Don’t talk to strangers

In an odd coincidence, given my post about cell phone contents from yesterday, and my general boggling at the volume of content that “kids these days” produce, I got a first-hand look at how that happens last night. (Update: Amusingly, I just found this, too.)

From time to time people misuse two of my email addresses. I don’t think a lot of people understand that Gmail doesn’t recognize certain spacers, so sock.monkey@ goes to sockmonkey@. Also, people forget numbers and things, so what should have been sockmonkey2000@ ends up going to sockmonkey@. You get the idea. Well, sockmonkey@ is me, and fairly regularly I get signed up for online kids’ games and social networks, emails from teachers, emails from grandmas, and all manner of other stuff. I also get mobile-centric, like iMessages and people trying to FaceTime with me.

Most of the time it’s just mildly annoying. When I can, I get my address removed from accounts, or login and do it myself. I let teachers and grandmas know they have the wrong address, and I refuse FaceTime requests and ignore texts until the people clue in. Sometimes it’s worrisome, as teachers have sent me pictures of people’s kids, and pre-teens have tried to have texting conversations with me.

There’ve also been messages that I’m not entirely sure were actually from kids. It’s a tactic predators can use to crack open the door, so to speak. And some “kids” have said some rather odd and aggressive things. Blech.

So last evening when I was in class at krav, I got some texts. Good thing my ringer was turned off, because when I left and got out to my car, I discovered I had 135 texts — within less than an hour and a half. Needless to say I was a bit surprised. (I might get that many texts in six months, usually.)

Turns out a girl who’d been accidentally texting me for a few days (but who I thought had clued in and stopped), added me to a group chat with 13 other kids. And they were talking. A lot. Actually no, they weren’t. Most of the messages were emoji. A surprising number were from kids added to the chat, pretty annoyed, demanding to be left alone.

Note that all of these kids were added to the list by email address or phone number, and I could see all of them. And I’m pretty sure these kids weren’t even in high school yet. (I googled the girl who’d added me to the group a few days ago, and it was scary how much I could find and how easily.)

Things were reasonably quiet overnight, and I figured I’d just ignore it as I usually do, and it would go away. Except then they started up at 7am. I was not impressed. So I told them that they had the wrong email address and to stop texting me. I also pointed out that they’d sent all of their contact information to a total stranger.

Instead of taking that seriously, I got a bunch of replies like, “I’m not a stranger, I’m _____!” Yep, I had their emails and phone numbers, and now they were telling me their names.

Then the girl who added me to the group said, “That’s not a stranger, that’s my friend Gabs!” I replied that no, I was not “Gabs”, sockmonkey@ was not her email address, and that she should really be more careful. That apparently got through to her.

I got a flurry of, “OMG sorry!!!” and was asked to delete the messages. I replied that I had been deleting the messages for a week, and to remove me from the list. (Yeah, because deleting a message will fix everything.) Finally, the messages stopped. I kinda hope they were a tad freaked out when they got to school that day.

All told, over 200 messages in ~12 hours, and they weren’t even saying anything. And I would love to have a chat with their parents…

I just wanted to make toast

I went to make some toast for dinner the other night, and realized as I was opening the bread bag that I couldn’t. Well, I could, but I’d have had to use the oven. You see, I no longer have a toaster. And it occurred to me that the reason I don’t have a toaster is so messed up that I’m kinda surprised I never got around to blogging it.

I had mystery maggots.

Back in September, I went into the kitchen one Saturday morning, and noticed crumbs all over a fair-sized section of the counter. Which made no sense since I hadn’t prepared food or cooked in there in some time.

As I quickly learned, the crumbs were… alive. There were wee maggots all over my counter. WTF? As noted, there wasn’t any food around, nor any flies in the kitchen, so where the hell had they come from?

I squashed, wiped up, and bleached the hell out of the counter, including lifting and cleaning under everything on it — coffeemaker, canisters, etc. (In part to see if they had come out from under or behind anything.) Still had no idea where they came from.

Over the course of the day I would go into the kitchen, and every single time there were fresh maggots on the counter. Squash, wipe, bleach — repeat! I checked under and around everything on the counter. I checked by the window. I checked the cupboards above and below. I checked the stove and the garbage and the mat and everything else I could think of. I made sure there were never any dirty dishes. No visible source and they just kept appearing. Sometimes there’d be two, sometimes there’d be 20.

