Friday, November 29, 2013

Kitty Woes

This summer, knowing that I wanted a red couch, and that I have a long haired white cat, I went looking for ways to address his shedding.  Winter is now 14 years old, so this is in no way the first time that I've tried to do something about the shedding, but I thought it would be worth another try.

I bought a Furminator, which promises to remove loose hair and reduce shedding.  Winter loves to be combed, so it took all of two or three sessions before he started to expect them reguarly.  I have a table set up in the unfinished area of the basement, and all I'd have to do was go to the basement before Winter would run down there, jump on the table and beg to be combed.  So, we developed a routine of me Furminating Winter every day.

To be clear, there was a LOT of hair removed.  I pretty much removed a whole new cat every time I Furminated him.  I did notice his hair getting a little thinner, but I also noticed decreased shedding and -Hallalujah - an end to the regular hairballs that I used to have to clean up all the time.

So.  It's kind of dark in the unfinished area of the basement.  There's just the one CFL bulb down there, and it's not exactly bright.  That's the excuse that I'm using, anyway, because it probably took me longer than it should have to realize that the Furminator was removing a lot more than just the loose hair.  Uh huh.  It was cutting the hair off at the base.  In the areas that Winter really loves to be combed (neck, belly, and base of his tail) the hair is pretty much gone.

My (normally) beautiful long haired, angora cat is currently covered with bald spots.  It' would be really quite sad, if it wasn't so funny.  ... and it's only been a few days since I figured it out, and his hair is already growing back in.

From now on, I'll be combing Winter daily with a paddle brush, and maybe Furminating once a week after his hair grows back in.

And that red couch I wanted?  I got one in leather, so cat hair shouldn't be an issue.

I Win!

Sorry - this is a bit of a novel, but I thought I should keep a record of this in case I'm ever tempted to change my media provider again.

I am very much not a fan of the big media companies.  You know the ones... phone/internet/tv providers.  In Alberta, we have the choice between Telus and Shaw.  It used to be that Telus had the monopoly on TV and internet, and Shaw had TV but now they both do it all.

I hate Telus for too many reasons to list here, but suffice to say their customer service sucks, and they have hidden (not so hidden, actually) charges up the wazoo.  I have avoided being their customer ever since I've had any other options - Shaw.

This all started a few years ago, when I started working from home.  I talked to Shaw a bunch of times,  about slow connections and cutting in and out; but the responses were hit or miss.  Mostly, I felt like I was being told to upgrade at my own expense before they would bother trouble shooting.

That, combined with the basement renos (which means that I would soon have two TVs) convinced me to give Telus another chance.  It's been years since I've been their customer, and they do claim to be making customer service a priority.  Plus, I like the idea of using one PVR for all TVs, so I can wander from one room to the other.  Also, Telus was giving away TVs when you sign with them.

I signed with Telus in September.  I was all set to switch over to them when a guy from the Shaw retention dept called me and made all sorts of promises.  I wouldn't have to pay to upgrade, because he agreed to give me the fastest internet available (broadband 100) a new PVR, and decrease my monthly bill (for TV/Internet/phone) to $70/month.  He also gave me his direct phone number so that I wouldn't have to deal with the spotty service on their phones.  I agreed. The Telus contract was cancelled, and  a tech came out to set up my screaming fast internet.

Two things about that, though.  The internet was NOT screaming fast, and I didn't get the PVR I was promised.  I called the guy I'd talked to earlier, but the number he gave me was for somebody else, and nobody ever called me back.  That made me mad.  I went down to the Shaw office and talked to a lady there who sent me home with a PVR and booked another tech to address the internet issues.   The second tech came out, spent three hours fiddling with the internet, *almost* had it fixed, but then got a phone call over something urgent, packed up his tools and left without registering my router.  I didn't have any internet at all.  That made me madder.

Long story short(er), that got fixed, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.  Then, issues with the new PVR and new connectivity issues at work that were known to be related to Shaw convinced me to try Telus again.  I agreed to sign up for a three year contract for similar services to what I have at Shaw, only I'd get a whole-home PVR and a new TV.    And I'd pay $145/month instead of $70.

Then I started finding hidden fees everywhere.  If my TV breaks and I replace it, I'd have to pay Telus $100 to come out and reconfigure the digital box that goes with the PVR.  I have to pay to keep my phone number unlisted.  Having it "Private" isn't an option.  I emailed Telus about one thing, which led to a whole bunch of other things and suddenly I realized this was not what I wanted.  A Telus employee and I went a few rounds before I finally pulled the plug and cancelled my contract with them (which I could only do because they hadn't yet set up my services).

