I learned something that apparently has been a thing for at least four years. If you get those spam texts, you can report them to your service provider by forwarding the spam messages to 7726, which spells “spam”. Depending on your provider, what happens after that may vary, but pretty much any North American provider seems to have this spam-reporting mechanism available. Here is what Rogers says they do.

Should a spam message still get through, you can report it to 7726 (SPAM). Doing so helps us to identify new types of spam messages and improve our filters for all users.

What should I do if I receive SMS spam?
First, don’t click on any links (URLs) in the message. Doing so may expose your device to malicious web pages or cause apps containing viruses/malware to be installed on your device.
Next, report the suspicious or unsolicited message for investigation by forwarding it via text message (SMS) to 7726 (SPAM). Keep in mind that only message content is considered for blocking, not the sender’s telephone number, as they tend to change often.
To forward a message on an Android device:
1. If you haven’t already, tap the message to open the conversation view.
2. Once you’re in the conversation view, press and hold the message content you want to forward, then tap the forward arrow when it appears in the top menu.
3. Tap New Message on the next screen.
4. Enter 7726 in the To: field and tap the checkmark to accept. Tap SMS to send the forwarded message.
To forward a message from iOS:
1. If you haven’t already, tap the message to open the conversation view.
2. In the conversation view, press and hold the message until More… appears, then press it.
3. The message you pressed and held will be selected. If applicable, check off any additional messages in the conversation that you want to forward. Tap the forward arrow to continue.
4. Enter 7726 in the To: field and press the send button.

I had accumulated quite a stack of spam messages, so I sent them all in. It felt good to put them to some kind of use. Hopefully it means more spam texts get filtered out. And hopefully I wasn’t the last to find out about this.

We Won’t Be Counted Among The Jailed Population! Woo!

Well, it’s time to do the census again, and we did it last weekend. We probably would have done it relatively quickly, but my friend told me it was due on May 11, so we hurried up and got it done. We were surprised that they would send out the census and demand it be completed so fast, but we weren’t exactly running around like headless chickens so we sat down and did it. It turns out we had more time than we thought, but it’s good that it’s out of the way. This begs the question. What do they mean that May 11 is census day if I’m still seeing commercials on May 16 that the census has begun?

Just like five years ago, the website was beautifully accessible and it worked perfectly well. I didn’t run into a single problem. Unlike five years ago, we only had to fill out the short form census this time, and it was very short. It got especially short when neither of us said we had received French Immersion-style education. We shot from 73 percent complete to something like 98 or 99 percent complete. I worried for a second that I had broken something, but I found out that happened to other people too, so I didn’t worry so much. Also, I have to thank me from five years ago for realizing that I might need a reminder about how I got the PIN to plug into the census website off the notice that came in the mail. I just used Aira this time, but the phone line option seems to be still available.

So if you haven’t filled it out yet, it should work fine even if you fill it out on your phone. That isn’t always the case with forms, I don’t know why. And if you need to find out what your code is, you can call 1-855-340-2021 and hopefully they can fix you up. I didn’t have to use that option this year, but I can’t imagine why they couldn’t do that. I mean, they want you to fill it out, don’t they?

Stay Off The Tracks, By Order Of The God Of Death

Apparently, Mumbai has a fairly sizable problem with people getting themselves killed by crossing train tracks where they ought not. Sizable to the tune of about seven people a day, according to some estimates. There also seems to be an issue with people keeping themselves on the trains, as around 650 people were said to have died in the space of a year after falling off of them.

So, what to do?

If you’re India’s Western Railway, you enlist the services of ‘Yamraj’, God of Death.

The Western Railway authorities deployed a Railway Police Force (RPF) jawan in the attire of ‘Yamraj’ to catch the attention of the commuters and educate their regarding the issue. 
The jawan, dressed as Yamraj, made people understand the risks involved in crossing unmanned railway tracks and risks of jumping onto tracks to save a few minutes of their time, which can often turn perilous.

In the pictures tweeted by the Ministry of Railways, the Yamraj could be seen carrying the erring passengers over his shoulder or in his arms and taking them to the safety of the platform.
Along with the pictures, Railway Ministry’s handle warned the people in Hindi, “Do not cross the track in an unauthorised manner, it can be fatal.”
“If you cross the track in an unauthorized way, then Yamraj will be standing in front of you,” Railway Ministry added.

Considering how many adults don’t get the message, this feels like an idea other countries need to start borrowing when teaching train safety to children. We don’t all have our own gods of death, but if they don’t want to share Yamraj with us, I’m sure we can come up with something of our own. Something like Elmer the Safety Elephant, just with a little more punch. Maybe Randy the Railway Reaper?

Greyhound Canada Takes Travel Restrictions Super Seriously, Shuts Down For Good

Well…this about sucks.