This went on for four days. I was getting to the point where I was going to have to burn down the building just to stop feeling skeeved out. And thank goodness they fed me at work, cuz no way I’d be able to prepare food in there.

Now, it was always in the same area beside the sink, so I decided to remove everything from that area, bleach the hell out of it, and see if anything showed up. Because, really, they’d have had to have been dropping out of the sky.

That worked — nobody showed up. But then… I’d moved the coffeemaker, toaster, etc. onto the stove during the experiment, and sonuvabitch, there were maggots. Okay, so they had to be coming from one of those things. But I’d picked them all up, I’d cleaned them and shaken them and… WTF???

So I moved all the things that weren’t near the maggots back to their original locations. Maggots still appeared. I started moving things that were near the maggots back to the counter one at a time, until only the toaster was left. Then, after the toaster had sat on the stove by itself for a while, I picked it up.

Sure enough, maggots. Which apparently had dropped out the bottom.

Woohoo, right? Well, kinda. I immediately threw out my toaster, because… ugh. But WTF laid eggs in there? I hadn’t seen bugs in the apartment, not even the ubiquitous fruit flies that show up should there be a molecule of sugar they can detect. And what insect that produces maggots (larvae) prefers old toast crumbs?

I even googled “toaster maggots”, but the closest thing to useful was a tale that involved a mouse accidentally being killed and decomposing in the family’s toaster. I guess I never did check mine for deceased wildlife, but I also never smelled anything.

Fortunately, since I threw out the toaster, I haven’t been visited by any more maggots. I also haven’t gotten around to getting a new toaster, which I suppose I should, if I want to make good use of that kamut bread I bought as a gluten-free experiment.

I have a feeling I’m going to be a bit uncomfortable using even a new one for a while. I guess I’ll just have to make sure it looks nothing like the old one.

A Tale of Two Pizzas

Last evening Andrew and I decided to get pizza for dinner to accompany our evening’s TV viewing, and to be wild and crazy, we decided to try Papa John’s. (We’d tried it once before, but could only remember that the BBQ chicken one had been pretty good, and the other kind hadn’t really been that great.)

So I ordered a large BBQ chicken pizza online. Ordering user experience wasn’t fantastic (if you put your order together and then logged in, you basically had to start over on the order), but it went through and the pizza arrived on time. Andrew even happened to be outside when it did, so he brought it in with minimal freak-out from Gordie.

He dished out a couple of slices onto plates, and I took one look at mine and said, “Mushrooms. This isn’t our pizza.” And it wasn’t. It appeared to have fresh tomatoes and mushrooms on it, which… why bother? The name on the box sticker was right, the type of pizza on the box sticker was right. The pizza in the box was not.

So I called Papa John’s and talked to a girl who sounded barely conscious (or more likely bored and didn’t give a shit). She didn’t seem terribly inclined to believe me that the wrong pizza had been delivered, or to fix the problem, but then once she’d looked up my order was more interested in making sure I still had the first pizza. (Because God forbid I’d wolfed down the damned thing in the five minutes since it had arrived and would now demand another.)

Turned out it would take 45 minutes to have another pizza delivered, but only 15 minutes if we picked it up. Since Papa John’s isn’t that far from Andrew’s, I said we’d pick it up.

We arrived on time, but the pizza wasn’t ready — and wasn’t for another ten minutes (I don’t know if it was actually even in the oven when we arrived…) The only apology we got was from the kid working the front counter when the second pizza took longer.

That kid also told me that they had it in the system that I wanted the pizza re-delivered (I reiterated that I did not), and tried to blame the screw-up on the driver. Yeah… nice try, seeing as, as aforementioned, the box had the right name and type of pizza. Whoever put it in the box screwed up, and I’m pretty sure the driver’s name wasn’t Kayleigh, which was the name on the sticker of who had handled our order (presumably coma girl).

Needless to say I opened our pizza box before we left to confirm that we had the right pizza this time. We did. By this point I was getting very hungry and increasingly annoyed.

We headed home with no apology, no refund, no comped food, nothing. And, unsurprisingly, no intentions of ever getting pizza from there again.

