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Someone needs to blog more

And that someone is me.

We’re already over 2 months into 2014 and this is my first entry of the year. I’m still adjusting to being a parent, and having less free time than before, but then, I don’t recall having much to begin with. Well, this someone has set a few goals for this year.

1. Learn JavaScript.

I have a desire to develop an application to do scheduling and generate a phone list for search and rescue. It needs to allow administrators to add, edit and manage the user information, generate a weekly schedule (for either 1 or 2 crews) and generate a phone list, which can be viewed online or emailed to members of a distribution list. I discovered that Google has a custom script engine, and decided that using Google Drive, Docs and Scripts to complete this would be a good learning experience. I’ve begun working on the tutorials available at www.codecademy.com.

2. Switch from my laptop to a Chromebook.

90% of what I use my laptop for is online. I purchased a Dell Inspiron 14 back in August 2011, partly for me to use while watching TV, and since at the time my wife was off work for 3 months after having knee replacement surgery. I am also a big fan of Google, so why not a Chromebook? Selection is still a bit limited in Canada, but the prices for the devices seem right, ranging from around $199 to $349. I think I want to get one of the 13″ displays, so that narrows the options down a lot, pretty much the HP Chromebook 14, the Toshiba Chromebook or (if I’m a little crazy) the Pixel.

3. Get Google Glass.

It may seem a strange goal, but I want to be one of those people wearing Google Glass. I see potential to use it for work, navigation, and I’d like to figure out the logistics of using it while flying a plane. Think about it, it could be handy for general aviation navigation, landing approach plate overlays, and could even be handy for aerial search and rescue. Since the device is not available in Canada yet and still costs $1,500 USD, this could be pushed back until next year. NOTE: If anyone that currently has Glass, wants to donate their pair, hit me up (leighATleighcDOTcom). I suspect getting Glass to fit with an aviation headset is going to be real tricky/fun.

It’s been a busy summer

But I am back, so I’ll give a bit of a recap of some of the activities that I was up to this past summer, and most of the fall.

I have started flying again, which is a lot more expensive than when I earned my wings. I’ve managed a few left seat rides this summer, though not as many as I would like due to cost and schedules. I still need to get used to cross wind landings again, loosen up the death grip on the yoke, and as my dad was more than happy to point out.. “You have flaps, why not use them” so yeah, I need to use them again too, especially considering how much I did when I learned to fly.

In the spring I had signed up to volunteer with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, which meant I had another reason to go flying, though mostly in the right seat acting as a navigator. Who could ask for a better way to spend their Saturday mornings than going to a flight?

This fall I also started helping out as an instructor/supervisor as one of the local Air Cadet Squadrons, mostly teaching aviation related subjects to kids aged between 12 and 18. I figured it was good to give back to a program that I got so much out of when I was younger.

And I’ll back up a bit, we, being my wife and I, were able to take a summer vacation in Jamaica. We stayed at the beautiful Couples Swept Away resort in Negril, along the western coast. Oh how I can’t wait to go back, though it may be a few years before we have the cash and free time to get back.

Jamaican Sunset, Summer 2013, Negril.
Jamaican Sunset

 

The resort we spent a week atthis summer, Couples Swept Away
The resort we spent a week at this summer, Couples Swept Away

Oh, and this summer we also adopted a little girl… so you can guess how busy we are now.

An open letter to Mitsubishi Canada

An open letter to Mitsubishi Canada about your OEM rear parking sensors.

Earlier this year, my wife and I, shopped for a new vehicle. We had some fairly simple criteria to find the vehicle we were looking for to replace our existing 2003 Suzuki Aerio.

  • AWD/4WD, either all time or switch-able.
  • Higher seating position.
  • Seating for 4+.
  • Plenty of cargo space.
  • Good warranty.
  • Affordable.
  • Great fuel economy.
  • Key less Entry.
  • Remote Start.

After looking through our options, doing research online, and doing a few visits to the local dealerships, we had narrowed our options down to the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Mitsubishi RVR (Outlander Sport in the USA).
After many test drives, even more research online and after seeing the colour she liked best, my wife decided that the Mitsubishi RVR was the best choice. It was a decent size, had heated seats, one of the best warranties in the business, great fuel economy and it was available a nice blue colour.

It’s even the same colour!

