Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It pays to complain

That's if you do it right.

Mostly I've written e-mails to companies to complain that their stores don't follow the Scanning Code of Practice (The Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code or "The Code"). I've used The Code over the past 11 or so years in grocery stores and pharmacies right at the time to get free groceries and health products for which the register prices were higher than the shelf prices. Probably a few hundred dollars in refunds and free products by now (I get the product for free [or the differential amount if the product is more than $10 CA] plus the refund). It's not necessary to claim the entitlement at the time; but you really need to produce the receipt right away or within a couple of days to get the entitlement, in case they have corrected the price database.

So after I complain in writing (e-mail) I usually get an e-mail back in a few days or weeks from the relevant Customer Service after claiming to them that the store wasn't honouring The Code.

This time, however, was a bit different. I bought wine from the LCBO that had a big-time AIR MILES reward bonus before Christmas (7+7+15) for buying two different products from the same Australian winery. Nice stuff, went down well. But when the AIR MILES were credited to my account (to the LCBO's credit, they do update my rewards within a few days after a purchase), I noticed that I was missing the 15 bonus reward points for buying the two different products at the same time. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! I fired off an e-mail mentioning this to Air Miles Inc. and THEN I checked my receipts. I had been charged for two bottles of the same wine, twice, at the same LCBO. While I got the 7+7 bonus, I missed out on the 15 bonus rewards---twice.

In terms of Air Miles rewards, 30 is not a big whoop. It might get you part way to the 401 in terms of a trip from Toronto to anywhere. And there are no gift cards worth anything for less than 85 (I only use my rewards for grocery certificates from Metro).

So I composed a one-page letter that I sent to LCBO, Air Miles, and Industry Canada. A nice lady from LCBO actually looked me up and phoned me at home to help me out (I still have her number). The next result was from Industry Canada, who returned my letter and photocopies and gave me an alternate address for recourse. Finally today I checked my account online and noted that 30 reward miles had been credited to my account from "SHOP 2 STORE BONUS."

My complaint process: tell them what I thought should have happened; tell them what DID happen; then tell what what I want to happen. This gives them an out or a way to negotiate. If you don't give them a way to satisfy your beef, how can they respond? "Sorry, that won't happen again, here's a free in-flight meal"?? Yeah, right.

A letter from a disgruntled passenger to India on Virgin airlines has been spiralling virally around the net for a bit. While the passenger amused himself mightly at the airline's expense (photos provided), I didn't notice him actually asking for anything in recompense. And I didn't notice whether he even got anything (regular English curry like we get at 'ome?). Silly git.

Eww, I just found a hair in my soup! Fire up the e-mail...oh, wait---it was one of mine.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Five HOURS for cardio tests

Well, there's five hours gone from my life. And over 29 hours without coffee (from 9 am Sunday until nearly 3 pm Monday the 26th, though I ignored the cardio clinic's advice about not smoking on the day of.

The echo cardiogram was a bit of a bore. I've had several normal EKG tests---but it was the two atypical/abnormal ones in a row (in two days) late last fall that made my doctor order these.

As usual I didn't get information I needed -- if I had known I had to eat ANOTHER breakfast at 10 am ("have something fatty") (after being told to eat a light one, which I did at 7:30 am), and then a snack a couple of hours later (before? after? can no longer recall) the treadmill test, I would have brought proper food from home (and my meds; I told the office when I made the appointment that I am diabetic). I had to go next door to Tim Hortons, where everyone was lining up for coffee, and I couldn't have any!

Then I had an argument with the clerks about cheese (well, an orange-coloured processed cheese food slice that they kept calling"cheddar" that somehow landed on my breakfast bagel). I didn't want cheese, the description of the BELT (Bacon, egg, lettuce, and purported tomato) didn't include cheese, the picture didn't SHOW cheese, and how is the customer supposed to know to ask not to have cheese if she didn't know it was there in the first place?? With the bacon, butter, egg AND cheese, I probably had two days' worth of salt and cholesterol. It was skanky, but it was cheap and tasteless.

Most of the 5 hours was spent waiting, eating, and lying on my side or back getting scanned by small person or large machine, with electrodes attached to various parts of my upper anatomy. I also had one of those valve-type IVs inserted at my elbow through which the radioactive isotopes were injected (with saline). At one point, after I had been on the treadmill for about 10 minutes (speed and incline increasing every 3 minutes, and we were within a minute of the test ending), I had a tech on one side taking my blood pressure (now up to 150/80) and a tech on the other side injecting the second dose of isotopes. All the while I'm marching steadily uphill at a brisk pace.

