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My Canadian Experience
September / October / November / December 2010

In September I attended the International Convent of the Knights Templar in Toronto. Great event and met folk from all over the world. I gave a wee talk to them on the Friday about how to better use the web to promote the order.

The Saga of my Furnace

This developed into quite a major issue over two months and I thought it worth while documenting what happened.

My furnace developed a crack in the heat exchanger so that led to me getting an "A" Infraction Tag and my gas turned off <sigh>.  There wasn't a replacement heat exchanger available and I did hunt in both Canada and the USA. And so then came an interesting experience...

I had to purchase a new furnace and didn't have the liquid capital available to purchase one outright. I thus took advantage of on offer for a deferred 6 month payment in which I would be able to gather the needed finances together out of my income.  Problem is that this offer was refused due to me having no credit history.

What to do?  Well I noted Sears also offered furnaces so I contacted them and they told me I could get a 2 year monthly payment plan with 0% interest.  That sounded good and so I asked what was needed to go ahead with this?  They said you just need a Sears card.  And what I asked was required to get a Sears card?  Oh you just need to visit our store, fill out a wee form and produce your credit card and you'll get your card in 2 days.  And what if I don't have a credit card I asked?  You can't get a Sears card they replied <sigh>

This is by no means the first time I've had problems because I don't own a credit card so I decided that it was time to get one so I went to my local Scotiabank and they needed to see my last 2 years Canadian Tax Notice of Assessment. They then needed to see my business license as I am self employed in Canada.  I said I didn't have a business license.  Well we'll need some proof that you have a business.  How about looking at my web site I asked.  No that wouldn't do. They were somewhat dubious about me providing my last two years audited accounts from my American company.  Mmmm... and then it struck me.  I do have a Canadian Company that I have never traded with but do have the Articles of Association. That's what we need they said.  So as it seemed like I had everything they needed they did a check to see if I was eligible and the good news came back that I'd been approved for $3,000 and I just needed to pop down to the bank with the various forms to prove what I had said verbally was indeed accurate.

All was fine so they discussed which of the various credit cards I wanted to take out.  Each has a different offering and the one I ended up selecting turned out to require a minimum credit limit of $5,000. Ah! they said... we'll need to go back to see if we can get approval for that new limit.  So I now had to wait until Monday to see if I'd be approved.  In actual fact this particular card does offer aeroplan miles but as important it also included emergency medical cover of up to $1 million.  As I do travel outside Canada and usually into the USA I do have to take out travel insurance before I go and so this card would avoid the need to purchase this so a good choice.

I eventually got my furnace installed on 30th October and on 1st November was due to get the inspection done but instead got a phone call from the Manager of the Inspection folk at Union Gas saying he didn't believe he could do the inspection.  I protested that it was his company that said he could do it but he still called off the inspection.  I phoned Union Gas and they said there was no reason for him not to do the inspection and they would still visit.  At end of the day they still hadn't turned up.

There seems to be a genuine problem here with Union Gas in that the help center is giving out incorrect information and their people in the field... the inspectors... are in conflict with that.  What the inspector is saying is that as they haven't installed the furnace they don't know if everything is correct or not.  What they require is for a contractor or licensed fitter to inspect the furnace and do a pressure test which takes around 10 minutes.  If all is ok then they have to put their fitter number on the furnace together with the TSSA tag number.  Then when the inspector comes they eye ball the furnace and check the 2 numbers and if all is ok they pass the furnace for use and I get switched back on. I took the time to phone the call centre back to make sure they were aware of this conflict in information and I was told it has now been flagged by them to change the information they now give out. So I am pleased to be of assistance to them and they thanked me for alerting them to the situation.

It was also pointed out to me that without these two numbers if the furnace blew up that it wouldn't be covered under my home insurance.  It was also pointed out that when the fitter comes to do the pressure test he is actually authorised to switch me back on and so I wouldn't need an inspector to come out.

As an additional complication an inspector did actually turn up and when I mentioned that I thought they couldn't do an inspection he just shrugged and came in to do the inspection.  I was told there was one problem in that there was a water drainage T off the exhaust pipe and he said that 2 years ago the code was changed so that you now need a solid pipe.  I was told if I fixed that he'd come back again.  So I have got that fixed. Mind you it was interesting to note that when I called the Union Gas call ante to fix that appointment I thought I'd have trouble getting one but they simply booked an appointment for me. They actually shouldn't have done that,

And when the Inspector called he then told me he couldn't authorise the job because there were no numbers on the furnace... the fitter number and the TSSA tag.  And so here we go again <sigh>.

It's not actually easy to find someone willing to do an inspection as they didn't fit the furnace but at last a bit of luck came my way.  The last inspector phoned to say he'd found a fitter with the appropriate qualifications to inspect my furnace.  That inspector needs to get a real pat on the back as he didn't need to do that so my thanks to him. He did go above and beyond to do that!

