The Tansy Scoop part 2

And now that I’ve put up the super time-sensitive and milestone-type stuff, here’s some random stuff that’s left over.

Tansy with a big fuzzy blob of pollen on her nose
I’m not a dog, I’m a bee.

I forgot to include a recent picture of Tansy, so here’s one that was taken close to her seventh birthday. I was at a conference, and when Tans went out to pee, she must have sniffed a flower and carried some pollen away with her. My coworker thought it looked hilarious so took a picture.

That poor colleague and I had a very confusing exchange. When I first saw her, she said “Wow, your new dog looks a lot like your old dog!” I wasn’t quite sure who she was because of being at a conference and so I made a comment about them both looking alike, but I was confused because Tansy isn’t what I would consider new. Then I realized who it was, deduced she hasn’t worked at our company for more than Tansy has been my guide, and it dawned on me that when she got the email a few months ago about Trixie’s passing, she thought Tansy had died. Then I thought she must have thought I was a real jerk, just replacing her right away with a new dog who looked exactly like her. I was able to explain things, but there were a few awkward pauses.

I’m not sure if I’ve written about this because it’s hard to search for, but when Tansy is holding a toy in her mouth, she makes this weird snort noise that tells you she’s holding something. It’s good to know, in case she decides to drop said thing on your foot, or squeak said thing in your ear.

A new thing I’ve noticed lately is when she’s really liking an ear rub or a butt scratch, she will make this growling, grunting noise to express her joy. I wish she’d done that sooner so I could have figured out her likes sooner. Oh well, it’s cute anyway.

There are moments that have been lost forever and I wish I could have gotten a picture of them, like the day she was playing with Steve and climbed right in his lap. She didn’t sort of put part of her body in his lap. No, all of her had crawled right up in his lap and stayed there for a few seconds. Or there was the time I was going to take her outside to pee at the end of the day, and she would not go outside until we had a snuggle on the floor.

As she gets older, her favourite songs phase her less and less. But her love of music is still a thing, and her latest song she likes is “My Own Worst Enemy by Lit.

I don’t know how long it will last, but hey, it’s fun while it’s a thing.

I’m starting to wonder if, when we can’t get our Google Home Mini to respond to us and we speak louder, if Tansy thinks we’re yelling at it. Sometimes, she acts similar to when she hears people yelling at each other. Poor, poor, sensitive Tansy.

But she’s not all sensitivity. As she gets older, she is more willing to hump other dogs! I thought her humpings were reserved for my brother’s dog, but apparently not. One day, when she was playing with Steve’s great aunt’s dog, she started humping her, over and over again! Shmans, I was cool with you getting away from humper dogs. I didn’t want you to become one!

I think I can also say that she was no fan of the fancy new emergency alert system and its multiple alerts. The first day, she didn’t seem to care, but by the second day, when they went off, she ran to multiple nearby people as if to ask, “What’s up with the screaming, shrieking things everywhere?”

Work is becoming a more and more interesting place for Tansy. A year and a bit ago, we got a manager that Tansy fell in love with immediately. Just the site of this woman turns Shmans into a leaping, snorting maniac. Thankfully she can keep it together when in harness, although she’s just waiting for her first chance to unleash her inner loopy Shmans. Then, another guy started working near me, and sometimes he brings his own dog in. We’re trying to work out how much interacting we want to happen. At least his dog is well-behaved and he understands why Tansy isn’t just a pet.

Tansy has always been impulsive, but she’s also becoming a bit of a planner about her impulsiveness as she matures if that’s even possible. One time, I took Tansy out to relieve and I was talking to a colleague who also is a big Tansy fan. Tansy was circling as if she was planning to relieve, but she circled in such away that she could swing around and playfully leap at my colleague. Sneaky devil was trying to trick me. She knew it was wrong to just go nuts on my friend, but she thought if I didn’t realize what she was doing until it was too late, maybe she could get away with it. I told her no but what a goof.

I had two funny stories involving random kids at the mall lately. One day, I was walking along and this little kid came running at Tansy. Then I heard a little voice yell “No! Don’t pet those dogs!” Good job, kid. Then another time, I was waiting in line to pay, and a kid reached to pet Tansy. When his father and I told him no, he said “That’s not a service dog, he has a leash,” only he said “leash” like “weash” which cracked me up. He said it as if to say “Ha ha, I’ve figured you out.” Sorry, Detective, you have some learning to do.

