That Costly Trip To Costco

For some reason, this is a hard post for me to write…but here goes.

Last July, a story broke about a woman’s car slamming into a London Costco, killing a 6-year-old girl and her newborn sister, and injuring their mother and other sister. Charges were laid against Ruth Berger, the driver of the car, and Back in June, she was convicted of dangerous driving. She says her shoe got stuck under the brake.

When this happened, it felt like everyone was vilifying this poor woman, wanting her to pay dearly. I understand people were deeply affected by the tragedy of losing 2 children, one whose life hadn’t even began. But I wasn’t ready to pick up my own pitchfork, and here’s why. My own family could have been living Ruth Berger’s horror.

Many years ago, I wrote about a car accident that happened many years before that. Ug. Seeing my writing from back then makes me want to be sucked into an embarrassment vortex. But stupid wording aside, the accident did happen like that. It sounds like something straight out of a Steven King movie, but that description is the way it happened. Not only that, but when the mechanics tried to have a look at it and fired it up, it also went nuts. They wrote it off, putting it down to “pedal error”, but if that was supposed to translate to my dad making a pedal error, they were completely incorrect.

I have thought a lot about that night. I went with my date at the time to a movie. It was a stupid movie, but everybody wanted to go see it, from seniors to kids. I think it was called “Jack”. It was that Robin Williams movie where the kid is growing up too fast, and looks like a man, but he’s actually a little boy.

Anyway, my point is the theatre was packed. At the end of it, we headed out of the theatre to meet my parents. For some reason, my date said “Let’s try and be first.” So, we raced out of the theatre. He got his wish, we were first. We got to my parents’ waiting van. We got in, I was starting to buckle up, mom had turned around and said, “How was the movie?” As she said those words, my dad started the car…and that’s when everything went mad. The car revved, went straight into reverse, I lost grip on my seat belt and hit the floor. My memories are probably blurred by 19 years of distance, but I remember talk of our car hitting a post, knocking it down or bending it, doing something to its concrete base, then slowing down, and then speeding up and heading for the TV station. I think we smashed some glass on the window of a car parts store. Then, without any human intervention, the car came to a stop. This all happened in a few seconds. My mom thinks that if the car hadn’t stopped on its own, and had kept speeding up, by the time we made contact with the TV station…it would not have ended well for us.

From my point of view, this was what it was like. The car revved, stones flew and were hitting the side of the van, I hit the floor, mom was screaming “stop it, stop it, get it stopped get it stopped.” There was some smashing of glass, I was still trying to figure out how I had ended up on the floor, and wondering what kind of loose objects could hit me…and it was all over, and dad said something like “the transmission…just…locked!” My date said that while we were on the floor, he looked up and saw nothing but flying numbers on the dashboard.

A crowd had started to gather around our van, and my dad, despite being full of apprehension, looked under the car to see if we had run over anyone, considering how many small children had been in the theatre. Miraculously, because my date had wanted to leave the theatre first, no one was hurt. But if we had exited in the middle of the crowd, who knows who may have been injured or killed.

My high school English teacher, a kind of high-strung guy, came over to the van, and when he saw my dad was the driver, he was in shock. I think his words were “I thought the driver was a maniac teenager who had had a breakup with his girlfriend and wanted to smash everything. When I saw it was you…I…I didn’t know what was going on.”

We didn’t know either. Dad had pressed on the brake, tried to put it into park, tried to turn the key off and pull the key out and the car kept going. This is why I get so upset when people would ask Berger why she didn’t steer away from the Costco. I don’t think the person asking that question has ever been in an out of control car. You only have so many limbs, you only have so many seconds, you only have so many things to try. Was he expecting her to be some kind of stunt-driver?

She says her shoe got stuck. Maybe it did…or maybe, in an attempt to find a logical end to something that feels so random and devoid of reason, police and others convinced her that’s what happened. I’m not saying they did it maliciously. She was an older driver, and sometimes seniors have been known to have gas-brake accidents. So maybe they thought this was the case, and convinced her that’s what happened.

The final report on our car was “pedal error” even though, from what I remember of stories, it started accelerating while sitting on the mechanic’s hoist with no one pushing any pedals. They checked the car for those floor mats that used to get stuck under pedals and they weren’t there. But still, somehow, it was pedal error. Now, imagine if we had hit a child. Imagine the kind of pressure my dad would have been placed under. Could they have convinced him that it was something he did that caused this tragedy? After all, the investigation ruled it pedal error. Dad is a logical guy, and even though it would have filled him with guilt, it would have felt like the more realistic scenario than a car going loopy and developing a mind of its own. My dad would live with the feeling that he had done this, and may have had convictions, even though we all know he didn’t. He probably would have started off saying that he didn’t do it, but give it enough time and enough so-called evidence, and would he have wavered? Would he have thought that maybe it all happened so fast and he slipped? Haven’t you ever had a memory kind of change over time as you hear more and more things? This is a thing.

