Alarmforce replies

My phone rang last night while I was visiting my sister. I didn’t take the call, but I saw it was from Alarmforce. Given the letter I sent them last week, I was eager to hear the voicemail message that I noted the caller had left.

It turns out that it was the CEO, Anthony Pizzonia, himself. He said that he was sorry that we still haven’t received the referral bonus, that according to the information in the account file, the referral bonus is being processed, and that he’d like to discuss the situation with me.

I rang him back this morning, but he was unavailable. He called me back just after noon and we talked. He repeated his apology, acknowledged the difficulty we have had in getting the bonus, assured me that the workings and procedures of their alarm monitoring are solid, and admitted that the Alarmforce customer service department hasn’t been what it should be. He said my letter was a perfect example of their challenges and that he used it as an example of how they need to improve. Further he promised that they’d “make it right.”

I didn’t bring it up, but one thing doesn’t make sense. The last time I called, the rep told me the information I had provided during the call before that was not in the file. There was no record of my previous calls nor and record of the referral itself. Now I’m told the referral bonus is being processed. Curious.

I appreciate his attention and he certainly said all the right things, even if some seemed a little too right at times. I’ll be happy with what Mr. Pizzonia told me when I see those words translate into action.

Posted in consumer life, me | Leave a comment

God and reason

I do not feel obliged to believe that that same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

Galileo Galilei

Quoted from: Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western CivilizationStuart Isacoff, 2001

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Temper, temper…

I’m re-reading Stuart Isacoff’s excellent book, Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization. My nephew mentioned he was reading it and it blew his mind, just as it did mine. Since we would be travelling by car for over an hour (each way) to the concert we attended Friday, I thought it would be interesting to discuss so I dove back in to refresh my memory.

Briefly, the way we tune keyboard instruments today is not the way they were tuned in the past. Indeed, our equal temperament “was once regarded as a crime against God and nature,” according to Isacoff.

Back in the day, keyboards used Pythagorean tuning, in which all the fifths were tuned in perfect 3:2 ratios. But if you played thirds, they didn’t sound right. Further, the tuning was by key. If you wanted to play in a different key, you had to tune the instrument for the desired key or it sounded like an utter disaster. You simply can not tune perfect octaves, thirds, and fifths, all at the same time.

Our twelve note scale has the notes logarithmically equally spaced between perfect octaves, but even this is a compromise, as the thirds and fifths are slightly dissonant. We’ve just grown used to it, and it seems a reasonable compromise to avoid a different tuning for every key! Reasonable today, but not in the past when the 3:2 ratio of the perfect fifths was a sign of the perfection of god’s construction of the universe! Not using perfect fifths was sacrilege.

I highly recommend the book. I know very little musical theory, but this didn’t dampen my enjoyment in the least.

Isacoff used two words, antonyms, that I didn’t realize are related in a musical sense. You know dissonant. I did not know its opposite is concordant.

concordant adjective. 1 Agreeing ; harmonious ; unanimous ; consistent . l15.

I’ve known the word to mean ‘agreement,’ but not in a musical sense. Interesting.

Book cover ©2001, 2003 by Stuart Isacoff.
Definitions from the electronic Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Posted in definitions, history, music, words | Leave a comment

A semi-local library adventure

So many things changed when I moved back to my home town some 18 months ago. I expected differences. Any move to a new city will cause all sorts of changes, but moving to a place with less than one-tenth the population of the city to which your accustomed will only intensify the required adjustment.

One of the bigger changes, though admittedly of comparatively little importance, is that my CD borrowing from the library has dropped to less than one-tenth the amount it once was. It makes sense given the population difference. There just isn’t the money to stock a library to the same levels in a smaller city. So my eyes went wandering. I looked into nearby cities and their universities. Earlier this week I finally took the plunge. I laid down $33 for a one year membership with the St. Catharines Public Library. I feel silly paying for a library card when I already have one for free, but the selection! Oh, the selection! I’ve yet to reserve anything, but I thought I’d go look through the available CDs. I learned in Ottawa that all the most popular CDs will rarely appear in the library branch. Rather, they’re reserved, often with more than a hundred people waiting.

