customer service etc

So I'm simulataneously grading student work, reheating food, watching the rain pour down outside, and sitting here listening to Blue Cross's awful fucking hold music borrowed from an elevator somewhere back in the 1970s. My estimated wait time to speak with a representative is 30 minutes. How is that acceptable? How can you even call that service? And the other thing that pisses me off is that when I dial the number, I have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get put into the queue. Push 1 for member services, enter my date of birth, my policy number, push zero to talk to a breathing human being. After half the day passes and someone finally answers the phone, s/he asks me for the same damn information. Shouldn't all that crap just pop onto her screen or something? What was the point of my entering a gerjillion digits into my phone to begin with? Argh, anyways, that call is done now. I've confirmed that they canceled one of my insurance plans (even though they sent me all this mail about how my premium would go up by $40 as a reward for turning 30, asses).

Anyways, I was chatting with Egan the other day on IM. He got on my list after sending a sympathetic IM in response to my post about all the hate mail I was getting for trying to get Spencer Gifts to pull their shirts with the racist Asian caricature. I got to asking him who on his blogroll he actually knows in real life (IRL). I don't converse in real time, online or off, with any other bloggers I don't know IRL. More than 3/4 of my blogroll are strangers IRL but we read each others blogs regularly. So I'm curious, have you ever met up with someone IRL, after knowing him/her only from reading his/her blogs? If so, how many times have you done this? Was s/he what you expected based on reading his/her blogs? Was it weird?

** addition to this post **

Would YOUR blog accurately reflect you IRL? For me, I use this as a space to unload all my bitching and complaining. You know, stuff that people don't like to listen to but, for some reason, is funny when read rather than heard. So IRL, I'm really not this negative and hostile. Okay, well I am a little. Most of you get it, but from reading some comments ("oh the world's not so bad Vanessa bla bla bla") from a couple people who don't know me well, I've learned that not all of you realize I'm being sarcastic/facetious. I think a blog that looks at the world through rose coloured glasses is boring and, for me, induces a violent fit of projectile vomiting.


media and food weekend

With Simon just back from business in Vegas (which typically demands late nights of drinking and gambling after the conferences in the day), we decided to stay in all weekend. Friday, after I picked him up from Oakland International (the airport from hell that requires a drive on the 880, the highway from hell), we grabbed some Thai food and went home to watch Primer which was awesome. It was a Sundance winner and was made on a $7K budget but had a great plot, decent acting and was generally fun to watch. It required a lot of thinking and later we read online that most people watched it a couple times with notebook in hand to keep track of what was going on. It was about time travel and I won't say anything more or I'll spoil it.

Saturday was carwash and gym/steamroom/jacuzzi day. It was also the day our beloved Tivo got upgraded from 40 hours to 224 hours of recording time. Hell yeah! That night we had a friend over for raw oysters, duck, and homemade chicken soup and then watched another movie while the friend took off for the Marina for drinks. I had to be coerced to watch Jarhead because I hadn't heard of it (not a big movie goer normally) and Simon tends to love watching stuff that is usually black & white and has any or all of the following: tanks, machine guns, grenades, helicopters, fighter planes, people in military uniforms shooting each other, bloodshed and suffering. When I heard war, I went and made myself a couple drinks to help pass the time but it turned out to be a great movie. Funny (the last thing I expected), irreverent, and well-paced.

Tonight I used the Macaroni Grill gift certificates I got from facilitating a workshop for Girls for a Change last month (great organization and super alternative to Girl Scouts, that's for damn sure). Starters were okay, caesar salad was not cold enough, lobster ravioli was not hot enough, penne was good. Overall not that memorable. Gonna try and squeeze in another indie film I borrowed from the library now so much for getting to bed early.


Yay gold

Belated congrats to the Canadian women for hockey gold. Too bad we were too excited about the men's game to pay attention (it seems) and all for nothing. *sniff sniff*

But another big one today was gold in curling. Kids in Newfoundland even had the day off school to watch! How cool is that. I watched the game but I had no idea what was going on except there was a lot of shouting and you're supposed to get your rock in the middle of those circles. I think. I have no clue how you figure out the points.

annoying office people

I haven't worked an office job in a few years so it's funny to hear about weirdos at work from my friend. I have to share this IM conversation I just had with her:

friend: that stupid ghetto chick that sits behind me is annoying me
friend: this is her phone conversation "yo, she's got the hookup for the hookup, so just call her and tell her i sez to call her because she can hook you up"
me: OMG this person has an office job?
friend: YES, accountant. cannot wait til she leaves
friend: "you better get on your girls over here, ya know"
friend: i have NO clue what she's saying sometimes
me: oh i know what you mean
friend: "i sez to her to get on her girls..you my doggy"
friend: wtf? and did i tell you she sings the Mickey Mouse song to herself?

