Beware Tornadoes!

In September 2014 the teachers were on strike, and my children, for some unknown reason, were getting very nervous about tornadoes.  The results?  Video projects!

Marley was first, and hers is definitely the more informative of the triumvirate.  Straight from the news deck …

Cohen was up next.  Marley took over as videographer for this one.  Still a little informative, but mostly fun.  Everybody needs a good PSA …

Finally Roxanne’s contribution, with Marley as videographer again.  We riffed on the idea of videos being informative, and created our own midday TV show segment.  Now back to the show …


That longer blooper was showing a moment where Marley thought she had stopped recording, and then tried starting again but in fact just stopped it 🙂  It also gave you a little insight into the massive behind-the-scenes work going on.  Those kids are troopers for putting up with the pushy, demanding, kinda-mean director!

Beware Extended Warranties – A Case Study in Horrible Customer Service

Alisa and I tend to avoid buying extended warranties, knowing that they really don’t offer value beyond the manufacterer’s own warranty.  To date we’ve had only one exception to this rule: large appliances that involve water.  So far this has included our clothes washing machine and dishwasher.  We figure that if electronics meet water … chances are things can go wrong more often.

This post tells the story of how this general rule’s exception is now obliterated by horrible customer service as we struggle though a failed LG washing machine. Full disclosure: this cost us $200 on July 2, 2010 on an $800 machine (25% of the cost of the machine).

The short version is that we feel cheated, patronized, and ignored by TGW and The Brick.  We made a significant investment in an extended warranty under the belief that we would benefit from exercising it should we encounter problems with our expensive purchase.  Now that we need the warranty, we are being left without working laundry for over a month at best.  As a result we have had to rely on the kindness of friends to help with our family’s laundry.  How would you feel about your friends washing your private clothes for weeks on end?  It certainly feels humbling and embarassing to impose on friends to wash our clothing, not to mention the loss of privacy .

I will caution everyone from purchasing extended warranties from The Brick and from dealing with TGW in any capacity.  From a customer service perspective they have left me feeling ignored, frustrated, angry and powerless – the epitomy of bad customer service.

I will be sending an email to one last escalation path pointing them to this blog post as a final request for a reasonable resolution.  My family is relying on friends to help out, have suffered stress and loss of privacy, and have had to waste a lot of hours, both ours and theirs, to get nowhere.  A simple replacement decision, as suggested by the tech on day 1, would have avoided this fiasco.  I hope this is resolved quickly.

Update July 8: After sending this missive via email to the support email, we received notice that our part is still back ordered, and that they have decided to replace the unit rather than try to repair it.  I don’t know if it was the lack of the part or our desperation, but we’re thankful that the decision has been revisited and that we might just get back to cleaning our own clothes in the next week or so.  Relief!


Here’s the complete log of events, up to and including today (July 7)