Anyways, I was out of there by 2 pm and home brewing coffee by 2:30. It was too cold to walk home into the wind so I took the subway -- from Main Street to Woodbine (one stop)!

I get regular newsletters from MedScape, and this is a pretty good description of what I went through:, except I am not a healthy-looking white guy, but I did have to keep my arms overhead like that for about 20 minutes for each scan. You can subscribe to this site to get weekly newsletters, which include a diabetes/endocrinology section.

Friday, January 23, 2009 pulling teeth

I'm doing exactly what I am not supposed to do after a tooth extraction---smoking. "If you can avoid it for 24 hours that would be best," says my wonderful dentist Dr. T. I also have to avoid smoking on Monday (as well as no caffeine or pain killers for 24 hours before) to help me pass my cardio tests.

The freezing is coming out now after two hours and I just took a couple of generic arthritis-strength something-or-others (acetaminophen), which I bought when my right hip started acting up for some reason. It worked, when I remembered to take it.

My other painkiller is a nice Shiraz Merlot, which should probably be avoided as well. But I was told I could have a cool drink, so I am.

The extraction wasn't painful at all (I ask for and get plenty of numb-ers, since I have learned I am resistant to painkillers in general), and since the tooth was already loose all Dr. T. had to do was slide a probe around to loosen the remaining ligaments and then drag it out. But my heart was pounding and I'm sure my blood pressure shot up!

So I'll have a very unattactive gap there for at least 4 months. Unless I cave in to vanity and request a partial plate instead of waiting for the multiple implant procedures.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A year ago today...

Ya know what? They keep me warm at night too.

Off day...

Kind of a weird day for blood sugar. I don't test diligently, which is my habit because I don't want to see those high fasting values, but when I got up this morning I felt like I'd already had several cups of strong coffee. A low! Fasting BG was 3.9 (70.2 in American gallons). This is odd because around 6:45 pm last night I ate a huge plate of French fries next to a hot roast beef sandwich drenched in dark brown gravy on whole wheat bread, and a half cup of boiled mixed vegetables. I didn't take my dinner meds until I got home, and then I shot my usual night-time NPH, and worried a bit about the effect the fries would have on my FBG.

To back up a bit, the subway was taking a long time to get from station to station last night. About halfway through my 17-station east-bound trip we heard we'd go two more stations and then get off. So at Broadview station, like good Torontonians, we made like Burnham wood to Dunsinane and debarked. This was due to a "serious medical emergency" (jumper?) with police presence at a station about two more down the line. That didn't mean I could get off and walk a few blocks to the next working station in the cold, either. The next open station (Woodbine) was mine own, at least 45 minutes on foot.

So instead of taking a cab home I wandered down the main drag (Toronto has a few dozen main drags, but this is a MAIN main drag) looking in restaurant windows for a place to warm my feet (Blundstones, while waterproof and trendy, are not the warmest boots). I passed by Il Fornello (big glasses, little wine), Sher-E-Punjab (can't resist the naan, so didn't try), a few regular Greek, Italian, Thai, Japanese and other exotic places (did I mention that Danforth is a foodie's paradise?). I ended up at The Detroit Eatery (all-day breakfast; where the Wings are King). I didn't notice an entree over 9 bucks. I sat at the wooden counter and watched the evening news (first chance I'd had to watch the US inauguration stuff) on a big screen TV and sipped black coffee while the ice melted off my boots and my dinner was being prepared. And FUCK was it good.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Last year on this date...

Kitty Spa Day disappointment

I adopted long-haired Bwai (pronounced "bwai") and her sister Gril in June of 2001 when they were about 7 months old. They had been surrendered to the Toronto Humane Society because, I believe, they were not fierce enough. (Their names had been changed from Anger and Evil to Tangerine and Jeviline--get it?) But they are both very well socialized and enjoy meeting new people.

After about a year I realized that Bwai was not a successful self-groomer. Her long thick coat was getting horribly matted, the skin was very tender, and she would NOT let me groom her (well, I should have gotten into the habit of brushing her every day, which long-haired cats really need, whether she liked it or not. She doesn't).

