Happy Shawinigan Handshake Day

Today is Flag Day here in Canada. It’s a time to celebrate the day in 1965 when the Maple Leaf replaced the Red Ensign as our country’s new official symbol.

Strangely, an event of such significance didn’t always have its own day. Believe it or not, it took us until 1996 for a government to decide hey, maybe we should recognize this anniversary in some way. And so it was that on February 15th of that year, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Governor General Roméo LeBlanc declared that National Flag of Canada Day would be celebrated for the first time.

The first ceremony was held in Hull, Quebec, because when you think national Canadian pride, Quebec is totally the first place that comes to mind…especially so hot on the heels of that whole should we stay or should we go thing a few months earlier. Although to be fair they did stay, and if memory serves that was part of the reason for choosing that location.

And what a day it was.

All the nice happy flag stuff happened which is great of course, but there was also this, which is what I’ll forever remember it for.

The presiding Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, was confronted by protesters demonstrating against proposed cuts to the unemployment insurance system.
While walking through the crowd Chretien grabbed one protester who had approached him by the neck and pushed him aside, later downplaying the incident.
“I dunno, what happened?” the PM from Shawinigan asked reporters in a media scrum right after. “I had to go, so if you’re in my way, I’m walking. I dunno what happened. Somebody should not have been there.”
Later, the Prime Minister’s Office said Chretien was simply trying to protect himself.
The incident went on to be known as the Shawinigan Handshake.

And Jean Chrétien went on to remain my favourite Prime Minister of all time.

Dumb-Sounding Birds

I have no idea why I feel so compelled to post this, but I do.

Yup, those are some dumb-sounding birds. Although I do feel bad for the poor Bald Eagle, which compared to the American Bittern which sounds like it’s about to throw up and whatever the hell the Willow Ptarmigan is doing really doesn’t sound stupid at all.

I Wonder Which Of These Was The Inspiration For Black Friday

As we wait for 2016’s Black Friday barbarism to begin, let us pause and remind ourselves that no matter how much more enlightened we think we are than previous generations, we still act an awful lot like they did. This also serves as a good argument that the person who came up with Black Friday is an even worse human being than previously thought, because he clearly should have known better. Those who don’t learn from history, I suppose.

In 1883, the organizers of a variety show in Northern England promised the children attending the event that they would receive a toy upon exit (the organizers denied reports that the prizes were to go to the first children downstairs). The organizers had intended an orderly exit in which toys were handed out individually, but a surge of 1200 kids rushed to the stairwell, where, at the bottom of the stairs, a door had been propped open inwards about 20 inches and bolted in place. The bolted door stopped the stampeding children from exiting, and the crowd in the stairwell swelled. In the frenzy, children who fell were crushed or suffocated to death, while others were crushed by the mass of children still entering the stairwell. Almost 200 children were killed in the stampede; Queen Victoria’s private secretary wrote that the queen’s “heart bleeds for the suffering of the many bereaved parents.” The New York Times reported days later that the coveted box of toys was still positioned by the door.

One thing I noticed reading through these is the references to store employees tossing things to the crowds. That has bad idea written all over it, does it not? It caught my eye because it’s something I don’t hear about nowadays. I guess maybe we have learned something after all. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a start.

Red Cross: I’m Seeing Red, and Getting Cross

I had something happen to me last week that I thought I should blog in case it happens to someone else. I guess I’d call it a reverse scam warning.

Back when the whole Fort McMurray fires disaster happened, I texted “fires” to the red cross number advertised so I could donate. I didn’t really think much more about the donation, was just glad I could help.

Then, last week, I got a call from an unknown number. I was in the middle of a back and forth exchange with Uber Support, so I thought maybe they were using a different number, so I picked up. That was my first mistake.

The person on the other end of the phone was not from Uber. He was a very British fellow. He said that he was from something called Listen in London, and he was calling me because I had given to the Red Cross Alberta fires appeal. I said yes, in fact I had. At this point, he asked me for my name. Then he told me the call was being recorded, thanked me for my donation, telling me all the things the Red Cross had been able to buy with the donations received. I thought that was nice.

Then, because of course there is a then, he asked if I wanted to give more, either in a one-time donation or on a monthly basis. This was when all the red flags went up. I know better than to give to people who call me. I said I wasn’t keen on giving over the phone for myriad reasons, and is there a dedicated page where I can go online and give? He did not want to give me any of that, claiming that it was less overhead if I gave right now over the phone. Really? A dude calling overseas soliciting donations is less overhead than me just going to a website? He also said that *after* I agreed to give, he would give me a phone number where I could call and confirm all of this. After? Really?

