Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Last day lunch

We ended up having a last day lunch for my coworker today. I did attend. We went down to the Subway near the office. Due to some delays we didn't get going until around 12:50. And we had to be back by 1:30 for a meeting. So we didn't linger over an hour as these lunches sometimes do.

It was good at Subway. There were picnic tables nearby so we ate outside on a beautiful Nova Scotia summer day. I got the 6 inch Italian BMT as that was the Wednesday special. It came in under $4. I'm glad we did something during the work day. I don't mind attending last day lunches if it is convenient and the price is reasonable.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Last day dinner

At work we had the last day lunch for a fellow who is leaving to go to graduate school. I didn't attend.

The thing it is was kind of overdone. It was on a Saturday night at an Arabian restaurant in Burnside. The cost was $25 + drinks for a three hour event. I had other plans on that evening so I declined the RSVP. I would have declined anyway without plans. I've only worked with him for around three months [the others have more history going back several years]. Still I can't imagine making that kind of time and money commitment for any co-worker. Although it seems a good crowd did go out to see him off.

Here's some common sense tips to get the largest attendance at a last day lunch.

- have it on a Friday

- make it at 12 noon

- make it as close as possible to the office. Preferably in walking distance. If that's not possible then within a 5 minute drive; with plenty of free and convenient parking.

- have it at a casual family style restaurant. Smitty's is a personal favorite of mine. Other good choices using Bayers Lake as an example would be Jack Astors, Boston Pizza, Eastside Mario's, Redwood Grill, Montana's, Lone Star, Swiss Chalet, Applebees to name a few. You get the idea.

- keep the cost reasonable. People don't mind paying for their own, but it should be possible to get a respectable lunch with a [pop] beverage for $10 - $15, and certainly less than $20.

- the last day person eats for free. If the company is not paying then the manager should pay out of his own pocket [perq of being manager].

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

MBNA bait and switch balance transfer scam

I got a surprise in my MBNA statement today. Some stuff that I had balance transferred at their offered rate of 5% is now at 21%.

Say what?? I'm not a deadbeat, I've been making all of the required payments properly, and more. So what happened? Well it turns out in the fine print that the limited time offer on the balance transfer also applies to the amount transferred, not just being able to do the transfers.

So after a couple of months the 5% becomes a regular 21%. Nice. How can this be legal in Canada? The best thing that could happen to Canada would be for MBNA (plus their dirty incessant telemarketers) and the rest of their trash American ilk to take your Indymac/ Countrywide/ subprime/ alt-a/ foreclosure act back to the United States and leave our good country alone.

Anyway it is what it is. I'll have to rearrange my priorities to pay off the now 21% MBNA balance first, then I can finally be free of them forever. And be careful of offers from credit cards about low rate balance transfers. Read the fine print and be on the lookout for scams like this.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Honda Civic fuel door

I had a rather nasty surprise last night at the gas station. I pulled up in my 2005 Honda Civic to get a fill. I press the fuel door release button inside the car and ... nothing happens??! Say what??

The trunk and hood latches still work but I couldn't open the fuel door any more. So I'm pretty much stranded at the gas station. Thank you Honda.

Anyway I had a sliver of fuel left, maybe enough to get to a dealer. I took the car home and tried to open the fuel door myself. I got the cover off the floor button you press. It was pushing the lever, but the door wasn't opening. For whatever reason there's no way to bypass the inside switch and just open the fuel door manually on the outside.

I was very alarmed about facing an expensive repair. I'd resigned myself to this and calling the dealer first thing this morning (wasting a vacation day, thank you Honda.) Then just before I called I thought to check if there was anything on the Web I could find out about it. It turns out there is

[Honda fuel door problems 1]
[Honda fuel door problems 2]
[Honda fuel door problems 3]
[Honda fuel door problems 4]

What I got out of that was this is a known defect in the Civic. Basically caused by bad Honda engineering. For no good reason they make the fuel door controlled by a flimsy inside latch. Then they put the latch mechanism on the drivers side floor where it is exposed to constant dirt, salt, water and ice. This buys a short life for the latch mechanism.

Worse still than the failure prone latch mechanism is that there is no obvious fallback to work around the frequent failures. With say an 8-10+ year old car [although my Civic is less than 3 years old] if the trunk latch gives out no big deal; walk around back put the key in and open it by hand.

The poor Honda design has no such fallback for a failure in the switch. Which is stupid since there's no good reason to even be locking the stupid gas cap door in the first place. Luckily from the sites above I found out enough to peel back the trunk lining and I was able to find the solenoid and reach in and switch it manually and yay the door popped open and I was able to get a fill.

Now that I have a work around I'm not keen to go to the dealer and pay them off for their poor design - note also this is a known and unfixed issue tracing back to at least 2001. I hear this is not cheap to repair. Like with the o2 sensor, stuff seems to break right after warranty expires. What's the point of fixing it anyway? It already broke within less than three years, it would likely just break again in 30 months.

I'm annoyed about this. There's no good reason to make the gas cap door a single point of failure to driving the car. In addition to making an unnecessary single point of failure they put in a flimsy mechanism prone to breakdown and failed to put in an obvious emergency release for when the switch fails.

On a five year initial loan this car costs over $400 a month on average just for payments. Shoddy glitches like this are not appreciated. I suspect this may well be my first and last Honda. Three years or less and I'll be glad it's paid off.