Category Archives: consumer affairs

My Excellent Birthday Adventure

steampunk, the Drive, Vancouver, East Van

Steampunk often involves gears, bolts and brass. From: http://www.bloodyloud.com/steampunk-jewellery-jm-gates/

Last week, it was my birthday. I’ve lived in Vancouver for years, and in the same neighborhood, yet there are many places on Commercial Drive, or The Drive, that I have never visited. I decided this year that I would choose to wander The Drive and try to hit five places I have yet to enter. I was going to start at noon and have friends join me as they could.

My first stop was the Time Travelers’ Bazaar at the Britannia School. Being no more than a five-minute walk from my place, I thought I knew where it was. However, Britannia is a huge complex that includes the school, daycare, library, skating rink, pool, courts and other buildings. Even if you know your way around it’s not easy to find the right spot. I went toward the cafeteria but all the doors were locked. I ended up picking up three other souls wandering as lost as me. Luckily one of my friends had come from another direction and found his way in.

The Bazaar was just for the day and everything from Steampunk jewellery to hats and bonnets, guns, masks, fascinators, fabric and sundries. I wandered in there fro about a half hour but with three friends trying to find me and coming from various directions, I headed to the Drive and told them which corner I’d be on. We went north for a couple of blocks and found the Windjammer Restaurant. I said they’d only been there a couple of years and someone said no since the 70s. I do know my hood well enough to notice when something goes in. It turns out the cafe has been around since the 70s but used to be on Main until about three years ago. Eight of us didn’t fill it up but definitely gave them a Sunday boost. Fish and chips are the specialty with choices in cod, halibut and salmon, plus poutine and a few other dishes. The special was two moderate pieces of cod, with fries and cole slaw for $6. The meal filled us and tasted fine. I don’t know if I’ve ever had stellar fish and chips. but the ones in England last year were better. These were fine and worth the price but nothing to write home about.

Commercial Drive, Vancouver cafes, food, burgers

Cannibal Cafe specializes in meat and is one of the newest restaurants on the Drive.

We crossed the street at Venables and then moved south along the Drive, wandering in and out of shops I’ve been in before. But part of the adventure was for my friends as well. Some people left, others joined and we continued along the way. The second place I wandered into that I’ve never really noticed much before was the Mr. Pets. It’s a large pet store across from Mark’s Pet Stop near 3rd and Commercial. I tend to support the little guy and usually stop in Mark’s but I was looking for special kitty kibble to help my cat who doesn’t jump too well. The shop has everything from cats to canaries (supplies) though I could hear a few birds. I actually didn’t explore the full store but bought the kitty treats.

Having eaten late and feeling still full we just stopped for a drink at the Cannibal Cafe with decorations above the prep area of plastic knives and cutting instruments covered in fake blood. They have beer and cider on tap and specialize in hand-ground meaty burgers plus smoked meat, salmon and turkey, and of course poutine. While we only drank, a friend says the burgers are good. Prices look reasonable and I’ll come back some night for a bite.

head shop, bongs, Smokers Corner, the Drive

This creature is for smoking. Found at the Smoker’s Corner

We were now into late afternoon. We stopped in front of a store’s window display that held strange blown-glass fish monsters. It turned out these were bongs for smoking your favorite substance. The head shop is called The Smoker’s Corner and only one friend and I were brave enough to wander in and look at all the artistic glass pipes. The weirdest gadgets were gas masks with long, clear green or pink tubes. I guess it meant you could get stoned and get your fetish on at the same time. None of us smoke but it was an adventure in weird pipes, to say the least.

I also popped into the long-running Dr. Vigari Gallery. It’s not new to me but the location is so it counts as half a bonus point. The last place on the Drive that was new to me was the Mediterranean Specialty Foods. The Drive is known for its Italian flavor, sporting many coffee shops, the Portuguese Club, old Italian restaurants now revamped, stores specializing in pasta, olives and salamis and El Sureno, another ethnic food store. I’ve been in all the others and somehow missed this one. It was a treasure chest, with bottles of different oils and vinegars, olives and peppers, pasta and spices lining the shelves like a caravan of goods. Definitely a cornucopia for the foodie. I’ll be going back here the next time I’m shopping. There are more oil than all the other shops put together. I also have some friends who like to play with their food so this place will be great for gift shopping.

food, olives, oils, the Drive, Commercial Drive, foodies

Mediterranean Specialty Foods. Owner Jack Elmasu. From Montecristo Magazine

That was the last official stop and since it was Sunday all of the shops were closing. What else to do on a birthday tour? Why, stop somewhere else to get a drink. We stopped at the Dime Roadhouse, a remade restaurant where one of the old pasta restaurants lived for years. I’ve only been there twice before and the sound was so loud you had to scream. For whatever reason; perhaps the better than expected good weather, being a Sunday, everyone was hungover…the noise was at a lower level and we could actually talk at normal level. A few more friends joined as others left. We ate dinner there. The Dime’s food runs no more that $4.95 for a dish. You don’t get massive portions but I had butternut squash risotto with goat cheese and it was enough and fairly tasty. You can’t go too wrong. Another friend had nachos for one; again, a good enough size. And if it’s not enough, order something else. Since I had been at the Dime before, it doesn’t count, but I’d not been to the bathroom there before. 🙂

For a Sunday Birthday adventure I got to show some of my friends more of my hood and after a very long time of living there I found new places. It was low key and great day out.

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Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, entertainment, food, shopping

Lost in Translation: The Mire of Cellphone Help

cell phone, cellphone companies, miscommunication, customer service

My conversation was on two different tracks, just like this sign for a public urinal in China. Creative Commons by ToGa Wanderings

Today, I tried to email Bell to find out about using my cell phone in the US. Next week, I’m going for five days to the Rainforest Writers Retreat. I’m picking up another writer in Bellingham and want to make sure I don’t get lost. I’m navigationally impaired so it’s a strong possibility. Now, my cell phone has texting and calls but only in Canada.

I was at work and made the mistake of using Bell’s online chat. I forgot that every time I’ve done so it has been an exercise in frustration where belly crawling over glass would take less time. It was only less bloody because I couldn’t reach the chat representative with my hands.

I find that cellphone companies have always been about obscuring the facts. I’ve left Fido, I’ve left Telus and with Bell, it’s hit new heights of stupidity, but I’m not convinced there is a company that won’t rip you off, try to add hidden costs or just not pull their heads out of their butts long enough to care about the customer. It’s now my civic duty to lift the veil under which bad customer service cowers, and to warn you all, don’t use online chat.

I give you the unexpurgated text (except for removing my private info) of the 40 minutes I will never get back. Enter at your own risk.

info: Thank you for your patience an online representative will be with you shortly.  Your wait time is approximately 0 minute(s).  
info: You are chatting with Rolando.
Your name: colleen
Your number: 604
Your question: I would like to know what it would cost if Im in the US and want to text or in the US and want to call (in both cases US numbers). Id only be down for a week.

