Friday, August 31, 2007

Backyard project, at a standstill

I’m finding it really hard to believe right now that the summer is over. It can’t be Labour Day weekend already, wasn’t it just Canada Day camping weekend?

But it is, and although there’s so much we have done this summer, despite the fact that the days are the longest of the year, there never seems to be enough days to do everything you want to do in these two short months.

We did go camping – twice – spend a week at a cottage, play in a baseball tournament (two if you count the fact that our tournament ate up one weekend and Ryan’s men’s league tournament ate up another) and made a quick, beeline trip to Montreal (by car, without Austin) for a wedding last weekend. And next weekend, we're making a quick, beeline trip to Fredericton (by plane and with Austin this time) for another wedding. No wonder there never seemed to be enough days, we were away or busy more weekends than not this summer.

But what didn’t we do? Well the backyard project is still in the Part II phase, having not been touched since we rushed to finish the patio in time for a BBQ party at the end of May. We’ve been too busy enjoying our summer to work in the backyard, which is fine, but the lack of work being done may have set us back to Part 1.5. You see, the large area of dirt left behind by the old cedar hedges, and never covered in sod, have sprouted a couple of weeds. Well, actually, there are enough weeds covering the area that it almost looks like I planted ground cover! At least the weeds are green, which is better than I can say for the lawn.

The old patio stones are still there – but the grass growing up between the stones is so thick that if you stand at a distance, you can almost imagine that the stones are gone.

Needless to say, I don’t have any pictures, because it’s not a pretty sight.

But the new patio is great, and we did use it and our new patio furniture several times over the summer. Some weekday evenings it was really nice to sit outside and eat dinner while Austin ran around in the backyard. I mean what kid wouldn’t like playing in piles of dirt!

Hopefully this fall we’ll get back on track. A few days off work with Austin at the sitter’s is all we need to get it finished. Lift the old stones, rototill the entire backyard – the sad, old grass and all – spread some dirt and lay some sod. Then, next spring, we can buy a sandbox, other toys and maybe some flowers and we’ll have a nice little oasis right outside our back door.

That is, as long as I remember to turn on the sprinkler every now and then.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Playing hooky

Last Thursday was an interesting day. It started out like every other day…busy, busy, busy. I had a report due by the end of the day but I was determined to get it done by noon so that I could start on the bigger report that’s due this coming Wednesday.

I worked my ass off all morning and, at 11:30 I finished it, printed it and dropped it on my manager’s desk.

At 11:45 the power went out. Talk about timing.

Ten minutes later we were ordered to evacuate the now dark and quiet building. After milling around for a bit in the park across the street a bunch of us went for lunch, having been given no indication of when there would once again be light. When we returned to the office, we were handed flashlights, told to go upstairs, get our stuff and go home. The emergency lights didn’t work, the phones were down, the servers were down and well it was getting awfully hot in the building because the A/C of course was down too.

Immediately, people started stressing. Because not only could things no longer get finished from the office, but taking work home wouldn’t help either because with the servers down – webmail and remote access were down too. Heck, the phone lines didn’t even work so we couldn’t leave or receive voice mails either. In other words, nothing worked and nothing could be accessed for God knows how long.

But suddenly I had a thought. Remember when you were a kid – say in elementary school – and something like this happened (and I have a vague memory of this happening to me). Either the power would go out, or a snow storm would be making a beeline for the city, or there might even have been a small fire. Whatever the case, the school board would decide to call the buses, call the parents, call whomever, and all the kids would be sent home early.

Heck, remember Ferris Bueller's Day Off?

It was like a getting a free day. Kids would be yelling and screaming with joy, because suddenly that lesson that just wouldn’t end was over, and instead of three more hours of school, the day was done and there was nothing left to do but play outside (or watch TV, or whatever).

