Are You Being Passive-Aggressive To The Computer? That’s What I Thought!

I keep seeing this commercial where there’s this warm fuzzy style music playing and this kid is asking her virtual assistant questions. First, it’s how old is the earth, and then the kid starts asking unanswerable questions like “Do you know how the sun feels on your face?” and “Have you ever seen a shooting star?” I eventually figured out that it’s an ad for Nature Valley, but before I knew that, all I kept thinking is “This kid is a total asshole!”

If you haven’t seen the ad, here it is.

Seriously, little girl. Would you walk up to a dude in a wheelchair and ask him “Do you know how it feels to run? It feels amazing!” That little robot you’re dragging around through the tweet tweet birdies just wants to help you with your homework. I hope it gives you a few wrong answers just for spite.

The strategy article claims they’re trying to encourage people to go outside, which is a fine message. But why do they have to make the kid be such a total heel to the robot? Are they going to next have the kid run through the children’s ICU telling all the kids that she can go outside and they can’t?

I’m sure the visuals are all cute and heartwarming and aww that’s so adorable! But when you can’t see it, it does not give you the positive vibes. Heck, you don’t even know what the commercial is for. It’s memorable, but not in the way they want.

Can You Help My Friend Make Her House More Accessible For Her Kids?

I don’t think I ever wrote about Katie, someone I went to university with. It’s a shame. I guess most of the time I would have had occasion to write about her, there wasn’t a blog, or I wasn’t writing for it. But now she is needing a little help raising some money to install some accessibility equipment so her kids can move around their house independently. So, I wanted to tell you a little bit about her so you might think about giving her a hand because of how cool a person she is.

I met Katie for a few reasons. She would help me get to class sometimes, and she also worked the desk at the residence where I lived. I always had so much fun with her. She was very good at cracking me up. Sometimes we would leave strange messages on each other’s answering machines, and this was back in the day when people shared answering machines. Sorry, former room-mates of Katie. This little song will always make me think of her.

I only knew it as far as “The apple of my eye”, but that’s it. That was her voicemail greeting for a while.

We went to movies, hung out and had fun, at least I did. Sometimes she would tell me about this camp where she would volunteer and all the kids she would work with. I eventually figured out that this was a camp for kids with various disabilities, but she never made a big deal about their disabilities, they were just kids who were part of her summer. When she got married, there were a ton of kids from that camp who came to her wedding.

As the fund-raiser explains, she and her husband went on to adopt two kids with special needs. Now those kids have gotten bigger and are having trouble moving around on their own. So she wants to install an elevator called a telecab in their house. That will cost $40000. It looks like she’s well on her way. So far, she has raised nearly $6000 and this fund-raiser was just created a few days ago.

I know many of you probably don’t know Katie, but she is an amazing person who would do anything for these kids. I hope you can help her out by either donating or sharing her story.

Happy New Year! Don’t Screw It Up.

It’s a New Year, so how about a nice happy soundtrack? I would embed it, but the embed code-maker sucks large accessibility balls.

the old year is now in its grave. Good riddance, and be gone,
to all the things you said you’d do and either didn’t, or did wrong
a new year to screw up is here, a new year to screw up
it won’t be long ’til it goes wrong, a new year to screw up

it’s like a brand new couch you buy, that you know soon shall be stained
Like snow that lies so pure and white -til a dog lifts up its leg.

The new year’s like a baby child, placed upon your lap,
and like a baby’s diaper, it will soon be full of crap.
chorus x2

Seems pretty appropriate, especially with Premier Drug Fraud running things. I guess we can hope that we don’t screw things up on a personal level. Happy New Year, everybody.

So Long, Aunt Merle

I should at least do this in the right year.

I don’t know if I wrote about my one great-aunt much. It doesn’t look like I did. She lived across the street from my grandma and they used to go back and forth pretty regularly. She was single her whole life, and seemed to enjoy her freedom, travelling a lot and having a good time. My mom would tell us stories about the trips she took with her and some of her great-aunts when she was a kid.

Eventually, My great-aunt needed to move out of her house and go into a retirement home. This was something she knew she had to do, but she didn’t like letting go of her house and some of her independence. Then, my grandma moved into the same home, so at least they were close to each other.

Sadly, they didn’t get to have long together. My great-aunt passed away at the end of November. It was so sudden that it didn’t feel real and still kind of doesn’t.

I’ll definitely miss the phone calls. I couldn’t go visit her often, but I called her every week or two. She would always ask for updates on us and tell me about the goings on there, at least what she knew. She usually mentioned something that made me laugh. She had a sense of humour, right up until the end. She was also brutally honest about how she was feeling. Although it was hard to hear, I appreciated that she didn’t try to sugar-coat it. She didn’t mind letting me in on the squabbles she was having with my grandma. Being sisters, they tended to disagree a lot. One of the last times I got to call her, after saying the usual “Hello. How are you?” she launched into proclaiming “Your grandma’s a kook!” After I stopped laughing, I got the story of what was going on. I don’t think she was as kooky as she thought, but it sounded like she was having one heck of a time.