You: Your name: colleen
You: Your number: 604
You: Your question: I would like to know what it would cost if Im in the US and want to text or in the US and want to call (in both cases US numbers). Id only be down for a week.
Rolando: Hi there!
Rolando: How are you doing today ?
You: Good thanks.
Rolando: I am reading your message here.
Rolando: Colleen, we cannot prorate the amount of the roaming package for texting.
You: So there is no way to call using my phone in the US without paying the high roaming charges?
Rolando: We have a good package here for $20 you can have 1000 message incoming and unlimited outgoing.
Rolando: For calling feature we also have the package.
Rolando: You know what ?
Rolando: I can help you lower down your cost.
You: Just a minute… at work
Rolando: Eventually the individual package will cost you $40. Since I just wanted to help you I can give you the combination of Calling and Texting for Roaming for $30 only.
You: Sorry about that…
Rolando: You will get 100 in-out roaming minutes and 1000 text messages outgoing and unlimited incoming.
You: But I only would be in the US for less than a month so paying an extra $30/month for something I don’t use would not really help me out.
You: It seems the best thing to do is not use the phone at all.
Rolando: Basically, roaming feature is expensive since we will be borrowing tower in other country.
You: If I used it as my plan stands now what are the roaming charges/costs if I made a phone call whie in the US?
Rolando: it will cost you $1.45
You: per minute?
You: or text?
Rolando: Yes per minute call.
You: And a text is costed at a minute, I believe?
Rolando: for texting it will charge you $0.75 in-out.
You: Okay, is that .75 each way?
You: And that includes the roaming cost?
Rolando: yes Colleen.
Rolando: That is the roaming cost.
You: So really, if I need it for a few days but mostly for emergency or just if I really must contact someone that would be cheaper than having to pay and extra $30/month on my plan already.
Rolando: Do you want to be satisfy with my performance or my effort ?
Rolando: Let me see what I can do here ?
Rolando: To better assist you and for the security of the account I would like to have your E-mail address and the 4 digit pin if you have that on the account ?
You: I don’t know my 4 digit pin.
You: naiad@telus.net
Rolando: This time I will be calling the attention of my supervisor in order to sort this out .
Rolando: Thanks for the information.
You: I’m confused now.
Rolando: I am going to help you. Do not be confuse.
Rolando: This time I will be calling the attention of my supervisor in order to sort this out . my ability to convince her will lead to the adjustment on your account. Once I come back there is a positive results.
Rolando: Hi  there!
Rolando: Are you still with me ?
You: yes
Rolando: Please pay attention Colleen.
You: ?
Rolando: My supervisor approved the adjustments on your account.

Bell Canada, cellphone service, custoomer service, lost in translation

Hell’s Bell. It would be easier talking to an alien race. Creative Commons: WikiHow.com

You: I thought you said that it would cost me an extra $30/month to use my phone in the US, but if I just need to use it for a few days it will cost me .75 per text or $1.45 per phone call. What else do you think I need to pay attention to?
Rolando: I am going to give you the credit of $30 so that to make it even I am going to add the $30 package for roaming text and calling.
You: Paying $70/month for something I’ll only use one month doesn’t make sense.
Rolando: I am going to give you the credit of $30 so that to make it even I am going to add the $30 package for roaming text and calling.
You: But that would only be a credit for one month and then I would be paying more every other month afterwards, would I not?
Rolando: yes
You: I don’t want to pay $70/month for something I will only use one month. That’s not very cost efficient.
Rolando: As I have mentioned this roaming package is really expensive.
Rolando: It is not supported by your Plan.
You: I started out asking what it would cost to use my phone in the US. Was it so difficult to tell me .75/text or $1.45? That’s what I wanted to know.
Rolando: Ma’am Iam giving you the favor to help you use your phone in US.
You: If I only wanted to fly to the moon once would your try to sell me monthly tickets to the moon for the whole year? As usual Bell’s service is

not helpful at all.
Rolando: I am helping you lowering your cost.
You: Can I or can I not make a text in the US to a US number and pay only an extra .75 cents for that one text?
Rolando: You can text or you can call but you will be charge of the said amount.
Rolando: It would be beneficial for you because in return I am giving you this for free.
You: Is it .75 cents for one text, and $1.45 for one call by the minute or are there other costs you haven’t revealed?
You: Free for one month but then I pay $70 every other month instead of $40 and I won’t be using it so tell me how this is beneficial.
Rolando: There are no other cost Ma’am.
Rolando: What do you want to happen ?
You: Did you read my original message? I don’t want to add an extra $30 on to every month of payments for something I will only use once. How much clearer can I make this?
Rolando: Ma’am didn’t I tell you that Roaming is really expensive ? You are going to use your phone there for so many days. This is why I am giving you the favor to give it to you for free.
You: For one month and then you tell me I will pay an extra $30 a month on my plan every month afters.
Rolando: I am not adding extra $30 on your account.
Rolando: i cannot provide you the package for the whole year for free. I will be terminated for that.
You: How many times have I clarified above that this would cose me and extra $30 per month. And I said I only will be in the US one week. What would my monthly bill be?
Rolando: I know that you are going in-out in US but it seems to me that you want to avail the feature on a longer period.
You: Did I not say numerous times that I would not be using this in other months?
Rolando: You will only pay the regular bill on your plan. There is no extra charges because I want you to avail the roaming package for free this month. As I have mentioned you cannot prorate the cost of the roaming package.
You: And what would my monthly bill be in March, April, May?
Rolando: $72.46 is your regular bill.
You: EXACTLY! $30 extra for something I would only use once. How often must I repeat myself? I think you’ve convinced me to seek out a different cell phone company.
Rolando: As I have mentioned I am offering to give you the roaming package for free this month.
You: AS I HAVE METIONED REPEATEDLY I DON’T WANT IT FOR EVERY OTHER MONTH.
Rolando: It will automatically expired on the 30th day.
Rolando: Ma’am this feature is not part of your Plan that we can charge you each month. Roaming feature is differnt from a regular feature. I believe you misunderstood this.
You: You know what…I can’t tell what I would get or be signed up for so forget I ever asked a simple question. This is ludicrous.
info: Your chat transcript will be sent to naiad@telus.net at the end of your chat.
You: If my monthly bill for each month becomes $72.46 then indeed it is exactly that, part of what you’re charging me.

At this point I couldn’t take it anymore and had work to do. I disconnected. On further wandering through the backwoods of the Bell site I found out this great deal of $30/month that he wanted to give me was just a regular package to the US. Notice how I changed from Colleen to Ma’am after he told me to pay attention. Nice polite customer service. I’m no farther ahead but you know what someone told me about Roam Mobility and since I really need the phone for one day I can get what I need for $3 or just pay the $1.45 per minute per call and be done with it.

I can tell you one thing…I’ll be switching again when I can, to get away from the incompetent customer service of Bell.

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Filed under consumer affairs, Culture

Gender Stereotypes and Food Don’t Mix

mancakes, cupcakes, food, baking, confections, gender stereotyping, taste, savory food

Bacon chili chocolate ManCake. Women, don’t touch!

Imagine this scenario; a woman is perusing the menu at a cafe and the waiter comes to take her order.

Woman: I’ll just have a coffee, black and the Whiskey Lime cupcake.
Waiter: I’m sorry ma’am, I can’t do that.
Woman: You can’t do that?
Waiter: No, sorry.
Woman: Why?
Waiter: Those are ManCakes. We can only serve them to men. And I’m afraid that only men drink their coffee black. I’d have to bring you cream.
Woman: What! I can’t have this cupcake because it’s only for men?
Waiter: Might I suggest the strawberry cupcake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles?
Woman: Sprinkles?
Waiter: Yes, women eat those sorts of things.
Woman: Forget it. Just bring me a scotch.
Waiter: Sorry, can’t do that. That’s a man’s drink. Might I suggest a daquiri?
Woman: You know Hemingway drank that, don’t you?
Waiter: Pardon me?
Woman: What about that man over there? He’s eating a cupcake with sprinkles and sipping a drink with an umbrella in it.
Waiter: Oh, he’s not a man.
Woman: What?
Waiter: He said his name is Genevieve and he’s a woman so “she” received the woman’s cupcake.
Woman: Fine. Call me George and bring me a double scotch. And the friggin Rum and Coke ManCake.
Waiter: Do you really want to mix your drinks?
Woman: Just bring them!
Waiter: Right away, sir.

 

food, cupcakes, mancakes, manly food, gender stereotypes, eating, taste

Manly man food according to DragonBeak at Deviantart.com RaRrrgh!

