Saturday, February 10, 2007

Self-serve checkouts

There's definitely a trend in the retail world toward self-serve checkouts. You either love 'em or hate 'em. I love 'em, personally, except when I'm behind someone who doesn't know how to use them properly or doesn't have the patience to listen to people who are trying to give them advice when things aren't working correctly.

Tonight, I was at my favourite supermarket and was using a checkout next to a lady who was becoming extremely frustrated because everything she was trying to scan wouldn't work. Much like the lady in this blog posting, her kids were unknowingly putting their hands near the bags, thus causing the computerized system to think that she'd put something in the bag without scanning it.

The computers are weight-sensitive, so when someone touches the bag, it thinks you put something in the bag. And if you haven't scanned what you "put" in the bag, then it locks up, causing frustration if you don't know that your kids were playing with the bags.

These scanners are definitely not kid-friendly, folks, so if you want to use them, keep your toddlers' hands (and bodies) far away. The lady in question at the supermarket tonight grew so furious that she ended up going to a traditional checkout, all while grumbling about the poor service from the clerk who was serving the self-serve checkout station. The clerk had told her to keep her kids' hands away from the bags. Even I told her the same thing. But she preferred to have her tantrum and blame everyone in the store except her precious little darlings. *sigh* She must have been having a difficult day.

Annoying marketing techniques

There are two marketing techniques that drive me nuts because I honestly believe they're dangerous to drivers:

1. Stores that use strobe lights to attract patrons. Driving by a store with strobe lights is very distracting for a driver. It automatically draws the driver's eye to the light and then conveniently blinds them. Safe, eh? Every city has a few places with strobe lights in their windows. There should be bylaws against this.

2. Radio commercials with car horns or sirens as sounds effects. This is very dangerous to drivers because it automatically distracts them into looking around for danger. Did they cut someone off? Is there something another car is trying to warn them about? And sirens... The use of sirens in radio commercials should be 100% illegal because of the distraction they cause to drivers and the creation of a false sense that there is an emergency.

An excellent magazine

For those of you who like to cook, I highly recommend the excellent Cook's Illustrated magazine. It's a companion to the PBS series America's Test Kitchen and also has a sister magazine, Cook's Country. The magazine is chock-full of illustrated best practices in cooking, including reviews of kitchen equipment. It's not flashy, but it's very informative. (Actually, I just found out about Cook's Country while researching for this post, so I'm definitely going to pick up a copy of that, too!) To watch America's Test Kitchen, check your local PBS listings.

Ian Richardson -- a.k.a. The Grey Poupon Man -- dies at 72

Click here for more. See below for the ad he starred in for Grey Poupon mustard. (He's the one who asks for the Grey Poupon.)

If you're not from Canada... here's what many Canadians are watching tonight...

It's Saturday night in Canada... and that means it's Hockey Night in Canada!

Any expatriate Canadian will tell you that hearing the national anthem (O Canada) will bring a smile to their face... but hearing the original theme to Hockey Night in Canada is enough to make any red-blooded Canadian break down into tears of homesickness and start frantically looking up flight schedules back home. Know any Canadians who are presently living outside the country -- especially men? Even if they aren't hockey fans, just hearing that theme is like an Irishman hearing Danny Boy or an Australian hearing Waltzing Matilda. Trust me, there'll be "something in their eye" within a few seconds of hearing it.

TV shows I've never seen...

As an avowed TV-aholic, I surprise myself sometimes at the number of popular shows that I've never seen. Maybe it's just to make myself feel better that I don't watch every show on the tube -- kind of like a drug addict who stays away from cocaine but injects everything else in sight! Here's a list of some popular shows of which I've never seen a full (or sometimes even partial) episode... Click on the photos for more.

And click here for a (thankfully infrequent) guilty pleasure of mine that I'm ashamed to say that I've watched -- but only when I'm home sick (seriously! honest!). If you're ever feeling sorry for yourself, watch this show for a real pick-me-up... cuz no one is as pitiful as these guests. I used to work with a woman who attended a taping of the show. The theme was "nudists"... and yup... the guests were all buck nekkid. And yes, you can let your imagination go wild with that one, considering the usual calibre of guests on the show. Ewwww.

