Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why I hate Bell Canada (long)

We’re heading to the States for a couple of days so the spousal unit can run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington on Sunday. Don’t ask me why – I’m just the driver, cheering section, and moral support.

Since we’re driving it seemed prudent to ensure our cell phone would work in the US in case of an en-route emergency. I have a Bell Mobility pay-as-you-go phone that gets used so infrequently that I am always carrying over excess unused minutes when I do a top up, unless I forget and all my accumulated and paid for minutes lapse are stolen by Ma Bell – the bitch! But that’s another issue and I digress.

I started with their web site only to find out, after waiting interminably for page after page after page to load, that I needed to phone them if I want to change my pay plan and activate the roaming capability.

Now I’m on the phone in auto attendant hell... “Please press 1 for English....”. About 6 levels in I have to enter my phone number so they can access my file. Progress of a sort, I suppose.

When I finally get to speak to a real live person, Sarah, the first thing she asks for is my phone number. Listen Bell computer system guys, it’s 2008. The technology to push that information to the agent’s desktop has been around since the last century! Get with it!

Okay, now she has my number and starts explaining the options I have to select in order to be able to activate roaming. And oh, by the way, a call will cost $1.80 plus $.99 a minute. That’s later clarified to be $1.80 a minute and $.99 a minute – total $2.79 a minute ... plus taxes. And it’s for any part of a minute – 3 seconds – that’ll be $2.79 plus taxes please. I explained that I wasn’t really interested in buying the company, I just wanted to use their airways, maybe, for a minute or two.

By the time she finished explaining the options, the plans, and the rate structures I was so confused that I was ready to pay her $2.79 a minute just to go away and take my headache with her. Clearly this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought it would be (and as it really should be), so I gave up on Sarah and went back to the web to see if there was another option.

That’s when I discovered that what she told me did not agree with what was published on their web site.

Back on the phone. Auto attendant hell. Enter phone number. Reach Mat. Provide phone number again. Explain what I want to do and what I found online and now I’ve got Mat confused. On hold. Mat comes back and provides the right information (I hope) and clarifies the clarifications I got earlier. Problem is it’s still going to cost a small fortune to use the service (Sarah was right on that point at least) but Mat makes an effort to be helpful, suggesting it would be cheaper for me to just get a US phone if I was going to be travelling frequently in the States. Thanks for that! More questions, clarifications, answers, and it’s finally done.

So I now have roaming activated on my cell phone so I can pay outrageous rates to use it south of the border, I have provided Bell with credit card numbers so they can charge me on a regular basis for minutes I will likely never use and which they will simply take back when I don’t, and I have lost 90 minutes of my life dealing with Bell Canada that I will never get back.

And they wonder why they are losing business.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Party

I was re-watching Peter Sellers' The Party last night (one of my favourite Peter Sellers flicks)and it occured to me that the opening bugle scene is a perfect metaphor for the health of my pension fund over the past 10 years or so. First it struggled through the the tech meltdown in 2000. Just when it was starting to recover from that, 9/11 hit. Got through that, painfully. Then it was nuked by Flim-Flam Flaherty's Income Trust backtracking. Nearly recovered from that just in time for the sub-prime fiasco. And now the market meltdown with its daily swings - usually 10% down but only 5% up. Being a good little investor I still follow my broker's guidance to hang in there, but the repeated blows are taking a heavy toll and I'm beginning to feel a little a lot like Sellers' character in that opening scene.

Regardless, The Party is a classic and, all metaphors aside, good escape for 90 minutes or so from all the goings on in the real world where, unfortunately, you can't just jump up and wash out the fake blood stains.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Aaarrggggghhh! But there's an explanation......

According to this item in The Star, "Canadians guzzled $18 billion worth of booze last year (2007) ... an increase of 4.9 per cent over the previous year."

The Citizen reports that "Moderate drinking shrinks the brain" leading to an increased "risk of dementia and problems with thinking, learning and memory."

And now, Canadians return the Harper Cons to power with a stronger minority.


I think not.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The $25 Billion Not-a-Bailout Bailout

This is a simple question and I pose it because I really don't know the answer.

Where, exactly, is the $25 billion coming from that Flaherty is going to use to buy these mortgages? That's not exactly petty cash, and I don't imagine the Cons account balance at the TD Bank has that many zeroes attached to it, so where is it coming from? Are they simply going to print more money? Borrow it (increasing the national debt)? Go into deficit by tapping into operating expenses?

Somehow, somewhere, Flaherty is coming up with $25 billion and I'd like to know how they are going to do it. Perhaps I can use the same technique to replenish my RRSP after the thrashing it took in the past few weeks.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sarah Palin and Michigan explained

It's all coming clear.

This story might go a long way to explaining why Sarah Palin felt so strongly about visiting Michigan. Clearly this whole witchcraft thing needs to be dealt with immediately, don'cha know? There are teachers to fire, and books to ban, and religious nutbars who need legal assistance.

Yup, fer sure.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We are truly sorry....

Apparently Sarah Palin has Canadian ancestry, so....

Dear Steve:

While you are apologising (sort of) to the arts community for your misguided Bill C-10 which you now say you didn't really mean, and to Canadians for your ill-advised and callous remarks today about the stock market crash creating a "buying opportunity", perhaps you could also shed a tear or two for our American friends and apologize to them for Ms. Palin, aka Mooselini, aka Caribou Barbie, aka The Pitbull in Lipstick, aka The Alaska Maverick, aka.... well, you get the point.

You now have but 6 days left in which to present the US with a formal apology on behalf of all Canadians for this historical wrong of truly monumental proportions.