Although we (more like I) wanted the GT, it wasn’t quite within our budget, so we went with the SE 4WD, which did not have the remote start, but it was an available option, and we also decided that getting the front and rear parking sensors would be useful. So adding on $1,200 in accessories ($600 each for the car starter and sensors), we thought we were getting every thing we needed, and before you ask, we went with the manufacturer accessories so that they would be designed and compatible with the RVR, and get covered by the manufacturers warranty. Oh, it also helped that the dealer gave us what we were looking for on the trade in, and we got a $500 gas card.

Here is where the fun started. We picked up the car on February 2nd, without either of the options we bought, as both had to be ordered in. So, we wait a week and the car starter arrives and was installed in 1 day… so far so good, sensors are still on order. February ends, still no sensors… Mid March, sensors arrive, take the car in, oh no, some part of the rear sensors was broken and they need to order replacements. March ends, still waiting.
Finally, April arrives, and so do the sensors. Car goes into the dealer on Tuesday, but no, the dealer did no know they needed 4 sensors for the rear bumper and only received 2. On the good part here, the sales person that sold us the car loaned us his Outlander. Wednesday, waiting… Thursday, the extra sensors arrive, but they only have time to install the front ones. Finally Friday arrives and we get the RVR back.

The rear sensors suck, yes, the Mitsubishi parking sensors that they manufacture and sell for their own vehicles is bad. The beeper is located in the rear bumper, not wired into the cars sound system, which make it nearly impossible to hear over the radio, let alone the engine. My wife contacted the dealer, Loch Lomond Mitsubishi in Saint John, NB about this on the weekend after we got the car back, they said there is nothing they can do about the volume, and maybe we should go to an after-market shop to see if they can do anything, but they would get us contact information at Mitsubishi Canada. Really, you want us to go spend more money on your product that doesn’t work right?

Well, she patiently waited 2 weeks with no further contact from the dealer, so she decided to reach out to Mitsubishi Canada on her own, and sent them an email (see below) on Friday April 19th. Now, I figure that a large company like Mitsubishi should be able to respond to complaints within 3 to 5 business days, but we have not heard anything back from them as of end of business day today, Monday April 29th.

Now I am putting the ball in your court Mitsubishi, we have been relatively patient, but remain highly un-satisfied by the quality of the accessory we purchased and the complete lack of any semblance of customer service on your part. Since I am posting this on my blog, and will be sharing it via Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, you will have multiple ways to contact me or my wife.

//Begin Wife’s Email

I am Very Disappointed in the Lack of Customer Care I have been show on this issue. I was under the impression that Loch Lomond Mitsubishi was a different type of car dealer, but it turns out you are just like all the rest. Now that you have your Money, who cares about the Customer. I have been in contact with your Service department and told them about my issue and was told to go get it fixed somewhere else, Mitsubishi will not fix their own product.

I am sorry, but I had thought you were better than this. I will let you know that I will be posting my complaint on both your Facebook page and Mitsubishi Canada’s Facbook page. I will also be posting it to any Blog or Web page I can find to Voice my dissatisfaction with you  and your product. When I was looking to purchase my new vehicle I saw so many nice things said about Mitsubishi and their service. I am very saddened to find I did not look hard enough to see that they were lies. I will make sure the next person does not go in with the same rainbow coloured glasses that I did. I will make sure as many people as I can, will know what you are really like. Your just after the sale, just like all the rest and cannot be trusted to Keep your word about your Customer Service.

Tanya Cameron

//End Wifes Email

Another one of my crazy ideas

I’m sometimes really good at coming up with crazy ideas. Here’s another one.

Owning a car can be expensive, and when you drive as much as I do, you start to look for ways to lower your costs.
Some things I do, or have done include:

  • Maximize time between oil changes. My driving is mostly highway, so I should be able to get 9,000 – 11,000 kilometres between oil changes, and I always get a synthetic blend for high mileage engines.
  • Drive the speed limit. I’m a male, and well, most of us like to drive a little fast, in fact I normally do a speed limit + 10% cruising speed, but I have found that I can change my L/100KM (MPG) just by slowing down to the posted limit.
  • Proper tire inflation. I check them every 2 – 3 weeks to confirm that they are within 0.5 PSI of the manufactures recommendation.
  • Tire rotation. Every 10,000 km, lines up really nice with getting an oil change.