The Hoohaa Monologues

A woman in Atlantic Beach, Florida, complained to Atlantic Theaters about the use of the word "vagina" on a billboard advertising their upcoming production of "The Vagina Monologues." The woman asked for the change after her niece asked her what the word meant when they were driving by the sign. So the theatre changed the word "vagina" to "hoohaa." Maybe the theatre could have just told the woman to tell her niece what the bloody heck a vagina is! Since when is it society's role to change a perfectly legitimate word just to please one prudish person? So much controversy erupted over the idiocy (but great publicity) of this decision that Atlantic Theaters changed their minds and returned "vagina" to its rightful place on the billboard after the play's organizers insisted. The "hoohaa" move is now being mocked around the world, and rightfully so. Conan O'Brien had a great line on this subject in last night's show. He suggested that organizers should have just renamed the play "Stories from the Baby Hole" and left it at that. Wondering what all the fuss is about? Here's a clip from a 2006 San Francisco performance of the play:

The Littlest Hobo

Am I the only person who could barely watch The Littlest Hobo because I was so worried what would happen to "Hobo" when he inevitably left his friends and wandered off at the end of the episode? Where would he sleep? Was he lonely? What if he got hungry? Oh Lord -- the anxiety! Are there others out there who couldn't enjoy the show because they were so worried about the dog? Or am I just nuts? (Probably nuts...)

Oh God... that theme music. Hobo! Are you OK? *falls to floor weeping*

Friday, February 09, 2007

Interested in spiritual or motivational/self-help content? Visit Hay House Radio!

Hay House Radio is an online broadcaster devoted to spiritual (not "religious" or judgmental) content along with a healthy dose of motivational and self-help. Many of the shows are archived, too. Perfect for someone who wants to blend the spiritual with the practical. Hosts include Sylvia Browne, Esther and Jerry Hicks, Wayne Dyer, Dawn Breslin and Doreen Virtue. Check it out!

And the cycle continues...

You don't need to speak French to get the gist of this ad from France. This is social advertising at its shocking best -- actually, "best" is not the word I should use. "Effective" is better. The tagline: "A man who hits his wife teaches violence to his children." Powerful. The ad was done for La Fédération Nationale Solidarité Femmes.

Call Luke Johnson!

I just stumbled upon this guy on YouTube today. He gave out his cell phone number as an experiment through a video he posted on the site to see how many people would actually call. As of January 11, he had received 11,959 calls, including one from an older man who asked him if he was ticklish. (Hey, don't look at me... I just found out about this today! Pervs!) Besides, he's a married man! I thought he was just a kid -- 17 years old or so -- when in reality he's 27 and married! That guy certainly has genetics on his side. Here's the original "experiment" video (I'm not sure if he's still accepting calls, but you can try):

And here's a CNN report on his experiment:

If anyone talks to him, let me know!

What happens when your spokesperson drops dead? Nothing good...

As the entire world now knows, Anna Nicole Smith died suddenly yesterday -- actually, less than 24 hours ago. She was the celebrity spokesperson for TrimSpa, a weightloss supplement.

Despite reports of her alleged drug and alcohol abuse, the company hired her anyway after she lost nearly 70 lbs by using their product. With their advertising techniques under fire by authorities and now -- with her sudden death -- TrimSpa appears to be on the ropes. When your celebrity spokesperson is featured heavily in all your marketing... and that celebrity spokesperson drops dead suddenly, it doesn't exactly do wonders for product safety optics.

Ironically, a report of a class action lawsuit appeared just the day before her death. TrimSpa put all their eggs in one basket. They took a risk despite evidence that Anna Nicole had serious issues. Can they survive? Did taking TrimSpa contribute to her death? Even if it's proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it didn't, will consumer confidence return? To make matters worse, you can be sure that the commercial below will be shown time and time again in the coming days once someone in the media gets their hands on it. In the irony of ironies, Anna Nicole did a commercial for TrimSpa that promoted an event at the very facility she died in.

Here's Anna Nicole at the American Music Awards in November 2004 using lines from the above commercial. As you can see, she's completely inebriated (or something). If you look closely at her necklace, it is a TrimSpa promotional item that reads "TrimSpa baby!". Oy... Funny at the time? Perhaps. Sad? Perhaps. Exploitative? Perhaps.

Now, it's just completely ironic... a word that's been used already in this post.

Anna Nicole's "performance" on the awards show was so outlandish that it quickly became the topic of parodies, including this one by MadTV:

On a purely human evel, Anna Nicole's death is tragic because she leaves behind a baby daughter who will no doubt now become the centre of a huge custody and paternity battle. That's the sad part in all of this because, despite what anyone thinks of Anna Nicole, all evidence points to her having been a loving mother. Hopefully, someone will remember that in the media (and blog) frenzy that has taken over.