Anyway Patrick turned up on Wednesday morning. He found that there was a drainage pipe that hadn't been hooked up inside the furnace and was leaking water into the furnace so fixed that.  He also noted that my humidifier also hadn't been hooked in so he also fixed that. 

And so I eventually got my official tag showing I am now legal!

My final bill for the furnace was $2,355 which was around $2,000 below the lowest quote I got from the 3 furnace suppliers I asked to quote. In actual fact I did ask Patrick what he'd have charged for a similar furnace and he told me likely around $2,500.  I'll thus make sure I keep his phone number to hand!

He also told me that for around $5,000 he could supply a gas transformer. This transformer will keep the furnace running, the freezer, lights and TV and my computer in the event of a power outage.  He said he had one in his home but that was because where he lives he's always getting power outages.  I have to say that to date I have had no more than a few seconds of power outage where I live in Chatham.  I did have one for a few hours as a squirrel managed to get electrocuted but they were very quick to repair things. He did mention to install one was labour intensive as it often meant rewiring the electric panel and he said you've no idea of the number of panels which are out of code and doubled up.

He also mentioned that my furnace was 92% efficient and was a one stage furnace.  He thought that was a good system since I was in the house all day and thus need a constant temperature. He figured that I was likely better off with this than a 2 stage one given I worked from home.

I also got some duct work done to get some heat into my downstairs toilet...

It's now obvious that if you want heat to move around the house you need good duct work and solid metal as the concertina stuff just doesn't work.

And so there is the story of my furnace!

As we went through Thanksgiving in Canada, 11th October, my friends Nola, Harold and Keith came down and we had a meal at my place and then a meal the next two nights at Pat and Al's at Port Crewe and a good time was had by all.

Got myself a new pair of glasses as mine were well scratched... meaning I have to take more care of this new set.

I also headed up to nearby Merlin to take some pictures of the area for an old book I have been publishing on the site about a family and their friends moving from Scotland to Tilsbury East which is only about a 20 minute drive from my home in Chatham.

And then is was onto Halloween where there seems to be a growing number of Kids in the neighbourhood so I eventually ran out of treats. Obviously I'll need more for next year!

I spend most of October trying yet again to obtain information from Scottish business organisations such as Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, Scottish Chamber of Commerce and other groups and yet again come up blank.  All I really want to do is explore the history of Scottish business and I am simply amazed that none will provide any information. I will admit to being well pissed off with the whole Scottish business establishment.  It's my view that we seem to employ non entities to run our business organisations.  I have actually been trying to get information on and off for some 15 years now and am now ready to call it a night. I am reminded that the Scots who left Scotland seem to have all done very well indeed and must have left the also rans behind them.  Running any kind of business means you need to sell your products and services which means you need to get in front of as many potential customers as possible.  So how on earth do you do that if you can't even provide information on your company... total idiots if you ask me.

It's a bit like Travel portals on the web.  Like I was saying just the other day about Travel Manitoba... All I l know of Manitoba is that it is a prairie province and grows wheat which must mean it's as flat as a pancake.  So why on earth would I even consider going there for a holiday?  And thus why would I even consider going to their travel web site?  Yet they won't provide any information on the Province unless through their own web site.  Idiots!  I also got a similar treatment from British Columbia when I was doing some history on the province.  I asked if they could provide some pictures of the area to go with the history.  As I am not a media outlet or a travel company promoting BC they refused.  I just don't understand how so many stupid people are employed in the promotion of their areas of the world.

I got an appointment to see a dietician so I can eat healthier.  I have to admit I don't have a problem with any of the advice they are giving apart from eggs.  I happen to love eggs and eat a lot of them but am told I should only have a maximum of three a week!  And while I do eat bread I mostly eat white bread but for every slice of white bread I have I can have 2 slices of whole meal bread so looks like another change I'll need to make. They highly recommended eating stone ground wheat bread. Haven't figured out what black pudding and haggis are worth yet but guess I'll eventually figure that out,  Note: I have in fact since found out that Black Pudding is 12g 4%, Haggis is 12g 4% 90g 2% and Square Sausage is 50g 6%. 

I have found getting used to a pen to give myself insulin is not a problem at home but it is a problem when I am out for the night.  They tell me that I can't put in a needle and take my pen with me and so I need to take the needle separate to the pen and put it on when I am out.  Just seems to me the pen should have been designed to take a needle and thus make this a lot easier.  And so a few new things to get used to.

