Wednesday, 29 August 2007

I Hate Car Dealerships

My Passat was due for a service; I called and they were booking 3 weeks in advance (you think there's a health crisis in Canada? Looks like it's easier to get an MRI than to get an oil change). My appointment at Northland Village Volkswagen was yesterday. To get there, you have to take the LRT to the Brentwood Station, then the Northland shuttle driver will pick you up and take you to the dealership. Their posted pickup hours are 3 PM to 6 PM.

The LRT broke down at the University Station, one station shy of Brentwood. The doors got stuck, so they ushered us off the train, with one track blocked. It was 5:40, so I called the Northland shuttle driver, and told him I would not get to Brentwood until 5:50 or 5:55. He refused to pick me up, saying the last pick up was 5:45. I asked if he would come to get me at the University station right then; sorry, no, they only pick up from Brentwood. So when I stepped off the train at Brentwood at 5:55, I had to walk the 20 minutes to get to Northland.

It's asinine customer service policies like the shuttle driver's that make me hate car dealerships. This is not the first time I have had difficulties with car dealership shuttles; the one for Valentine Volvo was a nightmare, and the Mini Crowfoot one was also very poor (though they have changed their policies to make it a bit better recently).

So I am changing dealerships until I find someone to get it right. And if you are a Calgary based reader of my blog, and you are considering dealing with Northland Village Volkswagen, understand this is the last straw in a series that means I personally will never do business with them again. Be forewarned.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

More Unfinished Kitchen Finishings

Not much got accomplished last week. More handles arrived...

...and the backsplash tiles got done.

If you look carefully, you'll note they are "groutless". The installer left us a note asking what colour grout we wanted. White was our immediate answer before seeing the tiles. Well, when we got home, the tiles themselves didn't look right to us. We thought they would be white with a silver tinge, to (a) match the stove, and (b) match the stainless steel in the hood fan. These tiles have a clearly green tone, with some silver (neither shows up well in the photos -- come see it). We couldn't pick from the grout selection the tile guy left, and besides, I have a designer to pick colours since I'm so bad at it. Called the designer; sight unseen, he said "white". We said, "better come see", and when he arrived, he was taken aback; the tiles aren't supposed to look green at all. So we remain ungrouted, since the designer isn't sure this is what he wanted.

To add more insult to injury, the striped cabinets bother both us and the designer. On the upper cabinets, the stripes line up. On the lower ones, they don't. The designer came over to see it, and wasn't bothered by this (why not, I ask). What bothered him was that the door gaps are too wide. They're supposed to be 2-4 mm; they are in fact 5-8 mm.

There's clearly a gap you can see through, and it's half as wide as the handles. Oops.

We decided to break down and load the kitchen with our "stuff" anyway. On Sunday, we started by lining the shelves with protective lining. We started at 11 AM -- and finished lining the shelves at 5 PM. So much for unpacking.

Nothing will get done at all this week (week 15), as the designer and his crew are up in Cold Lake on another install. Here's hoping that one doesn't take 16 weeks instead of the planned 9.

So we remain at least 2 weeks away from a hood fan, 1 week away from proper doors on the fridge, 1 week away from a back door, and who knows how long away from getting rid of bare lightbulbs -- never mind the cabinet door replacements.

Peregrine Pics Plus

So in the last few days, the peregrines have been putting on one heck of a show. For starters, they fly as a solo... a duo, practicing mock attacks...

...or as a trio in the family unit.

They hang out on the tops of antenna on the top of tall buildings looking for lunch, though apparently the kids don't always like that.

Then they catch lunch. Usually it's a gull of some sort, sometimes a rock dove. They find a nice spot, and chow down.

Good parents share with their kids.

When lunch is done, it's time for a nap or a sit to digest.

Then it's time to fly off, and do it all again.

The post is "Peregrine Pics Plus". Perigrines are not all I see from my office window. At the end of the day today, an osprey flew by -- with a fish in its talons.

Take that, oh ye with Pine Siskins in the back yard.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Living With Endangered Species

No, KC and I are fine.

The view from my office is likely one of the best in the entire City. There's always something to see, but I can usually shut out the distractions -- except for cool clouds and weather events, and watching endangered species.

This week, everyone in my office has been entertained by the antics of four Peregrine Falcons. I had seen one occasionally for the last few months, as they live in the downtown core. The fun started Wednesday morning; at 8 AM, one was sitting on the roof of the PetroCanada building across the street from us eating a bird for breakfast. A second was flying around, and since the eating bird wasn't too protective, it looked like the mate. The one eating was large and therefore most likely the female (males are smaller). The pair flew around a bit the rest of the day. The pattern was simple: thermal up to about the 50th floor in the sky, circle over the river, dive for birds to eat.

Today has been a blast. It started with a juvenile sitting on the roof of the Sun Life building directly across from and level with my office eating breakfast at 7:30 AM. Brekkie was a pigeon (actually, a rock dove, but they're all pigeons to us). Again, a second -- likely mom -- was hanging around. Eating took 30 minutes, then the kid sat for +/- 20 more minutes digesting.