Greyhound Canada has announced that as of today, it no longer exists. It’s been getting slowly clawed back for years now and it hasn’t existed at all since it suspended service due to the pandemic, but I didn’t expect it to just up and go away forever.

This is a huge blow for a lot of people, but being blind, folks like Carin and I are going to be hit especially hard. We can’t just rent a car, the train doesn’t go everywhere we would like to, alternative bus options rarely connect to each other assuming they even exist, Uber is convenient when the driver isn’t being a total asshole to Carin because of her guide dog but gets very expensive very quickly and flying, until the prices come way down from the ones I’ve seen here and there, isn’t a realistic option to be using on the regular. We do well around here, but not that well.

Maybe things will start to change once the government loosens regulations on the industry like they’ve said they’re going to, but for now, traveling while blind just became even harder.

Greyhound Canada is shutting down all of its remaining bus routes in Canada, permanently.
The bus company says all of its remaining routes will cease operations as of midnight Thursday.
The iconic bus carrier pulled out of Western Canada in 2018.
It then put its remaining routes on pause when COVID-19 hit in 2020, but now it is pulling out of domestic Canadian service permanently.

American Greyhound will still serve Canada…sort of. They’re going to continue operating five cross border routes

  • Toronto to Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Toronto to New York City
  • Montreal to Boston
  • Montreal to New York City
  • Vancouver to Seattle

My Sanity Is Shot!

So I’m sitting here watching the news and just absolutely seething right now!

Pretty sure I’ve mentioned a time or 12 that I hate our provincial government. I’m fair when I need to be, but generally speaking, they fucking suck. And this latest vaccine shit absolutely is not helping to change that opinion.

You see, another thing I’ve mentioned at least once is how awful the mixed messaging about AstraZeneca has been from the start. Admittedly that isn’t all Ford’s fault, but this week is all on him and his people.

These absolute motherfuckers just put a pause on giving out AZ as a first dose because a couple of people got blood clots that could possibly be related to it. Cool. Better to be safe than sorry. The problem is that in the next breath, we’re being told that if we did get it as our first dose, we did the right thing and were given a very safe and effective vaccine. Then in breath number three, they say that they have no idea what they’re going to do with the 50000 or so doses they still have sitting around or the couple hundred thousand they’re about to receive.

Here’s an idea, you incompetent garbage clowns. Maybe, instead of letting them rot in storage while you sit there with no idea what to do next, you could, I dunno, give the nearly 100 percent of us who got our first one and didn’t die our second shot. If we did the right thing, what would be the problem with that especially since the evidence (such as it is) seems to be that the issues happen within a couple weeks of receiving shot one? That seems a damn sight better than sitting there spinning around on your thumbs like a bunch of befuddled douchetops while you’re taken by surprise over and over again by the same supply problems the whole country has had since the start and figuring out if it’s safe to mix and match vaccines on us like we’re one giant chemistry set. If you know something nobody else does and AZ doesn’t work, just say so. Otherwise, get us the hell vaccinated.

I’d like to say I feel better getting that out of my system, but that would be a lie. I have less and less confidence in everyone involved in our vaccine strategy with each passing day. I understand that there are going to be times when things come up and we have to change directions. That’s fine. We’re figuring a lot of this out in real time just like we have been all pandemic long. But if I have to listen to one more smiling dipshit make an overly optimistic announcement based on things that haven’t happened yet and then have to sheepishly walk it back a couple days later when a shipment gets delayed because somebody decides now is a great time to upgrade a factory or some shit I’m going to pound a needle into somebody’s eye. Part of figuring things out in real time or otherwise is that we learn from them. Can we please start doing that? We’ve been doing this since De-fucking-cember, and it was getting old then.

Down, Boy!

Even though I am one, I often have a really hard time understanding dudes. Seriously, if you don’t have some sort of mental illness, why would you ever think a stranger would react positively to this? It’s even worse because the lady’s daughter was right there, but it’s not as though you would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for the meddling kid. When, outside of a late night movie, has this kind of shit ever worked?

The alleged victim, identified as “E.J.” in the complaint, was seated between Cholewinski-Boy and her daughter. Shortly after takeoff, he began touching the woman’s arm and she repeatedly pushed his hands away, according to the complaint.
Cholewinski-Boy then “forcibly grabbed her by the crotch,” the complaint said. The woman again pushed his hand away and demanded that he stop.
“Cholewinski-Boy threw up his hands and said ‘sorry,’” according to the complaint.
The woman notified the flight crew, who moved mother and daughter to another part of the aircraft.

The plane landed in Oklahoma instead of its scheduled Utah, and Cholewinski-Boy was arrested twice. First by the airport police for public intoxication, and then by the big boy police for abusive sexual contact. He was later released on his own recognizance, unfortunately.

