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July 30, 2009

Ram Johnson: Part 1, Spiders

The man who kneeled over the dead Caucasian woman's body was about six feet tall. He likely weighed in at a powerful 220 pounds. His head was shaved bald and his skin complexion was such that it was hard to tell if he was a very tanned Caucasian or a light-skinned Hispanic or African-American. His nose had been broken enough times that it was fairly flat and always seemed to be at a slight angle. Sometime in the past, he had received a scar to his face that started mid-forehead and sliced down, skipping over his right eye, and ended just above the right corner of his mouth. The scar wasn't deep and was faded now, but still a visibly lighter line on his otherwise darker skin.

He stood up from surveying the woman's corpse and looked around the alley in which the body had been found. His clothes were all neutral colors, high quality material and stitching, but nondescript. No labels or little alligators or initials on the dun-colored, button-up shirt. His brown khakis were similarly strong and serviceable, showing little signs of wear. His shoes fit the outfit, but gave the impression they could be used for running, walking, or standing for hours.

For all his powerful, well-muscled build, he moved with the languid fluidity that big cats in Africa use. One might mistake the way he moved for a dancer it was so smooth and effortless. However, one look at his strong, overtly scarred hands and knuckles, and that person would rethink the opinion. Only boxers, martial artists, or street fighters have hands like that.

His keen hazel eyes, spotted something near a trash bin about fifteen feet ahead. He stepped over to it, pulled out a steel probe, and investigated. The Police Detective followed after and, realizing what he was looking at, exclaimed, "Jesus, Johnson! There's blood on the wall over here and it isn't even marked! Get one of the lab techs over here to collect a sample and photograph it."

"Well," the detective continued, "What do you think? Is it one of 'em?"

The man stood, adjusting the shoulder holster carrying his Colt .45 Automatic into a more comfortable position as he rose.

"Yes, I think it might be. The woman's bag has pictures of a newborn in it, the stroller at the front of the alley is likely hers, and there's a diaper bag in the dumpster. It looks like she was dragged off the main street, her throat was cut, and whomever it was took her baby. If you find the mark on her, we'll know for sure. But right now, it looks like another one."

The man's voice was of medium timbre, but was well-modulated and gave few, if any, outword signs of emotion. He could have been talking about the weather or a football game.

Looking closely, it was hard to tell exactly how old he was. He could have been anywhere from an old 32 to a young 45. The lines and crows feet could have been caused by a life led outdoors, or from the weight of age and experience. From the way he coldly, professionally, processed the scene before him, it was obvious he had done this before. His lack of emotion hinted that he had seen far worse in his time.

"If it is another one, that makes five in four months," said Detective Montoya.

"I appreciate your calling me over and letting me take a look, Miguel."

"Hey, I owe you. Plus, I know you're working for the Martinez family on their missing girl. You respect the police in this town, unlike some private dicks I could name, so another set of eyes looking into this serial will help. Just let me know if you find anything, okay?"

"You know I will, Miguel."

They shook hands and the man moved out of the alley. He walked to a fairly nondescript midsized four-wheel drive SUV and got in the passenger side. After twenty minutes in the hot sun, the air conditioning sent small goosebumps up both arms.

"Well?" his assistant asked. Her voice was light and soft, but still seemed to carry over the sound of the AC running, the engine's idle, and the Top-40 station she had on.

"Yeah, we have another one," he said.

"Damn," she said, and crossed herself. Her long black hair was up in a simple pony tail, out of the way of her face. She wore a blue cotton shirt buttoned all the way up except the top two and a white cotton skirt that reached just passed her knees. Although only driving a midsize SUV, she still looked a little small in the driver's seat; she couldn't have been taller than five foot four or five. Under her clothes hid a gymnast's strong body, however, and her weight was around 125 and extremely well-toned.

"Let's go back to the office, Keiko," he said. She put the truck in gear, waited for an opportunity to merge into traffic, and headed south.

She glanced over at her boss occasionally as she drove them back to their office. His eyes were closed and his right hand was on his brow, rubbing in small circles. She could tell this case was taking a toll on him; he did not like violence toward women or children, it brought back memories for him that he would rather leave buried. But these cases also brought out the best in him, as he would go to great lengths to stop anyone who performed such acts.

