Originally intended to document my experience of DeLorean ownership, focus is often radical and strange, boring and obtuse.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Roomba Review

Roomba enjoys a dusty, hardwood dinner.

I still
haven't gotten over my excitement of 'winning' an iRobot Roomba last week and I'm totally pumped to review this sweet robot vacuum.

The instructions,
which men are not supposed to read, indicated that the Roomba needed to charge, initially, for 16 hours. This long, slow charge is supposed to prolong and ensure the life of the battery. Unfortunately, mine didn't.

On the iRobot website, there is a forum where you can search for problems even if you're not registered. I mean, they'll allow anybody to use the forum. Even the technology-shunning Amish.

I found the procedure for resetting my Roomba (1. remove battery, 2. hold down Power button for 10 seconds, 3. reinsert battery, 4. plug in to charge) but the battery still wouldn't charge for 16 hours.

Frustrated, I phoned customer service. The sickeningly friendly rep told me, "if the green light is solid, you're good to go." So, with a fully charged battery, I sent Dennis on his first mission. And I was astonished. Astonished like a hillbilly watching his toothless cousin get abducted by aliens.

The Roomba was so unnaturally powerful that it picked up everything within a ten mile radius. It sucked up every ounce of fur and dust, then proceeded to inhale the hardwood planks and every piece of furniture we owned. Its appetite is insatiable.

I realize the small size of the Roomba creates the illusion that it can't possibly clean well. Let me assure you, it cleans better than every vacuum we've ever had. Our 12 amp Kenmore upright is great for sucking crumbs, quarters and anything about the size of a hamster out of the couch, but it doesn't really compare to Roomba.

The Roomba was able to completely inhale two cat-vomit stains in our carpet, stains the Kenmore couldn't lift. And what about a Swiffer? Roomba's 14.7x awesomer. Our cats leave trails of litter all over our hardwood, forcing us to clean every day. When we step on it, it grinds into the hardwood leaving marks. The Swiffer is no help as it drags the litter across the floor, scratching it. But with Roomba running, the floors are perfect.

Some people say the Roomba gets stuck. However, I have yet to see this happen. When it wedges itself under our kitchen cupboards, it actually raises its back end, forcing the nose down, then backs out.

Occasionally it gets wedged tighter than an 80s spandex bodysuit up a buttcrack. When this happens, it powers down, turns back on, then uses a blast of Nitrous to back out of the situation, knocking down old ladies and WWF wrestlers without prejudice.

However, it's not all cupcakes and roses. One downside is the fact that the Roomba bashes into baseboards and furniture, sometimes leaving marks. To stop this, I plan on glueing some felt to the bumper. Dead hamsters are softer, but they start to smell after a few days.

I am very particular about how things should look and how things should work. I know it shouldn't bother me, but one thing that upsets me is that Dennis no longer looks spank-my-ass-and-see-if-I-cry new any longer.

When the Roomba crawls beneath furniture, it inevitably wedges itself under something the exact same height as itself, which scratches its sexy outer green shell.

But despite the very few shortcomings, the Roomba is still better than I had expected. I'd almost go so far as to say it's phenomenal. I am an iRobot fan for life. Two Martini-thumbs up to Roomba and to iRobot customer service.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Sun-Rype Customer Service

Canadian Food guide says 3-5 servings of fruit and paper/cardboard box products a day.

Up until December 2007 the 62-year-old Canadian company known as Sun-Rype has stealthfully fluttered under my radar. But no more. Ever since I discovered Sun-Rype's Fruit Source bars on our trip to Vancouver, not only are they smack dab in the middle of my radar, they are filling my cupboards as well as my lower intestine.

Unless fruit is spelled with two O's (as in Froot), I don't eat much of it. I'm more of a meatatarian. But now, thanks to Sun-Rype, I eat a minimum of two to three servings of fruit a day. Because that's how much fruit they cram into each bar using advanced fruit-cramming technology.

