Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jumping on the Facebook Bandwagon

Yeah, so after being told by a dozen different people that I should really get on facebook, I finally did.

So now I'm faced with the daunting task of finding and contacting friends and relatives, and doing the whole "Will you be my friend?" thing. It feels like grade school again... honestly. Anyway, it's been a decade (wow, it really has been a decade) since I last used ICQ, and I didn't "grow up" using Facebook, or MySpace, or anything like that. So I have to figure out the protocol, the code of conduct, the unwritten rules of this ginormous society on the interweb.

Who do you add as friends? Do you poke them? Do you send a message first? Do you wait for word to get around that you finally joined the 21st century, and have them contact you? Or do you just brazenly ask them to be your friend? How well do you have to know someone? Is it weird to message someone out of the blue after a decade? I found people from elementary and high school, university and college... how far back should I go?

Am I getting too freaked out about this? Should I be more laid back, and just assume everyone wants to get in touch with old acquaintances?

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Discovery: Mark Driscoll & Mars Hill Church

Jared sent me a youtube link to snippets of Mark Driscoll's sermons/rants. I had never heard of the guy, nor Mars Hill Church before, but I was so impressed that I watched every youtube video I could find on the guy.

He seemed to preach Biblically, and with care for his audience. He is charismatic, comedic, and maintains a wonderful connection with his listeners. He is oftentimes offensive, and sometimes crude; oftentimes self-deprecating, and sometimes prideful; but no one can deny that he speaks with genuine concern for the souls of the lost, and the sanctification of the saved.

He preaches on hard topics, and is unapologetic about the Truths of the Bible. He knows Christ is the only way to eternal life, abortion is murder, and that men and women were created equal but have different roles. He preaches in jeans and a t-shirt on a black stage and his points are regularly interrupted with laughter and applause.

So far, the only thing I disagree with him on are some of the worship practices he places in his 'open hand' (non-doctrinal things which are open to change). I believe the songs we sing and the instruments we use *are* outlined in the Bible. However, I would hazard a guess that God is pleased with Mark's work, even if they don't sing the Psalms a cappella, you know? There's just so much substance and meat in the Psalms, I can't imagine worshiping using contemporary praise songs alone... they're just so... repetitive... and the really repeat themselves... a lot. If I'm going to study and memorize songs, I would rather they be God's Words.

Ah well... Nathan seemed to really enjoy the Q&A we watched with Jared, so I'll see if we can watch some of his videos together as a devotional type thingy. It would be really great if we could study God's Word in way that was both edifying and amusing :)

On a side note: I'm really awful at Settlers of Catan... I'm constantly cut off right at the beginning (usually by Nathan). If I believed in luck, I'd think I had a streak of the bad kind, but since I don't, I can only assume that the Lord is trying to teach me something about being a good loser... or something...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Camera Equipment -- lenses

Trying to get a handle on my Camera equipment... mostly beloved borrowed handmedowns from my family -- my Mum's Asahi Pentax camera, and my Aunt's lenses (her Pentax body was stolen years ago).


8103015 Asahi Opt. Co., Japan
SMC Takumar 1:2/55
Aperture: 2-16
Meters: 0.45 - 10+

332858 Fuji Photo Film Co.
EBC Fujinon-SW
Aperture: 3.5 - 16
Meters: 0.4 - 5+

Tosner MC Auto 2x Pentax
Toshiba Photo Prod. Co. Japan

Tamron Auto Zoom
Aperture: 3.8 - 22 EE
Meters: 2 - 20+

Tamron Adaptall 2 to attach Zoom lense to Pentax body


Toshiba 49mm SL-1A
Black's UV 49mm
Black's CU+1 49mm
Black's CU+2 49mm
Black's CU+3 49mm
Kenko Close-Up No. 1 55 mm
Kenko Close-Up No. 2 55 mm
Kenko Close-Up No. 3 55 mm
Soligor 55mm K-2
Vivitar 55mm Polarizing
Vivitar 72mm US-Haze

Shade thingies



Light Meter

Zeiss Ikon
Ikophot T
Made in Germany
(missing top metal plate)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

PC Financial is Hassling Newly Married Women - Part 3

Read Part 1 & Part 2

Richard from PC Financial Customer Care just returned my call, and we had a very pleasant conversation. I would first like to congratulate CIBC (owner of PC Financial) for hiring a Customer Care representative with such an incredibly soothing voice. He really is perfect for the job.