Now, I know that I could probably get better economy by bumping my fuel grade up from regular to extra/mid grade or even going to premium/top grade… but I drive close to 48,000 km each year (or did last year and am on track to do it again this year), so getting the best bang for my buck with gas prices where they are is important.
Here’s my Fuelly Badge, and I’ve tracked every fill up since I bought my 2008 Ford Escape in August 2011.
My Fuelly Badge

 

 

And in MPG too: My Escape in MPG

I’m going to be going through a set of tires every 2-3 years, assuming I’m not overly crazy with my driving, and get 10k – 15k from my winters and 30k – 35k from my summer set, so that is going to be an extra cost, plus the cost of the oil changes, the extra for the better oil, and the fun of getting shock and struts and other front end parts replaced more often thanks to living in New Brunswick, where roads are often littered with pot holes in the spring.

I guess it is finally time to get to the real point of this dialogue. I want to get sponsors for my vehicle, real people and businesses willing to pay or give time/parts towards maintenance, and in return, they can advertise on my truck. Now I’ll have to do some more research to see if this is practical, and how it might impact my tax returns in the future, and if anyone would want to advertise on my vehicle, but it’s worth a shot.
Picture the vehicle below sporting some stickers that don’t add horsepower! (Not my real Ford Escape)

Oh Ford, I am not amused.

Originally I was going to reiterate my pains with the slow fuelling issue that continues to plagued me when it is below 0’C, but now I have met what appears to be a more serious problem. Before I jump down to the real issue, Ford did issue a Technical Service Bulletin for the filling, hence why I’m done with that annoyance. It is available here.

Now, on to the latest and greatest problem.

It started only a few weeks ago, after a weekend where my 2008 Ford Escape was parked in my drive way the entire time. I started my drive to work around my normal time and noticed that the steering wheel had a strange vibration that had not been there before, but it seemed minor so I figured I would check it out when I got to work, after a drive of almost 100 km. I had to stop for gas, and with the early February weather we get in New Brunswick, it was cold… damn cold, so filling up took almost 10 minutes to dispense 55 litres of fuel. When I started up my truck after gassing up, I had no power steering at all. Lucky for me, my drive is mostly highway without many turns, and I figured that I could check the power steering fluid when I get to work, of course, after I get to work I get distracted and forget about it.
Work day ends and it is time to go home, again I have forgotten about the power steering. I start it up and notice the vibration is back in the wheel and remember my situation from earlier. The entire drive home I had power steering, but the wheel continued to vibrate. Now being the person I am, I immediately jumped on the internet to start researching my problem and found out something that was new to me… the 2008 Ford Escape had Electric Power Assist as opposed to the normal hydraulic steering system, so no fluid to top up for an easy fix. Further research seems to show that I am not alone with this problem. Numerous owners in the US and Canada have experienced the same problem, and it seems Ford has only 1 answer for them… replace the Steering Column… not diagnose and repair what is probably faulty software or bad sensors in the EPA system, but replace the entire steering column, and based on what others are paying will cost between $1,400 and $1,800 for parts and labour.
Until I can get the money saved up, I will continue to putter along with this random annoyance, the some times I work and try to shake your arms off while pulling to the left all the time and may or may not shut off whilst you are driving along at highways speeds or attempting to go around a corner at 80 km/h (think 50 MPH… 49.7097 if you want to be exact)… or I just don’t want to work today and you will have to strong-arm the entire drive and develop forearms the look like Popeye. Once I am done paying off the Escape (or it dies, which I hope it doesn’t), I am going to look at down sizing, and now, I’m not sure Ford will be on my list of potential manufacturers to consider.

Some further resources for anyone else that might be experiencing the same issue:

Transport Canada Active Defect Investigations – 2008 -2011 Ford Escape is listed for power steering failure.

CBC The National piece that aired on March 5th, 2013: http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/TV+Shows/The+National/Canada/ID/2340987438/

AboutAutomobile.com 2008 Ford Escape Steering Complaints list.

CarProblemZoo.com Ford Escape Steering Problems. This list is filled with a lot of 2008 Escapes with steering failures.

And if you need to get the steering column, you can price it up here… if you live in the US. Check page 3 (using default number per page) and select the part the matches up to your vehicles build date.