She was determined that one day, they would fix my eyes. I had explained to her many times that fixing my eyes would be super risky and I probably wouldn’t go for it because I had never been able to see, and every time it seemed llike she understood, but whenever I saw her again, she was convinced that some day I would be able to have my sight. It was sweet, she just wanted us all to be healthy, so I stopped trying to explain things to her and I just smiled.

I’m glad I got to visit her recently. I heard some funny stories about her being a kid, things I had never heard before. If I understand it, somehow she got stuck in a turnip truck. At least she didn’t fall off the turnip truck, but it sounds like that would have been a scary few minutes.

It’s weird losing more people that have always been there. This one especially makes me realize that it’s impossible to know when you’re going to lose someone, so we shouldn’t assume we’ll always have more time.

A New Treatment For Diabetes! Sweet!

I just saw this CTV story about a new treatment for Type 1 diabetes and it looks pretty neat. From what I understand, this pouch full of cells gets implanted under the patient’s skin and mimics the pancreas, creating insulin in response to the amount of sugar in the blood.

I do have questions though. Since the patient’s original pancreas kind of went on strike, how do we keep this thing from doing the same? Does it have to be replaced every so often? If so, how invasive is the procedure of implanting it and removing the old one? Does the patient still need to carry insulin for the cases where it screws up?

I’m sure all of this has been figured out, or is being figured out in the clinical trials. If it works like they say, it does look kind of cool.

Chow, Chau.

I’ve been wanting to write about this story since it came out, but I can’t seem to get going. All I can think to say is “hands off!” To be completely honest, I had the urge to tell him off in more vulgar ways, but since he’s dead, I’ll stick with “hands off!” for now.

Here’s the story. John Allen Chau thought he was god’s gift to missionary work. He decided that North Sentinel Island, an island off India that was inhabited by a tribe that made it clear that it did not wish to have outside influences, needed some religion, and he was going to be the man to bring it to them whether they liked it or not. Let me explain how clearly they made it that they wished no contact from the outside. There have been laws put on the books to protect their way of life. Everybody who lives anywhere near the island knows that you don’t just go “loo dee doo dee doo” onto their island.

It turns out that they did not like his intrusion onto their land at all, and they killed him. His friends, a rather loose term in this case, who helped him get close to the island, got to watch the tribe drag his body down the beach and bury it. Police and coastguards from India wanted to get his body back, but it was no easy task and I don’t know if they ever succeeded.

Now, do you see why I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Mr. Chau? He doesn’t help matters with the entries in his diary where he claimed that God was protecting him from being discovered by the coastguards. Actually, God would have protected him better by not letting him get near the island. That whole passage where he said a kid fired an arrow at him and it hit his bible, and he thought that was a sign of being protected was also pretty ridiculous. No, that was a sign that he should get the hell out of there and rethink this whole conversion of the Sentinelese people thing.

I would have more sympathy if I got the sense that he genuinely wanted to help the people, but it sounded more like he viewed the island as a conquest. I can’t stand the idea of religion being forced on people. When I read about the way things happened when Canada was colonized, I could not feel good about it either. It drives me nuts when missionaries offer help, but under the condition that their recipients convert. Why not just help somebody and leave it at that? And in the case of Mr. Chau, why couldn’t he respect their wishes and stick to reaching out to people who welcomed him?

Maybe it bothers me because on a smaller scale, I have had people try to force religion on me. I have had people accuse me of not praying hard enough and that’s why I’m blind, I have had people lay hands on me in an attempt to heal me without asking if I want this, I have had one cab driver push religion on me by locking me in his cab until I gave him some sense that I might attend a service. If I want religion, there are plenty of ways I could seek it out. Forcing it on me does not work, and it doesn’t make me feel respected either. A conversation is fine I suppose, but if I say no, listen to that and move on.

So now, this guy is dead, and the seven people who agreed to help him are arrested, and some of them are likely traumatized from watching him get dragged down the beach. I hate to be an asshole, but they all kind of deserve it. If they’d just respected these people, they’d all be alive and safe.

The Dork With The Barrett Tattoo

I read about this story 6 months or so ago and meant to write about it then. Since it still makes me chuckle whenever I think about it, I’ll write about it now.

I heard about a guy who skipped parole and they were looking for him. When I saw Nathan Barrett’s description, my first thought was “Well, that won’t take long to find him.”

He is described as being black, 5’7” and 176 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He also has several distinctive tattoos, including a star and dollar sign near his left eye, a Nike symbol on his forehead, a butterfly on his neck. Tattoos on his forearms include the sun, a wing and the word Scorpion on the right and a wing, a moon and the word Barrett on his left.

Tattoos include? So, there were more? Why even try running if you are covered in various super unique tattoos, including your own freaking name? And why does anyone tattoo things on their face? You can wear long sleeves and cover your arms…but your face is much harder to keep covered all the time. Maybe I just don’t get it because I don’t have tattoos.