Long story short, Li, the groomer I booked, refused to deal with Bwai, who freaked and fought when the clippers first touched the back of her neck, until I persuaded Li to let me help her (that took over an hour and I had to go home and change out of my blood/urine/spit-covered clothes--my blood, not Bwai's--before I could go back to work). The following year, the coat had grown back as long, thick, and matted as ever. The groomer told me I'd have to have Bwai sedated before she'd deal with her again. That time, three of us collaborated on holding the poor thing down (even under a heavy dose of animal tranqs) and shaving her to the skin.

This happened twice more before I took pity on my girl (she'll be 9 years old in December) and asked my vet what to do. They know Bwai very well (they wear shoulder-length leather gloves to handle her), and said they could put her under general anesthetic. Success! She was fully recovered by the time I picked her up and, while she was a bit pissed off there, when I got her home she was her happy, chubby self. And the fee was only a few dollars more than the groomer charged.

This time, I let it go far too long as usual, and this past week took Bwai in again. The fee this time was nearly triple what it had been last year (I didn't comment on this to the vet's office--yet). But my girl is back, and her dignity, while dented, is basically intact.

Now, which end is which? Surprise!

Saturday, January 3, 2009


I got major carb cravings yesterday and filled my face with sweets -- pastries, chips, chocolate-covered almonds. On the other hand, I took a 30-minute walk, ate a light dinner, upped my NPH insulin night-time shot a bit, used the rowing machine and free weights this morning, and got an FBG of about 12 (should be 5.0-7.0 mmol/dl; still better than 20). Good feeling of energy too. It's a lovely day (sunny and brisk) here in Toronto, so I should get out and about again while it lasts...

Yep -- as I thought, the loose molar will come out in a couple of weeks. I'll have a gap there until the bone heals, then I will have dental surgery to have a fake tooth implanted. This was caused by 1) tooth removal to make room for crowded front teeth to be more evenly spaced by braces, with a major potential of bone loss, 2) a short root (genetic), and 3) an infection due to the extractions (in 1992 or so?) that left bunched-up gum tissue and resulted in a deep pocket of gum around the tooth that collects plaque and debris.

I can recommend Crest Pro-health toothpaste -- I've been using it daily (almost) for over a year and it has really reduced sensitivity, which helps me to stay in the chair when I'm getting a cleaning. I also have been flossing daily (almost) for a couple of years, and that has made quite a difference. I still have a large stock of dental floss dispensers from my three annual dentist visits over the years, but I AM using them up. I used to use them as stocking stuffers, but nobody in my family flosses except my older brother and me (actually, that's not bad -- two out of five).

A couple of things I learned today from the hygienist: 1) floss, rinse, and use the electric toothbrush at night. I usually do my major dental hygiene as part of my morning routine, but it should be easy to change to night-time. I'd save some time in the AyEm by just brushing the night away. 2) To combat infections, rinse with warm salt water (blech!). Yes, just like your (and my) mother told us. I've also heard that using an electric toothbrush should be restricted to once a day since it may damage tooth enamel, but I can't find that reference any more. I found some ultra-soft replacement brush heads so it's a bit better.

BTW, I posted an offer (not yet updated) on for a $10 coupon for the Oral-B ProfessionalCare(R) rechargeable toothbrush package.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year, teeth! Best wishes for 2009, blood sugar!

Well. I survived into 2009. All the cats did too.

This Saturday I go in for a routine dental cleaning and while I'm there I'll ask the dentist to look at my loose molar. I had a fairly deep infection that he treated with a solid antibiotic. I kept it in place for as long as I could but it fell out all at once. When the inflammation came back I treated it with Oil of Oregano (yow!). That actually worked, but lately I've noticed a bit of movement (like since Tuesday). I have bone loss there due to orthodontics (and had to have two perfectly good teeth pulled to make room) when I was in my 30s. They do warn you about this, but I never expected it to happen. I'm actually afraid to floss there! I expect to have dental surgery and possibly lose the tooth altogether.

Last night for dinner I ate a small steak (rare), with broccoli, new potatoes (three colours!), asparagus (purple!), and squash. This morning my fasting blood sugar was 9.8 mmol/L (176.4 in US gallons). It might sound high to you, but it was good for me! I even took a little less NPH insulin just to see how I'd fare.

It's a nice brisk day -- but there's absolutely nothing for me to do except fill the dishwasher and throw a couple of loads of laundry in. And bundle up and take a walk and see if I can find an open bar to have a glass of wine, since I had none last night...