Monday, November 28, 2011


I, for one, welcome our giant glass overlords.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Yes, I've got more cat pictures.  How can I resist?


First, the kitten decided to go for a nap on my daughter.  He slowly slide down her neck from this position.  Finally, Philippe came along and rescued her.


Which did not interrupt his nap in the slightest.

Whoever finally adopts this kitten is going to have a very well socialized cat.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cold mornings...

There was a four or five minute window where the light was hitting things just right, before the sun burned everything away...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Another follow up

Since I've already done one follow up post, I may as well do another.

I wrote some time ago about the stray cats visiting our balcony that we were trying to adopt out.  I did have someone interested in taking the pregnant mama.  Unfortunately, before that could be arranged, she had her kittens.  We had no idea where, so we delayed until we could find out and keep them together.  The papa, whom we call Horatio, was still visiting fairly regularly, but mama's visits were much more sporadic.  When I did see her, I checked and she did seem to be nursing.

With the temperatures dropping, we made a few changes on our balcony.  With a new dining table coming, we took the old table we'd been using and put it on the balcony.  It was a patio table, anyhow. We shoved it against one wall with the cat tower and pet carrier under it, along with plant pots, dirt, and so on, all put away for the winter.  We'd put an old blanket inside pet carrier to make a warmer shelter, but it hadn't been enough for Freya (which is what my younger daughter has named her).   The table has one of those vinyl table clothes on it, which is large enough to hang down and hide most of what is now under it.

I guess that made the difference.

Seeing Freya on the balcony one day, I headed outside to give her some attention.  The food and water was all topped up, so I sat down on the balcony swing to spend some time with her.  She's affectionate but nervous, and constantly dashing around, distracted by noises, in between cuddling.  Then she disappeared.

She hadn't left the balcony, as I was facing the doorway to the stairs and knew she wasn't there.  She wasn't at the food or water bowls.  She wasn't under the swing.  I finally got up to figure out where she'd disappeared to when she dashed out from under the table.

Could it be?

Looking under the table and into the carrier, way in the back, I saw movement.  A single kitten.  It's eyes were open, but from the looks of it, they hadn't been open for long.  I was totally thrilled.

After spending some time with the kitten and mama, who became incredibly calm when in the carrier with her baby, I happily sent off an email to the person who'd said she'd be able to take the mama and kittens and adopt them out through a vet's office.

I never heard back.

So now we're in a pickle.

We'd heard from someone else interested in taking the cats to their farm, but on discovering Horatio was male, they changed their mind.  Now we didn't even have someone taking Freya and her baby.

As long as the weather held, they would be fine.

The weather didn't hold.

Finally, it got to the point we just couldn't let them stay out there.  The kitten was too small to survive the dropping temperatures.  Things have warmed up since then, but I really doubt it would have survived if we hadn't taken steps.

We now have them inside.

We're not allowed to have more than 2 pets, but we've cat-sat before without issue, so for a temporary situation, we can do this, but we can NOT keep them.

Our cats aren't too happy with the situation, either.

The kitten, however, has become well socialized.


Just look at those eyes!

My daughter named her (him?) Finnegan.

That, by the way, is my nose.  I lay down on the couch for a nap and Finn joined me.  After thoroughly licking my forehead, s/he grabbed my nose with both paws and started licking it.  Then s/he fell over backwards, got jammed on her back between my hand and my face, and stayed there.

Finn napped with me like that for almost two hours.

The kitten has gone from barely able to crawl out of the cat cave alone, and needing help to get back in, to running around the house and tackling ankles.

Our cats are very unhappy with this situation.

Needless to say, we are still urgently looking for a home for these two.  Taking them to the local humane society is not an option.  For all that they're supposed to be a no-kill facility, they actually euthanize more animals than the pound.  My friend at the pound says we can take them there if we have to, but advices against it.  There are just too many cats at both locations.