I can’t imagine how the small town would have reacted, based on how everyone reacted to this one. Where I grew up, everybody knew everybody. The lost life or lives would have been those of our neighbours. Would we have had to have the case moved somewhere far away where impartiality was possible?

I hear that voice in my head saying “This is all woulda coulda shouldas. You didn’t hit anybody, Berger did. You don’t know what made the car go nuts, she says it’s a shoe. Why compare the two?” But I feel like the only thing that kept us from potentially having to deal with this was my date whispering “Let’s try and get out of here first!” That’s all. Maybe my dad being not as old was also helpful. But one change in circumstances, and this could have been us.

I especially think of my dad when I hear Berger say she hasn’t been able to drive since. My dad said that for months after, he had to take 3 deep breaths before turning the key in any vehicle.

Perhaps I’m giving this way too much thought, and it is as simple as everybody thinks, but I just can’t simplify it like that. I feel terrible for the family that lost two children and had other family members who had to suffer through recovery, but I also can’t bring myself to condemn Berger. There is so much that none of us know, even after the investigation. I’m glad that the family can forgive Berger, and I hope that we don’t find out down the road way too late that this whole thing was caused by a computer issue, and not a stuck shoe. But most of all, I hope everyone can heal.

Robobraille: OCR In A Pinch

I don’t know why I’ve never written about this service, but better late than never.

More often than I’d like, I get a document that’s either unreadable because it’s a scanned image, semi-readable or readable if you have a million years and infinite patience. Usually, if I can put it through OCR, it can fix things up ok…but sometimes I don’t have access to OCR and still need the document. What to do then?

Well, thankfully there’s something out there called RoboBraille. Basically, you give it a document, tell it which format you would like, tell it where you want it sent, wait a couple minutes, and hey! A document!

What impressed me most about this is if it can, it will preserve the formatting of the original document. I don’t know how it does this in the case of some documents that seem to have been made out of partial images, but it does, in fact it did it yesterday. I had an invoice from Flight Centre that was an untagged PDF, that said something to the effect of graphic page 1
graphic page 2
graphic page 3
graphic page 4
etc. followed by some partial sentences that I couldn’t make sense of. But what I got back was a word document with beautifully formatted tables, and seemed perfectly complete…and I got it far quicker than I’d get it if a human was manually repairing it. I was impressed.

I know it hasn’t been perfect. I’ve sent grocery flyers and restaurant menus to it, and gotten back some incomprehensible gobbledygook, but at least it’s something else we can try.

Of course, you’re sending a document over the internet, so if you’re worried about prying eyes, keep that in mind.

But I definitely thought it was good to know about.

Creamy Chocolate Kill?

I figure I’ll write about Timmy’s since it’s Canada Day. It seems appropriate.

A little while ago, Tim Horton’s came out with…something…called the Creamy Chocolate Chill. Wow, something is wrong with me…I’m blogging about some random food product. But there are two reasons I want to, so bear with me.

When I first heard about it, I didn’t even know what it was. Was it some kind of cake? Maybe it was a frozen treat? All the commercials would say was stuff like “It’s rich, it’s chocolatey! It’s a Creamy Chocolate Chill.” Someone would be sitting there going “mmmm mmmmm mmmm!” but that was about it. If you couldn’t see it, you had no idea what it was.

I went to the Timmy’s website, and I was able to figure out that it was a drink because it was under the drinks section, but this was all they wrote about it.

A delicious combination of real cream and layers of chocolaty goodness. It’s the perfect summer treat that takes chocolaty to the next level.

I still wasn’t quite sure what this was all about, so I decided to get one, and I got one for Steve too. I had a pretty goofy conversation with the Tim’s lady. It consisted of me saying “I have a question about your Creamy Chocolate Chill. …What is it?” So am I slow? Did anyone else wonder what the heck this was who couldn’t see the picture to get the big hint?

But maybe it was all a trick to get us to go buy them. Maybe I’m just one of their many sheep who fell for it…because once I bothered the lady to ask her to describe the thing, I almost felt committed to try one. So maybe they’re smarter than I think and this was all done on purpose, but somehow I doubt it.