It had started for their office four months ago. The Martinez family had hired him to assist the police in looking for their granddaughter and to catch their daughter's killer. She was the third recent mother to be snatched in broad daylight from a busy street, throat cut, left to bleed to death, while the assailant or assailants left with her baby. The children had not been found and no ransom demands had been made. For all the violent, bloody, and public nature of the crime, no one had stepped forward with information on the crimes even though all had taken place in well-traveled areas with many people. No physical evidence had been found at the scene of the crimes to indicate anyone else besides the mothers had been there. The police had admitted they were baffled.

Her boss had been the one to point out each abduction and killing had taken place just prior to a full moon. Full moons were notorious for bringing out the crazies, but these crimes were surgical; it seemed doubtful that some simple loony was wandering the streets. And why wasn't there a ransom asked for the children? Where were the children? Was it some sort of slavery ring? Race didn't seem to be a motivating factor. Of the five women killed and children abducted, two had been African-American, one Hispanic, one Asian, and now one Caucasian. The motivating factor only seemed to be mothers with newborns; not one child was over six months old.

"You okay, Ram?" asked Keiko.

"Ram" Johnson opened his eyes and lowered his hand from his head.

"Yeah, I'm okay. Just thinking it through. We need a break in the case. This one has me at a loss. The symbol is the key, but no one at the station and none of my contacts knows anything about it. We have to find someone who knows what that symbol is."

Each mother had a very small spider cut or drawn on her in an out of the way place. It indicated two things:
1. That the killer(s) had waited for the woman to bleed to death from the throat cutting.
2. He or they had taken the time to partially undress and handle the body long enough to cut the small figure in places not easily found unless on the autopsy table.

"What does a spider want with these children," he asked rhetorically for the hundredth time.

July 29, 2009

Lounge Lizard

We are traveling to SoCal in September. On the way there and coming back, we have a 2 hour and a 3 hour layover in Toronto. My wife once had an upgraded ticket on a trip out to see me and she used the Air Canada VIP Lounge and loved it. So, we wanted to use that service again if possible (you can with standard fares for an additional fee per person).

The strange thing is that Air Canada will not accept you purchasing a VIP Lounge pass if your destination or starting location airports do not have a lounge. Since we are in the small town of Saint John, NB, our airport does not have a lounge. So the fact we are WILLING to pay this additional fee means nothing to AC, they will not accept our money or give us the pass.

This has irritated my wife more than once, and today she found the rule, sent it to me, and asked me to call and argue with them about it. Rather than argue, I took a different tact.

When Mike, the AC representative who fielded my call came on the line, I said, "Mike, I have a problem. I want to give Air Canada money and your company doesn't want to take it. Can you help me to give Air Canada more money, Mike?"

This completely took Mike by surprise and I heard him give a little laugh before he replied, "I'll see what I can do. What seems to be the trouble?"

I then explained to Mike that I was willing to bet that the vast majority of people flying do not feel the need to use a lounge at their starting destination, as they are likely arriving at an appropriate time and getting on their planes fairly quickly. Where the majority of people need a lounge is at connection cities; they have long layovers and may have had a trying flight for a number of reasons, and they need to unwind before going up in another plane. Mike agreed that made sense.

At this point I explained that it almost felt like AC was discriminating against NB because none of our airports had lounges, so we couldn't purchase this option at all for any of our flights. I told him this was like AC turning down free money. He laughed and agreed.

Mike was so amiably surprised and pleased with the conversation that he then tried some workarounds to see if he could get us the lounge passes. Each failed. But this led him to check to see if there was any more information about this service available. He found an article that says that, starting August 6, 2009, AC will allow these passes to be purchased by any individual for locations that have a lounge. He recommended that we try again to purchase it online at that time and, if it still didn't work, to call AC back. He went so far as to give me the location and name of the file so I could tell anyone who argued with me to look it up and get it done.

As we were signing off, he again said, "I see your point; seems strange that Air Canada would just leave this 'free money' on the table. Maybe this new policy is addressing that."