June 10 (Tuesday)
  • Alisa notices some black streaks on some clothing, including some new white pants.
  • Alisa tries to wash out the washing machine and confirm that the black streaks are not just dirt
June 14 (Saturday)
  • First call to Trans Global Warranty Corp (TGW), the vendor that sold us the warranty plan via The Brick when we bought the washing machine  An appointment was made for an on-site visit by a tech
June 16 (Monday)
  • The best part of the story: the on-site visit only took 2 days to happen.  Fairly reasonable, but with a family of 5 depending on the washing machine, we were starting to worry about having clean clothing after a week of no laundry.
  • The tech explained that it might be built up dirt that would come out with a vinegar wash.  The chances of it being oil were small, particularly with this model.  He provided instructions on how to test the stained clothes to see if it was oil, and how to wash the machine out with a vinegar load.  He committed to calling us back the next day.
  • The tech explained that the cost of repairing units like ours was typically higher than replacing it with a new unit.  He was going to order the parts just to make sure that got started, but was going to recommend that the unit be replaced and pass that back to TGW so their decision makers could start making that decision ASAP.
  • We went through with the vinegar wash, and tested the stained clothing.  Yup, it is oil.  Not built up dirt.
June 17 (Tuesday)
  • We spoke with the tech and confirmed it was oil.  He said he would proceed as planned, and that we should hear back by Friday (June 20th) to let us know if it was going to be a repair or a replacement.
  • The tech explained that if TGW decided to repair, it would be extensive, probably requiring them having the unit for a week once the parts were in.  We would hear more once the parts arrived in the next couple of days.  He also would submit to have it replaced, but that decision was left with TGW.
June 19 (Thursday)
  • Having heard nothing from TGW, and heading into our 2nd week without laundry, we called TGW.  We wanted to hear from them what the decision was regarding replacement vs repair.  The front-line staff explained their policies very well (only replace after 3 repair calls on the same unit) but refused to let us speak with anyone in the group who would be making the decision about repair vs. replace.  Direct requests to speak to a manager or someone from that group were declined.  Point blank.  Very frustrating at this point, but only the beginning.
  • TGW estimated the part arriving by June 24th
June 20 (Friday)
  • We called TGW back in trying to find out if a repair or replace decision had been made.  Same story about their policy.  Same refusal to allow us to speak with a manager or someone involved in the decision.  They stated the the decision had not been made yet to repair or replace, but they they had to wait for the part to come in before the decision could be made.  They expected the piece early next week.
  • The company rep suggested we look for another solution like a laundromat in the meantime.  Wow, we paid for this “security” and “peace of mind”?
June 21 (Saturday)
  • We called again to ask for other options and get specific dates.  One idea we had was to have a temporary machine provided as soon as possible so we could have laundry while we sorted out the repair/replace question.  TGW turned us down, and had no other info.  The part was expected June 24 and we could not speak to anyone else at the company.
  • TGW did at this point seem to have record of a decision being made, that a repair would be the course of action.  They never said as much, but they stopped acting as though they knew nothing about the course of action, rather speaking directly to a pending repair.  This may be due to the decision being actually made, or because the replacement part was so close to arriving.  I can only guess.
  • With TGW saying we could speak to nobody else, and there was no recourse, we called The Brick to talk to them.  The Brick was clear that TGW was the warranty company and they had complete records and control.  She said she couldn’t tell if we had used the warranty before and so couldn’t refund pro-rated.  That still doesn’t make sense to me – TGW knows we haven’t claimed against this warranty and she could query them for this info.  The Brick committed to speaking with TGW to see if anything could be worked out, and getting back to us in the next 24 hours.
  • The Brick called saying they could do nothing for us.  Not even provide a replacement, because the part was about to arrive and the cost of providing a temporary unit was too high for just a couple of days.
June 25 (Wednesday)
  • With no word from TGW even though the part was due the day before, we called them again.  Now the replacement part was officially on “Back order” and due July 4th.
  • I expressed my frustration so convincingly that I was able to get escalated to a manager.  I don’t know why it worked this time and not before.  perhaps because of the delayed part.
  • I spoke with the manager and explained the horrible situation his company had put my family in.  I expressed how betrayed and angry I felt as someone who had spent a lage amount of money on their product, and now was feeling ignored, cheated, and ignored.  The manager committed to investigating the part, to see if it could be expedited.  He also committed to asking the decision-making group to reconsider the repair vs replace decision, given the current situation and the reality that this repair would end up costing the company more than replacing the unit (customer service time, repair costs and time, etc)
  • The manager committed to replying within 24 hours with the results of his investigations
June 27 (Friday)
  • Having heard nothing from TGW we called again.  I asked to be escalated to a manager and was granted my request.  The part was still back ordered with an expected date of July 4th.  TGW is at the mercy of the manufacturer.  This manager noted the other manager has submitted a request to have it expedited.  He also noted that the request for re-consideration of the repair/replace had been submitted to the decision making group, but that no change in direction had been made.  He was unable to determine if that meant the decision had been re-evaluated or if that was still pending.
  • I again expressed my frustration and feeling betrayed by the company.  I asked to be escalated to any other avenue so I could speak directly to people making decisions about our situation.  If the part arrived on July 4th, following by 1-1.5 weeks for the repair plus pickup/delivery, we would be without laundry for more than a month.  Had we known this was the service we would receive back in 2010, we most certainly would not have purchased the warranty.  The manager stated that the only escalation paths that exist were the one we had used via phone, and by emailing, which he assured me would be read by the decision-making group.
July 4 (Friday)
  • Having heard nothing from TGW, we called again.  It was Friday and the part was due today.  The confirmed it was due today, but we had called too early in the day.  We should expect to receive an automated call when the part arrived, so we could phone in later that day and arrange a reapir pickup.
  • Our requests to look at repair vs replace, the decisions made etc were all rebuffed.  The parts were due today, it made no sense to even look at replacement anymore.
July 7 (Monday)
  • No word from TGW, so we called again.  The phone person now says there are 2 parts ordered: 1 had arrived June 24th, the other was backordere with an expected date of July 4th.
  • After pointing out the date, she committed to submitting a request to the Parts dept for an updated date, and getting back to us in 24 hours.  Sound familiar yet?