And what did I think? Uuuuuug! Who enjoys this? As I was drinking it, I thought I needed to sing a song to my pancreas so I didn’t develop Diabetes on the spot.

They weren’t kidding when they said they were taking chocolatey to the next level. Holy crap, it was like drinking a cup full of syruppy cream. Every now and then I’d hit a chunk of chocolate stuff that was kind of good…but mostly, it was too much, and I’m’ a person who loves chocolate.

Steve agreed with me, and another friend said the same thing, so I know I’m not a weirdo.

So they may have gotten me once, but I don’t think I’ll buy another one of those suckers ever.

It’s Canada Day. How’d We Get Here?

Soundtrack time.

Yup, it’s Canada Day. Where is this year going? I hope people are finding fun things to do somewhere, just enjoying the day off. I’m probably going to be spending some time outside if the weather decides to be good. I’m just glad to be doing what I want to do.

Not a whole bunch is new, but that’s probably good. I did get to see the wee nephew a week and a half or so ago. He’s cute, and I think he’s thinking about teething…he sure loved trying to chew on our hands. He also thought the sight of Tansy running in the backyard with their wee little dog was hilarious. I love how babies giggle with everything they’ve got, and it doesn’t matter how many times they see the same thing, it’s just as funny.

It’s pretty official. I’m going to the guide dog reunion. I haven’t been to one of these things in 7 years, and I thought it would be a good idea to go on a little trip and make sure that I know how to handle all things post-captain in a setting that isn’t work-related, plus it would be fun to see some people. At least one of my Tansy classmates will be there. But lord it’s expensive. I nearly fell over when I paid for the flight. Oh well, at least I have a big amount of travel points to put towards it. And at least I’m sharing a room with other people, so that’ll help with costs.

I guess that’s about it for now. I hope everyone has a good one, and Trix doesn’t have another fireworks-induced meltdown. At least now, she has a relatively sound-proof basement where she can go take shelter.

Thanks for reading our stuff. I hope, over the next few days, to get a bunch of things up that I’ve wanted to post for a long long time. We’ll see what I can pull off.

Have a good Canada Day, everybody.

You Look A Lot Like My Wife. Can I Borrow Some Money?

If your plan is to pilfer and attempt to utilize somebody’s custom debit card, it might be a good idea to take a good long look at the photo on it before you proceed with step two, just in case the woman in said photo and her powers of observation happen to be in the same checkout line as you are.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the woman had noticed her debit card was missing while shopping at the supermarket.
She initially figured she must have dropped it by accident earlier in the day, but a few minutes later while buying some headache medicine at Family Dollar, she spotted a man, woman and their child “shopping like it was Christmas…I looked at them grabbing toys and thought, ‘Someone hit the lottery.’”
Sensing something suspicious, she got behind the man in line at the cashier and watched as he tried to pay for the $200 in toys with her custom-designed Wells Fargo debit card.
“I said, ‘Dude, that’s my card. Give me my card please,’” she tells the AJC. “He says, ‘This is my wife’s card.’ I said, ‘No the hell it isn’t. Not with a picture of me, my daughter and puppy on the front. Give me my card.’”
She said the man, whose pre-teen son looked on in confusion, placed his thumb over the incriminating photo on the card while the card’s rightful owner called 9-1-1.

To his credit, the man, clearly repentant, remorseful and any other appropriate re, decided to use this as a teaching moment for his young son and returned the card complete with his sincerest apologies for his error in judgment.

Just kidding. He told the wife and kid to run for it and got the hell out of there. What site did you think you were reading?

He didn’t get far before police caught up with him…and found at least one more apparently stolen card on him during a search. He was arrested and charged, but neither of the 2 articles I’ve read specifically said with what.

If Doing Something Out Of The Ordinary Results In Terrified Screams, Is It A Good IDea?

Watch this commercial with your eyes closed. Seriously. Click the link and close your eyes without seeing the title. I’m not even going to embed this one because I don’t want any cheating.

Before the woman starts talking, what the hell do you think is going on? I was sure it was some kind of PSA about sexual harassment or safety in bars or something.

So, now, watch it again…with your eyes open. Tell me what the heck is going on. At least it’s a rather obvious commercial, so I don’t have to hear that scream and get all unsettled over and over again.

Am I weird?

Can I Get You A Pillow? Only If You’ll Lay On It With Me

More times than you’d like to think, we’ve covered in flight molestations involving some creep and the random, short straw drawing woman who was probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But as best I can tell, this right here will be the first time a passenger decided that not only was he going to roam the aircraft for a victim or two, but that they were both going to be flight attendants.

