Why Would He Be Stopping During A Chase…Oh. Wait

I can’t get this to embed, so you’re going to have to go here to watch it. Either that or you can wait for it to show up on all of the blooper reels, because it’s totally going to.

A high-speed chase in California’s Inland Empire has been going on for over two hours as of this writing, and while it’s a dangerous situation for everyone involved, it was a bit embarrassing for the local news anchors, as everyone – including the helicopter camera operator – lost sight of the black Toyota Camry that was actually involved in the chase, and instead focused on a black Chevrolet Impala that was nearby that was just going about its business.

The actual culprit and his passenger were eventually apprehended without incident. Whether the fellow at the store found everything he was looking for is unknown.

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.

Quarter In The Courts

This is nice. One-Quarter of Ontario PC Candidates Currently Face Lawsuits, Probes and Police Investigations

Obviously not all of these people won, but Doug Ford and his band of miscreants were easily handed a majority government on Thursday, so obviously some of them did.

All of this is important, but there are four things of particular note.

  1. It’s actually more than a quarter of them. The real number, according to Press Progress, is 27.6%. Or to put it another way, 34 out of 123 people who sincerely expected you to trust them to run literally everything important around here might be criminals.
  2. The list I linked to isn’t even a complete one.

    That number does not include several revelations in the lead up to the election,  including allegations ex-PC leader Patrick Brown misappropriated party funds, allegations the PC party president sexually assaulted a young staffer, an investigation launched by Hamilton police looking into claims party officials rigged a nomination meeting or over a dozen other accusations of election fraud at Tory nomination meetings across Ontario.

    It goes on to note that what’s compiled here only covers a single month, which is more than enough, really.

  3. Doug Ford, A.K.A. the guy in charge, personally appears on the list more than once. There’s the lawsuit filed against him by brother Rob Ford’s widow accusing him of ripping her and her kids off to the tune of 16 and a half million dollars to prop up failing businesses and his own lifestyle, the time’s he’s accused of committing election fraud and breaking campaign financing rules, and of course he appears over and over again to defend everyone else’s misdeeds.
  4. All of this was public knowledge well before election season, yet a bunch of you still endorsed it at the ballot box. The hell?

It’s going to be a long four years. For those of you holding out hope that it won’t last that long, I’m sorry. It will. Trump is about to hit a year and a half and he shouldn’t have lasted a week. By that standard, Ford has nothing to worry about no matter what he does. Even throwing out the Trump factor, the voters of Ontario have already made that crystal clear.

The Donald Trump Insult Match Game!

Let’s play a game.

Remember back in January which feels like years ago because everything that didn’t happen within the last five or ten minutes feels like years ago when Donald Trump called a bunch of countries shitholes? That, obviously, was not the first or last time he’s gone out of his way to insult an entire nation. In this quiz, there are 12 examples of other times he’s done it. Your mission is to match the dickheaded remark to the country it was aimed at.

For each question, four choices are given. Once you make your choice, look up at all the answers again because a brief rundown of what he said will appear under the right one.

I got eight of them. I should have had nine, but it’s early, I haven’t had my tea yet and I gave a reasonable yet obviously wrong answer to question four.

Have fun, assholes!

Go Home Ontario, You’re Drunk. Possibly ON Buck-A-Beer Meant To Distract You From The Fact That You Just Voted In A Total Asshat


So. Premier Doug Ford is a thing now.

I’m not going to say I’m surprised. I can’t. The existence of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States makes being surprised by an election result pretty well impossible. But what I can say is that I’m incredibly disappointed. More than anything I’m disappointed in the nearly 43 percent of people who didn’t bother voting, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t also disappointed by what the people who did chose to do. Yes, I’m glad you made your voice heard, as is your right. I’d rather you do that than not do it. But since we’re talking about rights, it’s my right to think that your voice is kind of dumb and awful. How people who looked at their options and the state of the province could decide who needs better public transit or higher pay for people who are struggling or expanded health coverage or any of a thousand other things that would benefit everyone, I’m voting for the guy who doesn’t seem to like gay people or minorities or the disabled all that much but might give us reasonably priced beer is baffling. It’s baffling because this is Canada, where we’ve spent so much of the last two years talking about how aware we are compared to Americans and how there’s no way a Trump could ever happen here. I don’t know that Doug Ford is Trump in his purest form, but he’s a bit too close for comfort in some ways. It’s a damn shame that people couldn’t get past their blind hatred for the Liberals or fear of the NDP and see that.

Of course I want Doug Ford to do well. I hope he assembles a competent team to guide him. A team that will help him govern fairly and reasonably and has the courage to talk him out of doing a lot of the really stupid stuff. I hope that he has objectively good ideas and that they work as intended. If those things happen, we’ll all be better for it. But I’ll be honest, it can get hard to have hope for things like those on days like this.

But hey, there was some good news last night. The streak lives!

The party with the least number of votes?
That’s the Pauper Party of Ontario, which is currently sitting with 111 votes … or 0.00 per cent of the popular vote. The party is run by John Turmel, the man who holds the Guinness record for the most elections run in and the most elections lost.
But don’t feel bad for Turmel. He’s already announced he’s running for mayor in the municipal election this fall in Brantford.