Urban legends

I can't tell you the number of times I've received an e-mail from someone who can't wait to share some outlandish and (always supposedly) true story with me. Invariably, typing in one or two keywords from the story in Google brings up the fact that it's an urban legend -- a myth. Then I do a "reply all" and ensure that the others who received the myth know not to forward it to their friends, thus perpetuating this garbage. As you can imagine, this usually means a red-faced friend! Thankfully, I have finally trained a few friends to e-mail me these stupid things for verification before they send them all over creation.

Visit for a list of all the main urban legends circulating out there. You'd be surprised at how many there are -- and you'd likely be surprised at how many you've been repeating to others as fact! In fact, years ago, a woman I worked with swore to me that this happened to a "good friend" of hers. Sure.... sure...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Looking for a great (free) online radio station?

Accuradio is the easiest, most complete, most versatile online radio station I've come across. There's something for everyone, including (but not only): crooners... country... hip-hop... pop... classical... showtunes... and even year-round holiday music for all you Christmas nuts! Check it out.

They're all the rage: Alpacas!

My mother told me that she and her husband are thinking about getting a couple of alpacas for their hobby farm. I'm "right excited" as we say around these parts! Talk about unique... and so cute! They are valued for their fleece and are perfect for the small hobby farmer. Links:

Captain Trevor Greene Trust Fund

Canadian soldier Captain Trevor Greene was severely injured in an axe attack in Afghanistan last year. Since then, he has been recovering slowly but surely in hospital in Vancouver. I went to university with Trevor and, like everyone, was greatly saddened to hear of his severe injuries.

The first anniversary of the attack is coming up on March 4, so I thought it an apt time to help to publicize the fact that there is a trust fund set up for Trevor to help with the cost of his recovery. The following details were posted on the extensive coverage of Trevor's recovery at my former university classmate Al McLeod's great Gen X at 40 blog.

... if you would like to contribute to Trevor’s continued care, and help provide assistance to Debbie and Grace, please visit your nearest branch of CIBC and ask to donate to Account # 39-31137 (Bank 010, Transit 00500) or the “Captain Trevor Greene Trust Fund”. For those friends living outside Canada, please mail cheques to any branch of CIBC citing the above trust fund and/or account number.

Thanks to Al for maintaining such great updates on Trevor!

Trevor is also published author. One of his books -- Bad Date -- was a precursor to what has clearly become Canada's trial of the century -- the Robert Pickton trial.

Click here for the original news story on Trevor's attack.

Dove pro-age campaign begins today!

If you haven't heard about Dove pro-age's new Campaign for Real Beauty, you're going to hear lots about it in the coming days. Celebrating women over 50, it is going to be turning heads, for sure! Good for Dove! Click on either of the above Dove websites to watch the ads. Sounds like a good time to buy stock in the company! From a Dove news release:

For the first time, a brand is talking to women about aging in a positive tone. Continuing its ongoing commitment to widen the narrow definition of beauty, Dove, the global beauty brand, is boldly challenging the "only young-is-beautiful" stereotype with the next phase of the Campaign for Real Beauty: pro-age. Designed to expose what our anti-aging society has been hiding, pro-age celebrates women 50+ by showing their honest, real beauty.

Bulletin: Anna Nicole Smith dead

Anna Nicole Smith has died. Click here for a CTV report that has several video clips. CNN's Larry King will have a full hour on Anna Nicole tonight. Tragic.

Whatever became of those ferries, anyway?

Brian Cormier
Hump day
Published Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Appeared on page D6, Moncton Times & Transcript

On May 31, the Confederation Bridge between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The upcoming birthday of one of the world's longest bridges will surely bring up memories of what it replaced - those much maligned, yet fondly remembered ferries that ran between New Brunswick and P.E.I. for years. Compared to the convenience of the bridge, the ferries seem archaic now.

I say "much maligned" because my mother's from P.E.I. and we were regular passengers on the ferries - and not just during the nice summer months with all the tourists. We were the diehards who would skip over to visit my grandparents at any given point during the year for a weekend or even just a day.

If you've ever missed a crossing by mere minutes or been seasick in a ferry's bathroom in the middle of a stormy November night, you'll know what I mean. Hence, my "maligned" comment. Were the staff nice and were the ferries well run, though? You betcha!