Anyway, the actual conversation...

Richard explained to me that since PC Financial is a "Virtual Bank", they don't actually have "Branches". The men and women who help you set up your account at Loblaws are "Customer Service Representatives" and their little nook is simply a "sales centre". There are apparently some regulations which create a distinction between a "Banker" and a "CSR". CSRs, according to anti-terror and anti-money laundering laws, cannot simply change your account info using just a Marriage Certificate.

He spent some time going over the list of acceptable documents, trying to figure out a workaround for me. The biggest problem was A) Ontario doesn't allow Health cards as ID, and B) Ontario doesn't offer a Provincial Identification Card. All other provinces either allow Health cards as ID or offer a Provincial ID card. This means that in Ontario, you must A) Drive, or B) spend $90+ every 5 years renewing your Passport (a VERY long process with long wait times). Thankfully, there is a new Simplified Passport Renewal for adults with a valid passport, so you no longer have to bring supporting documents. You still have to pay the $90 and bring 2 certified photos... >.< Richard really wanted to help me, and sympathized with the lack of options in Ontario for Photo ID. When his Wife updated her Passport years ago, she was able to add her married name to the back page, without paying for a new Passport. I explained that that was no longer possible After exhausting the options, he offered to credit my account with the $87 I would need to update my passport. He reasoned that I'm young, newly married, and probably applying for a mortgage in the near future, so the bank will likely see a return on that money. It was in the bank's best interest to keep me happy. Although I was grateful for the offer, I asked 'what about the other newly married women?' They're going to have to go through the same hassle. He said that the Customer Care centre deals with complaints on a case-by-case basis, so he couldn't give an answer. The core problem is the fact that the CSRs at PC Financial Kiosks are not legally allowed to accept a Marriage Certificate as proof of name change without supporting ID. 'Now', I reasoned, 'I understand that PC Financial is just owned by CIBC, and we're not able to use their Bankers for banking help (deposits, transfers, etc), but would it not be possible to allow newly married women, such as myself, the ability to go to a CIBC branch, show the Bankers our Marriage Certificate, and have them change the information for PC Financial? I mean, as you just said, we're newly married, probably getting a mortgage soon, do you really want to piss us off?' Although Richard said he could not personally change the policy, he said that he would make that recommendation to the powers that be. He said things move very slowly, so don't expect an immediate response, but he did agree to follow up with me. He scheduled himself to call me on June 2nd. I asked Richard if I was the only woman he'd spoken to about this problem, and he said no, it's a very common complaint. At this point I brought up my secondary problem with PC Financial -- the fact that they have to mail off the originals to their central office. Richard immediately corrected me -- that is not company policy. Photocopies of your Marriage Certificate, and 2 supporting IDs are mailed off NOT the originals. He was astounded that someone would give me that information, especially with identity theft being such a large problem. He said as soon as he got off the phone with me, he'd be calling the manager of the Kiosk I had gone to, and correcting their information.

That was a rather large relief -- I'll have to edit my previous posts to make sure people don't get the wrong information....

All in all, I was satisfied with how Richard handled my concern, and pray he'll be able to convince his superiors to allow Name Changes at CIBC branches, or find some other convenient way of allowing women to update their name without requiring an updated Photo ID (particularly in Ontario).

PC Financial is Hassling Newly Married Women - Part 2

Read Part 1 first

Richard from PC Financial's Customer Care called this morning while I was out. I am currently waiting for him to return my call...

After speaking with FCAC, and learning that their requirements only apply to opening a bank account, not changing an existing account, I'm considering alternative possibilities...

My biggest problem with PC Financial requiring an updated photo ID is that it will cost me ~$100 to update my Passport (which is valid for 5 more years), or write my G1 again (yeah, I never did my G2 test, and my G1 has since expired... the bus is my friend). I am not eligible for any other type of Photo ID. Once again, I feel the need to express my annoyance that Ontario does not have a Provincial Identification Card for those who do not drive. I'm also not a fan of mailing off said ID to some office in the middle of whoknowswhere. [Update: PC Financial's Customer Care Representative, Richard, corrected me -- that is not company policy. Photocopies of your Marriage Certificate, and 2 supporting IDs are mailed off NOT the originals.]

PC Financial needs to change their policy.