According to an FBI affidavit, on the Oct. 27 flight, two flight attendants say they were attacked by the same passenger, a 42-year-old Ukrainian man seated in first class.
The first attendant, who says she served two drinks to the passenger, told the FBI that the man confronted her in the forward galley and “stood behind her, making full body contact with her.”
He then, according to the affidavit, “put his lips on her neck and later touched her back and then moved his hand to her buttocks.”
He later sat down in the seat next to her, and allegedly “put his hand on her thigh, and then started to move his hand up and under her dress,” in spite of the attendant’s repeated directions to stop touching her. She estimates that the passenger touched her body somewhere between seven to ten times.
“She described his touch as ‘squeeze and hold’ and stated he used his strength to intimidate her,” reds the affidavit.

forward galley, indeed.

Understandably, the woman was unable to continue doing her job following the incident, so a replacement was brought in. Unfortunately she wasn’t just a replacement for the flight crew, but also for our friend here.

That’s when the passenger allegedly told this second attendant that “he liked her and made a hand gesture like he wanted to have sex with her. This gesture involved him pointing to her, pointing to himself, and slamming his closed fist sideways into his open hand as if to ‘slam her.’”
The attendant says the passenger touched her on her lower back and then dropped his hand to her buttocks.
And if that weren’t enough, both the second attendant and a witness told the FBI that the passenger later placed this attendant in a headlock while pulling him toward her and trying to kiss her.
“She described his touching as predatory and stated she thought he would have raped her,” reads the affidavit.

The passenger, who’s name was not released, was arrested when the plane landed and charged with Interference with Flight Crew Members, which sounds like some awfully mild language. Where’s all the sexual assault and aggravated rapiness, guys?

You Can Buy Cake At KFC. I Know This Because Some People Had One Thrown At Them

Wait wait wait. KFC sells cake?

As Abts-Olsen and his partner Cliff Borjeson rolled to the scene, details of the attack trickled in from dispatchers: “Unknown male was throwing cake at employees.” Followed by the ominous: “They can no longer sell the cake.”
Employees told the two officers that a man walked into the store, threw a KFC-brand cake at them and then left.
Fortunately, the man’s aim was off.

We know neither why this fellow was so upset nor who he is, as staff at the restaurant didn’t get a good look at him probably because woe, flying cake, you guys!

But more importantly, why didn’t any of you tell me that KFC sells cake?

Barking About BarkBox

At the beginning of this month, I got a Groupon for something called BarkBox.com. Basically, you pay a subscription fee and they send you treats and toys appropriate for your dog’s size every month. Groupon offered a discounted rate for the first 3 months, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Sometimes it’s hard to find new and interesting dog toys and treats, and man can toys be expensive, which is especially painful when the dog kills the toy in one sitting. I thought it would be cool if I found out about new toys, that were picked out according to your dog’s size, so might last a while. It would also give me incentive to chuck some of the old toys that look a little worse for ware, since more are coming every month.

The regular subscription is $72 for 3 months. I can’t remember the other subscription rates, but I thought, at that rate, it’s $24 a box. It’s hard to only pay $24 and get decent stuff.

After struggling through the signup process, which was no small feat with Firefox and NVDA, I got all signed up, or in their words, pupscribed (har har har).

My first box arrived, and I was pretty impressed. In the box was 2 toys, 2 small bags of treats, and a beef trachea chew thing. In the box is a sheet describing all the contents within, complete with codes if you find out your dog just love love loves a certain item. I’ll have to figure out how I would get my hands on those items, but I’m sure that will be easy to do. I’ll also have to figure out how to tell them to stop sending a certain kind of treat if I found out it doesn’t agree with Tans, also something probably easily solved.

Tansy was also impressed…she almost climbed in the parcel box to get it. She has beaten up one toy, but it’s still very much alive, and demolished the beef trachea thing. I’m pretty sure there’s no way I could buy all of that for $24 at the pet store.

So I think I’ll be a long-time subscriber. That’s a pretty neat idea. I just want to make two comments about the experience.

  1. Knock off the adding of pup to words. It’s cute a couple of times, but lord on a pogo stick, this is too many. I do happen to like the term “frequently arfed questions” though.
  2. Although I could get through the signup process, it was no picnic. It would be nice if the form was made of standard HTML controls that everyone can use, not…whatever the heck is going on there. I shouldn’t have to simulate a mouse click to choose whether my dog is small, medium or large. There are radio buttons and other things that work just fine.

But those are my only two criticisms so far, and one of them is just a small thing. I hope I’ll be a happy customer, and Tansy will be a happy pupstomer, *cringe*, for a long time.