Here is Freya and Finn.  A fantastic pair of cats.  Freya is still a bundle of nerves.  As affectionate as she is, she clearly had to fight off other cats to survive and is still a bundle of nerves.  Finn is a calming influence on her. 

Anyone up for taking in a lovely stray and her baby? 

(Since taking these two inside, we haven't been seeing Horatio on our balcony, so we don't know what's happened to him. )

Follow up.

No picture again with this post, but I thought I ought to follow up with what was happening in my last post.

After spending almost 8 hours at the dealership garage, I finally brought my van home, and it only cost me a little over $30 for the headlight bulb change, which wasn't covered in our insurance package and hadn't been done the day before for some reason.  Though the previous bulb had not been burned out and the headlight had been working sporadically, if the headlight goes out again, they'll look elsewhere.  So far, I still have two headlights.  It may well have been that something was loose and that, in changing the bulb, they inadvertently fixed it.

The hazard lights thing hasn't changed.  They had installed a new multi-function switch to fix the problem with the signal lights doing weird things (like switching back and forth, or not working at all).  So now when the sliding doors are opened, the hazard lights no longer turn on.  Although I explained that and it was written down very clearly, when I got the van back near the end of the day, one of the things I was told was that the hazard lights are working just fine.  Well, yes, they were.  It wasn't until later that I opened the sliding doors again and saw no lights that I realized that they'd simply tested the hazards.  At this point, I don't care.  The lights turning on when the sliding doors open is not a big deal.  The important thing is that the other light problems were fixed.

The van got moved over to the mechanical department so they could figure out what the grinding noise was.  A mechanic drove it around to hear the noise I was talking about.  After some time, the woman who had been taking care of me all this time went back to get some news for me (her name is Steph, and for all that she was new and didn't know how to do some things, she did take really good care of me and sat down with me several times throughout the day to explain what was going on).  When she came back, she was all but laughing out loud.

It seems that, during the complimentary inspection, they had used twist ties on something.  Those twist ties had not been removed or trimmed.  They were on both sides, but on the right, when I turned the wheel, the tail end of the twist tie made contact with the tire.  The mechanic had showed it to her, and she had been surprised that I could hear something like that at all, but he told her there was no missing it - it was really quite loud. 

Now that was a relief!  No expensive fix there.

That left the brake warning light. 

According to the readout, we do need new brakes.  I got the printout and estimate, and Steph went over it with me.  They are recommending total replacement of the brakes and pads.  We were also due to get all the various fluids changed, including brake and transmission fluids.  This is something we were already planning to have done before winter, however if we did everything on their list as once, we'd be paying almost $1600.  Ouch!  Meanwhile, the break fluid was a little low and that was topped up for me (I'd actually checked that myself recently, but I couldn't see very well.  It looked to be about on the line at the time).  Technically, they shouldn't have done that, but they did and I didn't get charged for it, so I appreciated that.

Now, brakes are not something we want to mess around with, but at the same time, we've been horribly mislead and cheated by garages in the past, and have had no trust built up with this garage yet.  In fact, as I sat there with my crochet, a number of people passed through the waiting area and there were a few times I heard someone sit down with the customers and convincing them to get work done that hadn't been expected.  Even if it was just a change in filters, it had my scam radar going.  Where they scamming?  No, I don't think so.  Where they convincing people to get repairs done that probably weren't as urgent as they  made it seem?  Very likely.  

Anyhow, I finally got the van back and headed home.  That is when I discovered...

They had inadvertently fixed my brake warning light. 

It seems it was letting me know I was low on fluid.  If the fluid levels were so close to the line that I couldn't tell if it was actually low or not, that might explain why the light kept turning on and off.  A dip in the road might have been enough to change the height of the float, or whatever it is that's used to keep tabs on that.

The story doesn't quite end there, though.

I got a phone call from Steph the next morning.  When she had processed my payment the first time I went in, she had been unsure of what the actual amount I was supposed to pay was.  Since they were closed and no one was there who could explain it to her, she charged me the full amount she was sure of, left the file open, and promised to call me back after clearing it up.  She did that and found that I was now owed $50.  Since I had other errands to run, I was able to head back that afternoon.  By the time I got there, she told me that there was more owed and, with tax, I ended up getting a refund of just under $80.