As a result, I was impressed that I came away from that first visit with eight CDs:

  • John Coltrane — Interstellar Space
  • John Coltrane — Soultrane
  • Miles Davis — A Tribute to Jack Johnson
  • Miles Davis — Aura
  • Miles Davis — Miles to Go
  • Bill Bruford’s Earthworks — A Part, and Yet Apart
  • Herbie Hancock — Empyrean Isles
  • Janine Jansen — Inventions & Partita

And I stopped looking at that point because the borrowing limit for CDs is ten, and I didn’t want things getting out of hand.

The only fly in the ointment, and I feel petty even mentioning it, is the St. Catharines Public Library does not subscribe to the on-line version of the Oxford English Dictionary. A personal subscription is $295 per year, which is not going to happen. No city I’ve lived in has had a library subscription. I checked and was excited to see that the Toronto Public Library has a subscription. The problem is that getting a Toronto Public library card as a non-resident costs a reasonable $30, but rather than annually, it must be renewed every three months. That removes it from the realm of reasonable, for me. In case you’re wondering, yes I would go to Toronto once a year and pay the fee for a library card just to get access to the OED subscription! As it is, $120 makes me hesitate, and having to go four times a year is a definite deal-breaker.

As far as the CDs go, I think this is going to work out just fine, thank you!

Posted in me, music, travel | Leave a comment

Juice, live!

Yesterday evening, my nephew Steve and I had a real treat. We travelled to Toronto to see Medeski, Schofield, Martin, and Wood perform at Massey Hall. They’re touring in support of their latest album, Juice.

20141212-222949 iPhone5s IMG_0567.jpg: iPhone5s, back camera @ 4.15mm, 1/30, f/2.2, 160 ISO
20141212-222949 iPhone5s IMG_0567.jpg
EXIF: iPhone5s, back camera @ 4.15mm, 1/30, f/2.2, 160 ISO

In the photo you see John Medeski, Chris Wood, Billy Martin, and John Scofield, from left to right.

Despite leaving nearly two-and-a-half hours before the show time, we dropped into our seats with less than five minutes to spare. There was snow earlier this week, but the biggest issues were the Toronto Raptors game scheduled for the same evening and the ongoing construction on the Gardner Expressway.

It was a wonderful show, and if you weren’t there, you missed out! Those guys … they made it look so easy, sometimes even to the point that I couldn’t believe the musical complexity I was hearing based on their seemingly simple movements. Not only that, but they play so well together. They looked loose and relaxed, but their sound was tight.

It occurred to me during the show that one seldom sees a keyboard player without a synthesizer, especially live. This thought came to mind because Medeski used only a grand piano and what appeared (to Steve) to be a Hammond B-3 organ. He also had the accompanying, and completely bizarre, Leslie speaker. In fact, they all had very simple instrumentation. Schofield used one guitar, Wood had an electric bass and a double-bass, and Martin played a surprisingly basic drum kit. It worked for me because the playing is what’s important, and they brought that in spades.

I am so glad we went. A great show and good company.

BONUS: Check out the video for Juicy Lucy, which features Billy Martin’s mom. She’s 81 years old and a former Radio City Rockette.

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I’m alarmed…at the force of their ineptitude

I’m having a go-around with my mom’s alarm company. They offer a $25 referral bonus, and she made such a referral in July. Six months and three calls later, they still somehow haven’t managed to deliver their end of the deal. Since my providing the details to the customer service representative got me no where last time, I wasn’t about to do it again. Rather, I hunted down their last annual report so I could direct my disappointment directly to the CEO. I doubt he’ll even see the letter, but maybe it’ll end up shaking the right tree.

I omitted my mother’s name and one other detail from this on-line reproduction to protect her privacy.

[my address]

December 9, 2014

Anthony Pizzonia
Chief Executive Officer
Alarmforce Industries Inc.
675 Garyray Drive
Toronto, Ontario
M9L 1R2

Mr. Pizzonia,

I’m writing you on behalf of my mother who has been a loyal Alarmforce customer for 26 years. My message is one of concern. Specifically, something is very wrong at your company as the level of customer service has declined for some years now.

The latest incident is a referral my mother made for your Alarmcare service. She recommended it to an acquaintance, who then used my mother’s phone to call Alarmforce and sign up her mother on the spot. I’m not sure of the exact date, but I believe it was in July. I didn’t make a note of it because I hadn’t expected that your company would fail to make good on the referral bonus even six months later.