Sometimes, you just have to know the right tact to take and doors will open. This is, by far, some of the best customer service I have received in my calls/talks with any AC employee. Kudos to Mike for going the extra step.

Do you think if I had called up with angry voice and only complaining/demanding satisfaction, I would have had the same experience?

Bourne vs. Bourne

As people who frequent this blog can attest, I love the Jason Bourne movies starring Matt Damon. I think they are, both individually and as a whole, one of the best all-time action/adventure movies/series in cinema.

Because of this, I decided to have M procure for me the original Robert Ludlum The Bourne Identity to read. I usually prefer to go from book to movie, but in this case I had no interest in the writer or books until after seeing and enjoying the movie.

What a different experience the book is!

Outside of reusing names and the general theme of "American spy with strong covert/combat skills gets amnesia and then has to figure out who he is and what he's doing" the books and movies are radically far apart.
  • In the movie, Marie is a student in the wrong place at the right time for Bourne to hook up with her and inadvertently endanger her by bringing her into his world.
  • In the book, Marie is a Canadian with a Doctorate in finance who works for the Canadian government trying to assess potential risks and benefits to the government's finances from foreign powers. She is kidnapped at gunpoint by Bourne and forced to do what he wants before ultimately falling for him and actively helping him with her knowledge of finance and her Canadian gov't contacts.
  • In the movie, Conklin is the head of Treadstone who is actively trying to kill Bourne and cover up Bourne's "errors." He is eventually killed and used as a scapegoat in subsequent movies.
  • In the book, Conklin is a bitter ex-spy who becomes the head of an all but defunct Treadstone 71 after the leaders of the project are killed and Bourne is set up to take the fall for their deaths. While he does try to kill Bourne, he is brought around to believing Bourne is a hero and should be saved.
  • In the movie, the main antagonist is Treadstone, mostly because of Conklin, as it is actively trying to find and kill Bourne after his botched assassination attempt.
  • In the book, the main antagonist is Carlos, an infamous, world-renown assassin who is seeking to kill Bourne for trying to steal his business. Treadstone is a minor subplot and is all but decommissioned by the end of the book. Carlos actually kills the leaders of Treadstone and frames Bourne for it.
  • In the movie, Bourne is simply a government black-ops assassin who is used on special missions and "paid to be a ghost" who is injured and left for dead, causing his amnesia.
  • In the book, Bourne is a government operative who volunteers to pretend to be an assassin that is trying to steal work from Carlos and eventually capture/kill Carlos, while actually helping to save people from Carlos. He has been undercover for three straight years in this capacity when he is nearly caught by some of Carlos' men and is injured and left for dead, causing his amnesia.
As with most books, there is a lot more backstory and explanation than can be presented in a movie. I actually found the Carlos plot to be very interesting and, since Carlos gets away at the end, should be a main theme in the next book (already on order with the library). There was a lot more interest knowing that he was being actively hunted both by the bad guy, Carlos, and his network of informants and spies, and also by the US gov't who thinks he's turned and gone over to Carlos' side (or, worse, has had a psychotic break and thinks he is the assassin he's been pretending to be in order to capture/kill Carlos).

In most cases when the book and movie are so disparate, the book usually wins, hands down. The Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a great example; very good book about a man who turns permanently invisible and how the gov't wants him and what he does to be free. The movie made from the book? Well, Chevy Chase, for one. Made into a comedy for another... crappy experience. The Postman, by David Brinn, is an incredible tale of a man inadvertently revitalizing civilization by pretending to be a postman in a post-apocalyptic world. The movie, well, let's just say I'm not sure Kevin Costner read more than the dust jacket before making it. He missed all of the message and ignored well over half of the novel's themes. How about Fluke, by James Herbert? Good novel about a man who dies and finds himself "possessing" a dog, who then works to figure out who killed him, and save his former wife and his child from that man. The movie? Gee, another Chevy Chase fiasco that was turned into a comedy... enough said.