We’d just dished out the second pizza and taken a few bites when… a knock at the door. Andrew was basically like, “No way…” and went to see what was up. You guessed it — pizza delivery driver! So Andrew went out on the porch and explained to him what had gone down, that we had our pizza, and had twice told them we didn’t want it re-delivered. He also made sure to explain that the screw-ups were not either driver’s fault (though the in-store kid would surely say otherwise).

This driver, being an astute man, just told Andrew to keep this pizza, which we did. We already had more than enough to eat, but it’d make for good leftovers. I’d also re-discovered that Papa John’s “garlic” sauce was basically vaguely garlic-flavoured melted margarine and completely disgusting. We threw that out.

So after dinner we watched some TV, and later on Andrew decided he wanted another piece of pizza. I said I’d take one, too, so he headed down to the kitchen to get them. A few minutes later he came back up, giggling like a schoolgirl, and said, “So the punchline to this whole thing is… It’s the same pizza!”

OMG.

Yes, the first pizza they’d delivered, which we’d personally returned to them, they had sent back out for delivery. And how grossed out would someone else have been if they’d received a pizza that had clearly had several pieces removed from and returned to the box.

Needless to say, I didn’t get my late evening slice of snack pizza, but Andrew’s got plenty, and I remain ever more convinced NEVER to get pizza from Papa John’s again, and continue to boggle how they remain in business with that systemic degree of utter incompetence.

More fun with Canadian companies…

Right, so shortly after I dealt with the last round of Rogers bullshit incessant phone-calling, it started again. Seems to be taken care of now, so, hopefully to assist others…

The Rogers-representing company that called was from the number: 1-866-616-6010. Typically it’s an auto-dialer, but usually no one answers if you do. Beyond that, if you call back, you get dumped into an automated system with no way to connect to a real person or even a mailbox that’s not full and accepting messages. Fancy that. (Once I waited and a girl started saying hello, but then when I responded it disconnected.) Lovely. I was getting the calls several times a day.

The company’s apparently Teleperformance Canada, more info here.

What seems to have finally worked was going to the Rogers Marketing Permission Opt-out page. You can opt out of cable and cell phone contact there.

As I recall, after you submit your information, you get some bullshit message about it taking a couple of weeks to kick in, but it did eventually. Which leads me to believe they have no idea how databases work, or it’s dumping all the info into a text file or spreadsheet somewhere, and some monkey is having to manually complete this stuff…

Aaaaanyway, then today Scotiabank got in on the action. That number that called was: 1-888-882-3811. Again, clearly automated and no one answered when I did. Immediately after hanging up I looked it up. More info here.

I called the number back to try getting myself removed. The automated system thanked me for calling Scotiabank, and the rep who answered identified himself as a Scotiabank rep. Except when I asked him if he had the ability to remove me from telemarketing lists, he claimed Scotiabank doesn’t telemarket. RIGHT. He also seemed a bit displeased that I wasn’t very friendly. Gee, how rough…

Anyway, he took my info and said he’d communicate not to call me. I’ve no confidence in that since — hey — they don’t telemarket. Also, I’m not a Scotiabank customer, and typically this shit is done by two-bit back room companies with a bunch of kids and phone books. Where, exactly, does he plan to record this information?

Anyway, he also asked if I had a Scene card, and I do (though I didn’t get it recently). He said I was probably being contacted by them for some great offers. Uh huh. He recommended I go to the Scene website, login, and unsubscribe from any comms I didn’t want. I told him I’d never signed up for communications from Scene or anyone.

So I hung up and logged in to the site. Sure enough I’m signed up for EVERYTHING. Newsletters, telemarketing, partner “offers”, you name it. So I unsubscribed from everything… and I guess we’ll see.

Now, if only I could get the Blue Jays and MLB.com to bugger off with the endless emails and newsletters I never signed up for…

Cuz I needed more reasons to hate Rogers…

Note: Looks like this and several other posts from this week vanished, so I’ve grabbed them from Google Reader and have republished.

Starting a couple/few weeks ago, I started getting phone calls from 1-800-395-8813. I answered the first time, and, receiving no response, I hung up. Subsequent calls (which happened daily), I ignored after glancing at the caller number, because I dislike phones and disliking engaging with them (which is why I didn’t do anything about it right away).