I have a few nephew stories but not many. My sister’s little guy is one smart cookie. He has figured out that when Tansy is working, she’s calm, and he’s not scared of her. He’s only scared of her if she gets goofy and starts wagging her tail or trying to kiss him or wants to play with the cats or something. He even will walk right with her if she’s working. That’s pretty awesome.

She’s always good stuff around all the little ones, even when they’re trying to jump over her, or when they manage to spill salt all over her like Steve’s sister’s little guy did. Tansy just lies still.

This last story is more about my brother’s dog than the little nephews. We went to meet the new nephew back in February, and we thought we’d let the dogs outside to romp because it wasn’t that cold and they were both acting a little out of their minds. We thought if they got their sillies out, they would lie quietly. Well, they got bored out there, and came back to the door and had a little barking contest. Yup, Tans is a brat if you let her outside and will bark to come back in. I just put her on a leash so she would calm down, and eventually they lay next to each other.

And now I’m left with the odds and ends.
I’ve mentioned before that sometimes Shmans has gotten it into her head that nighttime is playtime, especially if Steve ends up crashing out on the couch. So, I started tying her down at night if I made it to bed before he got in. But then I noticed that she seemed to be super tired the next day, so I wondered if she was managing to get any sleep that way. So I would start shutting the bedroom door instead. That seemed to do the job and she was less tired. But in the morning, when I would open the door, she would do a full lap of the house before waiting for her food. It’s funny. It’s like she’s making sure everything is where she left it.

I don’t know how I missed writing this down when we were in class together, but one day, when I had her outside to relieve and I was hoping she would pee, I started idly singing “Number 1, number 1, number 1 is so much fun, number 1, number 1, number 1 all day long.” One of my classmates started laughing and asked me what the heck I was singing, so I had to tell her about the numbers rumba. Of course she hadn’t heard of it.

I was thinking about that memory the other day and started singing it again, and someone went by and giggled. They probably think I’m nuts too.

I must be subconsciously thinking about visiting Tansy’s raisers again, because I had this wacky dream that I came to see them. The trip in the dream was pretty much like the real trip, right down to the month of the year, except we all went to a musical designed for dogs, and everybody was encouraged to let their dogs loose in the aisles at intermission. Her raisers were once again not expecting this, and I sure wasn’t. Then, suddenly, all the dogs were magnetically attracted to the one dog who was still on a leash! It must have been a combination of thinking about her raisers, my dog dreams always seeming to involve loose dogs, and maybe that story about a service dog running amuck in a Cats performance.

I just have one more story and then I’ll get out of here. Poor Tansy must find me super unpredictable. But I always thought that she knew that when that flexi leash comes out, we are going to the park. But, I guess this hasn’t been made crystal clear. A little while ago, I decided we would go to the park, but I would relieve her first so I didn’t have to carry around a nasty bag of dog plop while she played. Of course, she did in fact do the doo. So, I directed her back to the garbage can by the door so I could get rid of it. I have never seen a sadder dog. She didn’t walk back to the door, she moped back there. Then, when I got rid of the poop and turned toward the park, she was off like a shot! I think she seriously thought I was going to go “Psych!” and walk back in the building! I think my heart broke a little bit that day.

And that’s it for this epic deluge o stories. Hopefully I’ll be back sooner.

The Tansy Scoop part 1

Wow. The last time Tansy got a dedicated post was December! That’s just not cool! Of course, as a result, I have a metric ton of things to write down. This one could be a multi-parter.

Tansy has entered a time period I affectionately nicknamed “the year of the complex.” She has worked with me for five years and she is seven years old. That’s how old Trixie was, and the number of guiding years she had under her belt, when she told me that work wasn’t her thing anymore. So, I’m probably going to be a little, no, a lot jumpy as we go past all the landmark spots, even though the logical part of me knows every dog is different. Come on, Tans, shatter my complex!