Sometimes you can't even make this stuff up.

I have to admit when I first moved here, I wasn't accustomed to this nasal lazy-sounding San Jose drawl that some of the teenagers here speak with. And, no, it was not an accent. It came from kids of different races who seemed to speak English as their master language. I'd go up to a fast food counter and have no idea whatsoever what the person was saying and they'd get all pissed off when I had to ask them to repeat themselves.



Thanks to all my blog friends out there for the birthday well wishes! After a week of being 03, nothing has fallen apart yet. I've got some more pictures up on my Flickr, which I just started using because everyone else seems to love it. Pics of Simon trying to take apart the wireless mouse packaging are in there and so is a photo of us liquor shopping ghetto style. I figure I will put up my publicly viewable photos there and keep the ones of my friends passed out, throwing up, and engaging in borderline illegal activites in my Kodak Gallery. You also have to check out Cute Overload. Oh my, if you love any sort of animal you will love that site.

So I got word that I've been accepted to UC Irvine's Phd program in social cultural anthropology which means free trip to Irvine in a couple weeks. Yahoo, more free shit!! I'm pretty excited about this one because a couple of the profs there were really responsive and just seemed darned interesting and supportive. Good vibes count you know. It's going to be a nerve wracking couple of months as I wait to hear back from all the other schools. I still have between May and I guess September to work as I'll have my post completion practical training visa which lets me work up to a year after graduating. College teaching gigs would be ideal but seem really hard to come by. If anyone hears of anything in Asian American studies, mass communication, or cultural studies, please let me know.


raw food

So I decided to test out a raw food diet at least for dinner tonight. People into the raw food diet thing claim all sorts of things, it clears the skin, reduces cholestrerol, makes you live longer etc etc. OK the real reason I tried it tonight is because Simon is away and I'm too lazy to cook and I need to lose the pounds I gained between Valentines and my birthday. After eating this huge stalk of broccoli which I dipped into a yogurt dip I made (fat free yogurt, honey, mustard, dijon mustard), I started working on some nuts for protein. Verdict: I cannot do this on any sort of regular basis. My entire skull hurts from chewing. Raw food is just damn crunchy. How the hell do they do it?

good day sunshine

Sun and warm weather always makes a day better. Strange how it hovers above freezing at night and then warms up to t-shirt weather in the day. I got word that UI Urbana-Champaign is going to reimburse me up to $100 in travel expenses for the conference I'm going to next week (I'm scheduled for 10am or something on Saturday). Woohoo, free money is always good money. I can't wait to give my first conference presentation and see Chicago for the first time. I have only Sunday to see the sites so what should I be shortlisting? The only things I have on my list so far are to eat deep dish pizza and check out the architecture so I need some must-see suggestions here.

I finally got the hang of Tivo'ing the Olympics. Man it's a pain. It records 7 hours of competition which I have to fast forward through to get to the good stuff (hockey). 3 Canucks are on the Swedish team so I watched that. Unfortunately, our guy Ohlund hurt his shoulder and ribs. Now I'm watching Canada v. Russia. I don't have a good feeling about this one. Our goalie had a stiff leg and we haven't scored in two games. Oh yeah, and I hate it when the camera person focuses on someone in the crowd. If it's not someone with a huge sign or making an ass of him/herself, it's ALWAYS some young blond chick. And I always secretly hope that the woman doesn't know she's on TV and picks her nose. That would be sweet.