Building on the sadness of yesterday’s discovery is another port closer to home that makes ManCakes. Sigh. And in fact, now that I found them, my comment about the radio announcer saying they were invented to be more manly actually refers to these ManCakes and not the ManPies. Whereas yesterday’s diatribe was about manly meat and other savory pies, today’s is about cupcakes that will not be called such a thing. Because, as the Port Coquitlam bakery’s creators (down as only Geoff and Jeremy) say of their previous buying experiences, “Shortly after purchasing these cupcakes we became acutely aware that we are men, and that we have taste buds. We don’t want frilly cupcakes with inches of icing smeared on top.”

So these poor guys didn’t even know they were men until they bit into a frilly cupcake. Perhaps they should have removed the paper lace doily first. And then those dastardly cupcakes of the frilly and overly iced variety awoke their taste buds, because, from that statement above, it seems that women don’t have taste buds.

manly man, food, eating, real men, cupcakes, baking, mancakes     Don't manly men

Don’t manly men want to eat babies and raw meat and dirt? Image of Sebastien Chabal by Pauce Photography

Remember how I commented on advertising gone bad? These guys actually move above ManPies by a mile. While the site shows some pretty interesting and delicious looking cupcakes, the whole manly man complaint just doesn’t wash and actually offends me. When I look at those cupcakes, I see many flavors that I’d be interested in trying and I’m not really a cupcake person.  I’m not a bacon person either but I know many women who are. Pink peppercorn and grapefruit, chocolate red wine and bacon chili chocolate (Chocolate base filled with ancho chili chocolate buttercream, topped with vanilla buttercream and crumbled bacon) all sound worth trying to me.

So why this need to say that women only want sprinkles and frills and things made gooey sweet but with no “concern for what tastes good instead of what just looks good”? Seriously, guys? Sounds like someone’s bought into the advertising hype. I get pretty tired of finding that cider is sweetened up to be what producers think women want to drink. In fact, I tried a rather sad, new restaurant/pub last night where when I asked about ciders the waitress told me that they had Smirnotff Ice, which is in no way a cider. Seriously, perhaps women in their 20s like the gooey sweet stuff but not all do of any age or any particular gender. Please don’t perpetuate this gender stereotyping. I detest it.

Like the ManPies people, these guys will probably do very well because well, food sells, and people like good and interesting food. Notice that I said “people” and not men nor women. I’d would try these cupcake (and really, guys, a rose by any other name is still a rose) because they sound interesting even though I’ve only ever entered one cupcake factory and that was in Seattle. I know one of my male friends once reverently carried a cupcake all the way back to Maine with him and he seems pretty manly to me.

I’m looking forward to seeing a new revolution of gender foods. I can’t wait to see the Woman Steak and the Girl Ribs. Yumm yumm, the zombies will be especially thrilled.

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Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, food, sex

Fluevog Shoes: The Good, the Bad, the Dangerous?

slingback, pump, shoe, designer shoes, Fluevog, fashion, footwear

An early Fluevog shoe with the square heel similar to the witch boots.

John Fluevog is a local name in Vancouver. He began designing shoes in the early 70s and has gone on to international fame for avant garde designs. I used to own an early pair (80s) of Fluevog boots that I bought second hand. I called them my witch boots. They had a heel that sloped out to a square, a squared off pointy toe, a turnover cuff, and a big silver buckle on the front. Made of black suede with a thin, hard plastic sole, they weren’t the most comfortable or well made boots, and were actually a size too big but they were fun. I eventually passed them on. I also had (and still have) some Peter Fox shoes, and originally Fox and Fluevog was the name of the shoe store the two men opened up.

I’ve often gone by the Fluevog store and looked at the crazy designs. Sometimes they don’t appeal, sometimes they do but they’re not cheap shoes. You’re looking at an average price of over $200 for a shoe. I would say  a “basic shoe” but there is no such thing in Fluevogs. From sandals to boots, there are dressy and casual but always unique. I needed a new pair of boots last fall so I checked out Fluevog. Boots are never cheap and because I have large calves not easy to find ones that go above the ankle, and I hate boots that stop at the ankle.

I have bought lace up boots for years and Fluevog had a range. Unfortunately many are just too narrow for my calves. I covet tall boots but they’re rare to find. I’ve been thinking of getting into steampunk too and tried on the Monday boot. The looked great. At $299 they couldn’t be less so I bought them.

I have problem feet. They are extremely wide and I need orthotics, which never work that well. Although I have dress shoe orthotics I gave up on getting them to ever work in boots. So I wanted something that would be comfortable for a reasonable length of time. The soles on these boots are leather, with not a lot of extra padding but fairly thick as it is. The top is brushed suede with decorative silver stitching. The lower boot is of a matte style leather, slightly rough, a bit shiny.

I started wearing the boots right away and within two months the laces were being chewed to pieces by the grommet holes on the boot. While metal grommets will wear on laces eventually, these were rough enough to destroy the lace rather quickly. On top of that, putting on the boot one day, there was something bunching around the toe. The leather insole that covers the nails and stitching had come loose. Fluevog fixed this as there is an 8-month warranty, but I was still surprised it happened. On top of that, the moment you polish the boot that rough matte look tamps down to shiny black. As well, the heel has a hard plastic bottom. I have found when walking on an incline of wet pavement that this slips. I haven’t fallen yet but I have to walk carefully, putting my foot down firmly so I don’t slide. That is dangerous.

boots, lace up boots, shoe, designer shoes, John Fluevog, fashion

Made of suede and leather, the inside says “Another Day with Hope.”

The good thing about these boots is that they are extremely comfortable, even more than I expected for feet that get sore. I haven’t had any boot or shoe in years that is so well balanced that the weight is distributed along the entire foot. The weight doesn’t rest on the ball of the foot alone (the cause of my orthotics) but is carried also by the heel. This is why stilettos can be very hard to wear. Tiny pencil heels and a small sole area increase the pounds-per-square-inch pressure that your feet carry. So kudos to Fluevog for being the only shoe designer out there who seems to get it.

When I bought the boots I had tried on some not so flattering shoes and some, like the Wonder Ayers, were very cute. They came in black and olive green. I could not afford two pairs of Fluevogs and the boots were more a necessity. But I thought of the shoes for two months and when I took the boots in to be fixed they had this pinky purple color. One thing my friends know about me is that I love color. I’d just finished a freelance job and couldn’t resist. Three hundred dollars later, I had the Ayers shoe, which was not too tall in the heel and turned up at the toe. I love ankle straps and this pair has two. How could I lose? They’re also well balanced at distributing the weight and centering it along the foot.

Wonder Ayers shoe, Fluevogs, shoes, fashion, designer shoes, leather

The Wonder Ayers, fun and stylish

I didn’t wear these for the first month as it was too cold and rainy. I wore them a bit at a time to break them in and stretch them. In the first month I slipped twice on linoleum floors and went down so fast I couldn’t break the fall. Luckily my heel slipped sideways and I went down along my leg and knee, bruising the knee one time. The same material is on this heel, and the side of the plastic is actually edged to a corner halfway up the side. This is the plastic piece on the heel that protects the shoe itself from wear.

I started to get scuffs on the toes because of the style and while that’s expected I found out Fluevog does not carry the polish to match these shoes, so I’m stuck. Even the polish they gave the shoes when I took them in for repairs doesn’t quite match the original color, not to mention it would be hard to polish around the white stitching. Neither of these are the biggest problems with this shoe. At less than three months old, with less than two months of wear I noticed the leather sole pulling away from the shoe, and then I saw the leather was ripping along the inner side at the top where the shoe bends. When I took them in Fluevog should have given me a new pair, considering price and age, but they sent them off for repair. The leather soles have been replaced with Topy soles and they’ve put a fairly invisible patch on the inside of the shoe to stop the tearing.  But I’m not happy.

For comfort and style and innovation, Fluevog gets a 9-10. For customer service, a 7–each time they’ve said, oh this hasn’t happened before, so am I buying the only bad pairs out there? For materials and support items (polish) they get a 5. The colors are good, the stitching well done, the leather feels good, but rough grommet holes, hard plastic heels that are dangerous, soles the pull away and leather that splits brings Fluevog’s score down. While the materials are better than those early pair, Fluevog still has room for improvement, especially when the shoes are so pricey.  That’s 72% for shoes that should be 85% and above.