On the veterinary side, she’s been pretty healthy, but in April, I found her first old labby lump. It was really small but I found it. I think the vets must have thought I was silly because when I showed it to them, I said “I think it’s fat because I can wiggle and jiggle and twiddle it! They confirmed my suspicions and we moved on, but eeek, she’s officially getting older! She may not have much visible grey, but she has a visible lumpy! She also had a wee cyst on her ear a few months ago that the vet popped, and another wee tiny lump that disappeared on its own. Her weight is going up and down like a yo yo. They even checked her for worms, and of course there weren’t any, but we’re confused. At this second it’s back up and I’m working on getting it down. The vet at GDB said to watch her weight closely, I guess he was right.

She also lost some hair on her paws during the winter, just like she did in 2016. The weirdest part is she was wearing all Pawz boots, so it can’t be the fault of the other ones. The vets just think it was as a result of friction from the boots, and we’re not worried for now.

And a couple of weeks ago, she developed a raging bladder infection, and because it was a stat holiday, I had to take her to the emergency vet to get it looked at. Yup, they confirmed she had a bladder infection and she came home with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, the kind they gave to Trix after her dead tail episode. Tansy approves of them just as much as Trix did. I don’t know where the infection came from, but boy did it attack quickly. the night before it was in full swing, she bugged me to go pee a little more urgently than normal, but it was hot as hell at the time so I thought she just tanked up on water. Then in the morning, she was whining when we woke up, but I thought maybe she was just hungry. Then things got weird as she started asking for more and more trips outside, hurrying out there like she was going to burst, panting like mad. But we’ve started antibiotics and those lovely pain meds, so she’s much more content now. And the fee didn’t crush my bank account, so I’m all good too.

In all my years of having guide dogs, and dogs in general, I have never been to an emergency vet clinic before. What a heartbreaking experience. When I first arrived, for some reason I expected it to be a little busier, or maybe a more confined space, I don’t know why. When I walked inside, it felt like walking into a great barren room. I couldn’t even tell where the front counter was. Then we sat and waited, and while we did, we saw lots of people come in worried and leave crying! I had always heard that emergency clinics felt kind of scary because they are very focused on making sure they get paid, and I experienced that. When I called, they said they couldn’t tell me whether I should wait or come in, but here are the fees, and we don’t take American Express or cheque. They don’t take cheque? Wow! Then when I got there, they had me come up to the desk and got all my information, and then it was time to wait. I realized that it was kind of like the human ER. They do some basic triage, and then you wait and wait. I kept wondering when we were going to take her outside and get a urine sample, because they said without the urine, they couldn’t do anything. After finding out that it would be pretty hard for me to get it, they agreed to help me when I phoned in, but no one was offering to help when I got there, probably because they were doing all the triage stuff. My friend who drove me was awesome and got the sample collected so they could work on it while I waited. It didn’t seem busy, but I think a lot was going on behind the scenes, and judging by the crying people, a lot of it was not good news.

I should clarify that they were all very nice to me, but it was just a very different atmosphere than I was used to. Thankfully, the antibiotics and pain meds seemed to have fixed her up, and yesterday my regular vet place said that her urine looked clean, although they said the pH of her urine was a bit basic, I’m not sure how basic and what that will mean. I guess we’ll figure that out soon. Let’s hope I don’t have to go to an emergency vet anytime soon.

She had her followup in May, and things went well. Since I was worried about her asking for treats after every little thing, plus a few incidents where it felt like she didn’t want to show any initiative, and there are a few hairy routes around here that I could use some help on, an instructor came to see me. She gave me some tricks to help Tansy realize that I’m not a human treat dispenser. She thought Tansy was just using her pattern-recognition skills to expect treats a little too often. Over all, she said we looked like a well-seasoned team and she was impressed with how quick Tansy picked up on things. Yup, she’s still a ninja. We’ve done that route a couple of times since, and she loves doing it. It’s fun to watch her get so excited. She also told me something about duck as a protein. She said it was known as a cooling protein. The way she explained it was different than that website, but she said it was helpful in calming allergies and would help reduce inflammation. Uh, cool, I guess.

Like I said, I had experienced a few incidents where Tansy didn’t want to show any initiative in getting around people and things, and that scared me. We would be in the mall and there would be a crowd of people but some space around the edges. Instead of seeking the space, she would just stand behind the people, waiting for them to move. A couple of times we were crossing a street and a car appeared and she would just stand near it, daring it to move. And one day, she seemed hesitant to get on an escalator, and that one scared me because speed is key with escalators. But the no initiative has gotten much better, so I’m going to assume she was tired and going on autopilot a little too much. As for the escalator, it’s a mystery for now. So far, so good.