The only other good novel made into a radically different but also good movie I can think of off the top of my head is Jaws. The Peter Benchley novel is much more adult than the movie, with Hooper being younger and having an affair with Brody's wife. Hooper is also eaten by the shark in the scene in the shark cage in the book. The shark is more violent and eats more people in the novel. Both are good and both are worth investing time in, but are very different from each other.

I look forward to reading the next book and seeing if Bourne can find Carlos and eliminate that threat. I'm also wondering if Treadstone will get reactivated to help him do that.

Viva la Difference!


July 26, 2009

Second Week Money Totals for HP:H-B Prince

After seeing the movie, and then reading comments from a wide selection of fans and non fans on blogs and among my group of friends here, I went on record by telling M that I felt that the movie would drop by "between 60 and 65% in its second weekend." I just got the preliminary numbers from Box Office Mojo and it is currently listed in second place in its second weekend and dropped... 61.5%. Only about 1% off from being the worst drop of any HP movie to-date (Azkaban dropped 62.7% in its second weekend -- but, ironically, is considered by many to be the best film in the series now. Ah, hindsight, you are so perfect).

A lot of people are in essence saying the same thing I did: the book was exciting enough, was fairly "cinematic" already, and the story and culmination is such a strong lead in to the last book, that the changes made took most if not all of that away. A lot of people are also questioning what they will do in the two movies for book seven with the changes made in this one-- it seems even less likely that two movies are now needed (many were questioning that decision, as do I).

July 17, 2009

HP: Half-Blood Prince

*** Absolutely Chock FULL of Spoilers about Half-Blood Prince. Don't read if you don't want to know ***

I am a Harry Potter fan. I've read the books a few times each, and really enjoy the movies, having seen each of them (except the newest one just released) a number of times each.

I have defended the movies to my friends who have argued that too much is cut out, that they don't understand the choices made, etc. I have argued that the Potter books are so full of his every day life that it would be boring to have too much of that put on film. I have debated that focusing more fully on Harry, Hermione, and Ron, to the point of even changing which characters in the books do certain things in the movies so-as to keep the focus on them, makes for better cinematic storytelling. I have, however, lamented some of the changes and wished to see, for example, Hermione's quest to free the house elves, among other subplots in the novels that haven't made it to the movies.

Having recently reread the entire series and rewatched all the movies in anticipation of the Half-Blood Prince being released, I was very excited about the movie. It had Kloves back as the writer, the scribe who has written the script on all but one (and arguably that one is one of the weaker entries in the movie series). It had Yates, who directed the last film to good effect, even if the script wasn't as strong as some of the others. The book's story is naturally more focused on Harry than some of the others, so I reasoned less would be cut out or changed for no reason. The subplots of Ron and Hermione intersected nicely with Harry's story, so I figured less of those would be cut out, too.

In short, I figured this would be the perfect coordination between the book's story and the way the screen writing has gone and would culminate in one of the best adaptations of Rowling's work on film yet. The book had a lot of action inherent in it, as things start racing toward a head, but also a lot of backstory allowing you to figure out who Tom Riddle was and what he had done to become the greatest Dark Wizard the world had known. It showed the intelligence and the power of Dumbledore, and allowed us to see some of the teachers at Hogwarts in a new and powerful light.

I hooked up with some friends and we went to see it.

To say I was disappointed would be putting it mildly.

What was action-packed and made for the screen was dumped or changed. The Ron/Hermione subplots that, for once, wouldn't detract and would actually aid in understanding and putting in context Harry's story, were dumped. Much of the back story was dumped.

And it wasn't just little things.
  • In the movie, relatively early on, Death Eaters led by Bellatrix attack the Weaseley's house and burn it to the ground. Not in the book. Why have this very action-packed scene that really has no bearing on the story and ignore the actual key scene at the end where the Death Eaters attack the school and the teachers have to protect the students and the grounds?

  • Why leave out the entire Ron/Hermione as Head Boy/Girl story, when it plays such a key role in Harry feeling left out and alone?

  • Why completely change the relationship issues between Harry and Ginny?

  • Why ignore most of the backstory of Riddle, his hatred of his father and grandfather, and how he came to be, yet leave in the barest pieces of it? Why include Dumbledore's black hand at all, with how little time was spent on it and the fact that he says it is "an exciting tale but now is not the time" and never comes back to it?