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BC Hydro Screws You and Trees

car insurance, accidents, BC Hydro, tree trimming, Asplundh, responsibility,

My car is the far right one, just before the mulcher mangles it but that doesn’t mean anything happened except passing the buck.

I’m sure this will be of interest only to a select few, but it’s a tale with a lesson in futility, passing the buck, negligence and damage. In BC our electricity is handled by a company called BC Hydro, which once was provincially owned but now it’s not clear how much of it is privatized. They maintain the power grid, which includes checking power lines that lines ever street in their own unsightly web.

One day last August, I came out of my place to find these guys mulching tree branches that they cut down from the trees encroaching on the lines. BC Hydro has all sorts of information, including this blurb:

Tree control pruning

BC Hydro regularly prunes trees that might grow into power lines. These trees are generally pruned on an established cycle. The specifications call for pruning practices that will not only provide for safety clearances, but are also the best for the trees.

Studies in arboriculture (the care of trees) have shown that certain forms of pruning are much less damaging to the health of the tree than others. BC Hydro has adopted a standard that calls for “natural target” pruning, which may initially remove more of the tree canopy than some other methods and may appear excessive, but contributes to the health of the tree in the long run and prevents severe cutting.

Well, I had to squeeze past the mulching machine, that was along side my car, to actually drive to work. When I parked and got out of my car I noticed (because I’d spent 5 hours washing my car the week before) that my bumper had been scraped and banged into, which cracked the paint. I was mad but knew it would be hard to prove. I also have other nicks and scratches on other parts of my bumper because if you try to claim it you get to pay something like a $200 deductible and your insurance could go up for all those dings.

So when I get home and I’m talking to my two neighbors we look up at the trees and notice the butchering. In some cases they didn’t cut the limbs away from the wires and in others, they chopped the tree so badly that as it continues to grow it will be more weighted on one side causing the branch to break or the tree to topple. Wow. The above statement (which takes some hunting on their site) seems to be an ideal they do not strive for.

I called up to complain about the tree mangling, unsightly at best, and also mentioned them banging into my car. BC Hydro tells me to file a complaint and an insurance claim with my car insurance. I was skeptical at best and already noticed the buck passing but I decided to do this as an experiment. I  have two car insurances; one half is private with Family Insurance. The other is mandatory through the provincially run ICBC.

Date of Accident: July, 2011 (it’s been so long I can’t rightly remember). Complaint filed with BC Hydro: Aug. 17, 2011. Letter from BC Hydro that they send to my landlady instead of to me: Sept. 27, 2011. In that letter BC Hydro says: oh no, it wasn’t us. It was our contractor Asplundh Tree Experts Co. Experts? I could do better with no knowledge of arboriculture. So BC Hydro can now weasel out of any responsibility. I call Asplundh. ICBC tells me it’s the Family Insurance side so I enter a long convoluted dialogue with a cynical man who queries, as devils advocate he says, as to how I could prove that they did the damage. I say, I know I can’t but I know it was them and that I was told to do this by BC Hydro.

We go back and forth, forth and back. Then Asplundh contacts him, after I tried calling them three times but to no reply. Asplundh wants photos of my car, which I take, as well as having a picture of the day that the mulcher mashed my car.  I send the cynical insurance guy the information. I email to see that he has received them. I email again and again and again. I get busy and forget about it, then email again.

car, car insurance, damaged car, Asplundh, BC Hydro, responsibility, mulching

Well, it could be worse, right? At least they didn’t drop a tree on my car. Creative Commons:Jason Edward Scott Bain, flickr

My prediction at the beginning was that no one will admit to anything and in the end my bumper will look the same because I can’t afford to pay the deductible every time. Eventually, I get an email from a different insurance adjuster with the blather that nothing can be done or proven. It seems maybe the previous adjuster quit. I’d bet money that my insurance company didn’t really even try to support me. I’ll bet anything that Asplundh just ignored them.

So what have I learned?

  • BC Hydro gets out of responsibility by subcontracting and not checking their contractors’ work.
  • Asplundh doesn’t give a rat’s fart how well they do anything nor hold their workers to any culpability.
  • Family Insurance isn’t there to support the insured, even in giving information. This also means they’ll be losing my business come time to renew my car insurance.
  • The next time I see any city workers in any form on my street I’m going to stop and take pictures of my car, of them and of their vehicles.

Thankfully, I looked at this as an experiment and didn’t expect a resolution. Too bad we’re running on such a lack of honor.

There, I feel better now.

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A Follow-Up on How Zeller’s Sucks

customer service, shopping, consumer affairs, Zellers, department stores

Zellers wins in the worst customer service category. From magnaeframe.com

I received a comment from Chris, who had a lot to say about Zellers. In fact, so much so that the comment was really too long. So I asked Chris if I could use the comment for a guest post. I’ve edited it a bit and toned down the language but here’s my first guest blogger.

I worked in two different Zellers stores from 1991 to 1997 and have always had fairly strong opinions on why the chain would fail. In the early days of my employment I was working in a very recently converted former Towers store. Immediately I was thrust into an environment full of grumpy employees who were taken over as well, who had their wages frozen indefinitely as the pay scales of Zellers were less generous of those at Towers. It is quite possible that some of these folks were just plain overpaid to begin with, and maybe that’s what killed the Towers chain amongst many other things. Anyways, Zellers did not seem to bring any sense of excitement to anyone. Many felt they were a small fish being gobbled up by a whale. I once overheard a former Towers assistant store manager say that the takeover was handled badly, with no regard for the employees. Surprise surprise.

I was hired as a cashier. Before long a full-time position opened up in the Housewares department of the store. I  found myself inheriting a complete disaster. Boxes had been opened, were torn and tattered, merchandise was strewn across the floors, display models were incomplete, missing, or existed for items no longer sold, and items were not where they should have been on the shelves. At first I was shocked, but as time wore on, I realized that I was only expected to have things picked up off the floor and thrown back on the shelf each night, so that the cleaners could mop the floors. This was a far cry from my previous job in a grocery store where we could not leave the store until everything looked good. This included “facing” items on the shelves- retail lingo for bringing things to the front so that merchandise was accessible and made the shelf look full even if it wasn’t. At Zellers the only time this practice was followed was prior to what we called “Royal Visits,” when managers above the district manager level would visit. Why didn’t these people leave the visits unannounced, show up dressed like regular joes, and see what the front lines actually looked like on a normal basis? These guys, and yes, they were ALL mostly grey haired tall men in impeccable suits, wanted everyone to make a huge fuss over them.

The sad part was the way the store and department managers were treated. They were essentially given no budget, yet were expected to have things looking spic and span at all times. Sometimes the upper management guys would force a store manager to clean up a department himself while his shocked employees looked on. It was a real power trip for these bullies.

Oddly enough, I was encouraged to apply for the store management program, and being a high-school educated kid with nothing to lose, I took them up on the offer. In late 1993 I started my first assignment in another store, and for some time was pleased to be amongst employees that seemed more positive. I was told almost immediately that the store I was now working in had not seen the salary cuts of the previous store, but that they were coming. Almost overnight the location went from being a decent place, to the same as the first store. Somehow they thought that less employees would save them enough money to make the store more profitable. I learned many things about how the company operated:

  • Aisles cluttered with junky unappealing items that were old, tattered or had been returned. We were told NOT to reduce these items. The end result is that they never sold and wasted space. The stationery department was one of the worst.

