, he scores

I fell asleep halfway through the third overtime period Monday night so didn't get to see Pittsburgh's miraculous bid to stay in the Stanley Cup finals for another game. Husband and I have been following the finals, as is mandatory under Canadian law in order to keep one's citizenship.

Normally I follow the playoffs until Montreal is eliminated and then tune out until the finals - if I'm even interested in watching the finals. Too many teams from too many non-hockey towns in the NHL to really hold my interest any more. However, this year we've been following the finals with a bit more of an emotional investment because for the past few years we've been rooting for Sidney Crosby, the "local" boy (from next-door Nova Scotia) who's such a wunderkind that he is, at 20, the youngest captain to ever lead an NHL team into a Stanley Cup final series. (Indeed, when he became Captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins in May, he was the youngest captain of an NHL team in history, period.)

Hmm. Yes. Youngest. A young captain (his nickname is "Sid the Kid") of a very young team, poor Sidney has been struggling to rally his team to efficiency almost as hard as he's been trying to grow a post-season beard. Both have been largely unsuccessful efforts. Detroit's vastly superior experience has them literally skating circles around Pittsburgh, which is why the former led the series 3 games to 1 going into game 5 Monday night, and why the latter just barely managed to hang on by the skin of their teeth by breaking a 3-3 tie in the third overtime period.

One of the things that astonishes me about watching hockey on TV is the closed-captioning. Yes, live hockey is close-captioned, God Bless the CBC, and how the captioners keep up with the machine-gun delivery of the play-by-play I will never know, but much of the time, they do it. Good thing, too, as the ambient crowd noise in the background means that I understand almost nothing of what is said and rely on the captioning to follow the action.

"Much of the time", I said... however, there are moments when the sheer rapidity of events and commentary overwhelm even these talented captioners, and I see this - the visual equivalent of just plain throwing up of the hands in defeat.


(hoping tonight's game doesn't go until 2 a.m. local time...)


This is like déjà vu all over again...

MPs vote to give asylum to U.S. military deserters

The Tories say they'll ignore the motion since, unlike the Vietnam era, today's deserters joined voluntarily. That's a position that's likely to buy them even more grief with an increasingly pissed-off Canadian populace than they're already dealing with.



Monday, June 02, 2008

Canadian multiculturalism in action...

Be sure and drop in for a pint o'Guinness and some dim sum...
(Taken in the heart of Toronto's Chinatown.)