  • Why completely change how Dumbledore is killed, when the way it worked in the book is sufficiently cinematic?

  • Why not include the funeral of Dumbledore, as it plays such a key role in the last book/film?
It was frustrating to watch this movie, knowing from a recent rereading of the story that it was one of the most naturally cinematic and had all the elements perfectly aligned to make one of the best adaptations of story to screen, and have what turned out to be a completely different story told.

As I said at the start, I have defended what Kloves and company have done for the first 5 movies repeatedly. I understood the process and why they made the decisions they did. However, Kloves dropped the ball on this film, completely changing elements to the point where (the two movies for) seven will HAVE to be changed quite a bit in order to be filmed and make sense within the world of the movies.

I will purchase this movie to have in the collection, but I doubt I will watch it with the same relish and enthusiasm that I have attended the first five in the series. This is most definitely a case where I'd rather read the book than watch the movie!

July 14, 2009

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

After moving here, I found a decent, but not great, bicycle to allow me to get back into riding. Riding is one of the few exercises that doesn't generally get my RA in a bunch, so it is a good exercise to continue.

After getting the bike, but well past the 30 day return policy limit, I started to discover some issues with the bike I bought. I should have guessed, as I had to go through and tighten nearly every nut, bolt, and screw on the bike after getting it home because the man who put it together wasn't, shall we say, a pro.

The biggest issue with it was that my shifter didn't work right. Sometimes it would shift the gears off the sprockets and either onto my foot/pedal or onto the pedal crank on the other side. It also didn't quite line up with the gears and would shift multiple sprockets with on press of the shifter.

I tried to fix it myself, but shifters have always been touchy things and I don't know enough about them to do much. Soon it turned to winter and bike riding season was over, so I put the bike away until the spring/summer.

Took the bike into a place in town called Alternatives. They did a bike tune-up on it for $40. I asked them to pay specific attention to the gears, as I couldn't ride it on the hilly area around here without working gears. They took and told me to come back in a week to get it.

I now have my bike back and went for my first small ride today. Everything, for the most part, seems like it is running just fine. I was able to use all the gears I shifted to and at no time did the gears fall off on my feet or the crank. What I also learned is that I am way more out of shape than I thought, as I barely rode a few blocks before my legs were screaming at me.

If I stick with it, though, my legs and endurance should improve over time. I'd like to get to the point of riding on Manawagonish Road at some point. Or maybe down around the Nature Park, or similar. And, of course, it will help me lose a bit of this damn stomach I've developed from a year plus of sedentary living and Prednisone use.

If I stick with it and get into better shape, M says I can consider selling/giving this bike away and get a more expensive, better bike. So I have good incentive to keep it up now.


Here is the thing I don't get: The NFL knew that a drug frequently used by players to make their team-dictated weights contained an ingredient that it a) had banned because it could be used to help mask steroid use and b) was not listed on the drug. They KNEW this, yet they did not issue any sort of directive to the Player's Association or the league doctors informing anyone of this fact.

Step in some players who, by all accounts, are pretty upstanding players. They have never tested positive for anything in the random and scheduled drug tests during their career to-date. By all accounts, they were simply trying to lose some water weight (the drug's primary use) and did everything right in doing so; they went to their team doctor and "verified" that the drug in question was okay to use. Since the ingredients list did not contain the banned drug and the NFL had not listed that drug on the suspect list, the team doctor said yes.

Those players then tested positive for that banned substance, can prove that they used it at the say-so of the league doctor as being okay, and, again, by all accounts, were only taking it to make their weight goals so they wouldn't be fined for being over weight (which is probably an entire other blog post). And the league wants to give them a four game automatic suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. The players, rightly so, have sued the league to clear their name and not be suspended (and lose four games worth of pay).

