Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
I noted, when I bought my Mazda 3 in early 2011, that the dealership installed xenon headlights for me for an extra $220.
I’ve had trouble with the headlights nearly ever since. They would flicker off and on randomly. I brought it back to the dealer, Mazda de Laval, three months after I received the car and well within the headlights’ one-year warranty but the service department couldn’t find anything wrong.
I took the car out to Laval twice to get this looked at. I also took the car to Mazda Gabriel, which is much closer to my house, and they couldn’t find anything wrong either.
Last summer, the left headlight bulb burned out, which is odd for two-year-old bulb that is supposed to last 2,000 or so hours. The car only had 30,000 kilometres on it. After replacing the bulb myself, the left headlight stopped having problems. Around that time, the right headlight stopped flickering, but would either come on or not come on when I started the car at night.
This past March, the right side stopped its binary behaviour and decided to remain off always. Aha, I thought, this will make the problem easier to diagnose.
The first thing I tried was to switch the bulbs from left to right and vice versa to make sure both bulbs worked. They did.
So I wrote to Mazda de Laval:
Obviously, there is a problem with the wiring or the electrical system, and it has been there since the car’s first year due to either faulty parts or faulty installation. Because the problem was reported within the warranty period but not found or fixed despite my complaint, I feel that your service department should finally find and fix this issue at no charge to us. It should be easier to find now that the headlight is not working at all.
The dealership refused, but did offer me 15% off parts and labour, plus use of a courtesy car.
That was still a better deal than I could get anywhere else, so I drove to Laval and left with a Mazda 2.
Nothing will make you appreciate a decent car more than the hamsters that power the Mazda 2.
I had signed off on a minimum $55 charge for labour for a diagnosis. That’s a half-hour of work, but I would get 15% off.
It took the mechanics 1.5 hours to find the problem, they told me on the phone a day later. I guess I wasn’t a priority, but I didn’t mind because I had the Mazda 2 to putt-putt where I needed to go. The problem was that the ballast was faulty.
The ballast is an electrical regulator that makes sure the xenon lights receive the appropriate electrical stimuli (no, I did not major in electrical engineering). Replacing the ballast is beyond my modest capabilities.
It pissed me off that this same service department installed a faulty ballast in my car in the first place. It pissed me off even more when the mechanic told me it would cost $220 to fix (after my 15% off). That was what I paid for the lights in the first place. At least that included installation, but it did not include the $150 or so I would have to pay for the diagnostic work.
After I expressed my somewhat obscene opinion to the mechanic, he sympathetically asked a manager if they could waive the cost of the diagnostic. What do you know? They did.
So I paid $220 to fix the faulty parts that the dealership installed in the first place and couldn’t diagnose until my warranty had run out. It’s not all bad. I do appreciate the 15% off, the courtesy car, and the waiving of the cost of diagnosis, but still….
I’ve lost 12 pounds in the last year by keeping a food and exercise diary app and sticking to its advice. I’m a svelte 165. I could still lose another 20 pounds but to do that I have to stop eating Frosted Flakes while I write a blog post.
I’ve never been to Las Vegas, which made the tsuris at dawn somewhat palatable.
I’m here for a Waze conference. The company invited North American country managers to Las Vegas for a conference to discuss the eponymous navigation app. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’ve done so much map editing that I’ve reached that lofty level of editorship.
Still, it got me invited. Waze paid for the flight. They are paying for the hotel. How could I say no?
Waze is an Israeli company and although bought by Google remains based in Israel. They used an Israeli travel agent to arrange our desired flights. I was supposed to fly to Toronto and take a second plane to Nevada. Everything seemed perfectly arranged.
I tried to use the automated check-in machine but it told me to see an agent. That slightly annoyed me because I only had a carry-on for the three-day trip. I’ve never flown with just a carry-on bag before. This was a day of firsts.
There was only one agent to guard the gateway to the line to see the desk-bound agents and she was busy running between people who were having trouble with their automated check-in machines. She actually had to deputize a passenger to prevent any of us from entering the queue to see the desk agents.
Some ten minutes later, she returned and admitted us into the line. After another wait, my turn came.
The check-in agent took my passport, consulted her computer, and told me I didn’t have a reservation for this flight. This was odd, since I had the itinerary in my e-mail. I gave her the ticketing code.
Mystery solved. My ticket was purchased for the last name Yveen. (That’s missing the first letter.) This second agent told me there was no way that US Customs in Toronto would let me fly with a ticket that didn’t match my name. She suggested I get the ticket reissued and for that I would have to go to the ticketing counter around the corner.