The record now stands at 93, I believe. Well done, Jiu-Jitsu John!

Quarter Pounder

I don’t make a habit of it and I feel a little bad whenever I do, but there have been times when I’ve paid for things with nothing but change. Thank goodness none of those times was a transaction at Islam El Masry’s food cart. I enjoy Sriracha, but not when it’s applied directly to my eyes. But hey, at least he was nice enough to give the poor woman some racial slurs for free…allegedly.

The owner of a downtown food cart was arrested on misdemeanor assault charges this afternoon after hurling a Gatorade bottle at a black customer and then allegedly spraying her with Sriracha.
A video taken by the alleged victim, Carlotta Washington, was provided to Willamette Week by an eyewitness. It shows Islam El Masry, owner of the Small Pharoah’s halal cart, arguing with Washington, who claims that El Masry called her the n-word after she attempted to pay for her lunch with quarters.
The video shows El Masry telling her to “get the fuck away” from the cart, then throws a Gatorade bottle at her, causing her to drop her phone.

Washington says that El Masry then sprayed her with Sriracha chili sauce, though that is not on the video.
“It was in my eyes and all on my skin. It was burning terribly,” Washington says.

I don’t know how many quarters it was going to take Washington to pay for her food, but El Masry will need about 16,000 of them if he’s going to make bail.

Can It Be? Did Trump Try To Tell The Truth For The First Time?

Recently, Donald Trump did something not at all unusual for him. He made a bad policy decision. This time it’s one that might start a global trade war, because that’s the sort of thing that tends to happen when you just up and decide one day that you’re slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum that comes from countries you’re friendly with.

But then he did something that is unusual. For what may be the first time since he took power, he reportedly tried to justify his poor decision making with something approaching a verifiable fact.

Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau held a tense telephone call last month over the U.S. president’s decision to slap Canada with steep tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Trump mentioned the burning of the White House during the War of 1812 during the confrontational May 25 call, which was first reported by CNN and confirmed by CBC News.
Trudeau reportedly asked Trump how tariffs could be imposed on Canada on “national security” grounds. Trump reportedly responded: “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?”
It’s not clear if Trump was attempting to inject humour into a discussion on a topic that could have serious economic repercussions.
British troops burned down the White House in 1814 during the War of 1812, in retaliation for an American attack on York, Ont., a British colony at the time.

If this wasn’t Trump and he and his people didn’t have a track record, humour might be a possibility. But this is Trump and they do have a track record (the Bowling Green Massacre, whatever the hell happened in Sweden and on and on and on), so I’m not buying it. But hey, good on ya for not just making stuff up like usual, Don boy.

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!

Hi! It’s Adam From the Ontario NDP. Do You Have Some Random Numbers I Can Dial?

I don’t know how widespread it is, but the NDP is causing a bit of annoyance in some places thanks to texts from someone or something calling itself Adam.

A lot of locals aren’t happy about receiving random texts on their cell phones from the New Democratic Party.
The texts started popping up on phones earlier this week.

“Hi! It’s Adam from the Ontario NDP. Do you know about the election happening on June 7?” it reads.
It then advises to reply “stop” if you want to “opt out” and that SMS rates may apply.
People responding would find themselves in a political discussion with “Adam” who would also provide links to the NDP platform on issues.

I haven’t gotten any of these myself, and I’m not sure how much of a problem I’d have with it if I did. On the surface it’s basically a modern version of a party calling you, and it’s even less irritating because you don’t have to get up from dinner to answer it because it might be something important. Man do I ever not miss those days at all. Whoever invented caller ID should win every award that exists and a few I can make up if those aren’t enough.

But while the text itself may not bug me, I’m not so sure about the NDP’s response to the controversy.

“We use texting as part of our program to get voters out on election day to cast their ballots,” Party spokesman Jared Walker told GuelphToday. “We use texting, but we do NOT use lists.”

Ok, so then where do the numbers come from?

“If you receive a text from us, you’ve either signed up OR you’ve received a random text that comes with an opt-out option. Our texting method is sort of like our door-knocking method, we visit everyone!”

First of all, if people have signed up, that’s a list. But the bigger issue is the random part. Sending hundreds or thousands of texts at a time helplessly into the wind and hoping that maybe a few will land? That sounds inefficient. It also sounds an awful lot like spam.

If you guys are using lists, just admit it. And if you aren’t, maybe now might be a good time to start. It seems like a much better strategy than what you’re doing now, bothering people with cell phones and confusing old folks with landlines.

Might Be Time To Look Into Changing Your Name To Sober Upman

Given that she’s been arrested at least 15 times, I’m surprised that neither of us caught Crystal Methvin before now.

Police say they responded to a parking lot on South Dixie Highway and found three people sitting in a car. The people in the car consented to a search and police say they found drug paraphernalia and a substance that field tested positive for crystal meth.
Crystal Methvin and Douglas Nickerson were arrested on drug possession charges.