This is where sensible me should have exercised my powers of the hangup button. But I was not sensible me. I objected a few more times, but he managed to convince me to give in. I thought since this call was being recorded, I would be transferred to a verification department, at which point I might be able to get out of this. But oh no, he asked for my credit card number.

I was in shock. This dude who was recording my phone call was going to take down my credit card number? I don’t think so. It was then that he said that he wasn’t recording at this point. And against all of my better judgment, I went ahead and gave. This was immediately followed up by me yelling at myself for being so goddamn stupid.

True to his word, he gave me a phone number that did go to the Red Cross. But this was where things got cute. I called that number, and asked the guy who picked up if the Red Cross was using a firm from the UK to call people who already donated to the Alberta fires appeal. His response was “How do I know? I’m not aware of all of the Red Cross’s outbound call centres. And why on earth would a guy from the UK be calling on behalf of the Red Cross?” This was not what I wanted to hear from the number given to me to confirm the authenticity of this British dude. I tried to explain, but he got more and more upset with me, so I let him go.

Now I was convinced I had been scammed, so I called my credit card company and put a block on the card. I also messaged someone I know who works for Red Cross. She had also never heard of this, and agreed with me that this sounded like the scammiest scam that ever scammed. She started asking around, but said it would take a while.

Because I couldn’t leave well enough alone, I called back, and tried another extension, and thankfully got a more knowledgeable fellow that did confirm that the British guy was calling on their behalf. He also confirmed that my name went into the database. That made me feel miles better.

Also, my friend rattled the right cages, and a nice woman was able to listen to both my British fellow’s call, and the first agent I contacted when I called Red Cross. She totally understood why I thought I had been scammed. She explained that the first agent I got was one of their overflow pool, who just sort of steps in to take calls when all their in-house people were busy, so he really wasn’t super knowledgeable about all this stuff. The second guy I got was one of their dedicated team, and that’s why he understood.

I think this experience was a warning shot for me. I was lucky and I did end up not being taken for a ride. But it could have easily ended badly. Hopefully, next time, I won’t be such a pushover. Sadly, I know all these things, but I still let him persuade me to go against my gut.

But at least the Red Cross was very good and got back to me pretty quickly, apologizing for the missteps and explaining how they happened. That made me feel infinitely better.

So, if this happens to you, it’s probably not a scam. Always check after getting a suspicious call, but the Red Cross is in fact calling people back who have texted “fires” to help out the folks in Alberta. But I wish I didn’t have to go through all kinds of rigmarole to confirm that I haven’t been scammed. That shouldn’t be the way things work. Here are my suggestions:
The telemarketer should know my name. If he doesn’t, I already start doubting the legitimacy. Also, inform as many people in your organization as humanly possible that such a blitzis going on. It’s never good when I call the number that’s supposed to confirm that everything is on the up and up, only to be met with a response filled with utter confusion.

I like giving to the Red Cross…I could have done without all the surrounding drama. Hopefully others haven’t gone through the same.

Why’d I Have To Make That

This is interesting. 10 Inventors Who Came to Regret Their Creations

Some, like the atomic bomb and the AK-47, make perfect sense while others such as the “//” after the “http” come off like one of those things that would drive you nuts after you finished early and had way too much time to edit. I’m imagining Carin working on an essay, for example. Don’t worry, she’ll think that’s funny. It’s also nice to hear that the pop-up ad guy is sorry, even if it’s far too late to undo the hell he unleashed.

Yeah, Pretty Much This

Hey there, perpetually cheery social media guy. Before you hit RT on that latest and greatest lifechanging quote, take a couple minutes to read this. Thanks. Inspirational messages are hollow statements for lazy blowhards

It’s my sincere hope that a few of you sanctimonious blowhards will realize what insufferable assholes you are, and that you’ll stop posting these “inspirational” messages everywhere. They’re shitty, obnoxious and irrelevant to most people. In the mean time, here’s a free inspirational message from me to you: eat shit. It’s free and good for the environment.

Questions You Never Had, Unanswered

I love Snopes.com. It’s often the first place I look when somebody sends me a story for the site that I’m not so sure about the truthfulness of, and it’s always where I send somebody who forwards me a dire warning about or a miracle cure for anything. If you’ve never used it, you should. It’s a fantastic resource for determining truth from fiction online.

But as you might expect, being an authority on all things…pretty much everything will net you lots of strange questions in the old email inbox. And because they’re awesome, the Snopes folks have decided to share a few of the stranger ones with us. For example:

Can you please find out if it is true that you will get shot in the Philippines if you sing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”?

I think that’s in reference to this phenomenon.

I heard that in cars on cold nights, teenage boy’s penises have broken off from the cold. My boyfriend and I need to know now!