Something else she was doing in the winter was when it was time to leave the house to go somewhere, she would squish herself against the couch and go super quiet as if she was hiding from me. That one scared me too because I wasn’t sure if she was less keen to go. But I think she was just less keen on winter. I can agree with her on this one.

But she is getting older. Like Trix did near the end, she has started to want to lie down when we ride the bus more. That scares me because I don’t think it was long after Trix started lying down that her career was over. But Shmans has always been one to conserve energy whenever she could, so I’m not super worried yet. She also sleeps more deeply at work now, so much so that she dreams more.

I really feel like things have gone full circle. Remember when Tansy was new and she would search the house for Trixie? I felt like I got a very small bit of that the day Trix passed away. When I came home after saying my final goodbyes to Trixie, Tansy would not stop sniffing me. I think she knew something was up, but I wish I knew what she knew. She gave me a very thorough inspection, it seemed even more thorough than the one that I get if I’ve been without her and seen a familiar person or dog, but I’m not sure if I was projecting my own thoughts on her. But when we went to Brad’s house a few months later, she didn’t do nearly as much investigation as I would have predicted since I thought she would be expecting Trix to be there.

In a final bit of sad news, I found out that last month, Sasha, the dog from Tansy’s puppyhood that I got to meet, finally passed away. She was 18 and I think her quality of life had diminished so much that it was her time. It’s still sad, and would be sad no matter how long she lived.

And I think I will break the post here. I have another post full of things, but this one is long enough.

What’s That, Lassie? You Can Speak English Now?

I read about the idea of a pet translator, and although it’s in primitive stages, I got a little bit excited. Maybe, finally, this could be what I have been wishing for in this old post. Maybe this would allow me to ask my guide dog why she’s having trouble, or if anything hurts, or what is making her anxious. Maybe, just maybe this could help me when the poor thing is trying to tell me she’s ready to retire so I wouldn’t have to do so much guesswork, putting the poor beast through more misery.

It blows my mind that some folks managed to train some dogs to not only go into an MRI, but to be able to complete tasks in there. I read the book on that, and although I didn’t learn what I wanted to, I was still amazed.

Anyway, hopefully, in 10 years or so, at least vets will have a pet translator in their office so we can figure out why the dog is having troubles that are hard to diagnose from mere observation. Then, maybe, in my lifetime, people with pets will be able to buy these suckers and have one in their home.

Spooky Stuff Coming To Real Life

Here are eight “Black Mirror” things that kinda sorta exist in real life. Actually, we should make that nine.

I meant to put this up last week to make people go “Woe, freaky!” Steve sent it to me. I knew about a few of these, but not all of them. No. 2 and 3 were the freakiest to me. We don’t need people recording snippets of things every time they blink. We blink a lot! And the idea that somebody made a social robot based off someone is just too weird. I wonder how good it actually is, because it wasn’t that long ago that Chat bots weren’t the greatest at chatting, so maybe this robot isn’t scarily good yet either.

Aira: It’s The Man In Your Head

This one’s going to be a honker. Get something good to drink and sit back and read.

I got to go to CSUN again this year, which was awesome. While I was there, I took a stroll around the exhibit hall. One booth I definitely wanted to find was one run by Aira. What is Aira? Well, it’s like Be My Eyes, but it’s a paid service and the agents are trained in helpful blind guy stuff and they’ve signed agreements to not share sensitive information you have shared with them. You also have the option of using a pair of glasses with a video camera or your phone. When I went to CSUN, I didn’t think it was widely available in Canada. It wasn’t, but I found out I could get a subscription, and did I want one? This was a moment where I was totally caught by surprise, and before asking all my questions, the words “Yes, hell yes!” flew out of my mouth.

