Eric Back on March 1st, 2013

Yes! The Days Are Getting Longer.

A couple of weeks ago it turned out that staff were over-booked at the hospital. No one was keen on taking the day off so I volunteered. On my way back to my car I snapped this gorgeous sunrise over downtown Edmonton. It was about 7:20 am – the days are getting longer.

My mother used to point out to me the summer and winter solstices each year and I can see how those annual markers would mean so much to northern dwellers. The incremental changes in daylight hours were notable growing up in the lower mainland of BC, but hardly noteworthy while living in Arizona. Here in Edmonton, Alberta the change in daylight hours is dramatic and I can only imagine how much more so in Kronoby, Finland where my parents grew up. I do remember spending one summer there where at the end of June it seemed that the sun never set.

”The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.”
Ecclesiastes 1:3

Eric Back on June 8th, 2012

Sometimes the money isn’t worth the aggravation but as a matter of principle I’ll be sending a complaint to T-Mobile’s Albuquerque office.

When I initiated a two year contract in October of 2010 I said that my only concern with a new contract was that we might be moving to Canada before the contract ended. I asked ”what would happen then?” I was told that in the event we moved before contract end they’d waive the cancellation fees on our five line family plan as they offered no similar service in Canada.  In May of this year when I called to request cancellation of our family plan because we were moving back to Canada I was told that there would be a $500 cancellation fee.

Despite appealing up the chain of leadership several levels I was consistently told the same thing, ”I’m sorry, there’s nothing any of us can do. Our policy has changed.”

Today I found out that T-Mobile’s grasping hands are after not only those hefty cancellation fees

T-Mobile Customer Dis Service

, but even the chump change, so to speak. On May 31st, the day that my T-Mobile family plan terminated, I paid for 1 month of ”pay as you go” service and opted to have my old phone number ported over. Later that day I paid a $10 fee to be able to make calls to Canada as I was in the process of interviewing for jobs. The next day when the old number was ported over to my ”pay as you go” plan, the $10 fee for International service was missing.

I confidently went back to the store where the worker said, ”Oh yeah I remember you and I remember adding that to your plan.” He then said ”but you’ll have to call customer service yourself.” I asked if he’d be willing to do it. He appeared ill at ease and avoided eye contact, ”it’s the same thing whether it’s you or I; you’ll have to do it.”

Today I called T-Mobile Customer Dis-Service and was transferred to a non-native English speaker who insisted that there was no $10 international calling fee on my account. I told him that actually that was the problem, there’s no  international fee even though I paid it. Despite my insistence that T-Mobile had lost my payment which was backed up by a corresponding debit to my checking account, he insisted that if the money had been paid, it would show up on his screen as a transaction.

On the brighter side, I am moving back to Canada, I still love the USA and will return for visits, but when I do I will never use T-Mobile. I am $510 poorer because of their failure to honor promises made and to properly account for customer transactions. To those who are looking for a new cell phone service: avoid this one as you would a rabid pit-bull.

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Eric Back on March 31st, 2012

Having received an email from my son notifying me of the Windows Phone Challenge at Microsoft stores, I drove the 13 miles to Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall where I often go with my daughter, a high school senior, for a burger at 5 Guys.

At the Microsoft Store I told one of the Microsoft shop assistants that I wanted to try the Windows Phone Challenge and I was directed to a short line. There were only two people in front of me.

When my turn came I was asked what phone I had (it had to bear some semblance to a smart phone), and  I said ”a Sony Ericsson.”

My challenger, an attractive, young, blonde woman, leveled her gaze at me and said, ”Okay, what you’ll have to do is find the weather for two cities starting from a locked phone.”

I locked my phone knowing that all I really wanted was an upgrade to my circa 2005 smartphone.

When she said ”go,” I fiddled with the two buttons that would unlock the phone and while I was still fumbling I heard her shout ”got it.”

I was truly smoked. She showed me the features of the Windows phone, and they were impressive. I was ready to move on but she continued to explain the Windows Phone features for another couple of minutes and then had me pose for a photo with an ”I got smoked by a Windows Phone,  photo.  She then said I could take my pick of five phones if I wished and trade in my old one for a free upgrade.

So, for 5 minutes of effort I received a free upgrade from a 7 year old phone to an HTC Titan that boasted 16 gb of memory, an 8 gb camera, a 1.3 gb front camera, and a 4.7 inch screen.  Not bad for a short stand in line.  I will have to unlock it though.

The windows challenge continues at a Microsoft store near you until April 5th.

Eric Back on November 26th, 2010
American thanksgiving is a huge event, and runs together, paradoxically, into black Friday. The traditions of the gathering of family, the shared meal, and the religious overtones, mix and mingle with the parade, non-stop football, scrutiny of print and online ads for high-demand, limited quantity, loss-leaders, and airport X-rays (maybe the x-rays would become more accepted if people could take copies of dental films with them after passing through the scanner–everyone likes to save money!).

As Canadian Americans, US thanksgiving has become a meaningful day for us, different than the Canadian version, but a meaningful addition to the annual calendar. This year we had two thanksgivings. I really enjoyed the laid-back Canadian version we had in Edmonton with my wife’s parents. The additional American elements are present in the Canadian version of the holiday, they’re just more subtle.

Eric Back on August 20th, 2010

As a new voter I’m challenged to make sense of the American system and to effectively evaluate my choices of ”Democrat,” ”Republican,” ”Libertarian,” ”Green,” and ”Independent.”