This got me to thinking of Marine Atlantic this week, the company that used to run the Cape Tormentine-Borden ferry. As reported in this very newspaper and other media outlets, the company has been falsely accused of running its ferries in unsafe conditions thanks to a wrongly labelled YouTube video making the rounds.

Someone sent this video to a couple of TV stations and, the next thing you know, Marine Atlantic is all over the news for something it never did in the first place - done in by pranksters and a couple of news directors who didn't check their sources. Had they done so, they would have discovered that the YouTube video in question depicting a ferry looking like it was about to sink in rough waters was actually likely taken in 2002 in New Zealand. (Very unnerving video, by the way. Passengers must have been terrified!)

Luckily, none of the literally hundreds of ferry rides I took to P.E.I. ever resembled anything even remotely like the video in question. Had I ever gone through a "ride from hell" like that, my grandparents would have had to watch me grow up via family photos included in Christmas cards. No more personal visits from me!

All this got me to thinking about where those old ferries of my youth had disappeared to. Part of the fun of waiting for the ferry was not knowing which one you were going to get on. Was it the boring-as-blazes Holiday Island or its sister ship Vacationland? Was it the very large and majestic John Hamilton Grey with its wonderful viewing deck? Was it the classy old Abegweit with the drive-around deck? Or the new Abegweit II with its fancy modern-day conveniences and immense lounging deck?

There were others from long ago that I barely remember, i.e. The Confederation and The Lucy Maud Montgomery, so my main memories are of the others.

Back in those days, we were slaves to the ferry schedules. Remember arriving a few kilometres from the terminal only to find heavy traffic coming toward you? That meant the ferry was in and was loading right then. And that's when the gas pedal hit the floor and God help anyone who got in the way. Most of the time we made it, but every so often we'd be behind the last car on and forced to stick it out right at the end of the terminal. No cafeteria. No bathrooms. No video games. Sibling chaos usually ensued.

So anyway, back to my "where are they now" story . . . I went online to see where my old friends had gone. But sadly, like when you lose track of a favourite old car you used to own, it's sometimes just better not to know.

First, the good news, though. If you're ever in Chicago and someone takes you to the Columbia Yacht Club's operations centre at 111 North Lake Shore Drive, you'll actually be lounging about on the old Abegweit. It's found new life anchored in the city's harbour as the home for the area's rich and elite who enjoy the posh life on the water.

The Lucy Maud Montgomery was refitted as a casino and is now enjoying a second life in Florida, having been renamed Caribe I. The Holiday Island still serves Marine Atlantic between Wood Islands, P.E.I., and Caribou, N.S.

The news is not as good for the others. The Vacationland was renamed Fundy Paradise and was supposed to begin a new life between mainland New Brunswick and Grand Manan Island, but retrofitting the docks was deemed too expensive. It's since been sold to a Quebec man, so there's speculation that it may be used as a car ferry there. Meanwhile, The Confederation was renamed Nordik Passeur and is mothballed and moored to a dock somewhere in Quebec.

The majestic John Hamilton Grey served right up until the very last day of ferry service. Subsequently, it was sold, renamed the Contessa I and refitted as a cruise and casino ship for Florida and the Bahamas. It was scrapped in India in 2004. I'm not sure why someone would spend all that money to refit a large ship and then scrap it a mere seven years later, but I'm admittedly not an expert in marine economics. World steel prices must have made it more valuable dead than alive, a foreshadow of the next tale. . .

The saddest story of all is the Abegweit II - the fleet's newest star. It was sold to a Texas company, renamed the Accrued Mariner and put up for sale. It was then resold and renamed simply Mariner. A poignant last photo exists of the big ship grounded on a beach in India waiting to be chopped up - the sad fate it apparently met on May 19, 2004, at the young age of only 22. Rusty, empty and lonely, it was a sad end to her short life.

Check my blog for photos and links of interest regarding more ferry history.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sure, but try finding a friggin' vending machine that'll take one...

It seems that the Royal Canadian Mint is planning to make a $1-million coin.

Letter from a reader re: ferries

Reader Paul Melanson wrote:

"My father being a CN union rep used to receive the Marine Atlantic (formerly CN Marine) monthly magazine years ago and I would invariably flip though it and read the interesting articles. [Incidentally, a history of CN Marine/Marine Atlantic was written by the great Maritime writer Harry Bruce]. One such article in the magazine was the design considerations for the Abegweit II that had just been commissioned by Marine Atlantic specifically to cross the Northumberland Strait. The design features that went into this boat was quite impressive.