Today, since Telus had previously said they'd make the arrangements for my Shaw account to be closed, I called Shaw.  I didn't trust Telus to un-cancel the cancellation, so I wanted to make sure that Shaw had no plans to terminate my services.  I lucked out by being connected to a rare breed of service desk staff who really knew her stuff and wanted to help me out.  All I wanted to do was confirm that my account wasn't being cancelled, but she asked for my reasons for almost leaving so that she could address them.  It turns out that Shaw also has a whole home PVR system that nobody had told me about earlier.   She arranged to send a tech out to set one up for me, and agreed not to charge me anything, as long as I'd return the new-ish PVR that I'd received in September and wouldn't be using anymore.

So, I get the pvr system I want, I keep the discounted rates of $70/month and I don't have to deal with Telus.  Oh, and that free tv that I didn't get?  It's a 42" LG.  Telus claims that it's worth $800.  I got up early this morning and took advantage of the Black Friday deals online.  I ordered a 46" Samsung smart tv that was on sale for $500.  The way I see it, it'll only take 6 months of the discounted rate I'll be paying, and I will have saved enough to cover that expense.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What If

I've got a good job, I think.  I enjoy what I do and I do it well.  It's the job I wanted for many years, starting at the absolute bottom and slowing working my way up before I landed the latest promotion last December.  I haven't had this job all that long.  Shortly after I started, I was told that my boss would be retiring in three years and that she was going to "groom" me to replace her.  Her role is pretty much my end game - I have no aspirations above that.

Organization shuffles are about to happen, and we're told that - most likely - my boss will be laid off.  Somebody else will absorb her role and he has no plans to retire.  While my job won't change much with the new boss, the short term plans for my next promotion will be off the table with no other room to move up.  In addition to that, we're all dealing with staff shortages, hiring freezes, pay freezes, benefit and pension cuts.  (Makes you wonder what we're staying for, eh?)  Even better, it is looking highly likely that we'll all be unionized in the next few months.  Nobody wants this.  It will mean bigger cuts to our benefits, a loss of one week of vacation/year, less freedom to move within positions and a 1.5% percentage cut of each our salaries.  We get no say or vote about this.

Last week, somebody in a role quite different and at a slightly lower pay grade from mine quit his job and left a big gap.  It's a critical role, and they're going to have to find a way to replace him, even if it means giving up the FTE elsewhere.  A thought started to niggle at the back of my mind, and I wondered but didn't really let myself think about it - what if I did that job instead of mine?

I could do it.

It would be a higher profile job that regularly deals with directors and executives, where I usually deal with people on the front lines.  There's no more room to move up from this role either, but it would be a new skill to add to my resume.  The pension/benefit/union/hiring/pay freeze issues will still be an issue.  I'd be the newbie who doesn't entirely know what she's doing, where as right now I'm the expert. It would involve being on call 24/7, which I've tried to avoid throughout my entire career.  I'd get less pay.  Because of the hiring freeze (and because my current role is lower profile) my boss would not be able to replace me unless she poached from another team.  I know without a doubt that she's be mad at me if I left - and since she's an amazing boss and I care what she thinks, that's big.   And yet... the job is calling my name.

The job was posted today.  I was approached about applying.  I said I'd think about it.  In the meantime, I agreed to start training.  The position requires coverage 24/7, so even if I decide not to apply, I can dip my toes in the pool and help fill in when whoever ends up in the position is tied up, busy or sick.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mistake

I discovered on Friday that a mistake had been made on the electrical in the basement.  I had asked them to wire two of the  outlets to be on a switch so that my laptop (stored and to be plugged in above a shelf over the desk) and my monitors, (plugged in below the desk) can't drain any power at all while powered off.

I could have continued to use the power bar that I use now, but I would rather not have the clutter around the desk.  On Friday, I discovered that only the outlet above the shelf was put on the switch.  So, now, I have to have the power bar for the monitors AND use the switch to power on/off the laptop.

The alternative would be to have them cut out the drywall and fix the outlets, which then means that the drywall would have to be fixed and repainted as well.  Lord only knows how long this will take.  Considering that all they've accomplished in three months is the framing, electrical and drywall, I don't have high hopes for a quick turn around.

I'm pissed, is about the only was to sum it up.  This six week job really doesn't need any more delays, but it doesn't  make sense to pay extra for something that not only doesn't do what I want, it complicates what I had in the first place.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Experiment

At the nursery this year, I was wowed - and oh so tempted - by big beautiful bougainvillea plants.  They aren't at all common around here, but the red blooms were just absolutely lovely.  I didn't get one because they wouldn't survive more than a season here in our weather and they cost $150.   As pretty as they are, I just couldn't justify a splurge like that.

