Archive for January, 2006

Brady’s First Report From Copenhagen

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006 by Vivian

Brady wrote this letter to his friends, and kindly cc’d us:

Hello to all,

Apologies for all the typos–danish keyboards are really weird. On the plus side, i can type some wicked letters.
I hope everyone is doing well. I arrived in denmark a few days ago, and have so far been doing reasonably well. My host family is very nice, and were quite forgiving when I rolled over and slept through dinner the other day after they came in and woke me up. I’m pretty sure the 3 little girls are frightened of me, as i tromp aroudn their home, loudly speaking a language they don’t understand. The oldest of the 3, who is twelve, has a tiny bit of english, but not enough to understand me. Their home is in a really nice (read- ritzy) area known as fredricksburg, a section of copenhagen that is actually an autonomous entity, though it’s completly surrounded by the larger city. Their house is technically an apartment, but its a really big one. I have my own room–pink, with flowers hanging over the threshehold. Its dainty-tastic.

Jet lag has not been kind to me, and every night so far, i have settled in for a nap at about 6 pm and woken up the next morning. It doesnt help that one of my alarm clocks died on the plane flight, while the other refuses to accept danish voltage. as a substitute, i have been using my itunes–i set a playlist with about 8 hours of quiet songs, followed by a cacophonous rendition of pink floyd’s ‘time’. So far this has worked, though i’m sure ill soon learn to sleep through that, too.

The weather has been pretty bad since i arrived. This morning about 4 inches of snow fell, which shut down most of the buses and trains. I stood alone at the bus stop (amazed, of course, that there was no crowd at rush hour), unaware of the closings, for 15 minutes. At that point, two ladies went by, and both told me the same thing. Unfortunately, my danish is ‘somewhat limited’ (i can say hi and thank you, as well as the word mayor, which i saw on a subtitled episode of the simpsons the other day). A few minutes after they were gone, however, i realized that perhaps they were telling me something about the bus. I decided to walk, and saw no buses the entire way in. The Danes aren’t very good at clearing the roads or sidewalks, though they do have tiny little plows to clear the jam-packed bike lanes. The bike lanes are absolutely amazing here–they’re like roads, and at rush hours, the bikes ride bumper to bumper. There are bikes with trailers, bikes with little carts on the front, and bikes with mjultiple children in brightly-coloured snowsuits piled on behind the rider. The rules seem to be that pedestrians avoid bikers, not the other way around. I haven’t been run over yet–a victory of sorts.

This afternoon, i have another class of ‘survival danish,’ (a fast overview of key phrases, which precedes my full-on danish language class where we willuse a a book called ‘danish for ducklings’)followed by a tour of the carlsberg brewery. I hope to be able to stay awake through both.

Alright, i have rambled on enough. Across from me, a couple are discussing how trashed they were last night (from the sound of it, quite). Its time for me to go get lunch.

Brady

We are Incenced!

Monday, January 23rd, 2006 by Ian

It takes a fair bit to get me really mad, but it happened tonight! Those of you that know me, know that I’m a mediator at heart and would rather avoid a conflict than create one, well…

About two weeks ago, Shelley and I went to a Lane Home Furnishings Store and ordered about $3500 worth of furniture. No, it’s not the $10,000 quad recliner home theater model of couch, but a pretty nice set of a sofa, ottoman and “chair and a half” (almost a love seat). The chair and ottoman are in a “patterned” fabric and the couch is a solid. No problems so far.

So, we got a couple of “mystery calls” from the store over the weekend and they left no message, but today they finally got a hold of us and said there was a problem with the trim on the PILLOWS that come with the couch. Something about the chair being in a “promotional fabric” and the sofa not being in the same fabric, so we had to switch the trim… Whatever, Shelley and I went in to pick a new trim for the throw pillows, big deal.

Now it starts geting weird. Shelley didn’t like the “replacement” trims as much as the original and if we did switch, the pillows on the sofa wouldn’t match the pillows on the chair. We asked the seamingly simple question: “If they can make the pillows for the chair with the trim we liked, could they not make the same pillows for the sofa”?

“No”, was the answer. No offer to help or talk to someone, the manufacturer, anyone. No offer of options. Well, Shelley won’t just take that lying down and says something along the lines of, “Well, will you step up to the plate and do ANYTHING for us”? And his response was, “No”. He had “sensed negativity from us” and would no longer help us Honestly, the guy sounded like he was having a PMS episode. We asked to speak to the manager. “No, he’s not here”.

We asked why was seemed unwilling to help, was he mad because we didn’t like the trim options? “Yes. And I’ve had a bad day”.

Huh?!? I’VE HAD A BAD DAY!? Like I frickin’ care about his day!! He didn’t like the fact that we didn’t like his options?! Give me a break!

Things begin to escalate, as you can imagine, and admittedly we were getting mad. Shelley mentioned that she “could just go to another store”, and his reponse was “Fine. Lets just cancel your order”. We were then asked to “leave the store”. Leave the store! It’s not like we were screaming or anything, just trying to get a wee spot of customer service. Great job there!

When the guy went away to the business card for the Sales Manager, another sales person who was watching said that he could just order a couple extra pillows with the chair. No big deal, maybe they eat the cost, maybe not, but it was doable. But by then, things had gone too far, and the other sales person didn’t really want to step into the middle of it. Fair enough, but now we KNOW it IS possible to get the correct pillows, and this guy is just being an ass.

Grrrr. So now I have to phone the sales manager tomorrow and try and explain what happened. Undoubtedly this ass has already talked to him saying that we were wholy unreasonable so it’ll be a complete uphill battle to get anything out of it. Of course, the REALLY annoying thing is that we would have settled for one of the replacement trims if he hadn’t had a cow on us. Now it’s a matter of principle that we WILL get what we wanted, and I hope I can get this guy fired.