    Zellers, customer service, marketing, sales managers, management, bad employees, bad zellers

    At least you know what you're getting with this sign. Creative Commons: amycgx

  • Sale items were never in stock. In fact, the store had stock, but the merchandise was on a pallet deep in the stockroom where no one could get it. The stockroom was tiny, so tiny, in fact, that in stuffing it with more pallets, the aisles between the rows of pallets were eliminated. Essentially we had a block of pallets about 8 across and 10 deep, the only way anyone would find the merchandise would be if they hauled each pallet out and stuck it in the aisles of the store. This, of course, was forbidden.
  • Outdated computerized inventory system. I’m not sure if it was replaced, but up to 1997 the PIMS system was in place. This system, developed in the 70’s, was supposed to automatically re-order items as they got low. Someone had the great idea of building a little caveat into the system. If the number of items went into a negative, the item would not be re-ordered and a problem would be flagged.This kept happening on stuff like sewing items, and since the store didn’t have anyone investigating the problem, entire aisles were full of empty shelves and pegs. Customers came back time and time again asking for items. We essentially looked like idiots when we told them we didn’t know.
  • Poor quality merchandise. The worst by far was the crappy Permatech/Eurotech line of small appliances. Sure they were cheaply priced, but even for $10 I would expect a toaster to work when I plugged it in. We saw the same garbage returned over and over for years, but they kept selling the junk.
  • Credit. These jerks made 30% of their profit on credit. You know, the kind of profit that requires people to be slow on their payments so they can reap huge interest charges. Cashiers were hounded to push this on everyone, to the point that they were giving long spiels to customers, like a Jehovah Witness at your door. Even worse, Zellers willfully declined to use debit machines in their stores for fear that people would stop using their credit cards. They finally made the switch sometime after 1997, likely due to customers leaving merchandise at the register and leaving in a huff.
  • Lack of staff. Did you know that in the 1960’s, American railroad companies tried to save money by deferring maintenance projects? The result was bad track with slow trains, and a mess that ended up costing a fortune to fix, unless of course, they went bankrupt first as customers turned to trucks. Zellers somehow thought they could run stores without those pesky employees gobbling up their profits. A prime example was how they let one employee be in charge of helping customers in a 30,000 square foot area on a Sunday afternoon. Most times there was no one to cover lunches. Other staff had to abandon ship at a second’s notice to open another cash registers to reduce exorbitantly long lineups. Cashiers were getting lunch breaks at 2 and 3 in the afternoon “because it was just too busy”. They were made to feel that they were part of some sort of important struggle to help their comrades survive or something. Customers in the meanwhile were looking for help in the aisles, and nobody was there to give it.
  • Cheesy gimmicks. Zellers was a firm believer in this 1950’s corny style of advertising and promotions. Instead of trying to sell cool stuff, they resorted to silly balloon drops, flashy flyers, Zeddy, and good old “Zellers Radio”. What was Zellers Radio, you ask? A stupid tape message that would play every 10 minutes that usually began with “Shhhhhaaaappers!!” The elevator music was no better. It seemed they did not want to deviate from the practice of appealing to the senior citizen crowd. The TV ads weren’t any better. For the longest time they were a televised version of the weekly flyer. Later on they got some Hillary Duff clothes in their stores and managed to get some decent ads going. This did not last, and an ad campaign was launched with purported Zellers employees saying “we’re getting better and better”. Wow. Talk about admitting you suck.
  • Ridiculous policies for shoppers. Come on, if someone isn’t satisfied, give them their money back. People usually got store credits after getting the runaround and waiting in long lineups. Supervisors would tell their employees to enforce these policies until someone really lost it. What then? Give the customer what they wanted and make the employee look like a complete asshole in front of them. Seems these little Hitlers didn’t have the balls to enforce these policies themselves.
  • Clueless upper management. The only way these morons knew how to react was to fire people. It seemed like management shuffles were happening constantly as someone got the boot for underperforming. And do you know who didn’t get fired? Guys like the Regional Director of Stores who showed up on the front lines during a “Royal Visit” and yelled at people.
  • Panic at the sight of Walmart, but reacting like a deer in the headlights. Instead of trying to figure out what makes Walmart a generally better place to shop, Zellers instead tried to undercut them on many items, and lost an arm and a leg in doing so. Walmart isn’t just about price. It was also about the “shopping experience” that Zellers never seemed to be able to figure out.
  • Morning meetings. The dreaded daily “pep talk” was nothing more than an attempt into performing better OR ELSE. What was discussed? The weeks sales, which didn’t really register in most people’s minds, and a couple of minutes of badgering employees to get more credit card customers, and just generally work harder if sales were supposed to get better. One time our store manager decided to go off on a rant about employee morale and how the employees had only themselves to blame for it. In his mind the skeleton crew often appointed to run the place should work twice as hard to achieve the results of double the people. He couldn’t  understand why people were not motivated to shed blood, sweat and tears at minimum wage.

I left the company fifteen years ago. I had always wondered if things had improved after I left, and after reading other people’s blogs posted since the announcement that Target was acquiring Zellers leases, it was obvious they barely changed at all. It was eerie to read what employees were saying about the company as it was so familiar.

Shame on you, Zellers, and good riddance. It’s sad that the employees of the companies are the ones to suffer, while the upper management folks will all leave with a huge chunk of change. Pathetic.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 73-76

 

food, eating, diet, zombies, apocalypse diet, brains

If only I could make these for my Zombie Salon. Creative Commons: xsomnis, flickr BrettMorrison gallery

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 73 (Mar. 13):

Originally I predicted I could make it till March on the food in my place without buying any, and I have. I’ll make it to the ides of March but will I make it beyond? Anyone want to place a bet on which day I’ll capsize? I said I’d stop when there was nothing but condiments and alcohol, but I am becoming heartily sick of this diet. I miss my veggies. While there are a few veggies and frozen fruits left, I can continue but I won’t last long when they’re gone, not too mention the nutritive balance will be out the window. Right now I’ve at least been getting proteins, carbs and veggies though the portions have changed.

Breakfast was! Yes, molasses banana bread. That sucker keeps going but there is only one more slice left. And lunch was Apocalypse Pottage. Dinner was a simple fair of the last of my hearty pea soup.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 74 (Mar. 14):

I missed breakfast this morning and I’m thinking about zombies, not for food yet. Seriously, if I don’t like red meat and am averse to eating humans, zombies will be very far down on the list. I’d be chomping on every bush in the vicinity first. But how else could I deter the rage infested, virus-filled hyper-diseased zombie? Well obviously, do a better job of boarding up the place. If I’m going to hammer up boards I’m not nailing those boards on straight but driving the nails in at an angle so they can’t be pushed out. Better yet, use screws. If it’s the press of numbers there’s not a lot I can do. I’d also head for the country, where there are fewer zombies. I’d get the biggest mofo truck I could manage with a winch and a huge grill so I could ram anything out of the way. A flamethrower would certainly be helpful for fricassee zombie, and of course the spiky, all encompassing clothing. No going out without a crash helmet and hazmat suit. Let’s see a movie that actually has people acting intelligently in it.

And speaking of zombies, the creeping crud is attacking me. A cold sore has started and anyone who has ever had one knows you start to look like a zombie when your skin bubbles and blisters. So I had my pseudo clam chowder for lunch. Someone gave me a big bran muffin and I was only going to eat half but it was so tasty I ate it all. But not feeling very hungry, for dinner I had a bowl of good ole Lipton’s chicken noodle soup, which I found in the cupboard. There’s enough salt in that thing to keep a pasture of cows happy but the noodly goodness is an old comfort food.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 75 (Mar. 15):

Today, the ides of March, it felt like zombies had been clawing their way out of my throat. I had a doctor’s appointment in the

zombie, apocalypse diet, food, hazmat suits, protection, end of the world

Supposedly flaming zombies isn't a good thing but I'd like to believe they wouldn't see through the flames, nor smell anything but flaming zombie. From: jadedviewer.blogspot.com

morning so I got up for that but then came straight home. My mother used to give us hot water with brandy, lemon and honey when we had colds. Of course there was little brandy but my scratchy throat determined that I would have a giant mug with hot water, a liberal dollop of brandy, a squeeze of slightly dessicated lemon, and maple syrup,  since I have no lemon. I drank that and then went back to sleep.

