Monday, March 30, 2009

New hockey stick

At my ball hockey league there's a new rule from the gym where we play. We have to switch sticks. No more wood or composite blades allowed.

I was using an old Mylec stick anyway so technically I was OK. Still I realized it was time to get a new stick. The stick I was using is old and getting beat up. I can keep it as a backup and for the occasional outside play. But I needed a new stick. I don't know when I bought that Mylec stick. More than 10 years ago I suspect.

The instruction from the league is to use the ABS blades. There weren't a whole lot of them around but I did find one. I got a Easton Synergy ABS stick. It's blue which is different for me. It looks pretty good. I ended up getting it at SportChek in Dartmouth Crossing. First I was in Bayers Lake at Cleve's and SportChek but they didn't have it. The SportChek guy in Bayers Lake was pretty useful. He called the other locations in town and told me they had it in Dartmouth Crossing.

It was $30 which isn't too bad. The prices on some sticks have gone crazy over the last few years. And more and more of them are made in China now, so buyer beware. The Easton is made in Canada so that's great. This should last me the rest of this season and beyond. There's about a month left of ball hockey and then I'll have to figure out a plan for the spring and summer.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nova Scotia Museum of Industry

It was March break last week. As usual there was a March break hockey tournament for my son's atom hockey team. The tournament was scheduled until the Wednesday. As it happened the team didn't advance to the semi finals so they were done Tuesday afternoon after their third game.

So that left Wednesday as a free day. The tournament was in West Hants so we'd been driving up the 102 highway on Monday and Tuesday. Maybe driving up the 102 made me think of continuing on to the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry in Stellarton. That's what we decided to do on Wednesday.

It was a good drive up, around 90 minutes straight there. I'd drove past the industry museum a couple of times over the years going to or back from Cape Breton. I'd always wanted to go there. It was good there, worth the trip.

There were a lot of good displays, inventions and things made in Nova Scotia. Plus the old dam with running water originally from the Halifax museum is now there. That was one of my favorites from the Halifax museum and it was nice to see it after all these years. On the top floor there is an interesting display of the history of mining in the area and the sacrifices the miners made over the years in the major mining disasters.

After Truro it is around a half hour on the trans Canada highway. Going on the trans Canada is always a big treat for me. I hadn't been on the trans Canada in a few years. I always like going on the trans Canada, especially the Truro junction: right to Cape Breton, left to New Brunswick and the West. I've always wanted to drive across Canada. I probably never will if I haven't done it yet; but it would be nice to at least go to BC some day and see the Pacific Ocean.

We were at the museum for a little over an hour. On the way back we stopped at McDonald's in Truro for lunch. We probably would have gone a few feet further ahead to Burger King if we'd noticed they have a big play place there too. We usually like BK better but the McD was fine.

It was too bad the hockey team was knocked out of the tournament but it turned out OK since it freed up the chance to go to the museum together. It was a good time and I'm glad we went. I may go back some day.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

clams and chips

Yesterday we had another ex SupportSoft lunch. It's been a few months since the last time we got together. After some e-mails we agreed to meet again at the Red Fox for a Friday lunch.

There was one new guy who was let go in January in the most recent RIF. He's already found new work so that's good news. There were two that went to Keane that were pulled into meetings so they couldn't make it. Another guy I work with was home with a sick child. So five of us made it there.

I was going to order fish and chips when the waiter listed the lunch specials. One of them was clams and chips for $8.95. That is a good price for clams and chips. It's been a long time since I've heard of that for less than $10.

It's been a long time since I ordered clams and chips. I can't remember the last time. More than five years ago. Since it was only about $1 more than fish and chips usually cost I decided to order the clams and chips. It's a little indulgence but it's a nice treat to myself to mark paying off the MBNA credit card.