I was so amazed by the fruit bar I tried, that I excitedly wrote to Sun-Rype, after checking their website for Ontario fruit bar distribution:

Subject: Consumer Service Inquiry
NameTitle: Mr.
LastName: Martini
InquiryType: General Inquiry

Message: Hello,
I just discovered your fruit bars on a Westjet flight to Vancouver for Christmas and I was completely caught off guard by the deliciousness of the Blueberry/Pomegranite bar. I am not much of a fruit-eater and it has always been difficult to get enough. I was so excited about the bar I tried that once I came home I immediately went out and bought a box - unfortunately I couldn't locate those exact bars. I see they're new and I hope to find them in my stores very soon!

Having once worked in a customer-service type industry, and having friends who work in upper levels of food and consumer-product industries, I know that most people only take the time to contact a company when they've got some complaining to do.

I have experimented with positive comments in the past and learned that about 50% of the time, you get a nice reaction. This was one of those times:

From: Sun-Rype Consumer Services
Subject: Sun-Rype Consumer Services Response
Date: The next day

Thank you for taking the time to visit our website. We appreciate consumer feedback and welcome the opportunity to address any questions or comments.

As a quality food and beverage manufacturer, Sun-Rype is committed to providing consumers with a wide variety of premium products. Consumer feedback is vital to our ongoing research and product development efforts. Blueberry Pomegranate is indeed our newest flavour in our Fruit Source line. As time goes on you will see it more readily available in your region.

We are taking this opportunity to forward you complimentary coupons by regular mail towards the purchase of any Sun-Rype product. These coupons can be used at most grocery stores in your region.

Once again, thanks for visiting our website. If you require any product information, please contact me directly.

Cindy Hazelton
Consumer Services Representative

Approximately ten days later I discovered a whopping six dollars in Sun-Rype coupons in my mail, along with a thank-you letter. I was astonished! How many companies do you know, honestly, who will offer such a thing for simply giving them a compliment?

Is there something sinister going on here that I am missing? Are they the evil druglord of the fruit world, trying to get me hooked? Do their coupons send a message saying, "Go ahead kid, try the fruit bar. Everybody's doing it."

Me: "...And you're telling me the first one is free?"

Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? All I can say is two Martini-thumbs way up for Sun-Rype, for their awesomely delicious products, and proving to the world that customer service is not dead. If there's a company out there you've had an excellent experience with, write to them. Say something positive and see what happens.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Roomba Great For Dirt & Styx

Like an ancient Gladiator I stand, with my Roomba shield to protect me from the dirt onslaught.

My house has been Roombafied. Remember when I won a GPS a little while ago? My coworker won the iRobot dirt sucking device that I originally hoped to win. She wanted a GPS and I wanted a Roomba, so we pulled a 'One Red Paperclip' of sorts, and traded.

Suz and I have wanted a Robotic vacuum for a long time now, but never had the cashflow to make the almighty A.I. purchase. In the last few years prices have dropped dramatically, while battery life has increased dramatically.

I was drunk with giddiness, and a little bit of rum, as I opened the box containing the retro green Roomba, model 4105 (U.S. model 416 on the iRobot website). It dominated the space, while around it, accessories glittered with the sparkle of brandnewness.

PhotobucketInside the sturdy, nicely printed box there were beaucoup de stuffs. This particular robo vac did not come with the self-charging home base. However, it did come with a regular charger, two virtual walls, one additional filter and a plastic wall-hanger thinger for displaying the robot vacuum above your fireplace mantel along with the mounted, taxedermied heads of all the dust mites you've killed.

Upon box openage, I was impressed with the attention to detail the Massachusetts company gave to everything, including the packaging. If you weren't already aware, I am a big fan of wonderfully-designed packaging, and the folks at iRobot do not disappoint.