fixing stuff

So after the mystery of the server error on my blog comments, followed by the disappearing birthday blog post, something finally got fixed for once. Well, not fixed but worked around. My trusty Canon S600 which I've had since I moved here 5 years ago stopped printing in black ink last week. Printing anything in color no problem, print test page, no problem, printing a simple Word Doc....problem. Being a firm believer in fixing stuff myself I Googled and found http://www.fixyourownprinter.com/forums/inkjet/16844 and there was almost too much advice there to follow. I replaced the cartridge, held the power button down for ages, deep cleaned a million times, cleaned the printer head, uninstalled and reinstalled the driver, shut down and restarted the computer... still nothing. I was able to print if I set the black to 80% instead of full black (another suggestion on that forum) but then you get dark grey and not black. Finally at the bottom of that forum, someone suggested changing the paper to photo paper pro instead of plain paper. All of a sudden angels began to sing and a light shone down from heaven as a full page of black text magically pumped out of my little inkjet printer. What would we do without the Internet? Now my shoebox full of about $50 in ink cartridges will not go to waste.


the abyss

Somehow the post from my birthday on Friday disappeared into the abyss. That's probably why the commenting feature wasn't working for that post. Now the whole post is gone and I didn't delete it. Told ya bad/weird shit like that happens on my birthday. Oh well, it was all just bitching and complaining anyways. Why don't I post up a few photos from that evening instead. We had dinner at Turtle Bay near my house to celebrate my turning 03. The seabass and fresh oysters were awesome and the live jazz was nice too. The owner came over to the table to say hello and by the end of dinner the restaurant regulars and staff were dancing, some on top of the bar. All of them were older than us by at least 20 years. It was an impressive sight to see.

After dinner, Simon and Shannph headed to Safeway to get some warm up drinks to do what they call car bar. Yes drinking in a parked car is totally ghetto and something you do when you're 19 but now we're 30-something and not rich like we expected to be when we all moved to Silicon Valley so screw it. Car bar ended up taking place back at our place a couple blocks away because we decided to break out the Absinthe that Simon brought back from Toronto. The stuff is 70% alcohol and originally was made with wormwood which is some sort of hallucinogen that made Hemingway and Van Gogh a little wonky. You are supposed to light a sugar cube over it and then add water to lessen the bitterness but it doesn't work. It tastes like crap and burns your throat. After some Absinthe, more drinks, and an hour or so of watching the Olympics we finally headed back out to a swanky neighbourhood bar called Stinger Lounge. It was a little embarrassing to go there and not rack up a huge tab like we usually do (John the owner loves us because we're thirsty people) but we had arrived pretty warmed up from
drinks at home. Anyways, we stayed a while and then headed over to IHOP for eats. It was the most fun we've had hanging out within 4 miles of my own home.

Oh yeah, so one of my gifts was a wireless mouse for my laptop. What is up with the packaging of electronics lately? It took a swiss army knife, a pair of scissors, and a lot of brute strength to get all the pieces out of that package. It protects the product well but there's no way that we need that much plastic going into landfills. And half the time when I'm trying take it apart I manage to cut my hands.

Anyways, last night we did celebration round 2 by going to see Paul Van Dyk at 1015. I'm not sure why these things always happen when I'm around, but some guy got shot in the basement while most people, including us, were upstairs or in the main room watching PVD. We didn't even know it happened until my friends tried to leave and the bouncers ordered no ins and outs while they investigated. I guess the panick was relegated to the downstairs. At the end of the night it took forever to get our coats because downstairs where coat check is located was roped off as a crime scene and they had to bring our jackets up one by one as we waited in a huge line. Weird tragic night. But the party was otherwise great. We spent the afternoon today wandering the mall to stretch our legs and get a free massage from the massaging recliner at Sharper Image before heading home to do some work and watch TV. I'm so glad it's Presidents Day tomorrow. I need a day to catch up on my work and lament the passing my 20s.



I hate the fact that most of the Olympics coverage is on MSNBC because that means it's reported by that annoying pest Tucker Carlson. Hmm, let me share a Tucker Carlson quote:

"Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada."

I'm also sick of the American commentators in general. They talk about the American team even when they're reporting on a game/race where no American athletes are involved. Get with the program and talk about what's going on onscreen. Jeez. I miss CBC.

