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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Delayed Delayed Gratification

Did I say four more sleeps about six sleeps ago???? What a blow - my cherished new piece of furniture is still not with me! And man, was I pissed on Thursday night when it didn't show up.

I phoned delivery services at 5 pm to ensure it was on its way - yes it was. I duly moved my old furniture (and as I am recovering from a recent back injury, I had to do this cautiously) and was ready at just after 5 pm for the buzzer to go. Six o’clock came and went; as did 7 pm, and 8 pm. Finally at 8:45 I received a call from the delivery truck saying they would be here in 15 minutes. By 9:30 (45 minutes later) I called delivery services, and after waiting for about 10 minutes, was transferred to customer service. It seems they could not contact the Calgary delivery station, as they said their phone lines were down. Wait a minute, the phone lines were not working??? This is Calgary, not the Gulf Coast! Methinks there was subterfuge going on, or incompetence.

I was so angry I got on my laptop and ripped off a letter to the CEO and immediately faxed it off, looking for appropriate action and compensation, and saying how disappointed and frustrated I have been throughout this purchase process with his company. Hrrumph. If we don't take our power back as consumers, they will walk all over us...

The next day I hoped for some action - nothing. So I phoned delivery services again. At first they said the delivery bunnies had arrived at my place at 8:35 and left at 8:43. "Blatant lies!!!!" I yelled at the poor woman down the (now-operational) phone lines. I could hear she was thrown off her game, but she recovered quickly with a grovelling apology and an offer to rebook the delivery. The earliest they had available was Tuesday. So here I sit, not on my comfy new piece of furniture from a major North American department store (hint: starts with "S", ends with "S"), but on my raggedy old Ikea one - that had been delivered exactly when they said it would be some 10 years ago...

Sigh. Being an activist-consumer is darn hard work....

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pontifications

I attended a reception at a local watering hole for my alma mater this evening. It is a prestigious university across the Pond, and apparently there are some 100 of us in the Calgary area. I went to the first such event about a year or so ago, and had a perfectly wretched evening, full of flashbacks to Old Boys sitting around with their port and cigars, pontificating at will about nothing of any great value to the world. Why did I go back, I hear you ask? Well, I really couldn't be sure it wasn't PMS, or SAD, or some other diseased-acronym, and so I thought I'd better go back tonight to check for sure.

And for sure, it wasn't me. I was faced with islands of two or three alum blissfully chatting away about absolute tosh, completely ignorant a new face had joined the crowd. A more icy welcome I have never received. Well, it wasn't really even a welcome, or even a cursory acknowledgement of my existence (beginning to feel a bit Douglas-Adams-y about the whole thing ...) Luckily I breathed deeply and pushed myself into an ongoing conversation, or I would have spent the whole bloody evening talking to the wall - without anyone noticing my blatant absurdities.

This is hardly surprising or out of character for this lot. I remember hearing once that an enterprising and highly mischievous person went to a party held by one or other of the pontificators when stationed across said Pond, and decided to make up a story about a completely fraudulent 9th century Welsh poet. Fully half of the assembled actually admitted to hearing of said fake Welsh poet. No doubt the fear of being embarrassed by not knowing what they are supposed to know. These are supposedly very intelligent people, and they need to pretend to stay that way.

Pontifications abounded, especially when there was a pipe in the room. Luckily no pipes tonight, due only to the good graces and forethought of Calgary bylaw officials.

I should say that I did finally meet one or two nice people, and we had a decent chat about nothing really substantial. On the whole, I think my time would have been better spent in front of the TV with my virtual friends on Coronation Street. At least you get a good conversation, I say a good conversation, out of them.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Delayed Gratification

So there's only four more sleeps until it arrives. I've been waiting and waiting for a certain piece of furniture I ordered to be delivered and Thursday is the day. And even before I ordered it, I drove my friends crazy just by talking about it all the time. And I began to realize that part of my intense pleasure in buying this piece is actually the wait I will have in considering the purchase and waiting for delivery.

Again, this runs counter to our present-day society. We want it all and we want it now. And even if we can't afford it, we feel entitled to it so we will go into debt to get it. The average Canadian family now has a debt equal to 120% of their total disposable income (http://www.vifamily.ca/newsroom/press_jan_27_05_a.html). And we seem to have given up on saving. Yikes. This is enough to make me worry. Although sustainable with low interest rates, when they go up, so will bankruptcies.

I'm no saint (yet ...) - I do buy plenty on impulse. But on big ticket items, there is something to be said about careful thought, saving and waiting. I am really excited about this, much more so than I should be.

What is it? That's for a future post. Until then - just four more sleeps, four more sleeps, four more sleeps....

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A New-found Respect

For the past while now I've been watching birds. Little ones, big ones, colourful ones, woodpecker ones. I won't go so far as to say I've become a "twitcher", but I am noticing them more, especially magpies.

I'd never been a fan of magpies. They always seemed big, boisterous birds that would take on a cat without a thought. My cat was almost the victim of a vicious magpie swooping exercise a few years back, and, well, you just have to side with your cat. But lately I've begun to rethink the human-magpie interface. And I have to say I respect them. They are self-confident, in-your- face birds. They won't back down from anybody or any fight, and they know what they want (usually nice, shiny things). They're very vocal, and take action on a whim, without thinking the whole plan through. They're also quite attractive birds, with vibrant colours that make them stand out in a crowd (or flock). And I have to say they seem to enjoy their food - in more of a gourmand than a gourmet kind of way.

