Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jason Mraz: Highly Recommended

Always recommend Jason Mraz (an amazing song-writer and great guitarist) - but even more so with his final performance of the Gratitude Cafe tour in San Diego, CA, singing the following:




(In My Life, the Beatles) - although some lyrics were missed, this was beautiful. But it also reminds me of one of his original songs, 1000 things. A slightly different sentiment but somehow quite similar, about how after all , there is one thing you remember:

"But I stopped my counting when I saw your face
Erasing memory, well I feel as though I've never seen a face before
Until I saw your eyes
And they're smiling back at me through my tears
I've been counting all these years, oh
Suddenly the thousand things I've seen were nothing more than dreams of
Of you and me"
--- Jason Mraz



Mraz is often considered fairly egotistical in his writing - but with the renditions of these songs, I think he shows what a wonderful guitarist and lyricist he is.

I'm sure, I'll come back to this post and comment more on how much we recommend Jason Mraz, but for now, this is something I highly recommend, even to watch, if not to purchase and buy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wine Garden: Recommended

Company: Wine Garden (West) - RECOMMENDED

The Wine Garden is a wine-making company, similar yet different to make-your-own-wine businesses but with a twist. Most wine making companies offer juices or concentrates, where you have to purchase large quantities of juice and then wait (usually longer than 2 months) to receive your wine. The end result? It's up in the air.

The Wine Garden is different. Yes, you still have to pre-order the wine but what is available is a wide variety of taste and price. Most of the juices offered all come from the Maipo valley in Chile, where their provider provides grapes directly from a first-press vineyard. While there are third-press juices like many companies, the treat is in the Wine Garden's first-press grapes, frozen grapes brought up right from various regions. Matt and Kevin, the owners, take special attention in the pressing and fermentation process. These first-press grapes can take upwards of six months but are stored in beautiful Hungarian oak barrels. The end result is a wine that competes hardily with most wines found in the liquor store. Some require longer storing in your home - while others are ready to drink. While there are other Wine Garden sites around the Ottawa area, this one is truly a special one - in fact, theirs is the picture that you see on the web site. Some of their wines are used in area restaurants as the house wine.


Our favorites: Malbec, Carmenere and their "Bordeaux" blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot/Malbec and xxx, where xxx may be one of Shiraz, Carmenere or some of their others.

Instead of just offering cases of wine, members can also purchase boxes (including 5l and 20l sizes). The prices are extremely reasonable, ranging from $3-4 bottle to $7 bottle of the first-press grapes. We have been members for three years and have yet to be disappointed by a bottle and the bottling experience is fun and enjoyable. As the web site says, the Wine Garden definitely offers Wines Beyond Your Imagination.

Company: Wine Garden (West) - RECOMMENDED

WestJet Airlines: Recommended

Company: WestJet Airlines - RECOMMENDED

There are effectively two major airlines in Canada: Air Canada and WestJet. Air Canada has gone from being a government subsidized airline to a private company, gobbling up other private airlines. WestJet is the latest of airline companies who provide competition with Air Canada for across the country, as well as some international flights.

We recently flew to Vancouver from Ottawa. This was the first time we have flown on WestJet and based on our experience, we would definitely fly them again. On the way out, we had a brief stop-over in Calgary. The flight attendants on both flights were friendly, attentive and in the case of Michael, hilarious. Michael made a "show" of the emergency announcements and both times, got the attention of most passengers, to the point of making the other flight attendant laugh during her announcements.

Only downside was on the flight back where the pilots did not welcome the passengers on-board (a small thing) and neglected to mention a possible delay (about 20 minutes - kind of major).

WestJet doesn't charge extra for bags which is a plus (although we usually go carry-on anyways) but you do have to pay for snacks, a common practice these days. As far as equipment goes, WestJet flies 737s, all equipped with TVs in the back of each seat, showing Bell channels and offering some pay per view. Honestly, it's not worth getting pay-per-view since you may be interrupted with announcements, making it impossible to really get a full watch of a show.

Company: WestJet Airlines - RECOMMENDED

Monday, September 28, 2009

NOT Recommended: Around the Home Handyman Services

Company: Around the Home Handyman - Norm (Norman) Richter - NOT RECOMMENDED

This company is NOT Recommended. Here is a link to their BBB listing. Note that the Around the Home BBB rating is not an "A" as noted on other sites.

(something I don't usually do here is comment on individual businesses or go on non-technical tirades. This is an exception to the rule - so if you're looking for tech comments, please ignore).

On a personal note, I can appreciate people can't work for free these days. It's tough - but any company who offers a one-year guarantee for their work should not be charging for problems with existing work (new work, yes - but work that they originally did? Absolutely not).

We have used Around the Home handyman services, owned by Norm Richter (also listed as Norman Richter) for two separate pieces of work: roofing and flooring. The roofing job was done extremely well and on budget. After the flooring work, we will never use them again.

The flooring job was a mixed bag. We were originally quoted about $1600 for a kitchen and mudroom renovation. Since we were paying by the hour, it was expected to go higher. The final tally was over $3000. Originally expected to take 3-4 days, it was over a week. Time was ADDED to the bill that was never received until we forced the issue as noted below.

The initial tiling looked great - but had some problems that were evident 3 days after the job was completed. This is where the problems began.

There was a crack in one of the tiles and several holes in grout around the floor. The biggest problem however is the supposed one year guarantee. FOUR months after we initially called and reported the problem, Norm finally came around to fix things, saw and reviewed the problems with the tiles and grout. The next day, they only fixed the tile (and replaced another) but did not correct the grout problems, blaming us. Keep in mind this was FOUR months after we tried to get them to come in.

Subsequent follow-ups was that he couldn't do the work for free (even though it was part of the original work) and that we should have used an insurance company's tilers to fix the grout that was caused by his work. He then subsequently blamed our floor.

I wish they had told us up front that they could NOT do the job properly.

Needless to say, I would NOT recommend them for any flooring work.