It was a state of the art ferry and its unfortunate that it met such an ignominious end! I would have thought that somebody in a northern country would have bought it since it was specifically designed to act as an icebreaker.

On another note, I tried to find out exactly where the Confederation Bridge fits in the list of the world's longest bridges and had trouble finding such a list. Most of the "longest bridges" list deal with length of span and not overall length. Also, suspension bridges are given much more coverage.

OK .... I take that back! I found what I was looking for:

The Confederation Bridge is the 11th longest in the world .... somewhat further down the list than most Maritimers would respond if you asked them! But I think this bridge's claim to fame could be that it is the longest bridge in the world that spans water that freezes (nothing to sneeze at in bridge design).

Looking at the list, I can say I have travelled over numbers 3, 6, 12, and 14 (and skirted #1 on both sides of Lake Pontchartrain)."

Thanks for writing, Paul -- you old world traveller, you! If I remember correctly, the Confederation Bridge claims to be the longest bridge in the world "over ice-covered waters."

I love authentic audience reactions

Well, geez... Now I've got to thinkin' 'bout Bing Crosby. I love surprise appearances on TV shows because of the incredibly real and excited audience reactions... like this one when Ricky Martin appeared on Rosie O'Donnell's old talk show... and here when Bing surprised the audience (and nearly tripped over the microphone cord) on the late Dinah Shore's talk show:

Frankie Laine - 1913-2007

Legendary singer Frankie Laine died yesterday at the age of 93. I love all the old crooners... Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc. Now, one more has joined that big choir in the sky. Here he is singing "Sunny Side of the Street":

Ingenious... and disgusting...

Since I'm posting this shortly after many people in this part of the world would have had their evening meal, I've taken the liberty of censoring the photo. Trust me, you'll be glad I did.

Here's an excerpt from the website re: the "Brief Safe":

The “Brief Safe” is an innovative diversion safe that can secure your cash, documents, and other small valuables from inquisitive eyes and thieving hands, both at home and when you’re traveling. Items can be hidden right under their noses with these specially-designed briefs which contain a fly-accessed 4″ x 10″ secret compartment with Velcro® closure and “special markings” on the lower rear portion.

Leave the “Brief Safe” in plain view in your laundry basket or washing machine at home, or in your suitcase in a hotel room — even the most hardened burglar or most curious snoop will “skid” to a screeching halt as soon as they see them — wouldn’t you? Made in USA. One size. Color: White (and Brown).

Click here for an article on the "safe" (and the uncensored photo)... and click here for the product's official website. They also offer "Doo Drops"... a product that will add an authentic smell to the "safe." Like I said, ingenious but disgusting. And yeah, if I was a robber I'd steer clear, too.

Some ferry and bridge-related links of interest

Here's the blog post that started it all and gave me the idea for the column.

Today, Northumberland Ferries funs the ferry service between Caribou, Nova Scotia, and Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island.

Marine Atlantic, meanwhile, is responsible for service between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

CTMA runs the service between Prince Edward Island and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdalen Islands).

The Island Register has quite a comprehensive look back at every ferry that ever served Prince Edward Island. Very interesting.

Here's a really interesting CBC Archives site that has several news reports relating to the ferries and the Confederation Bridge.

The Confederation Bridge (official website) replaced the ferry service between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in 1997. And here's the Wikipedia entry for the Bridge.

Here's the Wikipedia link to the history of the Abegweit I and Abegweit II. Here's another link regarding the history of the Abegweit.

Here's the Vacationland's Wikipedia link. And here's its sister ship the Holiday Island's Wikipedia link.

Click here for a link to the National Film Board of Canada film "Abegweit - The Confederation Bridge: A Marvel of Canadian Engineering." Click here for a RealPlayer clip.

Here's "Trackdog's" page on some ferry history.

Click here for an extensively detailed history of the M.V. Lucy Maud Montgomery. (For some reason, I didn't come across this link in my research, hence the apparent error in today's column.)

Whatever became of those ferries, anyway?

Check out my column on page D6 (bottom of editorial page) in today's Moncton Times & Transcript -- a look at the ferries that used to cross the Northumberland Strait between Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, and Borden (now Borden-Carleton), Prince Edward Island. I hope you enjoy it!

After I wrote the column, I found some conflicting research regarding the outcome of the M.V. Lucy Maud Montgomery. Ack! Wouldn't you know it. Check this post of the photos mentioned in the column for what I think is a correction. I'm going to keep looking to see if I can figure that out.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New Brunswick - Prince Edward Island ferries -- Where are they now?