My mother called in August and the rep told her that the referral credit can take up to three months to work through your system so she would see it reflected in her October charge. It wasn’t. I called in and was very surprised to learn that there was no record of the referral. I had to have my mom contact her friend for her friend’s mother’s name and address. With that information, I called your company a few days later and they took it all down. Despite this, the credit didn’t appear. Again.

Yesterday I called, and I was disappointed to hear that there is no record of the referral or any of our calls about it. The rep was very nice with me, but I had already been through this process once, only to apparently have the entire conversation ignored. I wasn’t about to provide all the information again and hope for the best. It didn’t work the last time so why would I expect a different outcome?

So here I am writing to you, wondering what is going on at Alarmforce. I’m not chasing after your company for something to which we are not entitled. On the contrary, you offered a referral bonus to get business. Now that she’s steered business your way, your organization is enjoying the income, and falling all over themselves to avoid fulfilling your promise. And all the while, Alarmforce makes damned sure the customers pay their bills!

This is all of particular concern because this is a health alarm. If my mother finds herself in distress and presses the button, will she we contacted immediately? Will your representative contact help in a timely manner? The same kind of screw-up in a different department can have dire health consequences, and that’s precisely what we’re paying to avoid.

I have my doubts, given that Alarmforce can’t keep its own promises. Your singular focus seems to be the company books. If your organization is no longer up to the task, please just say so. We’d prefer not to pay for an ultimately false sense of security.



My brother expressed amazement that I’d go to all this trouble for $25. It stopped being about the $25 a long time ago. It’s a mix of my making sure they aren’t enriched by their own ineptitude, my taking great pleasure in putting the URL of this post at the bottom of the letter I mail them, and my making it clear that it’s not okay to treat my mother so shabbily.


Alarmforce replied.

Posted in customer service, me | 2 Responses

Silly Thomas

Thomas Mulcair

Thomas Mulcair

Witness MP and leader of the opposition, Thomas Mulcair … the latest in a very long line of politicians who are eager to use guns to score political points without spending a moment to consider what they’re suggesting.

At least it’s my suspicion that he hasn’t thought through his suggestion. So I asked him:

From: Rick Pali <>
Subject: A gun registry.
Date: December 6, 2014 at 10:17:41 AM EST

Mr. Mulcair,

With great interest, I read of your ideas about a new gun registry.

According to the CBC, you said, “I think that it is possible to provide the police with the tools to better protect the public and themselves by making sure they’re able to follow every gun”

Every gun? For this to be true, you must have figured out a way to track the movement of illegal guns. Do you have this ability?

If you don’t, police have to assume that every time they enter an unknown situation, there may be guns involved … and therefore a registry of any sort can only serve to confirm that there may be a firearm involved, and never to assure police that a gun will not be present.

As a consequence, I’m left wondering how the utility of such a registry will justify the cost and invasiveness. I’d hate to think you’re playing politics on the anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre, so I’d appreciate the benefit of your thoughts.


Will I receive a response? I’d love to be proven wrong, but I doubt it. Regardless, when a politician is this senseless and this transparent, he/she needs to understand the people are not fooled.

Photo courtesy of

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Twitter, saying it doesn’t make it okay

Dear Twitter,

I read with interest about the most recent change to your terms and conditions, specifically on your What is app graph on Twitter? page:

To help build a more personal Twitter experience for you, we are collecting and occasionally updating the list of apps installed on your mobile device so we can deliver tailored content that you might be interested in.

Of course ‘tailored content’ means ads, and ‘App graph’ is a cute name for ‘we’re downloading a list of all the apps installed on your mobile device.’

Although you do allow users to disable this egregious data collection, and you also claim that you inform users before you start collecting their data, I would suggest that this information is none of your damned business. Your allowing users to turn off this data collection doesn’t somehow make it okay. Frankly, my reaction is more along the lines of, “what the hell are you thinking?!”

If I install your app, you’re certainly entitled to monitor my usage of the app as well as any other damned thing you please within the app you make available to me. You are not entitled to step outside the boundary of the app, and I’m amazed that you somehow think it’s perfectly acceptable that you do.

Hell no, Twitter. I’ve removed your apps from my mobile devices. That means I can only use Twitter from a browser, which is far more cumbersome. As a consequence, I’ll be using Twitter far less often. While this is unfortunate for you, your actions have consequences, and this is one of them.