PhotobucketEven the styrofoam lid bore the impression of the iRobot logo. Beyond that, the actual contents further impressed. The robo vac's wheels look like those of the off-roading, mudding variety. I don't know who's got 4 inches of mud in their house, but it looks as though the Roomba can easily handle it with these sweet knobbed wheels. The dust bin clicks and unclicks deliciously and the the buttons are 2nd to none.

This particular model charges quickly - in only 3 hours, compared to 7 hours for more geriatric models. The 416 also has a dirt detect sensor and will hover over particularly dirty areas, sucking away joyfully until it can see its own robo face in the reflection.

Although the website does not state it comes with an accessory kit, mine did. And WOW am I ever lame for getting excited about it! The bonus kit came chock full of vacuumy goodness including two more virtual walls for a total of four, 6 more filters, an extra main roller brush, an extra side brush and an extra rubber thingamadoey!

What's more, Roomba's are totally hackable, and the company openly encourages users to interface with their vacuums and custom-program them for bizarre and radical things. Amazing!

As exciting as this is, my Roombafication isn't complete. I plan on purchasing the self-charging home base for $60, if it is compatible with my little Dennis.

Yep. I've named my Roomba Dennis, after Dennis DeYoung of Styx fame. How could I not name him that? You know, after the writer of my most favouritest song in the whole world, Mr. Roboto?

"Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto, for doing the jobs nobody wants to..."

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Monday, February 18, 2008

2008 Acura CSX Review

The CSX, a simple Civic with Acura badges stuck all over it.

This weekend Suz and I came into possession of a new 2008 Acura CSX quite by accident - literally. We were headed up to Ottawa for the long weekend so we took our 2006 Insight into the Acura dealership Friday for it's semi annual oil change. That is where the accident occured. The Acura mechanic admittedly overtightened the nut on the aluminum oil pan - and split it.

Enter the loaner.

We were given a 2008 Acura CSX, built exclusively for the Canadian market, as a loaner. A five hour drive to the Ottawa area was a perfect way to test the car.

Although I plan on being entirely fair, I just want to get the unpleasantries out of the way first. And with that introduction I give you the seats. The heated leather seats in our base model CSX were, hands-down, the most uncomfortable seats I've ever sat in.

How uncomfortable you ask? Imagine sitting in once place for five miserable hours. Now imagine spending those 300 minutes with your ass and your back firmly planted on a rock. It's a heated rock, mind you, but still a solid, painful rock.

I can only imagine what the neanderthal seat designers were thinking when they carved the seats out of stone with their prehistoric tools, then slipped a leather seat cover over top of them. A leather seat cover that was poorly stitched together to boot.

The future is here - and it's digital.The dash and gauge cluster on the CSX were absolutely, fantastically awesome. It's the same in the Civic, because after all, the CSX is merely a Civic dressed in a Tux. My father-in-law hated the digital display which, to him, was a cheesy throwback to the 80s. And that may be the very reason why I loved it. But either way you slice it, the two-tiered digital gauge cluster is unique.

The steering wheel was nice and small, and gave the car a sporty feel, but there was only one semi-comfortable position for my hands. The cruise and radio controls adorn the spokes of the wheel with nice buttons that click most excellently. Neatly tucked behind the wheel were the paddle shifters which were a nice addition despite the fact they were made of creaky plastic.

The car handled extremely well, and had surprisingly tight suspension which I found to be quite radical. However, I can imagine a lot of people, particularly of the older variety, would find it too stiff. To them I would suggest the Buick dealership down the street.

The radio controls were great big knobs that rotated smoothly and beautifully. Buttons clicked with presicion and gave a feeling of solidness and happiness. The attention to detail was superb, and far outweighed the attention the engineers paid to the big picture.

The cabin was extremely cramped and the parking brake lever was ill-placed as I had nowhere for my right knee to go. In order to see the speedometer perfectly, the tilting/telescoping steering wheel needed to be lowered. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to lower it to, as my knees and legs were in the way. The car was clearly designed for sub- 5'7" consumers.