The calls continued every day, though, which started to piss me off really quickly. So I tried to find out if there was a way to block numbers from my phone. No dice. So I called Rogers, which is my carrier, and talked to one of their CSRs about how to block numbers. Unsurprisingly, the only way to do that that they offer is called Call Manager, and it’s $5/month. No thanks.

So I looked the number up online, and saw it was apparently some telemarketing presence, and other people had reported the calls, too. So I did a bit more digging to find out if anyone had figured out how to block them. Turns out it’s a call centre company called Gemma Communications, and there were a couple ways listed for making them go away.

You could call 416-256-1800, which is their office number, and talk to some woman, who, apparently, tends to be bitchy and/or evasive, but will arrange to have you removed from the call list. Or you can call the 800-number back and go through their automated system to remove your number (mostly involves pressing 1 a bunch of times).

Again, since I dislike using the phone, I sure as hell wasn’t going to waste time with someone bitchy, so I called the number back, and found out that Gemma Communications is authorized by… Rogers. Oh yes, Rogers would kindly have signed me up to pay them $5/month to keep them from spamming me. Grr.

I completed the call list removal, and haven’t heard from them since. Needless to say, however, I’m still bitter. I hate Rogers and hate dealing with them for MANY reasons already, but this has just catalyzed me to take steps to give them even less of my business. I’d love to think that their shitty product offerings, worse customer service, and incessant nickel and diming would be enough to torpedo the company, but I do know how Canadia loves its old school monopolies…

The “ex” factor

I was looking at this job post the other day (no, I’m not applying), and several things struck me about this:

Our founders are ex-Amazon and ex-Microsoft rockstar developers and both are ex-Waterloo.

So, okay, those items are intended to imply coolness and cred on the part of the company, its founders, and the job being advertised. Hrm.

Maybe that works to a point for some demographic, but to me that sentence tells me nothing about what those people would be like to work for or if they know how to found/grow/run a company.

Certainly, the rest of the ad can help fill in those details, but then… what’s that line for? Yeah, my experience of working at larger, non-tech companies between my startup stints colours my attitude here, as does the fact that I’m 30-something and not a developer. But again, job ads aren’t the only place I’ve seen this “ex cred” language.

Ex-Amazon and ex-Microsoft. Okay, so they both worked in enormous tech companies. In dev roles. What kind of development? Infrastructure? Performance? UI? Were they in management at all? Did they work on getting new products to market, maintaining old ones, some completely unrelated operations function? As for being a rock star… that gets thrown around so much these days it’s pretty much lost meaning.

Also, those companies are US-based. Big market, lots of money. So these guys probably worked south of the border for a while? There are some differences between business here and in the US, especially in founding and running businesses. Did they get experience that’s going to help them with this new endeavour? It’s been a long time since Amazon and Microsoft were startups. Lotta resources at hand there.

Ex-Waterloo. Sooo… good Canadian boys, probably went to U of W? Lots of geeks there, plenty of entrepreneurs. So what? Were these founders entrepreneurial while in school? Did they develop good networks? Did they get degrees in Engineering or English?

Ok, yeah, I’m picking on one ad for one startup, and I’m not who they’re trying to attract with that role. But I see this “ex cred” used more and more, and I don’t get it. Kinda reminds me how apparently being able to throw around web jargon makes you a social media expert. But hey, they got funding, so there must be something behind the concept and the hipster geek lingo.

Certainly you can only make the ad so lengthy, and you can always ask about the founders’ pedigrees if you’re granted an interview. I guess my issue is the stereotypical nature of it. Feels like we should be passed that by now, since we’ve had two booms and a bust and a half to figure out who we are (in the tech and startup worlds), what we value, and how we build our cultures.

And what I still see a fair bit looks immature to me, and hard to take seriously. We’re not sure what to base credibility on, so we pick things to advertise that sound good (or at least recognizable), at the expense of the real education and experience we’ve earned.

In the last year I’ve met a LOT of people in tech in Canada, and many of them are quite young (from late teens to late 20s). These people are smart, savvy, social, and I firmly believe they can achieve just about anything. They have ideas and they make them reality — fast.