I was so sad to hear about Michelle Kwan withdrawing. Sarah Hughes's little sister was the alternate. In an interview today Sarah said something about how Elvis Stojko skated with a groin injury but Michelle made a personal choice not to, but it's been done before. I found it a little rude of her to infer that Michelle was wimping out. Her sister's interview made no mention of Michelle. All she did was babble about how exciting it was for her and how hard it was for her to keep it a secret during her dinner. Bleh. Little sister Hughes needs to get some media training from the folks who work with NHL teams. Hockey players are big, sweaty, rough, and toothless but get them in front of a camera and rarely will you see them speak without first praising their opponents and then keeping their comments about their own team rather humble (for the most part).

winter sports

So I was watching the Olympics and realized I never watch any of these sports except when the Olympics roll around every 4 years. Watching the games also brought up a bunch of questions for me. Like, why in the world do people do skeleton when they can do luge? I mean careening down an icey track feet first is dangerous enough, but doing it head first? Wouldn't your first injury pretty much be your last? Can a helmet really prevent a broken neck? I don't get it. And how in the world do these athletes get into sports like luge, bobsled, and skeleton in the first place? Just think of how we get into sports. You're say 5 years old and taking some recreational lessons in say skating. Maybe you learn faster than the other kids and the coach bumps you up a level. Maybe then your parents try you out in figure skating where, again, you excel quickly and begin taking up the sport competitively. Kind of all happens naturally right? But how many of you even know where the nearest bobsled track is in your town? What in the world would compel you to (1) find such a track (2) let your kid try the sport? It's just not an activity that you stumble into or discover a hidden talent in because the opportunities aren't there (and it's dangerous as hell). Someone fill me in here.



It appears I'm getting screwed by every corporation I deal with today. I can't login to my online banking. When I do, I get a big blank screen. That's always reassuring.

Those DMV bastards sent me my registration payment form and I paid it back in December before I went away. Now I have a letter that says NOTICE OF INCOMPLETE RENEWAL because I need to get a smog check (that's the same as AirCare for you Vancouverites). Well it wouldn't be incomplete if they had sent me this stupid smog check thing with my registration renewal papers in December. They JUST sent it to me and it says that it might take 30 days for my registration sticker to come after I pass smog check. Sooooo doesn't that mean I'll have a gap wherein my car won't be registered. I HATE YOU DMV!

And finally, Amazon. I ordered a bunch of books at Christmas time. December 6th was when I put in the order. One of those books was for a newly engaged friend. Not only did it fail arrive when she came to visit in December.... It still hasn't come. I ordered this over 3 months ago, what the hell??? I think I need to cancel this. They're going to be married by the time they fucking ship this.

Items Ordered Approve
The Unofficial Guide to Planning Your Wedding, Eileen Livers
Updated Shipping Estimate: March 10, 2006 - March 24, 2006
Updated Delivery Estimate: March 14, 2006 - March 28, 2006
Your approval required by: February 17, 2006


Mutiny at the cafe

What do you do when you have a mediocre hourly pay job, love your coworkers but collectively hate your boss?


I had a rather shitty day today but this made it a teeny bit better.

I can think of a job I had where we all hated my boss, but the only one with guts enough to up and leave was me. Not exactly collective action but I sure gave HR an earful at my exit interview. No one makes me attend THEIR meetings and takes credit for MY work without ME getting some revenge. I heard that after I left she no longer had any direct reports except some co-op student who was an even bigger pain in the ass for the company than she was a waste of money.

Vancouver in film

So the last few days Simon's been glued to the computer watching the entire Battlestar Galactica TV series starring Grace Park. I'm hardly a fan of sci-fi/fantasy (fell sleep through Lord of the Rings, don't understand Star Trek, saw Star Wars for the first time only 2 months ago) but Battlestar from what I've seen of it isn't too hard to watch. The fact that it stars an Asian Canadian woman and is shot in many recognizable places in Vancouver makes it even more bearable.

I get all giddy when I see my hometown in movies even though it happens pretty frequently. I used to work a block from the Vancouver Public Library and we often got notices saying that shots would be fired for a movie and, well, not to call 911. X-Files was filmed both outside my office and at my school (Simon Fraser University served as FBI headquarters) and who could forget Rumble in the Bronx (ah yes, New York with mountains). Unfortunately the only stars I saw in person in Vancouver were David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson when they were shooting in a lane down by West Pender (and all my damn coworkers were out there watching too) and the cast of 21 Jump Street when I was on a school field trip to the acquarium. With all the action, it's no wonder my childhood friend, her dad, my gymnastics coach, and half the people who were in my acrogym class are stunt performers by trade. If you're ever in Vancouver look for small white rectangular signs on utility posts with neon arrows and a series/movie title written on them. Follow the arrow and you'll find the set where they're shooting. (But do not disturb)

Here are some more lists of movies featuring Vancouver:

Darren Barefoot



I think writing to companies to praise or criticize them is genetic. My dad does this all the time. I, too, cannot help myself especially when it's so darn easy online. My latest:
Dear Palmolive,

I love your Spring Sensations detergent. I do have some feedback though. Once the bottle is half empty and not easily weighted down, the bottle tips over really easily and it drives me nuts. I'd recommend designing the bottle so that it is shorter and wider and thus more stable and less likely to tip over and fall into my sink. Short and stout in a stylish container (like the Target Method line of products) with a pump would be even better.