This fall, I found little starter bougainvillea plants at home depot.  They were short, and stumpy, and I really didn't know how they'd do, but they only cost $15.  (Which, thinking about it, isn't cheap for a plant but in comparison to what the nursery wanted this spring, it's pretty fantastic.)

Anywho, I brought the bougainvillea home and gave it a place in one of my sunnier rooms.   I haven't taken the best care of it... I left it in a tiny starter pot, watered it when it was bone dry, and haven't even thought about fertilizer.  Even so, it grew quite a bit and then this happened:


It's pink, instead of the red I really loved, but it's still pretty darned nice if you ask me.

So, now I need to figure out what to do with it.  It's going to need a more perminant home in a different location (I wonder if it would get enough light in my new basement room?)  and a much bigger pot.   And maybe, I should figure out how to properly take care of it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Let there be Light

Painting is now done, and the electrical was (supposedly) finished up in the basement.  It's progress, but there are a few issues.



There are lots of LED pots, which I am very happy with.

The semi-flush to the left - the one that is not turned on - was a surprise, because when I ordered it, I thought it used normal light bulbs (that I could replace with LEDs)... turns out it only takes teeny tiny Christmas light sized bulbs.  I'll be out tonight looking for LED bulbs that come that small... really won't be happy if I have to end up using incandescents.

And finally, you might notice the lonely pendant light hanging at the back/centre of the room.  There were two of those pendants.  Those were my splurges for the lighting, and were ordered from the US. One has been broken.    I'm awaiting word from the vendor to see if they'll replace it.


This picture isn't hugely important, other than to show you the bank of switches to turn the many lights on and off.  You might notice that none of those switches are dimmers... two are supposed to be.

You might also notice the gaping hole around the electrical panel.  There should be a whole-home surge protector in there, but it was forgotten.  Ditto for the intercom to the front door so that I don't have to run upstairs to tell people No, I don't want to buy their magazine, sponsor their trip to Europe or otherwise give them money I don't have.  I think the surge protector will be installed next week... I suspect I'll give up on the idea of the wired intercom, and may pick up something wireless on my own.

Something else that you don't see are the tv or internet outlets.  Wire was run for those, but a plate was slapped over where the outlets would/should go.  The electricians tell me it's the responsibility of the internet/tv provider to do this.  The internet/tv provider tells me it's the electrician's job.    I'm thinking I'll just avoid the fight and offer to buy beer & pizza for a friend of mine who does networking as a career.

A lady arrived today to measure for the tile installation, but had no idea when the work would actually be done.

At this rate, there's a good chance this 6 week job that started in August might be done before Christmas.  I've decided that'll have to be good enough.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Snip

My little man-dog, who had just returned from the vet where he made the Big Sacrifice in the name of social responsibility, immediately went outside and pointedly sat in the snow.

He's ok, though...  a little wobbly but mobile and none too pleased.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Echo

Something I didn't expect during this construction project is the echos in the house.  Ever since the basement was opened up to the main floor, noises echo throughout.  This is especially bad when the dogs start playing/barking and it sounds like there's a whole dog pack in here.  Suddenly, I'm a single person - very used to peace and quiet - living in a very noisy environment.

When the work is done, there will be a wall of books, rugs on the floor and upholstered furniture to absorb the sound; the echos will be gone.    I want that.

This six week job started in August.  Three months later, it's only half way finished.  I'm impatient for this job to be finished for a whole lot of reasons, but lately the echo is the biggest reason I want this done.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Whew

My built-in vacuum has been broken for about a month.  Although I haven't vacuumed the construction area, that dust is hard to contain and is pretty much all over.  So, when it started to be really quiet and lost suction, I figured the construction dust had done it in.   I tried replacing the filter and a bunch of other things, but had no luck.

So, I rolled up the area rugs and went old school for a few weeks with a dust mop and a broom.  It does the trick, I guess; but just doesn't work nearly as well.  I really didn't (don't) want to have to buy a new vacuum but it was getting to the point that I figured I wouldn't have a choice and was deciding what part of the basement project could be postponed until after the vacuum repair/replacement was paid off.

Then, I had an aha moment while at work Friday, and remembered a connection that had been taken apart a while back to make room for the drywall.  I ran downstairs and checked it out, and sure enough, it hadn't been put back together yet.  I put everything back and tested it out; thank gawd it's working again.

You won't hear me say this often, but what a relief to be able to be able to vacuum again.  The dust bunnies and cat hair tumble weeds had gotten so bad, I was starting to think I was camping.