For those women who are in the same boat as I am, there seems to be only one solution. Lodge a formal complaint to their Customer Care section, and then cancel your account. Maybe PC Financial will get the hit if droves of newly married women take away their money.

The other option (after lodging a formal complaint, of course), is to create a new account. Since, by law, you are not required to show photo ID to open an account, you can use updated ID which is free and easy to change.

SIN Card -- requires your marriage certificate and your birth certificate (both original). If you apply in person at your local Canada Service Centre, you will receive your new card in the mail 5-10 business days later.

Credit Card -- requires a faxed copy of your marriage certificate and a letter outlining your desire to change your name. It could take up to 6 weeks for your request to be processed and a new card mailed to you, so if your want your PC Financial Banking information updated as soon as possible, I would recommend opening a bank account with no monthly charges, such as Laurentian, which you could then use as identification for your application to PC Financial.

Bank Card -- requires your marriage certificate, and 2 pieces of ID from this list, such as your SIN card and a bank/debit card or birth certificate.

So if if my conversation with Richard this afternoon doesn't go well, I'll have to head over to the Service Canada Centre at Lincoln Heights Galleria down the street, and then bus over to 1021 Cyrville Road to open a bank account with Laurentian. From there, I can use my new SIN card (in 5-10 business days) combined with my Laurentian bank account (opened in my Married name) to open a new PC Financial bank account.

This seems like a rather long work-around for something that is so incredibly easy to do at ANY OTHER BANK.

Continued: PC Financial is Hassling Newly Married Women Part 3

Monday, January 07, 2008

Changing my Maiden Name and PC Financial Bank

Three and a half years ago, I was supposed to change my Maiden name to my Married name. I was psyched to do this -- all part of the ritual of marriage, right? I got all the information I needed in order to do so -- which documents I would need for each service. I hit a small snafu, however, in that I was under the impression that the Ontario Government would mail me a copy of my Marriage Certificate. After about 6 months of waiting, I sort of forgot about it until I discovered I had to renew my passport for our trip to Guatemala, and I figured I might as well change my surname as well.

I checked online, and sure enough, I had to pay $15 to get my Marriage Certificate mailed to me (4-6 weeks). Unfortunately, it arrived a few days after I spent $90 renewing my passport (in my Maiden name, due to lack of supporting evidence). We don't have time before our trip to chance trying to get it re-renewed in my Married name, so it'll have to wait.

Anyway, now that I finally have the Marriage Certificate, I can update allt he rest of my cards. The following isn't a complete list of acceptable ID, it's simply the ID I'm choosing to use...

Marriage Certificate
Birth Certificate
School Transcript
Credit Card

Driver's Licence:
Marriage Certificate
OHIP card

Marriage Certificate
Birth Certificate
OHIP card
2 pictures

Credit Card:
Marriage Certificate (copy)
Letter explaining that you would like your name changed

Marriage Certificate
Birth Certificate
SIN card

Now, I would like to point out some similarities between all these Cards... they all require your Marriage Certificate and valid government issued identification. Yeah, I know -- obvious. Apparently, every government agency and financial institution believes that if you have valid identification with your maiden name and it matches the name on the Marriage Certificate you've provided, you are indeed a) who you say you are, and b) married. That is, of course unless you're my bank...

President's Choice Financial, requires a Marriage Certificate as well as 2 pieces of identification (at least one government issued photo ID) with the updated name, which they then mail off to some office in the middle of whoknowswhere... [Update: PC Financial's Customer Care Representative, Richard, corrected me -- that is not company policy. Photocopies of your Marriage Certificate, and 2 supporting IDs are mailed off NOT the originals.]

Why do they require your ID to be updated? Isn't the bank questioning the validity of a legal document (Marriage Certificate) by demanding supporting documentation? If a Marriage Certificate and ID with my Maiden is good enough for ALL other banks, AND government agencies, shouldn't it be good enough for PC Financial?

This concern is not isolated to me alone. When I told the the Customer Service Representative at my local PC Financial branch that I wanted to update my name, he asked if this was my "first or second visit?" Apparently, most women arrive at the branch with their Maiden ID and their Marriage Certificate, believing it to be enough, and are turned away. The agent sympathized with me, expressing annoyance with the situation himself, saying "I feel sorry for you guys..."

Let me point out that Ontario does NOT have a Provincial Identification Card. It took me an hour on Google and various government websites before I discovered that tidbit of information. Also, if you're over 35, LCBO won't issue you an Age of Majority card... not that the bank would take that anyway...

