Thursday, March 29, 2007

Also, here's a new photo of my daughter enjoying a couple of her first birthday presents.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Mac loves the baby grand piano John and Jenny bought her, but that Elmo chair appears about to swallow her.

Here's a fun little quiz (courtesy of Ordinary Girl) which proves I can handle most questions grammatical, but I still need my dictionary on my desk:

Your English Skills:

Punctuation: 100%
Grammar: 80%
Vocabulary: 80%
Spelling: 60%

It didn't give me my results, but a couple of the word definitions are iffy, especially if it counted me wrong on "ponderous."

How will you do?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I enjoy the occasional round of golf, which is to say I get my money's worth by running up a combination of 110-120 swings, chips, putts, hand wedges and furtive kicks.

So I'm delighted by the positively balmy weather we've recently experienced. It means soon I'll be out on the course, cursing and making excuses while wondering which hole hides the next snack shack. It also got me thinking about my current equipment, traded for at a local pawn shop and certainly adequate for my low-level skills. Still, it's the duffer who thinks that new $400 driver will turn him from Al Czervik to Jesper Parnevik.

I hit a few of the web sites looking for the newest gadget, but my favourite was revealed on me in a link dump on SportsFilter, and you have to see it to believe it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the amazing Golf Ball Launcher!

I'm not sure what's funnier about this -- the idea that these guys are seriously marketing this as an alternative to carrying around a bag of clubs, or the fact they couldn't have picked a bigger redneck for the guy in the first picture. Nothing says golf more than jeans and tennis shoes.

There are some neat features to this gizmo. You can adjust the power to fire a ball from 25 to 300 yards, so it's good anywhere on the course (well, maybe not in the clubhouse, although I bet you'd get the bartender's attention pretty quickly). The inventors also make sure you know it can be fired right from the cart, which takes all the pesky standing up and sitting down out of your round.

Still, if these are made legal, someone in Georgia is going to shoot his buddy for sneezing during his aim. For that reason, I can't recommend the Golf Ball Launcher -- or the haircut that guy in the picture has.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Addendum: I spoke with a couple of tellers this morning who thought my idea was a good one. However, they said those people coming in and having them pay bills are not the most annoying customers.

No, they voted for patrons who come into the bank to get $20 in cash when there are four ATMs outside. I don't think there's much yuo can do about those folks, except maybe just punch them out.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I have a great way to make banking in Canada more efficient and fair -- make it work exactly like Fido's new cellular phone billing.

You may have seen the new Fido ad, where a man and his frighteningly similar dog make a three-second phone call. It's apparently to order a mob hit, but that's beside the point, which is that Vito only got billed for the time he was on the phone.

I'd like to see this system applied to in-branch banking. I happen to be a former resident of the United States, where a bank transaction involving a deposit generally goes like this:

"Hi, I'd like to deposit this cash and a check."
"Great! Here's your receipt. Bye!"

Conversely, a bank transaction involving a withdrawal sounds like this:

"Hi, I'd like to withdraw $500 cash from my checking account."
(Teller reaches into conveniently placed drawer)
"Here you are! Is there anything else today?
"Can I have a sucker?"
"Sure! Have a great day!"

Nice and easy, right? Unfortunately, Canadian banking doesn't work in the same way. My deposits go very smoothly, and the withdrawals a bit longer, as the teller has to go back to the big boss and ask her for my money. Not that big a deal.

The problem comes when Johnny Luddite comes in with his four credit card bills, his car payment, truck payment, house payment, hottub payment, boat payment, Hydro bill, gas card bill and several other rumpled pieces of paper. Johnny lays this on the counter in front of the teller and says, "I'd like to take care of these."

As an American, when I first witnessed this, I expected gales of laughter from the teller, followed by pointing and sniggering from the other bank patrons. I mean, c'mon -- who doesn't pay their bills through the mail by a cheque, over the phone or in person at the utility office.

Canadians, that's who.

The teller calmly gathered the heap of financials and in 10 short minutes was able to put Johnny's financial house back in order. This is quite the feat the first time or two you see it, I must admit.

However, the 50th or 60th time someone dumps a laundry bag full of bills on the counter when you need to get on your way, it can be irritating. Therefore, I propose this new two-pronged system in an effort to speed up bank lines, make tellers lives easier and, more importantly, lower my ridiculously high banking costs.

First -- employ the Fido method. Each patron should be charged for the amount of the teller's time taken up. In my case, the average transaction takes less than a minute -- I never ask for a receipt (it's available online) and I count my money before I hand it over.

I think $.25 a minute is a reasonable charge. That works out to $15 per hour, assuming the teller doesn't dawdle much between customers, and it also means anyone coming into the bank with their entire fiscal history expecting the teller to handle it is going to bear the burden of taking up more time than I do.

Second -- a fee for paying bills. If the bank is willing to take care of this for patrons, then patrons should be willing to give a little something back. Perhaps $.50 per bill paid? I'm guessing there would be a sudden stampede of people asking about paying by phone or signing up for online banking.

This could also be a boon for the bank managers, as the system could provide them with an extra tool for tracking teller performance. Of course, all I really care about is getting in and out of the bank a little more quickly and perhaps with a little more dough still in my pocket.

So let me know what you think, TD Canada Trust, BMO and Scotia. Oh, and if you decide to employ this -- I'd expect more than a sucker.