If you wish to add your vehicle to the list of affected ones, submit a complaint to either Transport Canada (in Canada… duh) or The Office of Defects Investigation , an office within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (in the USA).

And if you happen to own a Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute or Mercury Mariner from any year, you should check out Escape City.

and Poof go all my hard earned Wyndham Rewards points.

Be warned fellow consumer, this former Wyndham employee is done with WyndhamRewards, and Wyndham for good.

My former employer runs a rewards program, that like most, let you earn points based on your purchases, or in this case, your hotel stays. I was there when the program launched, and I’ve seen it go through a name change, website updates and integration into the property management software used at over 6,000 hotels worldwide. I left that company last summer (2011) on good terms, I gave notice (unlike most), I worked 2 weeks(again, unlike most) and I shared as much of my knowledge as I could in that time, so that I could move on to something that challenged my mind more.
During my tenure there, I earned a few of the reward points, thanks to having to travel around for work, and it was also used as an employee recognition system, awarding points to people who do a good job or win contests. I never won any contests, but I was nominated as a good employee a few times, and I think I set the company record for the longest period worked without taking any sick time, yeah, I remember that… 2 years, 10 months and 17 days, and I even capped out my bankable sick time, 144 hours worth of it, which I lost when I left.
Next year, I want to go away to celebrate my wedding anniversary  and figured it might be worth converting my unused point to another rewards program to use to discount my flights. So, I go and log into the website to check my balance and convert the points… guess what, they have been removed due to in-activity after 18 months. Yup, I am not overly amused, but I get it, it was in the terms of service, but you could have warned me, it’s not like sending an email costs you anything.

So to make my long sob story short, and put what I should have written near the top to make this article more interesting…
I lost 52,400 WyndhamRewards points, which  would have turned into around 20,960 Aeroplan miles, which would have saved me an extra $250 on my vacation next year.
Wyndham Worldwide, Wyndham Hotels, Wyndham branded hotels and any other brand of hotel or other service now, or in the future that falls under Wyndham’s umbrella of control will not get any of my business, nor my family’s business, or any other people that I can convince to go elsewhere. I used to speak highly of my former employer, but that ends today.

/endrant

A Vanishing Point, not like WyndhamRewards points, since this is working as intended.

Mission Accomplished: Truck fixed and Walmart saved.

As per my previous post, I have been having a small issue with my truck, a 2008 Ford Escape. I was experiencing a nasty vibration while accelerating that would shake the centre console and rear of the truck quite bad. Well, on the advice of a co-worker, I took the truck to a different repair shop than my usual place, having described the problem and letting them know what I suspected after deploying my ninja like Google skills and having a family member and friend both suggest the same thing…. bad U-Joints on the drive train.
I dropped the truck off at King Performance this morning, confirmed the issue and went to work.  I spent most of the day waiting for the “it’s done” phone call, and had to wait until 3:40pm to get it… All done! Stopped in after work and was not surprised to find out that they replaced both the front and rear U-Joints on the drive shaft… and guess what? Vibration gone. Now I just have a minor vibration at highway speed, but I suspect the tires are in need of re-balancing and rotation… but at least I can accelerate now and not feel like the truck will shake apart.

On to the next item. I had stopped at Walmart near work to pick up some soft cat food for the 3 Mouseketeers, and also wanted to grab some new dog treats for Longdog. As I was browsing through the treat selection, I noticed the O’l Roy brand, that I had previously purchased in a 3kg jar, was also available in smaller jars, and for smaller dogs, as the large jar was for medium to large dogs. I noticed something odd about the small jars… they said that they also contained 3kg’s of treats, so I picked it up… nope, didn’t feel like 3kg’s, so I compared to the big jar, and could feel the weight difference right away. I decided to take a closer look at the label and noticed that the label was exactly the same, including the UPC code. Luckily, one of the staff members was nearby stocking the shelves, so I called them over to ask them if they had noticed the incorrect label. The associate has surprised to see the wrong label on the small jar and figured that there must have been a mix up with the supplier, so she proceeded to remove the problematic jars from the shelve and thanked me for pointing it out. We both agreed that it was better to catch the problem now, as opposed to having an angry customer at the check out. I ended up getting a small jar of O’l Roy treats with gravy flavour and the correct label, for small and toy dogs.