CSX specs were decent: 155 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque from the 2.0L engine. Actually, the car felt far quicker than these numbers suggest, likely due to the gearing of the 5-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel economy was surprisingly terrible as we only achieved 11.0L per 100 km as opposed to the 6.5L per 100 kms Acura claims. We were only able to travel 450 kms before filling up. Granted, we were travelling 115 to 120 km/h, however, my 400 hp, all-wheel-drive Talon can travel just over 500 kms on the exact same amount of fuel.

Theoretically, this car should've been awesome, but the reality is, it was not very well executed. Acura will have a tough time selling this car to anyone over 5'7" and larger than 120 lbs. The seats, with no lumbar support, are the biggest downfall and are only tolerable up to about 20 minutes. That being said, the $27,000 CSX is still far more luxurious than the Lexus RX350 I tested a year ago.

I want to give the 2008 CSX higher marks, but comfort is one of the most important things in vehicles and this car is a borderline torture device. So, two Martini-thumbs way up for the amazing dashboard, but two Martini-thumbs way down for the seating, and the tight driver's area.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Replacement Windows

Windows look 69 years younger with L'Oreal's age-defying creme.

Every year millions of people eat at Jack in the Box. And every year millions of people replace their windows. Yet I've never known anyone who has had to do either of these things.

Because of this anomoly, I didn't know what was a good price, didn't know which companies were reliable, didn't know how much damage to expect to our trim, and didn't know how quickly the job could be done.

The one thing I did know, was that our looky-outy things needed to be replaced. Why? They were 69 years old. When things reach that age, stuff happens. Bad stuff. Our wooden windows were totally rotting, some panes of glass were totally cracked, the locks were totally broken, and they were covered in liver spots.

However the worst part was the cold air leaking in, and warm air escaping, causing those particular windows to fog up (seen on left). The problem areas were noted during our home energy audit in September.

If you'd like an audit, check out www.energuy.ca It's not the company I used, but it should've been. Cam, one of the most decent guys I know, will hook you up with the goverment, and get you some sweetass rebates.

On Wednesday, our installers came and ushered our sunroom and our master bedroom into the modern era with double-pane goodness. In all we had 14 windows replaced (just under half our total of 34 windows) along with two exterior doors. By comparison, our last house only had 12 windows in total.

Our sunroom was once the eyesore of our house, with flaking paint and rotting wood. But now, with the perfect white capping, it's going to be my favourite place to chill this coming summer.

Once the work was complete, I immediately noticed how much warmer our master bedroom has become. The windows are warm to the touch and look fantastic, as we ordered the non-broken glass variety. The low-E argon gas is, sadly, invisible, but I've been assured it's doing its job.

For those interested, I'll let you know if we see any visible savings on our heating bills in the upcoming months.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Adventures In Conferencing

Don't fall for Lowe's half-price door sale.

Travelling used to seem silly to me. Silly Billy, in fact. But I have done an about-face on that particular opinion and love travelling so much that I'm going to ask it to marry me on Valentine's Day.

Every fall Suz has to attend a business-related conference which takes place in the north-eastern states or eastern provinces. In previous years we've enjoyed travels to Connecticut, where we checked out some radical cemeteries, and Vermont, where we bumped into Senator Peter Welch.

For the 2008 conference, we just found out, we will not be journeying to the wonderful United States. Instead, the conference will be held in Montreal, which is still pretty le dope. When we learned of the conference this year, I started going through my photos from previous conferences and found the above door.

We are always
excited to travel to a city we've never been, but myself moreso. For me, it's a free vacation, as the room has already been paid for. I spend my days lounging on the beds in the hotel room, watching movies until 2 in the afternoon. Seasoned students or cable guys with early morning appointments may scoff at my inability to stay in bed longer, but my bladder has some sort of bizarre control over me that I can't disobey.