And with that view on this world of ours, I just think we can market ourselves much better.

Dear Middle-aged Bleached Blonde at the gym…

Thank you for not moving out of the way so I could get to my locker.

Thank you for spreading your ass and your stuff across an entire bench.

Your perfectly coordinated outfit and water bottle, ridiculously pink and expensive bag, gold cell phone, and spotlessly new pink and white Nikes are ever so cute.

Based on the look on your face and how you were moving, I would have sworn you’d just finished running 30K. Well, except that your hair and makeup were still, y’know, perfect when you took off your running shoes.

I can only assume that you’re telepathic, since you felt the need to stare at me intently while I put my coat on on the other side of the room. Was my mental snark that loud? Or did you just find my sweaty, red-faced, ripped t-shirt presence distasteful?

I’m so not going to miss you when you stop coming to the gym next month…

Waterfall of suck

Today was one of those days when I should never have gotten out of bed, let alone left the apartment. (Though the infection of suck might have set in last night, when the inseam tore out of one of my favourite pairs of pants…)

And, of course, it was (supposed to be) a very busy day.

I started getting twinges of a headache before leaving for work, and by the time I got to the office it felt like someone was trying to poke out my left eye from inside my skull. It was also raining fairly heavily. Given that I was supposed to go to Toronto this afternoon, neither of these things boded well. The headache waxed and waned all day, and did a good job of sapping my energy.

Once at work, progress on some things I’ve been working on slowed to a crawl, which wasn’t good since progress on them had never been speedy to begin with. And then of course more things got added to my plate, so the day was dogged by that “behinder I get” feeling.

Then my Mom called. Long story short, I basically got guilted into giving up my Saturday to go to the funeral of someone I’ve never met. I understand where Mom was coming from on the whole “supporting the family) side of things, but I don’t necessarily share her feelings or sense of duty. (Neither do many of my other cousins, apparently, since it was the fact that few of them are planning to go, either, that spurred my mother to call me…)

Admittedly, I have been fortunate enough not to experience many deaths close to me, but really, as I see it at this point, it’s disingenuous to attend events out of little more than secondhand guilt. I also think it’s reasonable to expect attendance at any event, happy or sad, to diminish as the location moves further from home or a central area. Yes, I am aware that most of us have duty to attend to from time to time, but there were more issues here than just that.

So that took me to mid-morning, at which point, feeling like crap, I decided to cancel going to Toronto, and then felt bad because a) I wouldn’t get to see three friends I’d planned to see, b) two of whom I’ve never met in person before, and c) one of whom lives far away and it’s the first time he’s been north of the border in forever. But honestly, the way things were going I felt fairly certain that I’d have gotten into an accident or something equally unpleasant would have befallen me.

My day did take a tiny, wiggly turn for the awesome, though, when I received a gentleman caller at work. Srsly, may I never have an ailment that puppy smell can’t cure.

Shortly thereafter, after wolfing down a quick sandwich for lunch, I got to head over to my doctor’s office for my annual physical. (Told you this was an awesome day.) First the nurse weighed and measured me in full gear — clothes, boots, the works. So I am recorded as taller, heavier, and thicker than I actually am. I wouldn’t mind the taller, but my doctor noticed the change in my stats and was not pleased with the nurse, so I told her how many centimetres I normal chalk up (163). I mean, really, I haven’t grown since I was 10. Having my waist measured while I was wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and a sweater pissed me off, though. But hey, my pulse and blood pressure are nice and low.

Anyway, I learned that I’ve gained weight, and have a small… female problem, so my day just kept rockin’ the hizzay.

Returned to the office and spent the rest of the day having ever diminishing returns on my efforts, and then a phone call I was supposed to get didn’t happen. (No big worries there, prolly tomorrow.) It was fairly dark already by 4:30, and pitch black by 5:40 when I left the office. I could see the moon, though, and it’s full, and quite lovely.

Shortly before leaving work, I talked to an old colleague, and found out more info about a company that laid off 90% of its staff today. (I’d heard about the layoff in the morning, but not what company it was.) Of course, since I work at a startup, have been laid off, and have worked for more than one unstable company, any time layoffs come up it makes me twitchy and depressed.