Twitter is popular, but it seems you need a reminder that we don’t need Twitter, but Twitter is nothing without us. Treat users with respect unless you want to lose them. And Twitter? Helping yourself to a list of all the apps on my device is not respectful in any conceivable way.

The Twitter logo is a trademark of Twitter.

Posted in idiocy, Internet, marketing, privacy | 2 Responses

Crashplan, no longer


After three or four years as a customer, I cancelled my subscription to your online backup service yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago, you offered a 50% discount to loyal family plan members who renew, and to single computer customers who upgrade to the family plan. I tweeted and asked if you had any deal to loyal single computer subscribers. Your response to me was to try to get me to upgrade to a family plan. Specifically, you wrote,

You don’t have parents, siblings or cousins with computers? #cheapholidaygifts

That isn’t what I asked, and I also note that including cousins seems to extend the family plan beyond what you allow. Regardless, when I replied that the single computer subscription fit my needs and I wasn’t interested in expanding it, you didn’t think me worth a reply.

In the nearly two weeks between that exchange and the end of the promotion, I saw many tweets referring to a 50%-off subscription rate to existing customers. At least 75% of them made no mention of this deal being limited to the family plan. Perhaps you expanded the offer? I wrote to ask. No reply. This happened three times. Never a reply.

Then late last night I checked again, and your Black Friday sale kicked in. Both plans discounted, but for new customers only.

I get the hint. You want single computer subscribers to upgrade to the family plan, and you want new customers. Raving for two weeks about a 50%-off renewal is great, but if you usually fail to mention that it applies to only a subset of your customers, you’re going out of your way to annoy those to whom is doesn’t apply.

While these other two issues aren’t directly related to my cancelling, they definitely made it easier:

1. Your service is great in that it offers support Windows, OS X, and Linux, but doing this by using a common Java codebase is less than ideal. Backup software using a gigabyte of RAM is ridiculous. I’m glad to have that RAM back!

2. The Twitter campaign you ran over the summer was a disaster. You have 30,000 followers who are interested in Crashplan news and updates, and you saddled them with tweets like this:

Oh, jeez. The Wolf King just showed up. And he’s wearing that I-wanna-get-back-together face. -MadMaxine #FutureWithoutBackup

You build a following, and then rather than offer what they came for, you tweet this kind of thing? I’ve never seen so many complaints, and for good reason. I wrote, asking if you had a feed for only Crashplan news and you told me I was already following it. When I suggested that this ‘campaign’ was ill-conceived, you explained that more like it could be coming.

I wondered how clueless could you be. I’m through wondering. You seem to have trouble understanding how to treat paying customers.

If you offer something, and repeatedly snatch it away, and then ignore me when I ask about it, I get the impression you aren’t terribly interested in my being a paying customer.

Message received, Crashplan.

Logo © 2014 Code 42 Software, Inc.

Posted in computers, consequences, customer service, me | Leave a comment

The wood chips are in my past

20141108-151807 5D3 4M6C3191.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 17-40mm 1:4L @ 33mm, 1/250, f/8, 400 ISO

Done and done, almost.

About a month ago, I posted with my tree story. I was taking down a tree, and my plan was to cut the three branches that split from the trunk, and then cut the trunk. At the time I posted, I had cut off one of the three branches, just to see if I could do it.

It worked pretty much as I expected so I thought my plan was good. Some time after my post, I again got back up on the ladder with an axe and got busy on one of the remaining two branches. Within about ten minutes, my neighbour appeared in his backyard wondering what I was doing. He couldn’t believe I was using an axe. When I explained that this was all new to me and I wasn’t about to add a chainsaw to the mix, he said he’d be right over.

Less than ten minutes later, he and his son brought two chainsaws, and a half-hour after that, he had cut the two branches and most the tree trunk. In fact, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and each of the two branches fell over the fence, into his yard. It worked out well because he wanted the wood anyway. He diced the trunk into short pieces which I tossed into his yard.

What’s left is what you see in the photo. In the spring, and I’ll dig up the stump and cut out the remainder. And no, I won’t dig it out completely … but just the biggest part, and I’ll bury what remains.

My neighbour is very kind and I’m grateful for his help.

Posted in me | 2 Responses