Final verdict?

Well, Steph had gone a long way to repairing any damage done as far as my anger on discovering all those problems after I'd left.  I do hope they are paying her well, because she's earned it.

They did fix the problems I'd brought it in for, eventually, even if some of it was inadvertent.

Would I go back?

Probably not.  We've had a couple of private garages recommended to us and when it comes time to get the big work done, we'll likely go to one of them rather than back to the dealership.  Unless we need more work done that's covered by our insurance package, I just don't see us going back there.

Sorry, Steph.  You weren't quite enough to win me over completely.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More to the story

No picture with this post, and this is going to have to be a quick one.  I am tethered to my phone for wireless, and that drains the battery like crazy.

I headed to the garage to be there when they opened.  Told them what  happened and they took me in right away.  Got to talk to the same woman who helped me last night.  I hope they are paying her well!!!

It's now past one and I've been here for 4 hours-ish.  The word so far.

The brake light thing is apparently because we actually need new brakes... at an estimated cost of $1600 or so.  After being burned by garages before, I find myself cynical and utterly not surprised.

The headlight thing... the bulb was changed, which apparently should have been done last night.  It's working now,I am told.  Except bulb wasn't burned out in the first place, so I will be checking on that later.

The grinding noise is being checked right now.  They took the tires off for the inspection and I guess that's what they are doing again to find out what happened.  Considering it started after they did their work, the cynical side of me is expecting them to tell me about some new, expensive fix that will be needed, but the hopeful part in me is thinking they will find something had been left loose and they are sheepishly fixing it as I write.  The cynical part of me is winning right now.

As for the hazard lights, I didn't get a definite answer but it looks like it's connected to the multi-function switch they changed up last night.

We shall see what the final verdict is...when?  Dunno.

Steaming mad. The Saga. (updated)

See this picture?  This is the front of our van.

Note that there's only one headlight.

This is *after* I took it to the garage at the dealership we bought our van at 2 years ago.

So why is it still out?

Good question.

We had some weird things showing up with our electrical system involving the lights that goes back a while.  It started shortly after the left headlight burnt out.  We replaced both headlights and it was fine until the right headlight went out.  Strange that a new bulb would burn out so quickly, but we replaced it again.

It wasn't the bulb.  To make a long story (involving changing the bulb 3 times) shorter, the bulb worked fine, but we still didn't have a headlight.

Annoying, but not too big a deal.

Then other things started happening.

The left turn signal started blinking at double time.  Then it would blink normally again.

Then the dashboard brake light would turn on with a ding.  Alarming, since it's supposed to mean that there's a problem with the brakes.  Then it would go out again.  Then start turning on and off (dinging only rarely) continually.

When I took it in for an oil change and they did a quick check, all the lights were working normally, but I asked the mechanic about it.  My main concern was the brake light.  In describing what was happening, he told me it sounded like a bug in the electrical system and that a garage would have to track it down - something that might take a while.  With how much garages charge by the hour, I was not looking forward to getting it checked.

Things worked normally for a while, but then the headlight died and wouldn't turn on again, the left turn signal stayed at double time, while the brake light in the dash kept turning itself off and on.

Then we discovered the rear driver's side light was out.  The whole unit, including tail light, signal/hazard light and reverse light.  Then they all started working again, except the signal/hazard light.  We noticed that when opening the sliding doors one time.  The hazard lights turn on when the sliding doors are opened, but the amber light in rear driver's side wasn't working.  How long this had been going on, I have no idea - I'm usually driving, so I don't get a chance to see the rear lights.