While I was hungry when I awoke I was also feeling slightly queasy. I ate half a bowl of the roasted garlic and potato soup, which severely upset my stomach. The weird thing is that I can do raw or fried garlic but if it’s roasted it gives me terrible gas. I have two more containers in the freezer but the reaction was severe enough I’m seeing if my neighbors would like it. Which means, the larder will empty even sooner. I’ve been looking forward to using the panang curry with some canned crab but that’s a bit too spicy for a sore throat. I ate the last piece of molasses banana bread, and had another cup of the hot brandy toddy but a skin had formed in the maple syrup and fell into my cup. That slimy thick, snotty texture was truly disgusting and I had to fish it out. Blargh!

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 76 (Mar. 16):

The creeping crud and I are in a headlock. I’m not sure who’s winning. I’m feeling rather hungry having had nothing but soup for the last couple of days. I have some Ryvita crackers, rather tasteless, but I munched one down for breakfast. Lunch was the last of the Apocalypse Pottage made with beets, tomatoes, barley and tuna. Tonight I’ll probably do up some rice noodles and a bit of fish sauce, tuna and garlic, and maybe red cabbage.

Keeping with the zombie theme, I’m having a Zombie Salon, because I want peoples’ brains. Which means, I’ll have a few people over to actually discuss topics other than sports and the weather. Since I have lots of vodka I’ve offered up martinis. Not sure if I can do a zombie themed martini though. I’ll report on that in the next update.

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

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How to Wear Skirts and Man-Skirts

The art of wearing a skirt well is not as easy as tossing it on and just walking. In fact, different lengths have different issues.

SHORT SKIRTS

fashion, clothing, how to sit in a miniskirt, miniskirt, skirts

Be careful of the Bermuda Triangle when you sit in a miniskirt. Creative Commons: Macleans.ca

A short, micro or miniskirt takes a certain degree of elegance if you want to maintain decorum and not look like a tart. Learn how to pick something up from the floor or a table without revealing all of your underpinnings. If you have to pick up something it’s best to bend at the knees and go straight down. Bending at the waist is sure to be revealing. Oh, and wearing underwear is an absolute must with short skirts. Make sure that if a chance unveiling happens that you are okay with what’s revealed, both in flesh and in material.

Some miniskirts are fairly form fitting. If you’re buying one, trying walking around in it first and see if it rides up or pouches at the belly. The other thing to check that not many of us think about is sitting in a skirt. The butt will widen and can cause constrictions or riding up. As well, there is that triangle of revelation between skirt and legs that can introduce any viewer at the same level or lower than you to an eyeful. Think Basic Instinct here. If your skirt is that short, you may have to cross your legs or place your hands or purse in a strategic position to keep the Bermuda Triangle hidden.

Short but full skirts are better at covering the Triangle but have the same problems for bending over. And of course, you have to watch the wind. A Marilyn moment in a short flouncy skirt is going to display more than your thighs. Many women now opt for dark tights with short skirts but that’s not always going to be a choice in the summer. You definitely don’t want to be lifting boxes in this length of skirt.

MID-LENGTH SKIRTS

skirts, midi, micro, walking in skirts, tight skirts, fashion

These midlength skirts are narrow enough you might need to hitch them to walk up stairs. Creative Commons Marc Jacobs

I consider any skirt from just above the knee to mid-calf to be a mid-length skirt. You don’t have to contend with displaying intimate details as you do with the short skirt but there are other issues. The tube or stovepipe skirt can be so tight that walking becomes an art. If you try to walk or stride you’ll either rip the material or fall over. Many of these skirts have an open slit in the back that facilitates walking, but you many still have to take delicate half-steps. Think of the kimono and how Japanese women mince along on the wooden sandals, called geta. To sit in a skirt this tight (if it is not stretchy material) means you might have to hike it up and you probably don’t want to cross your legs, even if there is room to do so. It would be quite constricting. If your skirt is particularly binding, you might find it difficult to bend your knees enough to mount the stairs. In this case you actually have to hitch your hip up to accommodate, or hike your skirt to give your knees room to bend.

A full skirt gives you ease of walking, but has other issues. If it’s really full it can tend to gather between your legs until you feel like you’re wearing a diaper, not to mention it doesn’t look that great. One way to deal with this is to gather a little bit in you hands to hold it out. The other is to wear a slip. Not only does this stop the transparent effects of the sun (or particular types of artificial lighting), but it will decrease the gathering of fabric. Slips are rarely as voluminous as a skirt, unless you’re dealing with the full circle where a full and ruffled slip is required to hold it out, which also stops it from going between the legs. And again, the fuller the skirt, the more you have to watch the wind, which really loves to play with fabric. The only thing with sitting that you have to watch with this length and style  is that it doesn’t end up with someone sitting on  part of it. Sometimes wearing a coat over top with a purse can cause a skirt to ride up. You might want to test that because it could show more than you’re anticipating.

FLOOR OR ANKLE-LENGTH SKIRTS

skirts, maxi skrit, fashion, walking in skirts

This length might mean you have to develop the kick-step, depending on fabric and flow. Creative Commons: Michael Kors

Not all of these are evening gowns and I wear some ankle-length skirts from time to time. It’s rare to find fitted ones this long unless there is a slit, but a fishtail or tulip style may be fitted to the knees, then flare out. Again, you’ll probably have to practice walking elegantly. More common will be an A-line or fuller skirt. If the skirt actually touches the floor you’ll have to work out a kick-step that lets you kick the fabric out before stepping forward so you’re not tripping yourself. Going up stairs requires you to gather the fabric in a hand, but you might want to do this going down the stairs as well. Steps are strewn with garbage, or just wet, and a long skirt will trail behind. As well, anyone walking behind you might step on your skirt, resulting in tearing or worse, a fall.

Shoes and long skirts can make a dangerous combination. If you’re wearing heels, watch out. I’ve had my heel catch in the hem of a skirt that had slightly stretchy material and almost topple me down the stairs. If you’re on a chair with roller wheels, be careful that your skirt doesn’t get wound around the wheels. This has happened to me a few times.

MAN-SKIRTS OR KILTS

manskirts, kilts, men in skirts, fashion, style, dress

Fashion gone wrong. Jean Paul Gaultier’s version of a manly man skirt.

Some men like to wear skirts and they’re not all gay. Others feel more comfortable calling these kilts, and the Utilikilt has gained great popularity amongst the male set. It’s a modern version made of heavyweight canvas and lacking the plaid of yesteryear’s kilt. Whether wearing a skirt or a kilt, men especially need to learn the art of wearing the skirt. Most of these are midlength so walking isn’t an issue but sitting can be a man’s undoing. Men often sit with their legs apart and if you happen to be going regimental (naked) beneath your kilt you better keep an eye on the capricious wind. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of sitting on the ground when I guy in a kilt came up and squatted in front of me. Ding dong, I saw far too much dangling. Guys, anyone at eye level and below can see a lot and it ain’t pretty. So, men, learn to either cross your ankles, close your knees, put your hands in your lap or use a pouch. That’s what the historical sporran was for besides storing valuables; it protected and hid the family jewels.

If you’re not sure how you’re going to look walking or sitting in any skirt or kilt, practice. Get a friend to give you hints but please, keep the treasures buried except for your special someone.

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Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, fashion, humor

Diary of a Taxation Dieter

Without much ado, I present to you the kernel from whence came the Apocalypse Diet. From 2002.

dieting, poverty, poor eating, food, culture, budget foods, food

Poverty means crimping corners on food. Creative Commons: psd Flickr

Forced into circumstances beyond her control, mild-mannered copy editor, Colleen Anderson seeks a new way to survive and pay the dreaded ubiquitous tax man. Yep, that’s me, though not so mild-mannered. The working poor, freelancer who’s just gone through the depression diet, good for a few pounds. But now, having lost money for the first time in my freelance business of copy editing, having paid tax on the proportion where I worked proofing exciting car ads, having earned $10,000 less than the year before, statistically putting me in the range of poverty level income, I find that I owe $1000 in taxes.