I didn’t have to wait long at the ticketing counter. It was 6:30 and I still had half an hour to the flight, I thought. The ticketing agent disagreed, saying that they close the flight 45 minutes before departure. I could take the 8:30 direct flight to Las Vegas, but it would cost me $150 plus tax to change the ticket.
My mom is coming into town for Passover today and at this point I was thinking I would get an unexpected extra three days with her. I wasn’t going to pay and hope for a reimbursement later.
I called the toll-free number and reached the Israeli travel agent to explain the situation. Yitzchak told me he needed to contact the original agent and Waze to see if they could pay the extra charge.
A short wait later, Yitzchak called me back. Everything was approved and I should go back to the ticketing counter. I did, but the woman I had been dealing with was no longer there. The woman I had to deal with now said it was impossible to link my incorrect ticket to a new one since they are two different people. She refused to talk to Yitzchak on my phone.
I was about to give up when the first ticketing agent returned. She said it was certainly possible to change the ticket, but that she needed to be paid up front. She also refused to talk to Yitzchak and said there was no way she could accept any form of online payment.
Yitzchak swore on a stack of pitot (pitas) that somebody would reimburse me so I handed my Visa card to the ticketing agent.
Right now, I’m in the airplane. The flight crew was late, so we’ll be late into Las Vegas. It’s not a big deal. This flight was going to get me into Las Vegas Ten minutes earlier than my original itinerary, anyway.
I was chosen to try out the new machines set up at US Customs. I had to stand on my tiptoes to get into frame for the camera. I also had a problem because my flight was not listed as belonging to Air Canada. The nice Customs lady helped me backtrack and choose Air Canada Rouge.
A new paper reports on an incredible collection of aquatic fossils from Cerro Ballena, Chile. Spanish speakers who can translate Cerro Ballena to Whale Hill might hazard a guess at what fossils were found.
Such a fine collection of fossils is called a lagerstätte and can reveal a lot about the environment at the time.
Under a deadline due to the impending highway construction that revealed the lagerstätte, the research team relied more on 3-D virtualization than on old-fashioned digging.
Because these fossils are relatively recent, they don’t reveal much about whale evolution, but research did teach me one thing I never knew before: the phrase “aquatic sloths”.
I went to the fantastic Web site the team put together. Not only can you download the 3-D models of some of the specimens, but you can cruise a list of all of them. Near the bottom, you can find Thalassocnus natans, the aquatic sloth.
Aquatic sloths were not small animals. I could not find a published estimate of their size, but I did find an unofficial estimate: six feet long and up to 500 pounds. Here’s a photo of the skeleton (click to enlarge):
And a couple of artists’ depictions:
Note the snout elongation from the first depiction of an older species to the second, more derived species.
The driving force that led to sloths’ adopting an aquatic lifestyle (although they almost certainly came back to land after feeding, sort of the opposite of hippopotamuses) was the terrestrial environment. This area has been arid for a long time, which makes it tough for a dedicated herbivore to find enough to eat on land. Tooth wear tells us that the early aquatic sloths fed on or near shore where sand would abrade their tooth enamel. The later species show no evidence of sand abrasion and probably fed in deep water, where the sea bed is calm.
We’re still sorting through my dad’s stuff and I got my hands on a photo album that contains photos of older family, my younger brother modelling in a fashion show, and my university graduation.
Here I am in my youth and long-haired glory.
My dad in that photo is two months away from turning 48. Right now, I am one month past 48. Is it just his grey hair that makes him look so much older in the photo than I do now?
Nope – not according me, anyway. His hairline receded more than mine has. I’m not sure about the face.
Speaking of which, this may be the most recent photo I have of my dad clean-shaven.
My netsurfing today took me to Dorian de Wind’s article on Dutch Jewry in the Holocaust.
Today, Jan. 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a date chosen to commemorate the Red Army’s liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on Jan. 27, 1945.
De Wind’s article pointed me to the Digital Monument to the Jewish Community in the Netherlands, a site set up to remember Dutch Holocaust victims.
My youngest brother has for years maintained a family tree that’s been striking for the number of deaths recorded in Auschwitz and Sobibor. Click the compressed image below to see the whole thing.
I decided to test the Digital Monument to the Jewish Community in the Netherlands against a subset of my brother’s information, that being the nine siblings of my great-grandfather, who left Europe well before World War I (yes, WWI).
Of the nine siblings, two died in infancy. One survived the war in Europe. The other six died in then camps along with spouses and children.
Here are those six siblings:
Israël Mozes/Nijveen (57) – died in Auschwitz.
Betje Mozes (49) – died in Sobibor.