Things got really weird with the signal lights not long ago.  I went to signal right one time and it started blinking normally, then double time,then back again.  My first thought was that the right turn signal was starting to do the same thing as the left, but when it happened again and I was actually able to look at the dash I discovered it was worse.  The light would start signalling right, then switch to left, then back to right again!  Later on, I'd start signalling right but the left signal would start blinking.  Then they would simply stop turning on at all.  I'd turn them off, then on again at the lever and they would work again, but this was not a good sign!

Then it went back the way it was - left signal on double time (not visible in the back, as far as I knew) with the right signal worked normally.

I finally got around to calling our dealership about several things a little while ago.  One of the three things I asked about was whether or not our Ultimate Wrap coverage, the highest level of coverage available that we've been paying on for the last 2 years, would cover such a problem.  They tried addressing the first two concerns, but never the coverage question.  Of course, they did try to get us to trade in the van for a newer one and we were actually going to come in and take a look at that possibility, but things went downhill rather quickly - I won't go into detail here - and we ended up not coming in and being quite unhappy about it.  In an email to the person we were supposed to meet, I explained what happened, why were weren't happy, and asked (for the third time) about the coverage.

He never responded.

I finally called the insurance company directly.  We talked for quite a while and it was very informative.  They couldn't tell me specifically what would be covered - that required a diagnostic - but I was satisfied that the insurance company was at least on the ball.  All the agents are mechanics, which doesn't hurt.  Anyhow, the agent told me they deal with this dealership on pretty much a daily basis, so he suggested I avoid the front end completely and deal directly with the service department and go there (rather than hunting for a garage that would honour our insurance package).  I was looking through the dealership website trying to find a local number for the service department (rather than the toll free number) when someone popped up on the live chat and offered to help.   Before long, I had an appointment for Monday morning. 

So far so good.

The dealership has moved since we bought the van and I was able to get in to their new location (finding them is part of the problem we had when we tried but failed to visit previously) and entrance.  It then drove around in confusion, trying to figure out where I could park near the service area and go in to ask about my appointment, which was was half an hour early for.  I ended up pulling over next to some people talking and asking.  It turns out there is no such thing.  I had to go to one of the service entrance doors and drive in.  Not too happy with driving into the garage when I had no idea if I was in the right place.

Once in, a woman came over with a clip board.  She asked me a bunch of questions and I explained what was going on. She checked the lights, took notes, then I went over to her little island workspace and we talked more while she inputted it all in the computer.  There was a bit of confusion as she was new and used to GM vehicles, but that got cleared up.  It was eventually worked out that I would get a shuttle ride home while they did the diagnostic.  If the problem was found and fell under our coverage, we'd pay the deductible and whatever else wasn't covered (bulbs, switches, some parts, etc. are exempt).  If it wasn't covered, we'd be stuck paying for the diagnostic.  At $140 an hour, with it possibly needing 2 hours to do.

What choice did I have?  Without the diagnostic, we'd never know what was wrong or whether or not the work was covered.  Meanwhile, it turns out our airbag was recalled, so that would be fixed regardless. 

Home I went, and it was a waiting game for the phone call.  Of course they called while I was at my daughter's guitar lesson, but Philippe was there to take the call.  He sent me a text telling me the repair was covered, so we'd only have to pay $50 of the deductible, plus $60 for some bulbs.  They'd recommended other work, but he gave them the okay only for the stuff we'd brought it in for.  We figured we'd end up paying something like $150 by the time they finished tacking who-knows-what on.  Cynical?  Yes.

Then it was again a waiting game to find out when it would be finished and I'd get a shuttle ride over to get the van.  It was starting to get late enough that we weren't sure we'd get the van back the same day at all - an issue since I had to drive my daughter in for her 5am shift this morning.

We got the call and I got the shuttle ride, arriving just as they were shutting up shop for the evening.  The woman who had helped me before stayed late to process my file.

Did I mention she was new?

There were a few things she didn't know how to do and she had to phone someone, but she walked me through the charges as best she could figure out.  The diagnostic and repairs were paid by the insurance company, while I had charges for bulbs, etc.  The $60 in bulbs, plus the deductible, turned out to be about $155 with everything, plus tax.