I’d borrow from my brother but I just did that to buy a car as mine was failing badly. I’d get a loan but I don’t make enough per month to pay on the loan. I’d cut back on all those frivolities but I already have. All I can do is cut back on the necessities. I still have to pay rent, hydro, phone, car insurance, RRSP loan, creditline payment and gas. I still have to buy toilet paper and feed the cat. My brother’s going to have to wait for repayment. It looks like I will cut back on food.

After all, I wanted to lose thirty pounds anyway and my place is stocked with the usual. I should be able to get by for three months without buying food and stash $20/week  (more than I was spending on food anyway) to give to the tax demons. That leaves me $30/week for incidentals and hopefully I’ll make enough to cover the bills.

DAY 1

Brought one of my frozen soups to work with two frozen buns. Didn’t eat it for lunch since I work twelve hours. I’ll save it for later when everyone’s ordering the weekly sushi at work. No more weekly wonton soup for me. Okay I’ve succumbed to buying a chocolate bar. Damn sweet tooth, it may break me yet. It’s nearly as bad as being a cigarette smoker, especially when you crave the good stuff. And I shouldn’t be eating cheap chocolate bars anyway. Too much dairy and I’m allergic to it.

Eat my thin veggie soup with the two buns for dinner, steal some sunflower seeds from the guys at work. When I get home, I go into the ohmigawd I’m limited on food thing and eat the last of my home-baked chocolate chip cookies as I fret over my taxes. That’s 6 small ones and a handful of slightly stale taco chips with the last of the chili pepper dip from my party a couple of weeks ago. I boil up some Asian style noodles for tomorrow and hit the sack.

As I lay there in bed I realize I better plan what I eat together, otherwise it’s going to get really weird when I’m eating sardines and jam. So, remember, use the crackers with the things you don’t like to eat by themselves. The frozen soups will last and be okay without any carbos. Maybe I’ll do protein one day, carbos another days, sweet jams another. I’m sure my doctor would kill me if she found out but I have to pay the damn taxes.

DAY 2

chocolate, poverty, food, dieting, candy, junk food

Chocolate: still my bane after all these years. Creative Commons: Wikipedia

Mixed the noodles with the last of the yogurt dill dip from my party, some sundried tomatoes steeped in oil, and pine nuts. That’s almost gourmet but how long will it last? It actually tastes good too. I can’t walk down to the store for a bag of corn chips anymore when I forget my lunch.

On the way home I succumb again to the evil sweet tooth. Maybe the tax man should team up with chocolate. They’d be unconquerable, taxing teeth, thighs and bank accounts equally. I stop at a chocolate factory and buy a bag of seconds using the debit card. When I get home, I eat half that bag and take a nap, only to wake to a horrible stomach ache. Too much dairy and I’m suffering for my sins. Well, that should get better as there’s nothing dairy left in the house. It’s going to get interesting though, when I’m down to nothing but a cupboard full of booze and a bunch of jam.

I set aside $20 for taxes and used the other $30 in one swell foop. That’s $25 for cat food since he was down to crumbs and $5 for toilet paper. I now have $2 and change in my purse till next week. And what money’s in the bank has to pay the bills and I probably will be short on rent.

I wonder if it’s like this in countries under siege. First everyone eats the delectables, afraid they’ll spoil or someone else will get them, eating too much like two buns with soup instead of a quarter of a bun with a quarter cup of soup. Wished I had more flour stored up. Low on all the carbos like rice and pasta. Ate the last of the potatoes earlier this week. Thank god I don’t have to worry about a coffee habit on top of the damn chocolate. Withdrawal will start soon.

DAY 3

Four crackers before I left for work at noon. No visions of sugar plums yet and frankly, what is a sugar plum? Probably some sugary prune before chocolate was cheap. Nowadays it would be visions of candy, chocolate, chips and pop dancing across the rotting teeth of kids. I think I probably have a couple of really old prunes somewhere and I’m sure I’ll get to them at some point.

I was offered an apple chip (coated in caramel sugar) at work and I wanted to grab the whole bag. But do you think it might set up a bad working environment to tell your co-worker you thought he was giving you the rest of the bag? Probably. Good thing I haven’t been eating much for a while so the mild growling barely fazed me.

After all that talk/thought about sardines and jam I thought I better eat some while I still have the cracker. Sardines in mustard, sort of a pasty hardly mustard, goo. Slapped them on some crackers, barely noticed the little spines that I usually must remove, and chowed down. Usually sardines are okay for twice a year and I really don’t know why I keep buying them because they’re kind of sinister for fish.  I mean, what other fish would lay itself down in a can with others of its ilk, side by side? At least salmon and tuna have the decency to be from one whole fish. I’m going to have to space out eating the other two cans. Bleah. And now a handful of getting-ever-stale taco chips, no dip, no guac. That’s my dinner.

Stopped by Dan & Nessa’s where they had leftover taco fixins’. I ate one and feel quite full now. Food saviors, gotta love ‘em.

DAY 4

Reprieve. Going to the US for the weekend. Since I have some US money set aside I’ll be able to buy some food. I don’t eat until we get over the border and into Bellingham at 2. I buy six dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice), and a bag of jalapeno potato chips, which I eat on the way. For later I buy a bottle of wine, cider, one lime, a bag of mixed nuts and four muffins to share, which are really cupcakes in drag, weighing a pound each. That comes to $30 US or $45 CDN. US food prices are very expensive.

The bag of chips is so big there’s no way I can eat them all but they and the dolmades do the trick. We drive and drive and drive, through traffic torture and heat and finally get in around 8:30. We set up the tent and I eat a banana and drink one cider. By the time we’re all done setting up it’s time for bed.

DAY 5

Mary brings me a bun with turkey in it sometime in the afternoon. Just turkey and dijonaise, no veggies. I ate a part of Pasha’s magic bar, chocolate and coconut and something else. Later on we have supper, honey garlic chicken and brown rice, with caesar salad. I know I nibbled on a few more of the chips throughout the day so I don’t feel hungry at all.

Evening is drink time, cider and wine and partying.

DAY 6

I wake up hungry but we have to attend meetings and then break down the tent. I eat a couple of chocolate chip cookies and half of the one-pound “muffin.” Back in camp we start breaking down the tent and nibbling grapes. I eat a few more of the ubiquitous jalapeno chips and drink a glass of wine from what wasn’t finished the night before. I pack the mixed nuts that I completely forgot about.

On the way home we stop at David & Jeff’s and they order Chinese food.  Lots of food, I pig out and then feel uncomfortable. We drive on and around 11 we stop for some gas and I’m looking for pomegranate juice because I’ve discovered it goes very well with vanilla vodka. They don’t have any but I find margarine with almost no whey in it. Being allergic to dairy can even eliminate most margarines and I’ve been looking for months for the brand I had bought. I don’t use butter or margarine much at all but it’s good to have some on hand. And I buy a few chocolates for the road because I’m falling asleep. Not the best and there’s dairy in them but there are exceptions, even for bad chocolate.

soup, junk food, dieting, taxes, poverty,

Soup is a good way to fill up when poor. Creative Commons: foodgeeks.com

DAY 7

Monday, day off for Victoria day and it’s cold and blah and rainy. I wake up quite late and eat the rest of the chips and the chocolates throughout the day. That’s my meal until late at night when I finally do the finalized version of my taxes. Then I have a bowl of comfort soup, Lipton’s chicken noodle, the low salt one, which doesn’t have MSG like almost any other packaged soup, canned or dry. Why, I have no idea, but MSG gives me rashes on my face and I already overdid it with the chips.

I used the slow cooker today and made soup from a frozen chicken carcass, denuded of most meat until all that’s there would maybe make a sparrow. I put that in the pot with the last of the veggies in my place. That’s some slightly yellowing broccoli, about a half bunch of celery, some garlic, half a lemon and spices. Spices I have lots of. It cooks all night.