To confirm other institution's policies regarding this, I personally contacted ATB Financial, Bank of Montreal, CIBC, Citizens Bank of Canada, HSBC Bank Canada, ING Direct, Laurentian Bank of Canada, National Bank of Canada, RBC Financial Group, Scotiabank, and TD Canada Trust, as well as Passport Canada, OHIP, Ministry of Transportation, and the Social Insurance Registration Office. Although I had to speak with a Supervisor at CIBC to clarify their policy, every bank I called stated the only document required to update a last name was a Marriage Certificate. They all said that identification could be in a woman's maiden name as long as she had a Marriage Certificate. The ONLY mention of using updated ID was if you did not have your Marriage Certificate. The assumption is that the person who updated your ID must've seen a valid Marriage Certificate...

PC Financial's call-centre had a 25 minute wait, so I decided to contact their parent company to see what was up with their policy. Thankfully, CIBC's call-centre's wait was only a few minutes. When I asked what their policy was, the CIBC CSR read from her "Agent Support Tools" a passage on required ID for name change. It stated something to the effect of 'you need a marriage certificate and 2 supporting pieces of ID such as blah blah". She was under the impression that the supporting ID needed to be updated to your married name. I wanted clarification so I asked to speak with her Supervisor. After going over the company's policies, he agreed that the "supporting documents" could be in a woman's Maiden name, as long as she had a valid Marriage Certificate. I asked Supervisor Shaun (Shawn? Sean?) to put forward a motion or memo or something to his superiors indicating the need for CSRs to be better educated on company policy.

Thinking that the daughter company would have the same policies as the parent, I confidently called up PC Financial (the wait was down to 4 minutes) and spoke with a CSR. Reading from her manual, she stated that in order to change my name I would require a "Marriage Certificate, and 2 pieces of ID supporting name change -- standard ID in the new name." That last little bit left no room for clarification -- they did in fact require updated ID in addition to a Marriage Certificate.

Her Supervisor explained that their small branches "are not trained to determine the validity of a Marriage Certificate", and only one office handles legal name changes. Apparently, their "Risk and Legal" department determined that extra step was necessary. Frankly, this is an unnecessary and cumbersome failsafe and should be removed in order to facilitate the smooth transition of a woman into married life.

For a bank which advertises their "ultimate convenience, 24/7", they are making it extremely difficult for women to assume their Husband's last name. This is especially troubling since no other bank, nor government agency, requires more than a Marriage Certificate as proof of a surname change!

I asked how I could contact their Risk and Legal department, and was curtly told that "they do not deal with the public". So I politely asked "Ok, how would my lawyer get in touch with your Risk and Legal department?" At this point he quickly asked if I would like to "escalate" my complaint to the Customer Care department, which would contact me in a few days. I gladly agreed -- this guy was just towing the company line, after all.

Speaking of lawyers, according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, which acts as a watchdog over Canadian banks (among other things), there is a rather broad list of identification which can be used to open a bank account. Banks cannot ask for further identification unless they reasonably suspect that the ID provided is fraudulent.

Choice #1 – Show two pieces of I.D. from this box:
• Canadian driver’s license
• Current Canadian passport
• Canadian birth certificate
• Social Insurance Number (SIN) card
• Old Age Security card
• Certificate of Indian Status
• provincial health insurance card (this cannot be used in Ontario, PEI or Manitoba)
• Certificate of Canadian Citizenship or Certification of Naturalization
• Permanent Resident card or a Citizenship and Immigration Canada form IMM 1000 or IMM 1442

Choice #2 – Show one piece of I.D. from Box A and one piece of I.D. from this box:
• employee I.D. card
• debit card or bank card with your name and signature on it
• Canadian credit card with your name and signature on it
• current foreign passport

Choice #3 – Show one piece of I.D. from Box A and have someone the bank knows confirm that you are who you say you are.

As long as you have your Birth Certificate or SIN card, and a bank or credit card with your signature, you do not even have to show photo ID -- I found that particularly interesting. According to the FCAC, however, once you HAVE a bank account, these rules no longer apply -- the bank can request photo ID in order to make changes to your account (such as updating your name).

Therefore, according to these regulations, I should be able to apply for a bank account with my Birth Certificate (which obviously has my Maiden name, since I am assuming my Husband's name, rather than legally changing it), and my SIN card, or a credit card which have been updated -- which name would they put the account under? Would they require further identification?