So why is it that we can be so overjoyed at the idea of a ‘free day’ when we’re kids, but so stressed about the same idea as an adult? The work will still be there tomorrow, and if files can’t be accessed, they can’t be accessed. We all need to learn to enjoy ourselves from time to time – not stress over everything. Goodness knows I need to be reminded of that lesson more often than not.

With that in mind, I called my sister-in-law, who at that very moment happened to be at the CNE with Austin and my father-in-law. A little over half an hour later, I was feasting on Tiny Tom donuts while walking with the three of them around the Ex.

A free day is a free day and I decided I wasn’t going to miss out on it – and by extension on the opportunity to spend it with my kid. And shocker of shocker, the work was still waiting to be done when the power came back on.

And it still got finished on time, even after playing hooky for an afternoon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Rogers Rant

Explain to me how one of the largest multi-media companies in Canada can be so completely and utterly useless when it comes to customer service.

Of course, I'm talking about Rogers. A Rogers rant is nothing new in the blogging world, but here's my two cents.

In mid-July, I called customer service to cancel Ryan's phone and put my phone on a pay-as-you-go plan. Ryan had recently received a Blackberry from work, so we no longer needed his phone. Which meant, because we had already finished the terms of our contract, we could cancel our family plan and I could drop my phone to the bare minimum of usage -- knowing full well that I rarely use my phone and making this switch would save us about $50 a month.

After getting a few attempts to pursuade me to keep both phones and the plan that I had, the customer service woman cancelled Ryan's phone. But then offered to put me on a plan that cost only $5 a month (for 40 minutes), and, if I agree to it for a year, she'd wave the system access fee for the first year. I thought about it for a minute and then figured, why not, it's cheaper than pay-as-you-go, and honestly, no one but Ryan ever calls my cell.

So, I was told, effective July 31, Ryan's phone would be no more, and my phone would cost $5 a month.

On Monday, we got our first Rogers bill since the switch. Ryan's phone was no more, and mine cost $20 plus the system access fee. Hmmmm, curious.

So I called and complained and was told although my plan had already switched over to the new one, I had to pay for the old one on the Aug. 1 bill and then it would be credited back to me next month. Heh? So what you're telling me then is I have to pay $20 now to receive a service that only costs $5. This after the first woman told me the plan couldn't change at the time of my original call because it was mid-month.

It's not about the $20 that I have to pay today to only have put back in my pocket on Labour Day. It's about the fact that in the five or six years I've been a Rogers customer, I've never been able to make one change, or add one new service, without having to call back at least three times to complain. A few other small rants:
  • When we moved in, we signed up for a digital cable promotion that gave us four extra cable outlets in the house for free (avoids having to splice your cable). When the guy showed up to do this, his workorder only indicated he was to set up one cable outlet. Despite the fact that he 'called the office' to confirm what I was telling him, he wouldn't do it. Which meant I had to waste another afternoon a week later to wait for another cable guy to show up to hook up the service I was paying for.
  • When we bought our cellphones, we were already Internet and Cable subscribers. We filled out an extra form at the store to get the bundle discount on our phones. It was three months before I realized that our phones weren't being bundled with our other services, and we weren't getting the discount. The switch was made, but not even an apology, or a cent in refund, was offered.

So, I've now called twice regarding the cellphones -- once to cancel, once to complain. One more call next month and by October, I should be receiving and paying for the service I wanted in July.

Friday, August 03, 2007

It's time to do nothing at all

I'm officially on vacation!

Tomorrow we leave for a cottage on a lake in Sundridge, where aside from chasing Austin all over the property and swimming with in him the lake, I'm going to spend the next week, reading my book, catching up on watching some of the DVDs we got for Christmas, maybe work on my scrapbook, napping, and oh, did I mention reading my book!

Well in all honestly, the day time hours (aside from Austin's nap time) may be a little more productive -- but all by doing fun stuff. We may go for a hike, we may go to the nearby petting farm; or then again, we may sit by the lake.

In other words, we're going to do a whole lot of nothing...and I've never been so excited about it!