DAY 8

This morning I boiled up some alphabet noodles I forgot I had and added them to the soup. I took a big container and two buns with some margarine on them, to work. However, I didn’t eat them during the day because I knew I had a long night. I succumbed to a chocolate bar and took another to work tonight. That’s $1 I’ve spent on food.

When I did get around to eating my soup it was quite tasty. I put enough pepper and Ethiopian pepper in to make it spicy. Stole some sunflower seeds again from the guys and eventually ate the chocolate, Caramilk, which wasn’t very good.  Bleah.

Got home thinking to have more soup but then thought to have another bun. They’re starting to get that freezer burn taste. However, I settled for eating too many of the mixed nuts. Now I feel a bit bloated and it’s off to bed.

DAY 9

I had a handful of nuts today at work. I knew a friend was coming over to cook dinner so I skipped taking some more of the soup. When I got home I was really hungry though so I ate a handful of crackers and then got a stomach ache.

Once my friend D comes over we make stir fry with basmati rice, turkey, carrots, peas, peppers & lots of wine. I eat well and D bought all the food or we would have had very slim pickins.

DAY 10

Thurs. leftover stir fry, two ciders at penis poetry (I might have been doing a reading of my “penis suite” poems about the penis or I might have been at some other show…I don’t remember).

food, cravings, eating, dieting, poverty,

Dieting can make you crave food even more. Creative Commons: Sashamd Flickr

 

DAY 11

Friday, writers meeting, last of leftover stir fry, then over to Mikey’s for Vlad’s thang, some wine, Korean pancakes, peanuts, a couple of chips.

DAY 12

Kathy in town, meet her for rally, get a teacher’s free bag lunch, eat half the sandwich with no cheese, veggies with peppers & mayo, bottle of orange juice, cookie. Pub for two drinks then to K’s hotel. We hang out with pita, olives, artichoke hearts, red pepper spread, crackers, grapes, wine, then to lounge for more wine and cider, caeser, dancing all paid on her budget.

DAY 13 Over to Gibson’s with Kathy and to Robert’s and Wilson’s Creeks to see friends. Just a couple of cookies at Ross & Nancy’s, holding babies, a glass of blackberry wine. Two pieces of pizza with cheese pulled off (mostly), back on ferry, stop to buy can o mushrooms and some M&Ms because I found a spare $5 in my jacket pocket.

DAY 14 Tuna & frozen pasta sauce with wheel pasta. Banana chips.

Friday DAY 15 (You can see I started to lose enthusiasm for writing about this diet.)

chili

Saturday DAY 16

Ate some banana chips then went to help John move, or more unpack. His mom was there unpacking and hard at it. Helped in the kitchen and the bathroom, then we all went for dinner. Said I wasn’t going to go cuz I was broke but John said he’d buy. We had Mongolian grill food and it was tasty. All you can eat. I wanted to have more than one bowl but I was just too full.

Sunday DAY 17

Slept far too late even for a slackass day. Ate some banana chips and then Dan ICQed me to come over for BBQ. Met with Sam for coffee. Bought a grapefruit juice which has used some hard-earned coin.

Went to the BBQ and brought my contribution which was absinthe (left by friends after a party). I’m getting used to the taste. Ate chips, salad and a hamburger, which my stomach rebelled against later. But then it might have been the four bucks I spent, two on a bag of chocolate chips that I can eat through the week and two on chocolate covered peanuts that I chowed down too fast and I think they contributed to the stomach ache though I gotta say beef and me don’t see hoof to eye. I also felt waaay too full after eating the nuts. Not a good thing before going to bed.

Monday DAY 18

Slept in this morning and had to rush. I left when I should have been at work but made it in 20 minutes. So I gathered my last pennies and bought a bag of corn chips and some chocolate buds. That was lunch, balanced and healthy.

Had to work on some stuff tonight with a friend so I didn’t eat till 11pm and then I had the ubiquitous soup I made two weeks ago. It doesn’t seem to have turned yet though my stomach ached a bit after two bowls full. I had a handful of pine nuts too.

Tuesday DAY 19

Today as always I splurge and buy a bag of chips and a chocolate bar that I really shouldn’t be eating. That’s a buck from the $49 I have this week, $20 which will be set aside for taxes. I forgot to bring lunch with me and ten hours to get through. Guess I’ll be stealing sunflower seeds again tonight.

Around this time I must have got more work and went off the taxation diet.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 47-52

food, cooking, apocalypse diet, zombies, food supplies, leftover

Zombies might like them but I'll stick to the meat of the matter. Creative Commons: Wellcome Images

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 47 (Feb. 16):

Today’s lunch was quinoa and pollo en mole (from the freezer). Dinner was… to tell the truth I forgot to write it down. Oh right, it was…Brussels sprouts, with carrots, margarine, garlic, herbs and spices.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 48 (Feb. 17):

Lunch was a simple affair of hazelnuts and dried cranberries. I knew friends were coming from out of town, and I wasn’t very hungry. I met with a couple of other friends first and we shared nachos, then dinner later was my usual sesame ahi tuna at Biercraft and a couple-three of ciders.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 49 (Feb. 18):

The friends who came up from Seattle gave me some monster cookies last night. I froze most but I ate a whole one for breakfast. My heart was racing afterwards, since it equaled about three good sized cookies. That was a bit too much sugar all at once but it sure was tasty. Dinner consisted of some pre-frozen shepherd’s pie.

I went dancing tonight and afterwards I was so hungry that I took a flour tortilla, warmed it up with some sundried tomatoes in oil, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 50 (Feb. 19):

I woke up hungry so I fried up some onion and garlic and six veggie gyozas. I also realized that if I don’t cook that whole chicken soon I’ll be having it without any vegetables. So it’s thawing for tomorrow night’s dinner.

Tonight was another flour tortilla (the bag has a hole and they’re drying out) with a repeat of sundried tomatoes and parmesan. We drank most of the pomegranate juice last night with vanilla vodka. I had the rest tonight and now it’s gone.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 51 (Feb. 20):

Avgolemono soup, and chocolate chip cookie were my lunch and snack. I went to work out and then had to go for a CT scan and didn’t have time to eat so I was starving when I returned home to eat at 9:30 pm. I ate some crackers while waiting for everything to cook.

Tonight was the chicken, the whole delectable chicken. I hate skin and fat so I skinned my chicken first. I found some very old frozen crusts

I'll eat the beets and leave the brains to the zombies. Creative Commons: http://inmolaraan.blogspot.com/

in the freezer so I broke them up, mixed them with salt, pepper, rosemary, onion, two eggs, cajun spice and what I thought was sage. It turns out I mixed up my containers and put basil in . I also threw in some turmeric for fun, and zedary. Yeah, I don’t know what that is either.

I stuffed the chicken, then seared it in sauteed onions, garlic, part of a shriveled jalapeno, salt, pepper, a cajun spice rub and olive oil. I stuck the whole thing in a dutch oven with one chopped, slightly shriveled turnip (I lied when I said a week or two ago that I had carrots and turnip– I ended up not eating that night) and two beets. I also cooked up some brown rice.

So there I was with a nice slice or two of chicken breast, stuffing, rice, turnips and beets, and even gravy though it looked like congealed blood from the beet coloring. The stuffing okay with the basil. Not bad for Day 51. I ate too much too because I was so hungry so now I’m rather full and have enough for several days at least.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 52 (Feb. 21):

Lunch was leftovers; chicken, turnip, beets, stuffing. My through the day snack was the mondo truffle cookie that I couldn’t eat all at once because I felt all sugar funny. Supper was, yes, the same as lunch. I’m very sensitive to the change in flavor of meat after it’s cooked. I need to eat the chicken in the fridge within three days. Anything left over after that will either be frozen or turned into soup stock.

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

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