I’m wary of the Democratic Party for it’s characterization as the ”Tax and Spend” party. I’m especially wary of the Republicans because of the sad legacy of Reagenomics and the fallout of their platform plank of de-regulation. Sadly, tax cutting and de-regulation are still at the top of the Arizona Republican platform.

Much of the Libertarian approach makes sense yet strikes me as unrealistic and impractical. In a sense, Libertarians, Greens, and Independents may amount to little more than ”ticket splitting.” Studies of Independents have variously characterized them as either a party realignment in process or as a values and beliefs voting block who are strongly anchored on one issue and who choose candidates according to that issue.

My preliminary considerations clearly suggest that I am most strongly aligned with Democratic policies at this point. The current economic detritus brings the imperative of appropriate financial regulation to the political forefront. It is also clear that budgets cannot be balanced by forever rolling back taxes. Nobody likes taxes but current levels of services cannot be funded without anteing up increased rates of contributions to the public purse at all levels of individual and corporate income.

Eric Back on August 3rd, 2010

Jag kom hem från Salmon Arm, British Columbia på Mondag efter vistas med min brör och svägerska för en vecka. Det flyg var bra utan förseningar eller turbulens.

Jag hade mycka roligt med min släkt. Tony tillagade en stor mängd rökt lax en kväll och Jenny förberett en fantastisk potatissallad. Båda var de bästa jag någonsin har haft. Vi gick till en driving range, till en powow, till Revelstoke, och vi gjorde mycket shopping. Vi också spenderade tid i samhället på lokala butiker, på torget, och på restauranger. Mer än så dock, vi pratade, ibland fram till två på morgonen. Jag haft inte sett min brör för tio år även om vi naturligtvis har talat i telefon. Jag haft inte sett min kusin Greta för fyrtio år ock jag haft aldrig träffade sin make Gustav eller hennes son Tony. Det fanns mycket att ta igen.

Det var mycket trevligt att se min brorson och brorsdotter igen. De haft blir härliga ungdomar.

Jag ser fram emot att se dem alla snart igen…

Tony, Jenny, Greta, Gustav, från Finland.

Perry och Kathy.

Min brörsdotter Katrina med sin pojkvän Ryan.

Ryan, min brörson med Kathy, min svägerska och Katrina, min brörsdotter.

Eric Back on June 4th, 2010

From the Oath Ceremony in Phoenix

I first applied for permanent residency in 2003 through my employer and became a permanent resident in 2005 along with my immediate family members.  In January I applied for citizenship and today I was sworn in with 98 others from around the world at an oath ceremony in Phoenix.  It was a moving ceremony in many respects with elements of solemnity, exhortation, and celebration.  Several new Americans spoke including an Iraqi Priest who expressed thanks for religious freedom, a Mexican woman who found speaking at all a challenge because of her strong emotions relating to her joy at being granted US citizenship, and a Romanian woman who expressed profound gratitude in simple words and strong emotions.  As for me, I’m very glad to have been granted full rights of participation in American society and I look forward to making a positive contribution in whatever way or ways that I am able.

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Eric Back on June 2nd, 2010

My family moved to the Phoenix, Arizona area in July of 1997.  Since then we have become permanent residents with the help of Banner Health, my employer since 2000.  My eldest son, and my wife recently became US citizens and this Friday, June 4th I’ll be appearing at the Phoenix USCIS center for my oath ceremony.

So why did I decide to apply for US citizenship?  I think the decisive factor for me was the fact that having been raised in the USA, most, if not all of children will be making their permanent homes here.  Should I one day return to live in Canada, I’d like to know that I could come back to the USA and both work and live here for as long as I wished.

Eric Back on July 21st, 2009

I came across this story via ”Finland Live.” This new trail winds for 35 km through the boreal forests of northern Finland and Norway.  A complete description of this trail and others can be found in English at ”Outdoors.fi”  www.luontoon.fi/news.asp?Section=5715&Item=17766  One fascinating aspect of hiking in Finland is ”everyman’s right,” which allows passage through all property and forests providing that one avoids the immediate property surrounding a private residence.

Pillola Trail

”The Piilola Trail, which connects the Vätsäri Wilderness Area in Finland and the Øvre Pasvik National Park in Norway, was inaugurated on 16 June 2009 at its northern starting point of Sortbrysttjern in Norway. An opening hike began at the same time, ending on 18 June at the end of Kessintie Road and the village of Nellim, where the closing ceremony of the hike was held. Some two dozen hiking and nature lovers from Norway and Finland took part in the opening hike. The Piilola Trail is the result of cooperation between the parties to the Pasvik-Inari Trilateral Park: Finland, Norway and Russia.”

Pillola Trail 2

Eric Back on July 11th, 2009

Here is a piece by Finnish Poet Risto Rasa

For more of his work visit his Finnish Poets page

You may also find contemporary Finnish poetry with translations into multiple languages at Electric Verses

Koira tulee illalla
kotiin.
Kun se kiertyy paikalleen
ja nukahtaa,
alkaa sen sydänlämpö levitä
huoneisiin

- Risto Rasa -

In the evening, the dog comes
Home.
When he curls up in his spot
And falls asleep,
His heart’s-warmth starts spreading
Into the rooms.

- Risto Rasa -

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