And the way I figure it, you're pretty much wasting your time from here on in given that Canadians seem to be finally figuring out that when your lips move you're lying, so why not use that time productively and try to save Canada-US relations. Gosh durn it, it's the right thing to do don'cha know?

(Signed) A concerned citizen.

"wild experiments" - that's what weekends were for back then....

Harper: “This is not a time for wild experiments...”
McKay: “This is not a time to experiment with wild schemes...”
Flaherty: “... no responsible economic manager would suggest experimenting with risky new tax schemes...”.

Well, no shit Sherlock! Do these people actually think that, on Day 1 of an ABC government, the new ruling class will enact legislation that will toss Canada’s economy on its ear? In the middle of an international fiscal crisis? Of course they don’t. But they want us, the great unwashed, to believe that is exactly what will happen, and with disastrous results. You can almost sense that’s what they’d really like to see happen, just so they can say, “Told ya so!”.

Any prudent government will do whatever is needed, implement whatever short-term fiscal programs, bolster whatever institutions need to be bolstered, to get us all through this train wreck as unscathed as possible. I don’t care if their colour is red, blue, green or orange, none of the major Canadian parties would knowingly take any precipitous action that would intentionally hurt Canada or Canadians.

The policy positions that the opposition parties are floating are just that – broadly-defined positions. They will be studied, concepts and approaches refined, feasibility will be determined, implementation strategies will be developed, and then, and only then will they be implemented in the context of the international and Canadian fiscal environment of the time – months from now.

So while we may agree that this is not a good time for “wild experiments”, 6 months or a year from now may be exactly the right time for a well thought out and prudent implementation of an alternative fiscal framework for Canada, one which has been proven to work in other jurisdictions with very positive results.

Of course the Harper Cons don’t see it that way. They want us to believe that no one but them has any economic ideas worth considering, or the wherewithal to be responsible managers of the Canadian economy for future generations. (This from an economist who's only economic credentials are academic and a re-branded lawyer.) So instead they dabble with $100 here and $150 there, they obfuscate, they fear-monger, and they insult the intelligence of every one of us who doesn’t drink their particular brand of kool-aid.

It’s time for a change.

Monday, October 6, 2008

So if you were so smart.....

The markets continue to melt down. My retirement savings are dwindling by 5-10% A DAY! And like the majority of Canadians, I have no indexed pension to buffer the hit.

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty can think of nothing better to say than, "We knew about this last fall and took the appropriate steps. Aren't we just super smart?" and "The fundamentals are sound. Our banks are sound." and my favourite, "It's all the United States fault. They were stupid and there's nothing we can do (shrug)."

Okay, if everything is so rosy in Canada, why the hell aren't Canadian banks the biggest buying opportunity out there today? If they are in such GREAT SHAPE, and the Canadian economy is SO STRONG, why isn't the smart money just flooding ashore by the boatload? Our economy should be BOOMING. Our bank stocks should be SOARING.

But we all know that isn't happening. In fact our markets are getting hit even harder, percentage wise, than the US markets.

Nope, Harper and Flaherty have not a clue between them. They're like a couple of deer caught in the proverbial headlights, saying whatever they think we'll believe while claiming a prescient anticipation of events that somehow eluded the rest of the financial world.

Not surprisingly, we're not getting the straight goods.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Why isn't everyone outraged?

I believed that any person or persons who, through criminal behaviour, attempted to muzzle or otherwise intimidate fellow citizens simply because they exercised their democratic right to express their political beliefs would be held in contempt by all Canadians.

So I thought I’d pop over to the Blogging Tories to see how they expressed their outrage at this blatant affront to the democratic process.

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Well, except for this one post at
Exactly Right, complaining about how the Toronto Star presented the story.

“The story is about a number of Liberal supporter-owned cars in Toronto that were vandalized. The headline ... reads Car vandals aim at Liberal supporters. Immediately below the headline, they feel it necessary to place a large photo of Stephen Harper; as if to imply that he and the Conservative party had something to do with it! The completely unrelated photo which links to a different story, was placed ahead of the photo that actually went with the story.”

So the Star had the effrontery to put The Great Leader's picture (since removed) on the same page as a story about what is, in effect, a hate crime, and that sparks the outrage. But vandalising political opponents' cars and houses and endangering their lives? Just business as usual. Ho hum.

Well that's not acceptable in the Canada I knew, and I want it back!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday humour

After watching the debate last night, and in anticipation of the Cons platform supposedly arriving from Australia some time next week, this picture seemed appropriate:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Best quote of the day

Bob Robertson, writing in today's Ottawa Citizen says:

"I'm actually beginning to like Harper's speeches these days. The one yesterday where he mentioned how mad the farmers were about all the kangaroos wreaking havoc on their farmland was downright inspiring."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What is wrong with the good people of Ottawa West-Nepean?

or, at least the "54% of decided voters" who support this guy?

- John Baird who meddled in Ottawa's municipal elections.

- John Baird who is, embarrasingly, Canada's pit bull face to the world on climate change.

- John Baird who, until recently, was one of those elites who attended rich galas "subsidized by taxpayers", often arm in arm with Mrs. Steven Harper. (What is that all about, anyway?)

- John Baird who never found a contrary opinion he couldn't deride, belittle, or simply outshout.

- John Baird who feels that telling the truth comes a far distant second to scoring political points.

- John Baird who is nothing more than an immature, angry, political hack.

And to Jim Flaherty et al, I apologize. This photo was misrepresented in my last post. It wasn't really you after all. It was those "54% of decided voters" in Ottawa West-Nepean.