Just to reinforce the ludicrousness of PC Financial requiring updated ID as well as your Marriage Certificate, here's my call list and responses from all the major banks I could contact:

ATB Financial ( 1-800-332-8383
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

Bank of Montreal ( 1-800-225-5266
marriage certificate
ID doesn't have to be updated to married name

CIBC ( 1-800-465-2422
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name
Spoke with supervisor Shaun/Shawn/Sean, 9:40 EST Jan 07 to confirm this policy

Citizens Bank of Canada ( 1-888-708-7800
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

HSBC Bank Canada ( 1-888-310-4722
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

ING Direct ( 1-800-464-3473
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

Laurentian Bank of Canada ( 1-877-522-3863
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

National Bank of Canada ( 1-888-483-5628
marriage certificate
ID does not have to be updated to married name

President’s Choice Financial ( 1-888-723-8881
Supporting document, including marriage certificate, and 2 pieces of ID supporting name change -- standard ID in the new name

RBC Financial Group ( 1-800-769-2511
marriage certificate
ID doesn't have to be updated to married name

Scotiabank ( 1-800-472-6842
marriage certificate
ID doesn't have to be updated to married name

TD Canada Trust ( 1-866-222-3456
marriage certificate
ID doesn't have to be updated to married name

Continued: PC Financial is Hassling Newly Married Women Part 2 & Part 3

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Butter Chicken #1

My first attempt at Homemade Butter Chicken. I tried following Vijar Bhaardwaj's Makhani Chicken recipe on, but I had to make a couple substitutions. Overall, it was good but I wouldn't call it "Butter Chicken". It was more like... curried chicken. Perhaps less tomato, and use cream like the recipe calls for (I substituted coconut milk).

Update: Nathan really liked this! Justin said it wasn't "Butter chicken" but it was definitely a "Chicken Curry". I was just happy it was edible and tasted remotely Indian-esque. It was even better the next day -- I dipped wholewheat bread in the leftover sauce -- didn't taste tomatoey (like it did when it was cooking), and had a pleasant kick to it (made my nose run, but didn't require gulping down ice-water).

1 3/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 cup yogurt (natural, no sugar added)
2 tablespoons garlic paste
1/2 tablespoon garam masala
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons ginger paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 chopped red chile peppers (about 1 T)
1 can tomato paste (5.5 oz, 100% pure, no salt added)
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cup water
3 tablespoon honey
1 can premium coconut milk (398 mL)

To Marinate: Place chicken in a nonporous glass dish or bowl with lemon juice, 1 tablespoon chili powder and salt. Toss to coat; cover dish and refrigerate to marinate for 1 hour.

Drain yogurt in a cloth for 15 to 20 minutes. Place in a medium bowl; mix in salt, garlic paste, garam masala, butter, chili powder, ginger paste, lemon juice and oil. Pour yogurt mixture over chicken, replace cover and refrigerate to marinate for another 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Place chicken on skewers. Place skewers in a 9x13 inch baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until almost cooked through. Can also bake without the skewers. Set aside remaining marinade for the sauce.

To Make Sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garam masala. When masala begins to crackle, mix in ginger paste, chopped garlic and chile peppers. Saute until tender, then stir in tomato paste, chili powder, salt, garam masala and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring in honey.

Place chicken and remaining marinade in sauce mixture. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Stir in coconut milk.

Garam Masala Recipe

In order to make the perfect amount of Garam Masala for the first Butter Chicken recipe, use an 1/8 teaspoon (wiped with a paper towel in between each spice).

Cardamom - 6 parts
Cinnamon - 4 parts
Cloves - 2 parts
Coriander - 6 parts
Cumin - 6 parts
Nutmeg - 2 parts
Pepper (Black) - 6 parts
Saffron - 1 part <-- yes, real saffron threads finely ground.

For best results, you're supposed to have all whole spices, roast them briefly, grind them, then use them immediately. I only had whole cardamom, peppercorns, nutmeg and saffron, so I didn't bother roasting them. Also, the first time I made this, I had a couple unlabeled spices and ended up using turmeric instead of cumin and extra cardamom (I think) instead of coriander. It all tasted Indian-esque to me, so I didn't worry too much. Bay leaves and ginger are also popular additions. Keep in mind that there is no "true" Garam Masala recipe -- you combine the spices your Mum taught you to...