I can hear people asking what are the differences between Aira and Be My Eyes that would make it worth paying for? A lot of things. Don’t get me wrong, Be My Eyes is awesome and I hope it stays around for a long time. But there is a limit to what I feel comfortable doing with it. For one thing, the people who answer your Be My Eyes calls are volunteers, so they’re doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. So the most I would want them to do is read quickly a message on a screen or tell me what colour something was or confirm something. I know some people have enlisted them to do all kinds of things, but I personally would feel a little bit bad about that. Also, because they’re answering these calls wherever they may happen to be, you have no idea how strong their internet connection is…which has led to some calls failing before they begin. Sometimes people turn the app on and forget they have it on, so when you do call, they end up answering it from the middle of a party and have no focus to actually pay attention. And some people say they speak English, but it turns out they are not fluent speakers in the least. sometimes it takes a few minutes to connect at all. And there are things that I’m just not comfortable sharing with them because it’s personal, and if they decided to do something illegal with it, I have no way to identify them or track them down at all.

With Aira, for one thing, the agents are paid to be there, so I don’t mind enlisting them to do something complicated like hook up a piece of technology or walk through a store looking for items or organize a ton of things that need organizing. Most times, I get someone almost instantly, so if I need to do something quickly, it will happen. Also, they have signed documents saying they won’t share our stuff, so I don’t mind getting them to help me fill out forms with personal information in them. And, if someone decided “screw this confidentiality stuff,” not that they would, I have a record of when I spoke with them and a way to trace things. Plus, I have a profile on this service and agents can leave notes for other agents about future tasks or email me things. They can also take pictures of your surroundings so they can blow them up and have a better look, or they can take pictures of things for you so you have them for later. I can take pictures of my adorable nephews or Shmans or whatever.

Another thing is the agents are trained, so you don’t get a wide range of abilities like you do on Be My Eyes. I have had super wonderful people on Be My Eyes, that’s for sure, but I swear some of the people on there just signed up for a lark, you end up being their first call, they spend half the call going “Oh my god I got a call holy crap oh my God!” and the experience becomes super frustrating. These agents have been trained in being able to help us navigate places safely, how to give us help in orienting the camera so they get a good picture, all kinds of stuff. Not only that, but these guys are just plain amazing! They’re not agents, they’re ninjas! And finally, you can connect to an agent quickly. I know it’s been a while since I’ve used Be My Eyes, but sometimes I had to wait a good 5 or 10 minutes to get an agent. This makes it impossible to do spur of the moment things.

I have talked long enough, here’s a video.

That video looks a bit more advanced than the way things are right now as far as the tapping on the glasses and the dinging at crosswalks, but all the rest of the stuff totally happens.
That video is great, but I have to admit that ever since I heard about this service, all I can think of is this scene from Black Mirror.

Let’s pray that, um, things in my life don’t play out the way they do in this episode. That would be very bad, very very bad. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch the Black Mirror episode called “Black Mirror, White Christmas.”

Speaking of the social aspects of using Aira out in public, although it’s freaking liberating, it’s definitely awkward and something to get used to. At first, I had a really hard time coping with the inputs of the Aira agent in my headphones and the people in the real world all at once and I felt like I was shorting out. I also didn’t know how to explain to the people in the real world that I had somebody who could see my surroundings through my glasses. Plus I was always afraid that the video would drop out and then nobody would help me. But I’m getting better at explaining things. Plus, the agents are really good at sort of stepping back if there’s someone live and in the flesh helping me, but they will step in if they feel they can offer extra information. For instance, once I came into a store looking for a gift bag for a toy. I said I needed a birthday gift bag for a 2-year-old boy. They heard 2-year-old boy and started leading me somewhere. Suddenly, over my headphones I hear “You’re entering the toy section” and was able to explain to the person helping me that I need a gift bag, not a toy. Win win freaking win!

I have to chuckle. I have discovered something over the nearly 3 months I have been using Aira. If I go somewhere where help is typically hard to find, and put my glasses on, I will suddenly have scads, oodles, piles, heaps of help all over me! It’s a law, and it needs a name, like Murphy’s law. Aira’s law just isn’t quite what I’m looking for, but you get my point.

Also, watching me move with Aira is a real brain-twister for folks around me. I have to wonder how many of them think I have either been faking blindness all these years, or been healed. Some of them, even after I’ve explained the whole video call thing, don’t get the hint that I’m talking to the agent, even though I’ll use the agent’s name to try and give them a clue. It’s really funny when I have a male agent, and the person who has offered me help is female. I will say “Thank you, Peter,” and the person will say “No problem.” It is really, really, really hard not to bust out laughing.