When it arrived a few minutes later I enjoyed it. It was a good portion and tasty. Perhaps not quite as good as from a fish and chips place like Gazoo's since the Red Fox is a tavern; but still enjoyable. The fries were ok, good enough but nothing special. Including the Keith's Light to drink it all came in well under $20, tip included. I paid cash.

It was a good time to meet up with my former coworkers again. We agreed we'd meet for lunch again in around 6 months. We've been to the Red Fox twice now and the mood is that it's time to try out somewhere different next time. I have a suggestion in mind already.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

MBNA MasterCard and National Bank MasterCard

Some positive news credit card news lately in the mail. My MBNA Mastercard is now finally paid off. Whew! What a relief to be free of that card.

It was a tough go with much sacrifice to get there, but I'm glad it's now done. It won't make much difference in the short term monthly budget since the MBNA payment money will just be moved onto the TD visa. The TD visa is moving along pretty well so hopefully that will be wrestled to the ground sooner rather than later.

And after the TD visa there's still the TD loan. So a way to go still but this is a positive milestone along the way to being debt free. Debt is slavery.

With the MBNA paid off I wanted to get rid of it. I still use Mastercard and find it useful sometimes so I wanted to replace it with a new card. I'm now replacing the MBNA Mastercard with a National Bank Ultramar Mastercard.

With the Ultramar Mastercard I get an extra discount on gas. I generally go to Ultramar anyway and I'm already getting a 2 cents/litre discount using the Ultramar ValuMax card. So now I'll get an extra 2% discount on top of that on gas I was going to buy there anyway.

It was a bit of an adventure getting set up with National Bank. I applied through the mail back in November with a form they give out at all of the local Ultramar gas stations. I didn't think much more of it for a few weeks as I didn't hear anything of it. Then in late January I decided to call them and ask what the status was. The National Bank rep (who answered in French initially which was kind of amusing, but it's great he's Canadian) was helpful and said I needed to go to a local branch and present ID so they know that it was really me who applied for the card, and not someone posing as me.

The local "branch" as it turns out in Halifax is also the AltaMira office way downtown on Barrington Street. It wasn't too bad to get there for 8:30 AM opening and an occasional trip downtown is pleasant. The people there were more used to selling mutual funds and they are just learning the branch procedures. But they were helpful and enthusiastic. They took the information and my phone number and said they would follow up with head office and get back to me. Later that morning they did get back to me and it was all set up. After that I got the answer from National Bank in just a couple of weeks.

They ended up approving me and giving me a $1,000 balance on the card. I passed on paying $15 a year for 19% interest and instead went with no fee and 26% interest. I'm not really concerned about the interest rate since I plan to just pay as I go and use the card as a convenience and for the discounts on gas and other purchases such as Paypal and other online. This card is good if you never carry a balance because it's no fee and you even get a discount on purchases.

There's some other benefits to the National Bank Mastercard. They have epost billing so that's a good thing for convenience and to help the environment. Also they are Canadian, so whatever merchant fees come of my card purchases will stay in this country.

Although terminating with MBNA and starting fresh with a new Mastercard will scratch my credit rating a bit, I think it is a good move. I didn't have to cancel with MBNA but I chose to.

MBNA is an American company. A subsidiary of Bank of America. Which makes them also associated with Countrywide and Merrill Lynch. So right in there with the scummy subprime, predatory lending, alt-a, synthetic CDO, CDS, bailouts, fraud, TARP. I'm embarrassed to be associated with MBNA/Bank of America. Let the US taxpayer take care of MBNA/Bank of America because I don't want to.

The MBNA telemarketers are so offensive and they never go away. It helped when I changed phone numbers a few months ago. They haven't yet found my new number but I expect eventually they will and it will be back to MBNA telemarketer harassment. I don't want your stupid travel insurance, or disability insurance or balance protection insurance, or whatever other worthless garbage your MBNA telemarketers keep pestering me about. Just go away and never come back. By canceling it might help get rid of the MBNA telemarketers.