In my mind, this is an open and shut case in favor of the players. If the league knew something contained a banned substance and did nothing to alert players or league doctors (whom the players rely on for this sort of knowledge) to this substance, then the league is culpable for the misinformation. To me, this would be like if my company served poppy-seed muffins at a meeting, then made me take a urine test, which then tested positive for opiates, and then suspended me without pay. The business is definitely at fault for a) luring me into using/taking a banned substance, b) not taking that mitigating circumstance into account, and c) then compounding the issue by covering it up and suspending me without pay.

In this case, the NFL seems to be luring players into using a perfectly legitimate substance primarily used to lose water weight so players can make their team-designated weights so they don't get penalized/fined to catch the (hopefully) few who may be abusing steroids and are using the unmarked ingredient to mask that abuse. In essence, this is profiling; all those who want to lose weight are not necessarily steroid users. By not making any attempt to publish that this particular weight-loss drug has banned substances in it, they are catching the innocent along with the (potentially) guilty.

I'm not a big fan of the Minnesota Vikings, as they are in the same division as the Detroit Lions (my team). The Williams boys are also a big part of the Vikings front-line and, since the Lions play the Vikings within what would be the Williams boys four-game suspension, that loss would make it slightly more likely that Detroit would win that game. However, I think this case is unfair to the players (and one other whose name escapes me at the moment) who appear to be caught using a drug as intended and being duped by the league into testing positive for a banned substance. That is unfair to the players, is an unfair business practice, and we would not stand for this sort of behavior if it happened in any non-sports related business.

It is only because, at this point, all sports figures are presumed guilty until/unless proven innocent for steroid (and similar) abuse by most Americans that this case isn't getting a higher profile and greater outcry from the fan base. Again, how would you like if your boss/employer duped you into taking something that he/she knew would get you suspended or fired from your job?

The other question I have is why are they getting suspended for testing positive for a non-steroid/Performance Enhancing Drug (PED)? This drug is only used to mask potential use of PEDs, but has no performance enhancing abilities of its own. Shouldn't testing positive for a masking agent be a warning and immediate further tests, not a four-game suspension?

I'm all in favor of every league doing what it can to eliminate PED from sport. But, on the other hand, it must work WITH the players to educate them, provide all the data it can to the players, and should have various levels of response to alleged and confirmed abuse. This almost seems like if you are pulled over by the cops for erratic driving and they small Bubble Yum on your breath, they arrest you for drunk driving, because Bubble Yum is used to mask the smell of alcohol. Get real!

Hopefully, this case will make the NFL, and other sports league, reevaluate its PED policy and change it in ways that make sense. It can still be tough and no-nonsense about it, but not penalize players unduly. Common sense should always come into play in ruling on these matters.

We can hope.

July 12, 2009

Wood-Fest Update

I got the first load of wood down to a very small section. I was doing other tasks around the house during the hottest part of the day on Friday and Alex apparently chose that time to come, dump the trailer full of wood, and take off. So when I next walked outside to, I had hoped, finish what was there, I instead walked out to a completely full pile of wood.

"Fuck," I said, and walked back into the house, took off my gloves, and did other things. I was expecting it, I knew more wood needed to be hauled and stacked, but it still was disconcerting to have that pile "miraculously" renew itself while I was busy doing other things.

Saturday was DnD, so that was out. Well, okay, I had the late afternoon, and since the sun doesn't set here until about 9:15 pm, a few hours in which I could have stacked wood. But Saturday was my "play" day for DnD, so I didn't choose to. Sunday I wanted to hit it, but it rained most of the day. After getting so sick from being out in the damp weather before, I'm not pressing it and chose not to go out in it today.

I'll hit it again sometime soon, the next day it is not actively raining, and try to get more into the house.

July 6, 2009

Wood-Fest '09

Alex dropped off two loads of wood, each approximately 1.5 cord, to go with the half a rank of wood left over from last year. Should be about right. The big problem is that now we need to haul that large-ass pile of wood into the house and get both the dehumidifiers working overtime to dry it out.

This isn't that big a deal; we figured out a system that worked pretty well for us last year. I hauled wheelbarrows full of wood into the house and M stacked it as high as she could, then I came along and stacked the rest of the way, as needed. This year, however, I won't have much help from M as she's working and would only be able to assist on the weekends, which are pretty full of things to do as it is.