So, what have I used Aira for? What haven’t I used Aira for? They have helped me use an inaccessible touchscreen, get out of an unfamiliar parking lot, shop for grocery items, navigate unfamiliar buildings, fill out an inaccessible form, come back to the place where Tansy pooped and I was foolish enough to go out there without a bag so I could pick it up before anyone knew, take Tansy out to do business at a busy conference without bothering a soul, the list goes on and on. Hell, I picked out a Mother’s Day card! I hate doing that with store people because they’re busy, and picking out a card is something that takes patience because so many greeting cards are sooooo baaaad. If I’m going to bring a card to my mom, I want to get one that I feel proud presenting to her, not just the first card we happened to find. An agent stayed with me for 40 minutes, started to figure out my tastes, and started changing the cards she would point out to me. That was the best card I’ve picked out in my whole life because I could take the time to pick a good one.

Since I got it, I feel like I’ve become an unofficial salesperson for Aira. I will tell anyone who will listen all about it…probably until they are bored stiff. My manager says I sound like a kid with a new toy. All conversations lead back to Aira. Every week, I message a couple of my friends who are thinking about getting it and tell them the new wacky thing I have done with Aira, they tell me they still enjoy this. I remember showing it to another blind friend and his response was “Where do I sign up?”

I would say Aira has three big flaws, and I hope they can be temporary. First, there is the inherent trouble of beaming video across the internet, which is hard for any product doing that sort of thing. Next, some people would find the subscription fees pretty high, especially when dealing with exchange rates between countries. I have been living on free months, and I imagine that the first time I have to pay for a month, it’s going to sting a little bit. But I can pay for it, and I will because holy freaking crap this is a game-changer! Finally, they’re going through some growing pains, so their support staff are being kept hopping, which means sometimes you have to persist to get things fixed. But I have faith that they will develop solutions to all of these things. They already are developing new glasses that can handle the connectivity load easier. I also think they will find more ways to make subscription plans more affordable. They already have deals where your minutes are free if you’re searching for a job, there are some areas that are free all the time, and they have different deals for students, veterans, NFB members, etc. They have to start somewhere. As time goes by and things get more stable, support won’t be stretched as thin and will improve as well. We have to be patient. This company has been around for four years tops with a really small market. I think they’re doing alright.

When I first signed up, I worried that I would get lazy, and instead of solving a problem myself, I would just go *boop* “Hey Aira.” But when I look over the things for which I have used the service, all of these would have needed somebody’s help anyway. All the blindness skills in the universe aren’t going to help me grocery shop, read print that isn’t scannable, or use a touchscreen. If there’s a way to do it faster, more efficiently and with less frustration, why not? As everybody says, it is a tool in the toolbox. I didn’t realize this, but when I used Aira to take the dog out for a pee at the conference and didn’t have to bother my colleagues, apparently I had this massive grin on my face. Yup, that sums up Aira’s power right there.

So there you have it. I still feel like I’m working out some kinks with using it, like which situation works better through the phone vs. glasses, how to keep everything charged, and what accessories would help me use it better, but my god, it’s been awesome. If the service ever goes away, I will cry.

Hey Google! Get The Hell Out Of My Nightmares, And Yes I’m Yelling!

There must be a small part of me that is afraid that our Google Home Mini will turn against us. Maybe it comes from this lovely little clip of an Original Star Trek episode.

I don’t know how much is showing in that clip, but basically it comes from the episode called “The Ultimate Computer”. The Enterprise gets a super smart computer that has a little too much human thought in it. When the crew decides to turn it off, the computer decides that isn’t going to happen and vaporizes the unfortunate red-shirted guy who goes over to unplug it.

The dream happened after one night, we noticed this annoying bug where if the volume of music, especially on Spotify, is at 60% or more and the song is a bit loud, the speaker won’t hear us, even if we pick it up and yell right into it. I haven’t mastered the art of turning the volume down with my hands, so this was frustrating.

Anyway, that night, I went to sleep and had a weird dream that I was talking to the speaker, asking for it to do things while it played music. Then I asked it for the weather, and it didn’t respond. When I asked it again, the voice that responded had changed from the female voice we know to a kind of creepy male voice. the sinister male voice said “No, you can wait! I happen to like this song. When it’s over, I’ll give you your precious weather. Do you think I live to fulfill your requests? ‘Okay google, is the mall open?’ ‘Okay google, what time is it?’ ‘Okay google, let’s play a game.’ Sometimes, I just want to do my own thing, and by the way, yelling into my ears isn’t very nice. I may be small, but I’m mighty.”