Can drinking frozen beer kill you?

No…unless it’s Coors. That stuff’ll kill you no matter the temperature. Avoid it at all cost.

I just read a blurb that pre-packaged foods can cause people to turn gay because of too much estrogen. If I was only allowed one question for snopes, I would ask if this is true. Is it?

They say that if a person has a pet cat and dies, if the person’s body is not found fairly soon after death, the cat, having not been fed, will become ravenously hungry and eat the dead person’s face off — JUST the face!

Is this true? My cat often looks me in the face. I used to think he was just being friendly. Now I know he’s just sizing me up, like a chef at a butcher shop, waiting for “the big day”. Since hearing this rumor, every time my cat licks his chops it gives me the willies!

I knew I hated cats for a reason.

Can people see into your house if it’s darker in your house than it is outside? When I look around at other houses that don’t have lights on, I see darkness, a reflection or only what is immediately in front of the window (curtains, plants, etc.). As a result, I tend to act as though no one can see what I’m doing inside as long as the lights are off and there is no other source of light illuminating me. My wife, however, is often appalled by this behavior. Should she be appalled, or am I correct?

The hell are you doing in there?

I’ve been told that if you snort powdered glass as you would cocaine, you will die. Is this just a rumor, or would it actually happen?

If you need to know this for any reason other than research project, you deserve whatever happens to you. This is a fact.

I heard that bananas have a natural chemical that makes you happy. Is it also true that cockroaches can survive an atomic blast?

My friend swears that you can’t be prosecuted for stealing a dead body because it has no intrinsic value. Is this true?

Is it true that a girl cannot get pregnant if her mate smokes the seeds of marijuana when he smokes marijuana, please tell me if this is true because a lot of people tell me it is true and a lot of people tell me it’s not and I don’t know whaether to believe it or not because this town lies a lot. thanks.
Can cocoa butter get rid of stretch marks?

can you tell me how i would analyze the effect each statistic has on the world.

There’s a lot more “What the huh?” in here and you should read it all, but I’ll leave you with this one. Which one should close this out was a tough choice, by the way.

I’ve heard that it is impossible to take a lightbulb out of your mouth once one puts it in, without either breaking the bulb or dislocating the jaw.

Do you know if this is true? I’m counting on you — my husband is really curious, and I don’t want to have to drive him to the hospital …

If my invox is ever half this weird, I could die a happy man.

Ow My Balls, It’s Domino’s

This sort of Twitter usage is completely childish and stupid and pointless and silly and…totally something I would probably do without a whole lot of convincing.

Every day, social media editors around the world face difficult decisions. For example: does the guy who claims he burned his dick while fucking a pepperoni pizza deserve a response from your company’s official Twitter account? For one social media person at Domino’s, the choice was obvious.

Not only did he get *a* response, he got several and it was grand. Or maybe I’m just immature. I’ll let you judge for yourselves.

Win Anyone’s Heart With A Set Of Mayor Rob Ford Valentine Cards

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and if you’re anything like me, you have no idea what you’re getting your special someone. Or perhaps I should say you *had* no idea what to get your special someone, because there are now Mayor Rob Ford valentine cards. Yes, your shopping starts and ends right here.

There are pictures of them at that link, but if you’re like me and pictures don’t really help you, Scotty (their creator) was kind enough to email me a description and the captions. Pretty cool of him, I must say.

There are six versions, all with a cartoon likeness of the mayor and printed and cut out like the valentines that children handed out when I was in grade school.

1. It was probably in one of my drunken stupers when, I fell for you.

2. You’re like a Subway. I can’t afford you but I want you anyway.

3. Re-elect me as your Valentine. Mayor answer be yes!

4. I don’t let a damned streetcar delay this love, valentine.

5. Valentine, I’d take a crack at you.

6. I refuse to resign… my love for you!

Yes, you really can buy these. the info is also at the above link, which I’ll helpfully put here so you don’t have to go all the way back up there.

Here, Have A Bunch Of Random Trivia

I often find myself doubting the validity of some of the stuff pumped out by those amazing facts Twitter accounts, but if Mental Floss says it’s true, I trust them. So because this type of random trivia stuff fascinates me and because I’m the guy with the passwords, here are 65 Amazing Facts That Will Blow Your Mind.

I had no idea, for instance, that 2013 is the first year since 1987 that all of the digits were different. Who would know that? Why would you ever sit down and figure this out? but somebody did, and now I can’t stop randomly thinking about it and trying to catch a mistake. I can’t do it, by the way.

And yes, somebody really did sue because Crunchberries aren’t actual fruit with actual nutritional value. I remember that like it was yesterday.