The thing about the MBNA card is what it represents. The MBNA represents the past. The lost financial years. The old ways. This is about severing another link to the past. Making a clean break and a new start.

So the MBNA card is now canceled and cut up. It was a small bit of work to switch over the automatic billing for macpass and paypal to the National Bank card but now that's done.

Goodbye and good riddance MBNA mastercard. You brought nothing but misery and hard times into my life. I look forward to never interacting with you again!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

walmart is the new zellers

Two in a row now bad experiences at wal-mart. Which is strange as for so many years it was so consistent there. Busy, low prices, fast checkout.

I've noticed the last month or so it seems a lot less busy there in Bayers Lake. You can actually walk around there a bit at times and even get some parking less than 100m from the door. Prices have gone up somewhat and it's not sensationally lower like it was when they first burst onto the scene in Halifax around 15 years ago. I think surviving competitors have become leaner and got their prices down some to close the gap. And wal-mart has probably allowed their own prices to come up a bit also to narrow the gap.

The second to last time there I bought one item that came to $5.59 with taxes. I gave the cashier a five and a toonie and walked off with my 41 cents change. Of course I noticed as I left that's wrong, it's supposed to be $1.41. I turned my head back to see if the cashier had taken another customer, it was the express line. Strangely her post was actually abandoned as if I'd never been there, seemingly she had gone on break after me, apparently with my $1 as a tip. I guess wrong change happens sometimes in both directions but I don't recall it ever happening at wal-mart. It was a part of their seeming ruthless efficiency in a way.

And more trouble the last time I was there. Again I stopped in for one quick item. I get to the single line multi cash and the whole line is wrapped around as there are only two cashiers on. So I find a traditional one cashier line with only two people with regular size orders in it. And I wait, and wait. There was some problem with the first person in the line. He had some stainless steel kettle. Unfortunately he brought it to the front with no tags or anything on it [welcome to Zellers c. 1982]. The cashier calls housewares and there's some lengthy delay getting the price on the item [welcome to Zellers].

This goes on for like 10 minutes or more, still on the first customer. Then the cashier announces that she's on break now and closed! Everyone behind the first guy in the line is to blame since she claimed her light wasn't on so it's our fault. hmmm. Me and the lady behind me in line walked away shaking our heads and muttering. If you were closed why would you wait 10 minutes to tell the people still standing in the lineup that you were closed.

Also it is standard to put a "closed" marker at the end of the merchandise conveyer when you are closed. At least the zellers cashiers bother to do that much.

Monday, March 09, 2009


This past weekend I did something I haven't done in a long time. I lent someone money. I lent $40 to an old friend who I've known since we were in grade school.

I can't remember the last time I lent someone money. Around 20 years ago. My buddy is starting a new job and gets paid Thursday he said. We agreed he would settle it then. I've known him a long time and I'm confident he's good for it.

For my friend, he's onto the new job. And some other life changes after he and his girlfriend he was living with broke up. So it's good for me to be able to help out someone a little bit. Some people have offered to help me out in the past so what goes around comes around. Some positive karma for me. It's good to be able to actually lend to someone.

Friday, March 06, 2009

snack lunch dinner

We don't get as much free food with my current job as I did with my last employer. Sometimes I miss the every 2nd Friday lunches.

But this week has been busy with food. There were some meetings with people down from head office. Plus this is a a milestone time in the Halifax office so we marked that as well.

On Wednesday we brought in pizza at lunch. It was a meeting with the head office people so we had lunch during the meeting. The pizza was pretty good.

Thursday in the morning it was cake cookies and coffee in the morning to mark the milestone. That was good. The cookies were fresh baked and warm.

Then on Thursday evening we went out to the Waterfront Warehouse for dinner. I like downtown Halifax and it was pretty good there. It was a bit drafty at the start but they lit a fire in the big fireplace which was right next to our table. I ordered the Chicken Peppercorn Carbonara Fettuccine which was OK. But if I went back I might get something different.