I was right, it didn’t take long. he was arrested 3 days later. I wonder if it was the tattoos that got him.

Something Seems A Little Phishy

It seems like there has been a whole lot of phishing going on lately, and I have gotten a few emails that have given me a scare. Thankfully, after my heart went back into my chest, I realized that no, the CEO of the company I work for would not be emailing me from a sketchy AOL address and land in my junk folder, and if I really had been infected with WannaCry, I would not be able to read this email that is telling me I have WannaCry. But lots of people around me have not been so lucky, and have come close, or have, fallen for a phishing email. I’m sure the day will come when it may happen to me, so I can’t laugh and wonder what’s wrong with them. It’s not like they’re a pack of Sobbing John Rempels here. They are smart people.

Aside: I wonder whatever happened to poor John Rempel. I kind of feel bad for him, since we’ve been making fun of him for almost 10 years. Kind of, but not really if his story is accurate.

It’s true, the assholes who create the phishing emails are getting sneakier and sneakier, and some are doing their research to make the emails they send as convincing as possible, but I think what’s making them so successful is lots of people don’t stop and read. They see something, panic, click the link, and…there goes another one. Or, somebody has really done their homework and sent a message that the person is kind of expecting, but again the person is in a rush, and doesn’t notice that the email is asking them to sign this “mortage” agreement for their new “hosue” and answers…and only then the red flags start to go off

At work, the security folks sent out this video from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure in the UK as part of a campaign to smarten us up about phishing and spear phishing. Basically, phishing is the term for the broad practice of sending out fake emails to lure people into clicking on things or giving out personal info, where spear phishing is a more focused version of phishing where the person doing the phishing has done their homework about their victim and has customized the email to be more convincing.

Unfortunately, the video has scrolling text that I certainly couldn’t get to read. Maybe others will have better luck. But I was lucky enough to be home with my mom, and we watched it together, so I know it’s a good video with good tips in it.

From what I can remember, the video said that everybody knows about the old “congratulations, you have won the lottery” emails, but phishing has gotten more sneaky these days, and you will get emails tailored to you. Because everything is moving so fast and everyone is busy, sometimes we miss those subtle tip-offs that this is a fake and fall for it, allowing scammers to get usernames and passwords or steal money from you. The video detailed 3 commonly-used features of these scams: they create curiosity, have a sense of urgency, and appear to come from people of authority. Basically, the video urged us to slow down and think, check the links and email addresses inside the message, and if you’re still not sure if this is real, go directly to the source of the email rather than clicking on a link in the message or replying to it. I think that was all that was in there…but if someone can capture the text from the video and give it to me to post, that would be absolutely super awesome!

Here is a quick Wired article basically saying the same thing. Aside: Dear Wired: I appreciate that you have a newsletter, but I do not appreciate being unceremoniously thrown into a dialog telling me all about it while I’m reading a story. That makes me not want to sign up for it, even though it might be awesome.

There are a couple of mentions of hovering your mouse over links and email addresses to see where they really go. Luckily there is a way to do it if you don’t use a mouse. Bring focus to the link or email address you want to check by tabbing to it. Then hit your applications key or shift f10 or whatever way you choose to right click on links and copy the link. Then open notepad and paste it in and see what you got. Then you know if the link is really going to your bank or PayPal or whatever. Try it here.
Did that link really go where it said it went?

I think we all need to slow down, breathe, and not panic. Nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait 2 extra seconds to process whether this makes sense. Scammers can do their homework, but they’ll always slip up somewhere. Stay away from the phish, everybody.

Love Is A 47-Year-Old Christmas Present

It appears the mystery of the 47-year-old gift has been solved, and it was captured on video!

I guess the articles from last year made their way to Vicki Allen, the ex girlfriend who handed him the gift and dumped him, and they reconnected and decided to open the mystery gift for a charity.

Thank the gods it wasn’t a puppy like I had joked, but a book called “love is”. Apparently it had been so long that even Vicki forgot what was in there.

I’m also relieved that Steve’s prediction of this guy ending up on a show on Investigation Discovery didn’t come true. It appears the guy, his wife and Vicki all became friends.

Well there we go. The story has a happy ending.

The Cat’s Thoughts On Your Christmas Tree

I came across this song the other day, and chuckled. I thought of many cats our family had over the years. Thankfully none of them ruined our Christmas tree or did too much ornament damage, but I think we learned to strategically place breakable ornaments too high for them. Many times, we would come out to the living room and see the cat staring at the tree with a twitching tail.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
how nice my owners thought of me
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
you’re ornaments are hissssssstory
they dangle bright to banish gloom
I’ll smack them clear across the room
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
you’re better than a catnip spree.

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
you’re turning slightly brown I see.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
your water has been drunk by me.
Your skirt has pretty smelly flux,
I’ll use it for my litter box.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree,
and then I’ll blame the dog you see.

So, for everyone out there with cats and Christmas trees, enjoy.