Hinderika Mozes-Zilverberg (53, the memorial site has the name wrong) – died in Sobibor; daughters Rachel (25), Anna (21), and Saartje (16) died in Auschwitz. Daughters Geertje and Sara also died, age and place unknown. Son Jacob (30 in 1945) survived.
The one sibling who survived, Charles Nijveen, lost his son Max (29) in Auschwitz. Daughter Rachel (32) died of illness in Amsterdam in 1942. Daughter Judith survived the war, and was a blast to hang out with in 1979.
On the whole, I was impressed with the work my JOUR 428 students did on their final projects last semester. I adopted a loose definition of “journalism” so not all of these are strictly news, but I enjoyed their work.
Now, you can too. Here are the links in no particular order:
- Murtazi the Martial Artist
- Portrait of Lebanon
- How Non-Profit Organizations Can Change a Child’s Life
- Final Project!
- Greek Immigration in Montreal
- Nalie’s Story
- Urban Agriculture springs up in Hochelaga
- 24 Hours as a Conjoined Twin
- Elizabeth Reichert: A WWII Story Through The Eyes of A 14-Year-Old
- Shelves and corners
- MTL Municipal Elections 2013
- Concordia Food Guide
- Microbreweries of Montreal
- Greek Food Project
Bonus fighting of the man:
This happened again. I triumphed again. I am not impressed with the record-keeping involved in the process.
I look like this:
For Halloween, I temporarily dyed my facial hair to look like Tony Stark. I looked like this:
Many people urged me to keep dyeing, so I bought Just for Men Mustache and Beard, in light brown.
I followed the instructions and left it on for five minutes. I looked like this:
I wasn’t happy with the coverage, so I dyed it again, this time leaving it on for ten minutes. I’m a daredevil. I looked like this:
Not bad, eh? I am my mother’s son. Also, I need a haircut.
I found this display in a local Michael’s.
Hopefully, when the “Charte des valeurs québécoises” become law (ha!), the store will post a guide to tell us which of these symbols is too ostentatious for government work so we can know which will keep us (university professors count!) out of jail.
Bonus iOS 7 bug:
Apparently, if you alter a playlist in iTunes, the changes will not propagate to your synced iPhone/iPad in iOS 7. You have to create a new playlist in iTunes, copy everything from the old into the new, then make your changes.
I had to rename my Top Tunes playlist to Favourites because Siri kept insisting I was asking to shuffle my non-existent Pop Tunes playlist.
As summer began I had never seen a live moose. It was somewhat embarrassing for a Canadian, so seeing a living moose was on my bucket list.
The easiest way to find a moose to look at is to find a zoo that harbours one, you’d think – but there are few zoos within driving range of Montreal and the two I know of (the Biodome and Granby Zoo) don’t have moose. Parc Safari has deer but otherwise focuses on African mammals.
To Google I went, where I discovered Parc Omega, located roughly across the Ottawa River from Hawkesbury. It’s a drive-through circuit, like Parc Safari and although it’s been around for two decades, I’d never heard of it before. It focuses on local and European fauna: a bunch of deer species; black bears; boars; wolves and foxes; etc. The park also offers overnight accommodations which are hardly necessary but which we decided to try out.
What a fantastic destination this place is. The deer and elk come right up to your car for food. Conveniently, the park’s main building sells bags of carrots for $2.50. The park warns you to keep your car windows half closed, but we preferred having the deer stick their heads in our van. The boars are also friendly, although too short to reach the windows. The ibex are a bit shyer.
The herd of bison ignores the cars but you’re not supposed to feed them anyway. I’m sure there’s a link there. Musk oxen, bears, and the wolves and foxes are penned in. You can look, but you can’t touch, or feed.
You can get very close to black bears and timber wolves on the park’s boardwalk. I’m sure they have gauged the animals’ leaping ability with some precision. Again, you are not supposed to feed them, but wild blackberry bushes grow around the base of the boardwalk supports. The bears had eaten all theirs, but we could reach some ripe berries on the wolf side. The bears would sit up and are extraordinarily good at snatching berries out of midair.
And in one pocket of the park, nearly smack dab in the middle, I saw these:
Five of us spent the night in what the park calls a prospector tent, which is really more like half a log cabin with a tent perched on top. It had real beds and a Keurig. Unfortunately, the shower is only cold and you are not allowed a fire. The tent suffered from a lack of ventilation and a clammy feel, but that’s made up for by the fallow deer in the forest around you and free access to the back side of the wolf/bear boardwalk. You’d have to pay again to get your car back in the park, though. That’s a policy the management should rethink.
Here are four dozen or so of my pics. As it turns out, everything we thought was a whitetail deer is actually an elk.
(Click to enlarge any photo.)