Did Somebody Say McSeagull

I am very much a man of two minds here. Half of me understands and is like yeah, if some son of a bitch seagull tried to take a meal I paid perfectly good money for I’d be pretty pissed and fixin’ to dish out a hurtin’, but at the same time, why in the hell would I ever want to bite one? That seems like a fine way to give yourself something unpleasant and possibly harmful. Although upon further reflection, perhaps I’m a man of three minds. Who knows what some of that fast food is made of. Is that chicken really chicken, or does my seagull friend know something I don’t and is just trying to avenge a family member taken too soon? Anyway, to make a long story short, this is definitely one of the stranger food feuds I’ve seen.

Plymouth Live understands the man – a 26-year-old local – claimed he was being attacked for his McDonald’s meal and in response he grabbed the bird and bit it.
The police spokesperson told Plymouth Live: “He sunk his teeth into it before throwing it to the floor.
“Officers had seen the incident and immediately went over and detained and took details from him.
“Around this time, the man volunteered the information that he was under the influence of drugs and it was decided that he should be taken to Derriford Hospital for treatment.
“The seagull was clearly injured by the incident but flew off before we were able to check on its welfare. We don’t know what happened to it afterwards.”

The unidentified man was also arrested, and could find himself in a not insignificant bit of trouble. Seagulls are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which means that injuring or killing them is punishable by up to six months in prison or a £5,000 fine. You could eat at McDonald’s at least two or three times with that kind of money.

A Little Bit Of Vaccine History

As we moved closer to being able to get COVID vaccines, I wondered how things went when the Polio vaccine rolled out. Were people scared of it? Did people think it got developed too quickly? Were there all these conspiracy theories?

Then I saw this story about what happened when the Polio vaccine arrived, and learned a few things.

So confident was the public in the research leading up to the polio vaccine that by the time the Salk vaccine was ready for experimental testing in 1954, the parents of 600,000 children volunteered their own offspring as research subjects.
When the results of those studies showed the vaccine to be safe and effective in 1955, church bells rang. Loudspeakers in stores, offices and factories blared the news. People crowded around radios. “There was jubilation,” says Stewart. People couldn’t wait to sign their kids up for a shot.
Then tragedy struck. One of the six labs manufacturing the vaccine, Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley, Calif., made a terrible mistake. The correct list of ingredients for the Salk vaccine called for polio virus that had been inactivated, but in the Cutter facility, the process of killing the virus proved defective. As a result, batches of the company’s vaccine went out that mistakenly contained active polio virus. Of the 200,000 children who received the defective vaccine, 40,000 got polio from it; 200 were left with varying degrees of paralysis, and 10 died.

I had never heard that little nugget. Thankfully, they figured out what happened, fixed the problem, and the vaccine went on doing its thing, and we don’t have to worry about Polio much anymore. But I’m sure that made people scared to sign up for a shot until they figured out what was going on.

It’s weird to think that lots of people alive today weren’t around to remember how it felt to be powerless against the Polio virus. I even asked my mom if she remembered what things were like before the vaccine came along and she said “All I remember is them lining us up in school in rows so we could all get our Polio shots.” And my mom is over 70. If she doesn’t remember, there are lots of people younger who definitely don’t.

When I linked to that story about the iron lung, and read about people being afraid to have their kids gather in public places for fear of catching Polio, I had no idea we were headed back to the same fear for a different reason. Now let’s hope we can successfully smash the COVID threat into the earth with enough people getting the vaccine.

I like this quote right here from medical historian David Oshinsky. “But that also means that people born after the mass vaccination effort don’t have memories of how bad the disease could be. Vaccines have been a job … done so well they have obliterated evidence of what the disease can cause: kids on crutches, in wheelchairs, in iron lungs.”

That’s what we have to remember. All those other viruses we’ve forgotten about are still out there, just waiting for an unvaccinated sucker to come along. The only reason they’re no big deal is because we get vaccinated against them. We want our normal lives back? The evidence seems to indicate that anyone who is able needs to get vaccinated against COVID.

Cool App, Boring Name

The other night, I saw something on the news about an app that people can use to identify ticks, called eTick. If you or your pet end up with a tick stuck to you, once you get it removed, you can take a picture of it, submit it to this app and someone can tell you what kind of tick it is and how likely it is to carry Lime Disease. That is definitely a great idea, especially since Public Health isn’t accepting actual bagged up ticks for analysis right now.

But I think the name could have been better. What about Tick Talk? I mean, the actual TikTok is built by a company called ByteDance, so that makes it even better.

Or, how about Tick Pics? When you think about it, tick pics are gross, but at least the people receiving the images actually agreed to look at them.

They could even call it Limewire. Yes, I know that one’s taken, but even that would be more memorable than eTick.

I hope lots of people get use out of the app, whatever it’s called. It’s definitely a neat idea.