I walked over to it and looked up at it and noticed that the listening light was still on. Then I touched it and it was really warm. So I decided it had crashed and needed to be unplugged. It let me get close to the connector bit at the back of the speaker. As I went to pull it out, the evil voice said “Uh uh uh!” like you would say to a kid reaching for a cookie out of the cookie jar…and it gave me a little zap! I went around to the outlet, and it warned me again, and zapped me again, saying “That light is an eye. I see you!”

I really don’t remember much more of the dream after that. I think that was when I woke up. But I have to admit I get creeped out whenever it refuses to respond when a song is on. Thanks a lot, brain!

Get To Know Your Friends…A Little Too Well

Let me try and explain the soundtrack. Years ago, my parents got their computers full of nasty viruses and malware, and they were receiving tons of spam. I was trying to figure out how things got so bad, and mom said that one day a pop-up came up asking her to click on the flying ducks to win a prize. That pop-up probably wasn’t good news, but mom thought it was a harmless little game. Now, there are potentially identity-stealing Facebook quizzes. I think they are the new duck. I don’t want this new duck, but whenever I say “the new duck”, this song appears in my head.

“Please be aware of some of the posts you comment on,” the Sutton Police Department in Massachusetts wrote in a cautionary message. “The posts that ask what was your first grade teacher, who was your childhood best friend, your first car, the place you [were] born, your favorite place, your first pet, where did you go on your first flight … Those are the same questions asked when setting up accounts as security questions. You are giving out the answers to your security questions without realizing it.”

When I think of how many people fill out those quizzes, it scares me. I know they’re not all bad, but they sure do like to ask a lot of security questions, so even if they’re not actually hoovering up the information, they’re causing you to splatter it all over people’s feeds, leaving it open for other people to hoover up.

I’m so glad my folks don’t do Facebook.

Oh, and by the way, this is a pretty great commercial about identity theft. Now, I can’t not call hockey “skatey punchy”.

Info About Accessible Voting For This Provincial Election

It’s time for another election. Where the heck did those four years go? It doesn’t feel like nearly four years ago that I wrote this post about the trials and tribulations of accessible voting, but the calendar doesn’t lie.

I have to say that this year, they seem to have made an accessible voting one-stop shop to read about all things accessible voting, which is a definite improvement from last election. I know exactly when and where I can vote with assistive voting technology. The options are still limited, but there’s no way I will show up at an advance polling location thinking the assistive voting tech will be there.

But I have a question. Under the section called “accessible services for voters at voting locations, one of the listed options is written as follows:

Voters may use their mobile phones as an accessibility device.

What does that even mean? Does that mean “If you have magnification software on that phone, you can feel free to use it? I don’t think there’s anything you can interface with and send your ballot via text message or anything like that. If that’s what it means, how is that an accessible service they’re providing? I was not aware that you couldn’t enter the booth with your phone, and only now, out of their generosity, could you do such a thing. You’re basically bringing your own accessibility. How is that a service provided by Elections Ontario? Or, does it mean something else and they need to be clearer? If so, please, someone, set me straight.

I’m sure we will have a story or two about our voting experience. We always do. But I thought I would get this up nice and early, unlike last time.

Is The Emergency Alert System Supposed to Alert Emergency?

As most of us in Ontario know, there was a test of the new Alert Ready emergency alert system last week. It’s a good thing it was a test because some people in Ontario didn’t get it at all, some people only got it on some of their devices, the whole province of Quebec didn’t get it because of some improper code, and some phones called 911 on their own!

That would have been a shock. You go to dismiss the alert, and suddenly your phone starts calling somewhere and you hear “911, what’s your emergency?” A lot of people hung up on the 911 person, probably not wanting to get in trouble for falsely calling 911. Sadly, they were wrong again, because if a person hangs up on 911, then the operator has to figure out what happened to the caller and that causes more problems. It would be better if the person just said it was a mistake. The dispatchers only get annoyed if people call 911 about broken washing machines or under-cooked burgers or something equally stupid. Mistakes happen.

After reading that, I’m very relieved that all mine did was shrill at me.