Asshat.

Update from the States

Monday, January 16th, 2006 by Vivian

Yep, I know: it’s been a while. I really haven’t been all that well for the past few months, but now am feeling much more like myself. Only details that I’ll post here are that my doctor tried me on a new medication which made me feel horrible and made my chronic sleepiness much worse; and that I’ve been taking large doses of iron, which – I think, I’m not sure – have brought my levels from either anemic or low normal up to something a bit higher. I got off the new meds, back on the old ones, and my energy level is higher than it has been for years. I’m going to hope that keeps up. Meanwhile, I did have a complete sleep study, and only one abnormality was found. The neurologist is going to treat that if this new surge of energy disappears.

So that was the long, and here is the short: I’m back.

Scott: I just sent you a Christmas thank you note to your office e-mail, and got the automatic reply. We’re very happy to see how the forest faces look.

Terry got a new (used) camera for Christmas. We’ve had so much gloomy weather that it wasn’t until Saturday that he got a sunny, blue day to take it out. He hasn’t yet posted much from his photo excursion that day, but wil as soon as he has his computer back (more about that below). Brady has posted a few. Brady has a new url for his photo site [Ian: Made a link]: www.flickr.com/photos/bradywill.

Computers have been a problem lately. Terry’s desktop, the center of our family wireless net, is down for the count. It is probably that the hard drive has failed. It is awaiting major surgery. Brady’s laptop, only a little more than a year old, has been a bit of a lemon. Brady and I got to work with Dell while he’s been home from university. They inisisted on taking one problem at a time, rather than just taking in the whole computer. As a result we: first diagnosed and replaced a faulty hard drive; second diagnosed and replaced a faulty a/c adapter and CD/DVD drive; and now the computer is at Dell for a motherboard and keyboard replacement. I’m sure that, with all the time the Dell employees (including one of the technical support supervisors) spent online, plus all the costs of courier services and spare parts, they would’ve done better just replacing the whole unit. We spent hours and hours and hours on the phone with Dell.

In any event, Brady’s computer is too big and unreliable to take overseas, so he took money out of savings and bought another one. We’re hoping that his lemon, when it comes back from the repair shop, will be reliable enough that Terry can use it for a while, until we replace his desktop (he doesn’t like a laptop).

Brady’s trip overseas, of course, is big news. He will leave out of Chicago on Saturday, arriving Sunday in Copenhagen. He has been assigned a host family, but we have just received their first names and their e-mail address. Brady’s weekend e-mail to them hasn’t yet been answered. B & I have been doing all the many things that have to be done to prepare for his departure and four-month stay. The program – “The Politics of the Eurpopean Union” – is going to be academically more challenging than most study abroad programs. He will be taking a full schedule. We’ve noticed, looking at the student forum, that most of the students are from Ivy League or other tough private U.S. unverities. There is at least one student from Carlton, in Ottawa, a place Brady has been considering for grad school. There is going to be a contingent of students from Beijing U in China. B will take a week-long study tour to Russia; a long weekend bicycle/canoe trip in Swedent; study trips to places like The Hague. Of course, with the family anxiety running high, Brady is going to be a handful, both for himself and for us in the next week. As soon as he gets there he will be okay, and after a few days he will be great. But the anticipation is a killer for him.

Saturday I had a day long training session in preparation for my volunteering at a hospice. There will be two evening sessions this week and two more next week and then I will be fully qualified for all sorts of roles involved with patients and their families. My hope is to devote my time more to the emotional, rather than the physical, aspects of care. Meanwhile, I have received the minimal training required to serve as an administrative volunteer, and I have spent a little time filling in for the regular receptionist. Another stint is upcoming.

The hospice I have chosen is associated with the non-profit health care organization that Ter works for. It reminds me a great deal of Rosedale. It isn’t quite the homey and plush physical facility as Rosedale, but it is new and well put together, and the people there seem to have the same spirit that the Rosedale people did. That’s the most important thing, of course. The hospice is run in conjunction with the Visiting Nurses Association, and also is involved in providing in-home care for 33 counties in this state. At this point, I’ve said that I’m interested only in working in the residential setting. However, the trainer on Saturday was the person in charge of the home setting volunteer program, and I spoke with her about the possibility of helping out nearer to my home with one particular aspect: the visit by the social worker when the living wills are explained. As you might imagine, this new venture is very exciting to me.

Tim has a real girlfriend now. It’s only been for two weeks, but I think they seem quite attached. He’s known Amy since grade 9 and they have been friends all along. She’s a nice, bright, and extremely talented young woman. She is a cellist, probably one of the top young cellists in the state (part of the state honours orchestra; first seat in a regional youth orchestra). The way I know that she’s devoted to him: She has accompanied him on his first two indoor soccer games this session. One of them required that he pick her up at 7am on a Sunday morning; the other one didn’t start until 11pm on a Saturday night, getting her home at about 1am.

So that’s the news. Do I win the prize for longest entry so far?

Solar Bees Wax Melter

Monday, January 9th, 2006 by Scott

For Terry …. my home-made solar wax melter. It works well melting the wax out of old frames, queen excluders and the like. It does need a better collection systemas the wax just pools inside right now …. another winter project.

See pictures at http://squids.ca/gallery/wax-melter

Forest face

Monday, January 9th, 2006 by Scott

When the package arrived from USA marked “Glow in the Dark FF” we spent some time trying to guess what the FF might stand for. We were NOT even close. On CHristmas we opened it up .. the first impression was that it looked like hard bits of dog poo nestled in styrofoam. On closer examination it turned out to be a GLOW IN THE DARK FOREST FACE ……

See http://squids.ca/gallery/forest-face for the full effect.

Terry, Vivian, Tim and Brady… thank you very much we LOVE it …….