Later this morning, suddenly four showed up for flying & attack lessons. It was like watching F-16's in a dogfight. First mom or dad would attack one of the kids, then vice versa. There were races, and attack strategies around the buildings. All of this was taking place in a triangle bounded by PetroCan, Telus and Sun Life.

This afternoon, it was nap and eating time. One of the kids took up residence on the Telus sign on the side of the building and laid down for a nap. Then two others showed up on the "T" in Telus, one kid with a kill (most likely a Franklin gull, given the white feathers everywhere) and Mom watching out. Dad took up a perch at the bottom of the "S" in the Telus sign, and had a snack of his own (another rock dove).

Peregrines are endangered; my understanding is that there are only 23 nesting pairs in Alberta. It's very fun to see these guys each day. I'm bringing in my camera in the hopes of geting some photos of these fascinating guys.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

(Really stinking windy) West Wind Pass

We wanted to hike up to Old Goat Glacier today, but when we got to the trailhead, we found a warning because a grizzly bear had been in the neighborhood since August 5th. We're just basically chickens, and in 27 years living in bear country, I've never seen a bear while hiking, and I'd prefer not to start now. I also note that every time there's a bear-human encounter, the bear always comes out on the losing side (whether through bad rep, needing relocation, or needing to be killed, the most tragic outcome of all). So we bailed. Karen took a quick look at the guidebook, and found us an alternative only 5 km away (but on the other side of the lake).

West Wind Pass isn't really a pass. It goes up to a valley between two mountians, but you would have to be a nutcase with a deathwish to cross the pass; the sheer drop at the top is suicide. The hike is right up our alley; trailhead less than 90 min from our front door, trail less than 90 min (4 km and 400 m height gain), views along the way and at the top spectacular. A little bit of a grunt at the end and in the middle, plus the trail is a little treacherous in spots are the downfalls. It's not as easy as Jumpingpound or even Powderface. And it's WINDY at the top.

Starting at Spray Lakes, the trail basically follows the upper left edge of a valley holding a dry streambed. The views start off good and get better.

When I say the trail hugs the edge of the valley, I'm not kidding. One wrong step and it's a long way down. The trail really is the gravel at the top of this slope.

Here's KC on the last pitch.

Get to the top and you realize where you are: overlooking the Wind Valley, Pigeon Mountain, Dead Man's Flats and the Bow River Corridor.

The views are stellar. Backwards towards Spray to the west you can see Mt. Sparrowhawk, Mt. Nestor & Goat Mtn, Tent Ridge, Mt. Shark & Mt. Smuts, and a a whole lot of water.

The other direction to the east, it's Wind Ridge, which I never knew was a grassy (and great bear habitat).

Then there's Pigeon. Look carefully, and you'll see a small building on the top (who knows what that is...)

Peeking over the Rimwall is the Little Sister of the Three Sisters.

Then there's Windtower itself. Apparently, there's a route up the backside that isn't hard and takes about an hour from where we were standing.

You can see Banff Gate Mountain Resort (formerly Alpine Haven Resort, formerly Pigeon Mountain Resort) from the pass, so on the way home we pulled into the parking lot and looked where we had been. The pass is the U-shaped valley in the middle of the photo, with Windtower on the left and Rimwall on the right.

The trail was busy; lots of folks, including a group of ten 20-somethings who were starting the hike at 4:30, just as we were finishing, with plans to get to the top of Windtower and back by sunset. I hope they made it. Otherwise, we only saw some nice birds (including a huge group of Clark's Nutcrackers, that we first thought were Gray Jays), and a chipmunk or ground squirrel (never got close enough to see him properly). Then, pulling up to Banff Gate resort, we found a white-tailed deer, and two fawns. Go figure.

The Kitchen's Finished? I think not.

We were told on Friday morning that the worker bees would be done that day, and the kitchen was essentially finished, and we could start moving back in over the weekend. Well, their version of "finished" and mine are a bit different. What's not finished? Well, let's start with missing handles.

The shelves are missing from the appliance garages...

The front panel of the fridge is missing, apparently 3 weeks away...

The tile guy is missing; he was supposed to be here last Thursday but is AWOL...

The hood fan won't be here for a while, but no one can tell us how long...

The toe kick in front of the dishwasher is notably absent...

Then there's the electrical, whether it be switches or lights (which only got ordered last week)...

The venting for the fridge is a funny colour...

Then there's the back door...

So I'm not of the opinion that they're "finished." Still, we migrated out of the basement, and started to experience life in our new space. Some things work well; some don't (a depressingly long list). We also noticed some pretty serious problems. For instance, compare the way the grain of the cabinets lines up in the upper cabinets with the lack of alignment of the lower:

We hope the doors are just on in the wrong order, but part of me worries that some are drilled on the wrong side.

Finished? I think not. In addition to the above, the pantries are all filled with tools and stuff, meaning we couldn't really move any food in. We thought about unpacking, but think it prudent to remain patient, and do nothing more until they are ACTUALLY finished.