Sincerely, Vanessa Au
BTW, whatcha think of my new layout? My old one was hurting my eyes and I needed a late night diversion from working on the thesis.


food weekend

3 short workouts a week is not enough to burn off all the damn food I eat. Friday night I ended up making dinner and had Shannph over too. Boiled spinach + ground turkey + seasoning salt and garlic power + mushroom alfredo sauce made for a great pasta sauce. It actually tasted more like sausage than turkey. I used the water from boiling the spinach + shitake and enoki mushrooms + lentils to make a nice healthy soup. Salad included more spinach, mandarin slices, almond, cheese, and balsamic vinagarette. My butt was glued to a bar stool at Alpha Bar that night so I burned 0 calories, plus we went to Denny's Japan Town for loco mocos after (they have special stuff like Hawaiian food and kimchee)--- two eggs over easy atop a hamburger pattie on rice with a couple scoops of gravy on the whole thing. Yuuuuummy!

Saturday was work out and steam room day but we stayed in and munched on armloads of chips and chocolate and watched Kickin and Screaming (Will Farrell movie) that night. Not easy on the total calorie count. I blame the UK Cadbury's that Simon brought back (way better than any American chocolate).

Sunday was Superbowl day of course. I don't watch football but we went to a friend's house and I brought my laptop and feasted on barbequed beef, prawns, home made sushi, home made salsa, toffee (my friend will be launching J&S Toffee soon, watch for it), chicken wings, and shots made of sake, raw quail egg, uni (sea urchin), and salmon eggs. Decadent and all washed down with beer. I had to have a nap after the half time show. Man the commercials were lame and...sparse this year, no? So many network commercials. I guess most companies are too poor this year. My favorite was the horses helping the baby horse (a calf right?) push a Budweiser cart. Not funny but sooo darn cute. Not so sure it connected with their target demographic but I sure liked it.



I'm going to help my friend Will milk his fame a little more by pointing my readers to his post about he and his friends polishing off the In-and-Out 100x100 burger. Will has gotten so famous, he's gonna be on the damn radio! There's absolutely nothing wrong with gaining that 15 seconds (or days in this case) of fame for eating lots and lots of cow, grease, and sweaty cheese. Go Willy go!

Hmm I have nothing else to talk about today. Apparently I accidentally pissed off a person or two and the person I'm pissed off at happens to be in town. Oh and my new Blue Cross plan doesn't include coverage for vision care and I can't see too well right now and I'm running low on contact lenses. And also when I (or Simon) uses this nifty wireless optical mouse, I can't fucking type on my wireless keyboard because signals get crossed. Oh, and my brown hamster pissed all over my white hamster again so she's yellow now and I'm scared to clean her because she bites. My life is clearly a well-balanced combination of unexciting and shitty. Hmmm.


Blue Cross idiots

I just got off a long call with Blue Cross customer service that accomplished nothing. I'm trying to cancel my individual plan and go only with the coverage that I'm getting from Simon's work which is also from Blue Cross. The woman, Mary, says she can't cancel my individual plan and has to put me through to another number. This is after 10 minutes of mucking around in the account and, well, doing nothing. She goes to "put me through" to another customer service rep. The phone rings twice and a guy says "hello?"

Me: Hi, I was transferred to your line to get my individual PPO Share 5000 cancelled please
Guy: Uh, what?
Me: I was transferred to your line to get my individual PPO Share 5000 cancelled please
Guy: Uhhhhh, I called Blue Cross this morning too but hehe I'm a patient too. She said she put you through to another line at Blue Cross?
Me: Oh my God. Yeah. You're a customer?? She connected me to a customer?!
Guy: Yup, and she put you through to my cell phone no less [laughs]
Me: Oh my God, be careful next time you call Blue Cross. Obviously their reps screw up big time!!
Guy: [Laughs] Yeah! Alright you take care
Me: You too

Hello privacy issues??? How does a mistake like that happen?