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[Gothic BC] The Gothic Shoe Company

Today is Chinese New Year's day today, and it's happy shoe day for me. On January 3rd I ordered a pair of classic winklepickers from The Gothic Shoe Company of Essex, England, and they arrived today. These are hand-made shoes so the five weeks for delivery is not just the shipping from the UK to this, the western fringe of the old Empire, but the time to make them to order. Because they are made to order they will do custom work, but for a first order I chose to go with an "off the rack" and simple style.

As someone from British Columbia, my go-to for goth shoes since before I moved to Vancouver in 1990 has always been Fluevogs, so that is going to be my baseline for comparison. To spare you the details that follow in the unboxing below, here'e summary: these shoes compare favourably to the near mythical Canadian and English made 'Vogs of the late 80's and early 90's in quality, and at somewhere between one half and one third the price of the vastly inferior, only occasionally available, not custom, made in Whereverischeapistan, green-washed 'Vogs of today (Oh, sorry. Did I forget to edit that?)

Unboxing The Gothic Shoe Company Gibson Winklepickers

Even though I'd been expecting the shoes to show up any day now since I got the the "we've shipped your order" notice on January 25, it was a bit of a surpise when Canada Post buzzed up this morning before I clued in that today's "Family Day" statutory holiday is provincial, not federal, so the poor bastards have to work... and huzzah! A shoebox with a Royal Mail shipping label!

Cutting into the plastic wrapping I was greeted with the most amazing smell of fresh leather and shoe polish. It may be a bit weird, but before I even laid eyes on them I was already impressed?these were the best smelling new shoes I've encountered in years. This is a testament that they really are made to order and haven't been sitting around in a warehouse getting stiff and dry for months or years. And the box had this hand-written label:

I'm pretty sure that what looks like "WD" is actually "WP"—winklepicker. And that is an English size 10, not an American 10. Once upon a time shoes in Canada were always sold with English sizing, but now you never quite know and I've been caught in this trap before. This would be an American 11. My general advice is it's almost always safer to know your European size (44 in this case) and look for a sizing chart when buying shoes on line. Now, on to the shoes.

Check out that address. "Gallows Corner", now that's GAF! And while "The Parade" to "Gallows Corner" conjures up some properly gothic images of rogues being marched to their death, the sad reality revealed by Google Earth being that it is a dismal industrial park at the cloverleaf intersection of two A-roads. That the nearby McDonand's is labelled "McDonald's Gallows Corner" amuses me, though.

Oh, hey, yeah, shoes?

Nicely packed in tissue against scuffs while shipping, for what that is worth. And the tissue will be pleasing to the cat that will inevitably seek to inhabit the box when the shoes are out.

And here it is. My one, very minor, gipe is with the laces, which aren't as pictures and aren't dress laces. I'll be swapping those out as soon as I have a chance to pick some up. But laces are nothing. The leather in these is everything hinted at by the smell earlier. It's thick, much thicker than any 'Vog, Aldo, or other shoe you'll find in a local shop for less than $450, but at £64.99 these work out to less than a third of that, even with the shipping. But despite the thickness, the leather is fantastically supple because these shoes have not sat around in some factory warehouse. When I put them on it was immedately apparent that there would be no painful breaking-in period. The leather is so good that they "broken in" right out of the box. Amazing, really.

Looking closely you can see the quality of the leather and the stictching. And look at that sole! It's a good four times thicker than what been under pointy 'Vogs lately, if and when they feel like putting out a pair that isn't hideous. These I'll be able to go out dancing in more than once and wear as everyday-goth shoes for more than week.

Can you tell yet that I've been completely offed by the craptastic lack of decent goth shoes for a while now? No longer—in The Gothic Shoe Company I've finally found the shoes I've been missing for years.

[ Reposted from my blog on Gothic BC #GothicBC ]

Source: http://www.mbarrick.com/blog/160208/gothic-bc-gothic-shoe-company

Overly Critical

I shot an event at work yesterday and just now was feeling kind of guilty about the number of pictures that I was happy with–"only" thirty. So right now I am reminding myself of the days when shooting was done in batches of 24 or 36 and I felt lucky if there were 3 or 4 "keepers" per roll. Getting 30 decent photos of an event is enough. Why do I feel compelled to produce hundreds of photos every time I shoot, especially when all I really need is one or two really good ones? Guh.