While I spend
the afternoons taking pictures and checking out the sights, Suz is doing two kinds of working. The regular kind, and the 'net' kind. She does get spare time however, and we go off and have little adventures in these beautiful cities we hadn't really contemplated visiting otherwise.

The last conference we attended was chock full of pseudo-celebrity encounters, as we partied with Senator Welch, and, to our surprise, found Gary Coleman's secret Vermont get-away, which really wasn't very well hidden.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Amputee Ghost Cat

You can tell the ghost cat is male because he can stand upright with no hind legs.

The skeletons in my closet clatter with an uneasiness that sends chills reverberating throughout our house. The furnace mysteriously halts as an unstoppable cold fills each room. It is searching for something.

70-year-old windows rattle. Eerie wind creeps through the cracks and the coldness grows. Another being dwells in our home, and he is hungry. Strange noises emanate from unoccupied rooms... then suddenly...

The Amputee Ghost Cat appears!

Hovering, with no hind legs, the amputee ghost cat calls for food with a surreal, whispering meow. As faithful servant, I obey. Only the finest roasted, shaved chicken will do for the amputee ghost cat.

Shmeg's mighty paw grabs my hand to hold it steady.With his large paws he reaches for the food. The ghost cat makes contact with my hand - and it is cold. I tremble as I feed the starving spectre. His piercing blue eyes pierce my own eyes with a piercing stare that pierces uh, stuff. I must obey.

My hands shake like a diabetic on a sugar-low as I tear off another strip of tasty chicken for the phantom before me. I wonder what happened to his hind paws as I try and distract myself. I must stay focused. The amputee ghost cat can sense fear.

"Only a few more tender pieces of delicious chicken and he'll be satisfied" I think to myself. Sure enough, the ghost cat drops to the ground. His hind legs reappear and he walks away, licking his chops.

I have survived another feeding.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Royalty Is Visiting

The mighty Bub roars his displeasure at the setting sun.

This is Oliver. Or, as I like to call him, Shmeg, Shmeglin or Shmego-Bub. Shmeg is my parents' cat, a purebred Himalayan Lynx with a show-cat heritage. Recently he has gained a new name due to the fact he must be waited on hand and paw. Suz calls him the Prince. Yes, he's better than us, and he knows it.

While my parents are in Florida Suz and I are attending to the Prince's needs and desires. If we don't stick to the schedule, we'll both receive 40 Royal lashings.

And not the good kind, with a dominatrix standing over you with a cat-o-nine tails.

Shmeg is 14 years old, very old for a purebred, and is therefore on a strict diet of soggy, mashed up, scientifically formulated gunky crap which must be presented to him twice a day, along with a proper curtsy.

it's tasty crap. I wouldn't know. I've only ever tried dry cat food. Regardless, Prince Bub must be fed his soft raunch twice a day or he'll bite the big one.

Terrified and disoriented without his Royal Pillow, Prince Bub cowers in the basement, or slithers behind the fireplace; a crack so narrow my arm barely fits. The Prince must be coaxed out of these hiding places, and fed his Royal Dinner.

The only problem is, he prefers people food. And he prefers it fed to him by hand. And so I must sit, painstakingly tearing off strips of Schneiders Oven Roasted Chicken and holding it up for him to grab.

No, not with his teeth - with his paws. Price Bub sits on his hind legs and holds the chicken steady with his paws while he chews the nutrients out of it. Feeding time can last half an hour.

But it's all worth it for my little Prince Shmego-Bub, who shows his affection with mighty head-butts and a few choice vocalisations like, "Mmmcaaaaaaaaaw" instead of meow.

Hand feeding really isn't so bad, especially considering
is the end result of Prince Bub's standard glop dinner. When finished, the Royal servant, me, sticks his plate into the royal dishwasher and wipes everything down. The whole process is a royal pain in the ass.

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This many people accidentally stumbled upon my site
...while searching for porn.