Squirrel and Banana

Just before I moved I happened to witness, (and film), a strange sight on my kitchen windowsill. There is a hole in the screen in the apartment. Now for your viewing pleasure – a squirrel eating a banana.

Why I love National Banks

I usually deal with large, nation-wide banks as opposed to smaller local or regional credit unions and such. I like the fact that you can go into a branch anywhere and be treated like you’re a local customer. Here are a couple of my recent experiences doing so:

When I was in school I had student loans to pay for part of it. Now I have recently started paying back these loans. They are loans held by the Royal Bank of Canada and guaranteed by the Government of Canada or Government of British Columbia. I have had to make two payments so far on my B.C. loan at the Royal Bank. This most recent one I had spoken to a student loan representative on the phone and told her exactly where I would be making my payment. So, I went in and there was no lineup to get to a teller, excellent! I got to the teller and gave her my loan account number and said that I would like to make a payment and no, I didn’t have my client card with me. This led to a big problem, apparently here in Montreal they don’t know how do process a payment for a student loan held by the Western Canada Student Loan Service Center. Despite the fact that I had spoken to someone at that service center a few days before the branch staff had to call the center. To make a long story short I walked in with an account number and cash and it took them half an hour to take it. The time before wasn’t so bad – it only took about twenty minutes, but I am scared for this week when I have to go pay both my BC and Canada student loans there.

My second little anecdote deals with the Bank of Montreal, where I have been a customer for something like 12 years. I show ads on my website the Ballet. I use three ad networks: Google Adsense, Burst! Media, and Valueclick, (formerly Fastclick). Because I get paid in US dollars I have a US dollar bank account which has been open for something like 18 months or 2 years. So, I went in to deposit my cheque from BURST! – a whopping $51.44. Because this is a US dollar cheque I had to see a teller during teller hours, (10-3, except Thursday when it’s 10-6. These hours are not the same as the branch hours and are not posted anywhere incidentally). So, I gave the teller my card and the cheque and told her I’d like to deposit the cheque into the US dollar account, and she deposited it, and told me of course that there would be a hold on the cheque. Now, I know that it’s policy at the Bank of Montreal to hold all US dollar cheques, but I have been banking with them for 12 years, and receive cheques from BURST! on a regular basis. Also, this cheque was for $51.44. They trust me enough to let me deposit up to $1000 Canadian, and have instant access, with the rest being available after 24 hours, but for some reason $51.44 US is a stretch. When I asked if there was any way to not have the hold I was told that I’d have to go to my home branch – a 5 hour flight away. So now I have to wait 30 days before I can get my $51.44 US.

So, so much for national banks being able to handle transactions everywhere like local ones. I am going to take this into consideration when I actually settle down, or maybe I’ll just keep my savings in a jar.

Banning Online Interactivity

Last night the US House of Representatives passed Resolution 5319, or the Deleting Online Predators Act, (DOPA for short), by 410 to 15 votes. While intention behind this act is a good one, (protecting children from online predators), the implementation is horrendous.

The act proposes to “protect” children by cutting off federal funding for schools and libraries that do not block access of minors to a list of websites to be published by the FCC. The FCC is to come up with this list taking into consideration the extent to which each website:

`(i) is offered by a commercial entity;
`(ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information;
`(iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users;
`(iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and
`(v) enables communication among users.’.

In layman’s terms this means: Blogs, Wikis, Amazon, Yahoo!, Newsvine, Digg, the new Netscape.com, and many other valuable sites. Some sites may be spared because they’re not-for-profit, (Wikipedia perhaps), but you never know.

If this resolution is signed into law and withstands legal challenges, (I’m sure there will be some, and honestly I don’t know as it will stand up), it means that not only will children not be able to access useless time-wasting sites from school, but also an incredible number of very useful and valid resources.

For me it means that if I were to add interactivity to the Ballet it could be banned! Most of my users come from school. In fact the site is used as a reference for some courses.

Children do need some form of protection online the same as they do in the “real” world but this act is not the answer. What should be done is children need to be educated. After all, you don’t forbid your child from ever leaving the house, but you do teach him or her to never talk to strangers.

For an excellent resource, from a teacher who is very web-aware, check out Vicki A. Davis’ blog. She goes through the act and tears apart the good, bad, and the ugly of it.

If you want to do something act fast. This Resolution went from being introduced to passed in just over a month. There is an online petition at saveyourspace.org to try to stop this bill in the senate. If you feel, (as I do), that this bill is wrong, go and sign it and maybe something will happen.

For still more check out Techcrunch and CNN.

Moved

On the first of July Joanie and I moved into a new and bigger apartment. The new place has some great features: A working fireplace, a small yard/garden, and a garage, for not much more money. This was my first move within Quebec, which is quite an experience.

Moving day in Quebec is usually July 1. This has a rather long history, but in a sentance it has been law since Quebec was a colony that landlords could not evict their tenants before the snow had melted. When laws started to be written down all leases had to begin on June 1 and end on May 30. Then, in during the quiet revolution the law was changed. On Jan 1, 1974 a law was passed making all leases that were to end on May 30 last until June 30. This was to move moving day so that it was no longer during the school year. Since then, although it’s no longer required by law, most leases start on July 1 and end on June 30.

This means that here in Montreal, where about 70% of residents rent, things are crazy on July 1. On my old street there were no less than 5 households moving. Also, there is little to no time between when the old tenant moves out of an apartment and the new tenant moves in, (read: your new apartment is dirty). Finally, and truck rental companies make a killing. Prices for truck rentals rise by 300-500%, (tried to rent one).

For us we did pretty well. We had reserved a truck for the evening but found we were able to move everything with the minivan we had at our disposal so cancelled our truck. Luckily there were people waiting for trucks so we didn’t have to pay any type of a cancellation fee, (I was expecting to pay the full rental price, just not have to pay kilometers). We got everything moved in in just a few hours with lots of help from Joanie’s family.

Something else that happened this year was that July 1 was a Saturday, plus it is Canada day, so the next business day was July 4 – and that is when our phone was supposed to be hooked up, however, that didn’t happen. If you were trying to reach my by email during the beginning of July you will know that it took until the 14th to hook up my internet, (phone went in a week before that).

But, now it’s all done. Most of the cleaning and a lot of the painting is finished, and my tomatoes are going crazy in the garden. The office hasn’t been redecorated yet, and we’re still waiting for the old tenants to pick up some of their stuff from the garage, but we’re getting settled and are looking forward to making some memories here.

Stairs and Coffins

Well, only one coffin actually. I was out walking near the Old Port of Montréal this morning and fell upon an interesting scene. There was a group of people preparing to shoot a video of a guy riding down a flight of stairs in a coffin! Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me so I don’t have pictures, but if I find video somewhere of this fellow riding down the stairs I’ll post it.

Needess to say I stuck around to watch and saw the ride. A once in a lifetime experience.