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Source: http://www.mbarrick.com/blog/160205/overly-critical

Lunar New Year

It bugs me when Chinese New Year is called "Lunar New Year" (as the City of Vancouver is wont to do). Areas with large populations of Chinese ex-pats follow lock-step with the timing as it applies to the Chinese time zone, so calling it "Chinese New Year" is wholly appropriate. In the smattering of countries that officially use the exact mechanism of Chinese calendar outside of China occasionally the day for the beginning of the year is different because local time causes the first new moon after the winter solstice to fall on a different day. More significantly, however, there a whole bunch of lunisolar calendars—Jewish, Islamic, and literally dozens based on Hindu and Buddhist traditions—all of which have different starts, and all of which are marginalised by speaking of the Chinese calendar like it is the only lunar calendar.

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Source: http://www.mbarrick.com/blog/160205/lunar-new-year

Once again I dabbled into the insufferable realm of actually thinking I could get what I asked for from one of the giant telecoms.

I have an old phablet that I use strictly as a tablet. I don't want or need a phone, but there are no true tablets that meet the "fits in my coat pocket" criteria that makes the device something useful I can carry around all the time. I've been using it for several years now without a valid SIM card, just using WiFi.

Then I saw that Telus has a tiered data plan for tablets that starts at $5/mo. and I thought it would be nice to have a small amount of data for the rare times I want to connect for some little thing when there is no WiFi to connect to. So I went into a Telus store, device in hand, to ask if this plan was something I could use on my phablet. I was assured it would be no problem and got connected in the store.

Then, a few weeks later I got my first bill and it was multiple times higher than it should have been for the paltry amount of data I used. So, when I had an hour to waste—because these things never take less than an hour—I contacted customer service and once I explained everything three times, they knocked off over ⅔ of the bill.

The the next bill came, and while not a lot of money, there was an inexplicable overage charge of $3 even though I had only used about ¼ of the allocation in the lowest tier. The usage for the current month, as yet unbilled, was also showing I'd already incurred this mystery overage charge just a few days into the new billing cycle, with next to no data having been used. So, again, when I have at least an hour to put aside, I contact customer service.

At first I'm just using the online chat and explain what is going on. The rep I am chatting with is good and agrees that the two $3 charges should not be there and reverses them. So far so go. Then it comes out that the charges are there because I have the SIM card in a phone, not a tablet. I explain that I have no use for voice, that the device never gets used as a phone, and that I had specifically asked for a data-only plan at the store and had been absolutely assured that it would be OK to use the plan in this fashion. At this point I'm asked to phone in to the Telus Mobility Loyalty Department... and things start to go south.

I call into the number I was told to call and explain what is going on to the rep there. I regret not making a note of the name, because this Loyalty rep was an utter asshole. "You can't do that," he says. "That's a tablet plan and you are using it in a phone."

"But the guy in the store told me I could. I had the device with me when I got the plan," I explained again.

"You can't do that. That's a tablet plan and you can't use it that way," he repeats, with no small touch of disdain in his voice.

"So you are telling me that I was lied to in the store and was snookered into something I didn't want?" I ask.

"You can't use a tablet plan in a phone," he repeats.

"Why not?" I ask, starting to get pissed off at his tone. "I don't use this as a phone. I only want data. I explained it in the store. I had the device with me in the store. Why was I sold something I can't have?"

"You can't use a $5 data plan in a phone. You can't do that in Canada. If you could, everybody would do it," he says, in a tone so freaking condescending I'm wishing I could head-butt him through the phone. And I think to myself, "Yeah, God forbid you have a reasonably priced, useful plan that people would buy instead of being ass-raped every month," but I hold back. Barely.

I'm angry now, "So I was lied to. This isn't what I wanted. This isn't what I asked for. I don't want it. I want my money back, all of it."

"This is Customer Loyalty," he says, ephasising the word 'loyalty' as if it was somehow my job to be loyal to Telus despite being lied to and bilked rather than his job to try and earn my loyalty. I'm fuming at this point.

"Cancel the damn account and give me my money back," I demand.

"We can't do that over the phone. How am I supposed to send you money over the phone?" he says, swimming into new depths of condescenting dickdom.

"Have you heard of a 'cheque'?" I ask, wanting to finish the scentence with, "you condescending prick fucking asshole," but refraining. Barely.

"You have to go into the store to get your money back," he tells me. "We can't send you a cheque."

I'm thinking about times in the past, back in the long-lost B.C. Tel days, when I'd received cheques refunding credit balances on my account when I'd cancelled my phone to move. I'm thinking of people in rural B.C. who are no where near a Telus store, how do they deal with them? I'm thinking I've already wasted hours on this boondoggle and do I really want to spend another two hours on a day off to go downtown, argue this again with someone in the store, and come all the way back to get the $15+tax back on the SIM card, maybe, if I'm loud enough and lucky enough to get someone who'd rather just issue the refund than argue with a crazy old man? I sum this up with, "That not convenient. Why is that necessary?"