We bought our own wheelbarrow. Got a nifty one with two wheels, self-stabilizers, and bumper on the front. That way we don't have to borrow Alex's again (plus, we could use a wheelbarrow for various other projects during the year).

I started today by moving the existing half-rank to the other side of the room. I am hoping I left enough room for the wheelbarrow to fit through the door (pretty sure I did). That hour and a half wiped me out, however, as I'm still getting over the last dregs of the cold I have had for the last two weeks plus.

The other issue is the weather. We have been having a ton of rain and our temperature has been well-below average for a good long while now. Need it to be dryer if I'm going to be hauling wood into the house (with the door open and coming in and out a bunch). Today would be a good day to start if I hadn't already wiped myself out just moving the inside wood, cleaning up, and preparing for the bigger job ahead. The 14-day forecast looks to have some sunny/dry days upcoming, so hopefully I can get some done in the next few days.

There are also plans for me to strip and repaint the front porch railing this summer. Since I've been working and it looks like the company will offer me a second contract to continue providing documentation for them, I'm not sure when I'll get to that. But it needs to happen or the porch might not weather the next winter so well.

July 2, 2009


Our existing grill is not worth salvaging at this point. If M's memory serves her well (and it usually does), that grill is somewhere around 14-15 years old. It just has so much wear and tear on it now that it would cost us nearly as much as a new grill to get it up and running again.

So, we're looking for a new grill. We have researched, decided on our price range, and have shopped around. We finally found a grill at Home Depot that fit our needs, was within our budget AND on sale (so putting it from the higher end to the lower end of the budget), had coated racks (top and bottom), and was made in Canada. Perfect.

We have now attempted to purchase this grill three separate times from Home Depot. We have had poor service (except for partially on this last trip), and Home Depot just doesn't seem concerned about our business. They say that there are 13 of this unit on PEI, yet the SJ store sold out of the two they had the first day of the sale and it is marked as "no auto-reorder" so they won't be getting any more back in stock.

The woman today at Customer Service was fairly helpful; she did her best to find out what was going on, if they could get it for us, and took my name and phone number and was going to have the head of the department or the one in charge of ordering call us back today. It is now 20 till 10pm and I don't think that call is coming. This would be the third time that Lindsay (the one in charge of ordering) has been less than helpful or completely dismissive.

On our way out of the East side, we saw a sign at Harbor City Propane that said "Broil King BBQ, Free Assembly" and decided to stop in. For $50 more than the sale price of the very similar grill at Home Depot, we can get a Canadian-made grill, of similar size, assembled for free, and we are patronizing a local business and will get a far superior warranty on the product with local support. Win-win, in our books.

What Home Depot doesn't understand or is chosing to ignore is that every single disgruntled customer actually represents a total of 10 such customers. So, our complaints to them about this grill not being in stock should indicate to them that there are 9 other people who have wanted that grill and have gone elsewhere or settled for something else. So, when they told us it would cost them $250 to ship a single grill from PEI to SJ for us and, since that grill was on sale for $300, it wasn't worth their effort, what they failed to understand is that shipping ten of those grills would have netted them a $50 profit on ten grills PLUS made ten customers happy and more loyal customers, coming back for things like grill covers, propane tanks, lighters, etc. Instead, they have chosen to drive off those ten customers, made at least a few of them tell their friends of their bad experience, and making even more than the original ten people unhappy.

Anyway, we plan to go back tomorrow and purchase our new grill from a local store. We're doing our part for the local economy and for the economy in general by buying Canadian (which we both feel is important, especially since the vast majority of grills in our price-range come from China -- a country that is happy to export anything but does not allow more than 1% of its imports from North America). I think we'll be very happy and satisfied with our purchase. And, if we're not, we will have local support to fall back on to make it right.

The new grill works like a champ. We had Jenn and Stew over for steak and, except for me misremembering how they like their and overcooking it a bit for them, the meal was quite good. Last night, M and I made pork loin marinated in red-wine vinaigrette, grilled potatoes, and some veggies. The meat was done a solid medium, was still juicy, and tasted great with either more dressing or with applesauce. Yum!