As I got into November I figured it was time to get my car serviced and winterised.  As it happens I have a slow puncture in one tyre and despite a couple of attempts at fixing it the tyre still loses pressure. I decided that it was probably time to get the tyres replaced and so ordered a set of 4 Michelin tyres. As we do get an amount of ice and snow during the winter it is essential that you have a decent set of tyres. The ones I had on were an own brand tyre so likely best that they got replaced.  The Buick I have has a small spare tyre which is only used to get you to where you were going and not for full use. So that at least means I only need 4 tyres and not 5.

Mind you when ordering these tyres the garage asked if I wanted them balanced... it only occurred to me afterwards that this was an odd question to ask.  Surely if they are fitting four new tyres they'd automatically balance them? Seems to me these garages are looking for any way they can to charge you more for anything they think they can get away with.  That can't be good for long term relationships.

On November 15th I visited my Doctor and she reported that she was "delighted" with the progress I had made.  My Cholesterol was "very high" in August and she tells me it is now "perfect" and so that is great news.  As to my diabetic control she tells me I've made great progress and now about 80% towards where she wants me to be.  As it happens it's now finer control I'm needing so I'm in the middle of doing a daily write up on what I eat and drink and have to take that into the Diabetic care centre at the local hospital and they'll then walk me through how to do some adjustments to my regular regime.  That appointment is set for January.

Also got a communication in saying I needed to renew my car licence plate.  This also means you require a clean air test so I got that done and I passed which was good news.

Another new thing is that I switched from Shoppers Drug Mart to Sobeys for my prescriptions and as a result Sobeys provide me with a weekly pill dispenser. This is a bit like an A5 booklet which gives you 7 days worth of pills divided between Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Night.

I would note that I was also advised to take an 81mg aspirin tablet 5 times a week. As you buy these over the counter I thought I'd need to just do this as a separate task but found that they can also include this within the pill pack. And so it looks to be a useful service.

On 27th November I was hunting for something down in the basement and found a couple of boxes from my move from Scotland to Canada that I still hadn't opened.  I had a wee look at them and discovered a photograph album that my father had made up with old pictures from his days in Aden, Iran, Kuwait, Australia and Italy.  I decided to scan those in and added them to my mini bio page.

As I progressed into December I heard about all the snow that Scotland, and indeed Europe were getting. It virtually brought Scotland to a standstill. Here is Chatham we've only had a light fall of snow. Of course it does tend to stick around due to the cold temperatures. One hour North and East of us they've had large falls of snow with roads blocked and many accidents. 

On December 17th I went to reboot my computer only to find it then couldn't find a boot sector so was unable to load.  As any of you will understand that is the start of a small nightmare.  The one problem I had was that I'd upgraded from Vista to Windows 7 but it was through a download so I never got a DVD of the operating system.  So... I had to bite the bullet as it were and purchased a copy.  With that done I went through the attempted repair process.  I have to say this process is not very clear as to how it's progressing.  I got a support call in and was told this process could take up to 2 hours.  And indeed it took about that time for it to complete. I had thought it was just stuck in a loop so had been tempted to just cancel it.  Anyway it did eventually go through but it hadn't fixed the problem.  Luckily I do a weekly system image backup so that was the next option to restore from that.  I'm thankful to say that it worked and I got my computer back. I only lost a few emails and a couple of data files which were not important.

I think that shows how important it is to do a regular backup. I schedule mine every Sunday to start at 3am. I was also interested to note that my support call to Dell went through the Philippines. While talking to the woman at the other end she was telling me a bit about the country and some of the recipes she enjoys  You often hear about India being a major call centre country but I'd never heard about the Philippines being one.

And so as we get to the final week before Christmas not sure I'll have much more to add to this journal other than I will be spending Christmas with the Crewe-Nelson family and likely be back to bring in the New Year in Chatham.

And indeed that was what I did but on my way out on Christmas Eve I tripped and broke a bone in my hand so on Boxing day I headed to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto to their emergency dept. and that was when I discovered I had broken a bone in my hand.  They were very good about getting in straightened up and then they put a big plaster cast on my hand and sent me home.  I then discovered that when going to use the computer that the plaster was so thick that when I rested my hand on the mouse my fingers wouldn't reach the mouse buttons!!!  So for a couple of days I tried to work with my left hand but I was so unproductive I almost gave up.  However after a couple of days the plaster became loose.  I think that was because my hand was so swollen that when the swelling started to go down the plaster cast was no longer supporting the hand.  So... I took it off and got back to normal work.

I got them to give me a picture of my x-rays

I do have to go back in early January to get them to inspect my hand as they think I might require a pin to be placed through the break for it to set properly.  So... we'll see how that goes.

I did take the opportunity while in Toronto to stock up supplies of sliced sausage and steak pies from the local Scottish butcher.  And so back in time for the New Year which was quiet as they don't seem to celebrate it much where I am.

And so that's 2010 done and dusted and so hopefully some good things will happen in 2011.

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