"You have to go to the store to get your money back. When you buy something at Wal-Mart and want a refund you have to go back to Wal-Mart," he says, still using a condescending tone and assuming that since I don't care to throw money at Telus for things I don't need or want I must shop at Wal-Mart.

At this point I've had it. I'm angry. I've been lied to, basically robbed, and then talked down to by condescending asshole for not accepting that as normal. I don't quite remember what I said at this point, although I am pretty sure I did call him an asshole before I hung up.

A few hours later, when I had calmed down, I phoned back and cancelled the account. The person I spoke to this time let slip that the notes made by the condescending asshole ended with the note, "Customer hung up," making me wonder what else what written. However, this time the account was cancelled immediately, including voiding the outstanding balance on the bill. In the end I'm still out about $12 and a few frustrating hours. I'm also never, ever going to be a Telus Mobility customer again.

I've also had bad experiences with Bell Mobile and Rogers Wireless, both personally and with corporate accounts under my perview. And things go bad farther and faster if you have any kind of requirements that aren't completely within the bounds of some pre-definied cookie-cutter package. Sometime, like this experience with Telus, you end up out-of-bounds when a sales weasel promises something that can't (or more realistically, "won't") be delivered. Sometimes you end up out-of-bounds when something you have that works isn't an option anymore. Bottom line is, though, if you are not lock-step with what everyone else is doing, it winds up being a constant fight.

Service only stretches so far as what buttons are available on the register.

Source: http://www.mbarrick.com/blog/160131/you-may-not-have-what-we-said-you-could-have

So a well-meaning friend shared a post from one of those "kemikuls r bad / big-pharma keeps us sick for profit / magical diluted fairy water cures cancer" type pages, which in turn was a link from a similarly themed website. The link was to an article titled "3-Ingredient Natural Grout and Tile Cleaner – keeps tiles spotless & grime-free without chemicals" and was presented on the page along with this caption:

The only thing I HATE more than scrubbing is filling my house with dangerous chemicals that my kids go near. Thank goodness I stumbled across this incredible and effective recipe that helps keep my home spotless. Try it out and let me know what you think

The ingredients to this magical concoction are baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap.

No "dangerous chemicals", eh?

First lets consider the boggling dissonance in someone can saying "natural" and "safe" ingredients and then listing hydrogen peroxide as one of those. Hydrogen peroxide is a manufactured chemical. It can only be purchased by the average consumer in a very dillute form because undiluted it is a corrosive acid and explosive if heated. It's transported by rail as a hazardous chemical in reinforced tanker cars.

Baking soda has a friendly name so it must be OK. Who doesn't like baking, or soda? Cake and a can of orange Crush. As safe as your 8th birthday party. It is, of course, also a chemical: sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is a mild base and… hold-up…. didn't we get told in Junior High chemistry that mixing acids and bases is maybe not such a great idea unless you are trying cause an energetic reaction? Yeah.

So what happens when you mix sodium bicarbonate and hydrogen peroxide?

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate): NaHCO₃
Hydrogen peroxide: H₂O₂
H₂O₂ + NaHCO₃ = NaOH + H₂O + CO₂ + ½O₂
NaOH = sodium hydroxide

The "Hazards Identidification" section of the MSDS on sodium hydroxide:

Potential Acute Health Effects:
Very hazardous in case of skin contact (corrosive, irritant, permeator), of eye contact (irritant, corrosive), of ingestion, of inhalation. The amount of tissue damage depends on length of contact. Eye contact can result in corneal damage or blindness. Skin contact can produce inflammation and blistering. Inhalation of dust will produce irritation to gastro-intestinal or respiratory tract, characterized by burning, sneezing and coughing. Severe over-exposure can produce lung damage, choking, unconsciousness or death. Inflammation of the eye is characterized by redness, watering, and itching. Skin inflammation is characterized by itching, scaling, reddening, or, occasionally, blistering.

Potential Chronic Health Effects:
MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells.
The substance may be toxic to mucous membranes, upper respiratory tract, skin, eyes. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. Repeated exposure of the eyes to a low level of dust can produce eye irritation. Repeated skin exposure can produce local skin destruction, or dermatitis. Repeated inhalation of dust can produce varying degree of respiratory irritation or lung damage.

Source: http://www.mbarrick.com/blog/160121/hazardous-chemicals-hands-chemically-hazardous

Alan Rickman

It's one thing when a celebrity that hasn't done anything for decades passes—all their work still exists just the same....

Posted by Michael R. Barrick on Thursday, 14 January 2016

Krampus Card

We've all been bad this year. ‪#‎compass‬ ‪#‎yvr‬ ‪#‎translink‬ ‪#‎vancouver‬view imagesCollapse )
Source: http://www.mbarrick.com/blog/160101/krampus-card


Michael / Atratus

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