I used to prefer rather petite, pretty little birds, but as I age I can appreciate the magpie for all its many merits. Perhaps you have to be of a certain age, or a certain maturity, to see the beauty in magpies. And perhaps you have to be of that certain age to understand that assertiveness does not equate to aggressiveness. If I don't come back as a cat in the next lifetime, I think coming back as a magpie would suit me just fine.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Grumpiness

Moods are very strange things, and I've been in a dandy one now for a few days. Call it hormones, call it brain chemicals, call it what you will, I seem to be mad at myself and the world right now. Maybe it's emotional fallout from the non-stop coverage of Hurricane Katrina I've been watching. Maybe it's peri-menopause. Maybe my brain is shrinking as I age and I'm just generally more grumpy.

I tend to become a recluse in these kinds of moods - not wanting to foist them upon my friends. Alas, two of my friends got the full frontal of my mood today - granted I did have to wait over an hour for my brunch (while they had already finished theirs). Ah well, it is all part of the grand tapestry of life, no?

I have never understood people who wanted to be happy all the time. Seems to me to experience all of life, you need to be in a grump every once in awhile. But again, this thinking runs counter to the society in which we live. Feeling down? Pop a pill. A little anxious about social situations (otherwise known as shyness when I was young ...) ? There's even a pill for that. There are times I really revel in my own self-pity - I've lived long enough to have earned it, and as long as I don't stay in it ad nauseum, what's the harm? Dammit, I'm going to enjoy it!

So here's to Grumpy - one of the most maligned of the Seven Dwarves and one of my personal heroes. At least this weekend.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Speaking of Leipzig ...

There I was minding my own business, looking for something else and wallop! New unique real estate, right between the eyes! How about .... a castle!!!!! There's many of them for sale in the former East Germany, near Leipzig (the real Leipzig, not the SK imitation). And apparently you can get grants to renovate them too. Those EU dollars (er, euros) at work for you! Take a look for yourself at: http://www.poshjourneys.com/castles_as_an_investment.htm And you can buy part of a castle too - a wonderful thing called fractional ownership. So much fun! If I just had the time, the money and the guts ....

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Chouses

I went through a bit of a phase awhile ago. Part of my unusual real estate fetish. I kept looking at old churches for sale - I nicknamed them "chouses". I didn't know what "chouse"actually meant, or even that it was a word. But it actually is. It is a verb that means to trick or cheat. Needless to say, my chouse is a noun, and is short for "church-house".

The first one I looked at was a sad little church that even I couldn't save near Medicine Hat. Bad energy. Then I almost bought one, well, two really, in a small town outside of Calgary. But then I didn't. Long story. Then I went down to see one in Claresholm, but it was a former Masonic Hall. Talk about bad energy (with appropriate apologies to all Masons out there - I'm a Rotarian, you see). But I still keep looking, as a type of hobby. There are a surprising number of decommissioned churches for sale, and even convents come up occasionally. There was a convent for sale in Leipzig, Saskatchewan a few months ago, that had been partially converted into a commercial bakery. That had many of my academic friends buzzing about buying it and starting our own private university. The University of Calgary at Leipzig - has a nice ring to it, no?

Now even my friends point out these churches to me. Perhaps hoping that I will actually buy one of them one day and they can come and stay. But I'm not sure chouses are really me after all. I have my eye on a nice little renovated cinema with a two bedroom apartment above it. Now that would be fun - Fred Astaire festivals every year!!! Hey, a girl can dream ...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Happy Birthday Alberta!

So here it is - Alberta's 100th birthday, or centennial, if you will. When I went back and thought about it, I have lived here for almost 20 years, which is almost half of my life. That's 1/5 of Alberta's life. Sheesh. That's a lot of life.

Wonder if I'll still be here for the 125th anniversary? You see, the plan is that eventually, I will buy some place in a warm locale, so that I don't have to put up with the increasingly long and bothersome Calgary winters. I actually think this is a plan shared by many of my fellow Albertans, so not at all innovative. I already have a place here in Alberta. Now I get to try and figure out where to buy elsewhere. I'm thinking Spain, and because I have dual EU citizenship (yay!), I could do it with little hassle. Oh, and I speak the language. Apparently that isn't a barrier to millions of Brits and Germans who are busy buying up their piece of paradise though...

Me being me though, I don't want a normal place. I've been looking at cave houses. Too drab and dull I hear you saying? Never - a little white-wash and you're away! Take a look: http://www.spanish-inland-properties.com/cavehomes.html I should probably go and stay in one for a month or so first. I can get a little claustrophobic - hmmm, possibly time to rethink plan ...

So anyway, where was I? (I'm so easily distracted.) Oh yes - Alberta's centennial. You'd think in a province with NO debt, we might, once every 100 years, get a stat holiday to celebrate. But NOOOOooooooo - apparently it would cost too much money. All I can say is Ebeneezer Klein (aka Scrooge) should be ashamed.