Getting an Eye-Fi X2 Pro Card Working on Linux vs. Mac

I recently had the pleasure of figuring out how to get a new gift for Alisa working in my technology environment.  The hoops I had to jump through are documented here for later reading, but also as a demonstration of what I mean when I say Linux will only be ready for the masses when the hardware supports it.

The Eye-Fi card is an SD Card that also contains a wireless adapter.  It has the ability to connect to wireless networks and upload the pictures on the camera to some other storage like a computer or server.  Great concept!  It is supported on Windows and Mac, so let’s see what that really means.

Continue reading Getting an Eye-Fi X2 Pro Card Working on Linux vs. Mac

Marley’s First Movie – Ma Famille

Marley was given a homework assignment to put together some “proejct” at home that introduced her family and why they are so special.  The goal was to increase the grade 1’s kids’ awareness of differences in family make-up and of people in general.

Marley thought of a few good ideas like a poster, which we sketched out, but decided in the end to venture into cinemetography and film direction.  I helped her write out each scene (seriously, she wrote each scene in english and french) and the we had a few pratice takes for each one.  I think it turned out wonderfully.

So without further ado here is Marley’s first movie.

Sometimes hours of reading results in 4 simple actions

I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to figure out how to setup my Postfix installation to allow secure connections. Postfix is an SMTP mail program that allows one to send email. I wanted it to be secure so that I could open my firewall and allow my devices to send email through my self-hosted mail server securely and in a manner that didn’t result in me being an open relay.

I started by looking at Ubuntu documentation as I typically find it helpful. In this case it felt like it was a couple of years old and the configuration files seemed to have changed since it was updated. So I ventured into Google and found all sorts of HOWTOs and tutorials that kinda of were doing the same thing. Kind of.

I also decided that I should just bite the bullet and create new SSL keys as my current mail one had expired. That took some reading again until I found this article which was very helpful, giving specific commands to get a 10 year certificate.

Anyhow I spent many hours reading different articles, manuals, software documentation – quite tiring and frustrating. In the end I found the Postfix and Dovecot documentation to be most helpful (including one article with some sample commands to look at the details of the SSL certificate).  In the end it took just a couple of steps:

  • Ensure Dovecot was creating a socket that could be used by Postfix to authenticate (that’s the /var/spool/postfix/private/auth thingy and required config changes to Dovecot in 10-master.cnf beyond what was there already – adding user/group info as per Postfix documentation)
  • Ensure Postfix was configured to authenticate via Dovecot (postconf -a checks what is configured and active)
  • Ensure there are SSL keys for both Dovecot and Postfix.
  • Ensure Postfix is configured to use those keys and enable SASL authentication.  The trick was finding the “auth” section in conf.d/10-master.cnf

I think that was about it.  In the end 5-6 hours of time were spent issuing 10 commands or so that took 1 minute to actually do.  Nice!

Cohen’s “The First Christmas”

Cohen’s preschool class put on a little retelling of the first Christmas.  Cohen played the part of Angel Gabriel, with each child memorizing a single line or two.  A teacher filled in as the narrator.

Cohen did a great job as Gabriel, but he also memorized the entire show – including the narration.  He put the show on using his self-made nativity scene set a couple of times over the holiday.


Alisa and I Are Now “Real” Triathletes

In early September Alisa and I participated in an Olympic length Trithlon at Cultus Lake.  Yup – we did that.

Back in March when I completed my sprint length tri at UBC Alisa was already gearing up for her first sprint in the North Shore race.  After my race I was a little uncertain about wanting to go full on for a full tri as there was a lot of training involved just to get me ready for a sprint.  I couldn’t imagine how much training would be needed to get my ready to double the sprint distance and survive (that last part is important to me).

Alisa though was convinced that we had to do a full tri, and that we had to do it together.  I remained unconvinced but in the end caved in because I just like to make her happy.

Continue reading Alisa and I Are Now “Real” Triathletes

Endlessness of Emotions and Habituation

Wisdom and food for thought from His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Like their counterparts of love and compassion, anger and the afflictive emotions can never be used up.  They have, rather, a propensity to increase, like a river flooding in summer when the snow melts, so that far from being free, our minds are enslaved and rendered helpless by them.  When we indulge our negative thoughts and feelings, inevitably we become accustomed to them.  As a result, gradually we become more prone to them and more controlled by them.  And we become habituated to exploding in the face of displeasing circumstances.