Then just before leaving the office I found out that my cousin’s plans have changed, so it’s likely I won’t have to go to the funeral, which is, potentially, a relief.

And now I am home, and going nowhere. I will catch up on tv shows from this week, sew sockmonkeys like the wind, and finish the shot of whiskey I poured for myself when I got home. And, having just finished eating, I now get to consume nothing but water until some time tomorrow, as I get to go for blood work in the morning. Fun!

More pain, no gain

I’ve been finding it hard to find motivation to stay (get?) active the last while. It’s pretty standard for my gym membership dues to be little more than a placeholder for me during the summer, since I much prefer to be outside, and tend to go walkabout a lot. (Since I’ve had my membership for a number of years, what I pay is less than half of what I’d be charged anywhere else, so canceling in the summer wouldn’t be smart.) I also try to walk to work as often as possible, which, while not a great trek by any means, is exercise and an enjoyable few minutes in my day.

Unfortunately, right about the time I was ready to head back to the gym for the season, mine closed, and it will be an undetermined amount of time before it reopens. Hmm. The gym did make arrangements for members, so they have access to a number of other clubs in town, and, in fact, there’s one considerably closer to my place than my original gym. (Plus they’ve suspended dues until the new club opens.) Sounds good, except I’ve been to the alternate gym several times now… and I hate it.

I don’t care that it’s women’s only; the equipment is comparable; and the change rooms are actually better (not that I spend much time in them). But I’ve developed my workout patterns over a number of years, so not being able to accomplish them bugs me, especially when I’m already in a “foreign” environment.

The first problem I noticed was that I couldn’t find any areas to do stretching. There’s an aerobics room, but it’s one big room, and there’ve been classes going on every time I’ve been there. I couldn’t see any mats or anything elsewhere in the club (it would seem odd to tuck a floor work space away in a separate room or something). So I’ve self-consciously done rudimentary stretches in the change rooms, but you can’t exactly stretch out on the floor there. Yeah, I should probably ask at the front desk, but every time I’ve arrived the girls present there seem to be engaged in the most vapidly ridiculous conversations that I cringe to go anywhere near them. Plus, I swear one of them gave me “a look” when she looked at my card and noticed I was one of the “visitors”. WTF?

When I’m doing cardio work, I need good distraction, because, let’s face it, trotting along on a treadmill or elliptical for half an hour is boring. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m so used to “cardio theatre” and having audio and visual stimulation, but just listening to my iPod, even if the tunes are rockin’, isn’t much better than no input at all.

However, the TVs at the new gym have a radio system for the sound (my old gym had plugs/control boxen on the machines). So first I had to go buy a wee, cheapie radio, which was an inconvenience. And the stations the sound comes through on aren’t always strong signals, which seems odd, since I presume I’m in the same building as the broadcast. And while there are three TVs mounted, one is reserved for the music channel, so there are only ever two programs on. I guess I should be grateful that those two TVs tend to be tuned to trashy stuff, since that’s pretty much exactly what I want while I’m working out. (I mean, ideally I’d get documentaries or Firefly re-runs or something, but it’s not like there are geeks-only gyms around here…)

The angle at which your head has to be tilted to watch the TVs is rather higher than is natural, too. Maybe it’s to encourage good posture? I dunno. And then the last time I was there, the TVs weren’t even turned on. Umm… do they only turn them on after 7pm? Was something broken? Who knows. Inconvenient, anyway. (I’d have gone up and asked to have them turned on, but as it turned out it was one of those days where I just had nothing in the tank for a workout, so I wasn’t there all that long.)

And so these little things add up, and I’ve found it a challenge to get through my usual workout stint at all. I simply don’t enjoy being there, despite knowing I need more exercise, and I can’t manage to zone out, which is really valuable brain time for me, and about as important as getting exercise itself. So now it’s become difficult to make myself go at all. Fortunately, we’ve had some decent weather recently, and will have a bit more this week, so I fully intend to take advantage of it as much as possible while I can. But it won’t be long before I’m shaking my head at those crazy joggers out in balaclavas and wanting nothing to do with outdoor exercise (that’s not a specifically winter activity, anyway).

I really hope my new gym is open by then. (And not built in the image of this temporary one…)