There's a reason we're cynical.

So I paid the bill, got my key and headed out.  I eventually found the van and could immediately see the plastic cover was still on the seat.  I went to the drivers door but it was parked next to a truck.  I ended up going through the passenger side, removing the plastic seat cover and cardboard from the floor in the process.

The first thing I noticed as I backed the van out was a strange grinding noise.  WTF???  It seemed to go away as I drove out the lot (left turn signal working fine!).  As I got clear of the lot's lights, I found myself thinking that the fixed headlight must be seriously misaligned, because I can't see very well.



Yup.  The brake light in the dash turned on again, then immediately turned off again.

No.  Way.   This can't be right.

Sure enough, as I drove along, the light kept turning on and off, though it didn't ding anymore.

Then I noticed the grinding noise again.  It only happened when I turned right, then straighted the wheels, but not when I turned left.  It sounds like something is dragging or rubbing somewhere.

Along the way I stop at a grocery store.  As I pull into a parking spot, I come up behind another car and immediately notice...

There's only one headlight reflecting back at me.


So it looks like they changed the bulb (which wasn't burnt out in the first place) and that was it.  The light still doesn't work.

Needless to say, I was seriously pissed off.

When I got home, I took the time to check the lights.  Front headlight is still out.  Rear lights seem to be working except...

On opening the sliding door to see if the hazard light was working, no hazard lights turned on at all.


I checked the hazard lights by pushing the button in the dash and all 4 lights are working fine.  They're just not turning on when the sliding door is opened.

So I had taken in the van to get the signal light, dashboard brake light and front headlight fixed.

I left with a fixed signal light, still no headlight, still a problem with the dashboard brake light, a grinding noise and the hazard lights not turning on at all when the sliding doors are opened.

The van is actually in worse shape now then when we took it in.

I drove my daughter in for her shift this morning.  We were both rather disturbed by that grinding noise.  When we got to her work, I had her look while I tested the rear lights (brake, reverse, signals) and they are working fine.  Only the left rear signal light, which is also the left rear hazard light, had not been working before.  Aside from that one bulb, the hazard lights had been working when the sliding doors were opened, but now there's nothing.

Going back to sleep after dropping her off was not going to happen, so I wrote this instead.

I am now waiting for things to open.  I'm going to call the insurance company first and let them know they're being charged for work that wasn't done, and that the van is in worse shape now than before.

The woman who'd helped me at the dealership is supposed to call me today.  I'll be calling them as soon as they open.

At this point, I am wanting to take the van in and basically stay there until I get it back.  I've got work I can bring me that will easily occupy me for several hours.

I'm sure as heck not going to pay again for work that I already paid for but didn't get done.

I am also spreading the word.

Feel free to do your part and share this post.  Let everyone know how this dealership treats its customers.

Update:  So I've been looking through the paperwork while waiting for the place to open.  I'll be calling the insurance company when I'm done this.  Looking through it, there is nothing written down about changing the front headlight bulb.  In fact, while the front headlight is mentioned under section A, then refers to section B for repairs, section B only talks about the signal lights.  Nothing about the headlight.  It looks like the headlight wasn't touched at all.  There is no mention of the dashboard brakelight (even tough it was written up in the sheet I signed at the garage) at all.  They did replace the upper mount brake light bulb - I vaguely remember that it was noticed as being out when I got my last oil change, but it's not something we see, so I will just assume it was out and needed changing.  There's nothing about them even looking at the problem of the dashboard light problem.  They replaced a multi-function switch and the left signal bulb, which apparently was the fix for all the signal light problems.


Why do the hazard lights no longer turn on when the sliding doors are opened?

Why does my van now make a grinding noise when making a righ turn?

Why was the brake light in the dash never looked at?

Why was my front headlight never fixed?

Time to start making phone calls.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Morning Traffc

This is a view I see every morning on my way to work; figured it was about time I tried capturing it :)