Don't forget to check out my column in tomorrow's Moncton Times & Transcript for a look back at the New Brunswick - Prince Edward Island ferries of yesteryear now that the 10th anniversary of the Confederation Bridge is upon us. As promised in tomorrow's column, here are some photos of the ferries in their glory days on the Northumberland Strait and of where they are now (when available).

Here's the M.V. Vacationland as it looked when it sailed between Cape Tormentine and Borden. It probably looks pretty much the same today. For its fate, check out the column.

And here's the M.V. Holiday Island, sister ship to the Vacationland. It, too, would look pretty much the same these days.

Here's the M.V. Confederation in its heyday:

And here it is today, renamed the Nordik Passeur and sadly mothballed and tied to a dock in Quebec:

You probably remember the original M.V. Abegweit for its class and charm:

And happily, the beloved Abby has found a new life in Chicago, of all places, as the operations centre for the Columbia Yacht Club:

More "seasoned" travellers to Prince Edward Island (I guess that's code for "old"), will remember the M.V. Lucy Maud Montgomery:

Yikes! I just noticed an error in my column when posting these photos. Sorry! The Lucy Maud Montgomery was apparently not renamed the Caribe I as stated in my column. It was renamed Lady Clare I and is now tied up in Key West, Florida. Click here for more on her. Here's the latest photo of her:

Here's the large and majestic ice breaker M.V. John Hamilton Grey, which ran right up until the end:

Click here for a write-up (French only) of the John Hamilton Grey's conversion to a cruise/casino ship called Contessa I. Unfortunately, that didn't seem to be enough to save it, according to my research, and it was scrapped in 2004.

And finally, here's a photo of the newest star of the fleet, the Abegweit II, which came into service in 1982 and ran until the last day, along with the Vacationland, Holiday Island and John Hamilton Grey.

Despite its young age, it couldn't escape the realities of marine economics when no buyer could be found to keep it in use as a ferry or even retrofitted for another use. The costs to do so were just too high. Here's the sad last-known photo of the ship beached in Alang, India, in May 2004, when it was scrapped.

What a sad end to such a majestic ship.

My apologies again for the apparent misinformation in the column about the Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Speaking of dangerous toys... do you remember "clackers"?

I had clackers! They were blue. Talk about dangerous! The noise was annoying -- but that didn't seem to bother us. Apparently, the "clackers" would sometimes fly off the string and hit people in the face. I know I hurt myself more than once -- and they didn't have to fly off the string to cause damage! The fad wore off eventually. There are only so many times you can bang two things together before the magic wears off. Oh get your minds out of the gutter! Sheesh. ;-)

Dangerous Easy-Bake Ovens? Pffft! Ever play with a woodburning kit?

According to news reports, Hasbro has recalled nearly a million Easy-Bake Ovens for fear of children getting their hands caught in the oven's opening and burning themselves.

As Monty Python would say: "Luxury!" When I was a kid, we had those woodburning kits that inevitably led to the nearly complete removal of fingerprints from people like me who were too impatient for the tip of the burner to cool down before changing it. I can't believe these things were ever on the market! They were unbelievably dangerous and shouldn't have be sold to kids -- or to parents for their kids. Mine was a Christmas present. (I'm talking about woodburning kits, here, not Easy-Bake Ovens!)

One good thing about those woodburning kits, though; the smell of the wood burning was intoxicating! But still... oh so very dangerous! If you're unfamiliar about how they worked, you would pretty much just trace over pre-marked pieces of balsa wood -- i.e. burn it to turn it dark. Kind of like "paint-by-number"... except with a dangerous hot element. ;-) Check the sun in the upper right-hand corner of the photo below and you get the idea. Seems a bit silly these days. (But the smell... oh that smell! Really nice.)

And THIS is a man with honour and integrity

That's a photo of Eugene Gadsden of New York City. Eugene had been homeless until he saved up enough money for a place to live by collecting bottles and cans that people had thrown away. I admit that had I seen the executive director of the Montreal SPCA / SPCA International / Canadian SPCA standing next to Eugene, I likely would have passed judgment on Eugene. Well, shame on me for that! Watch the previous video on Pierre Bernoti and watch this video on Eugene and tell me: who is the one with true honour? First impressions and surroundings may be deceiving.

This is a man with no honour and no shame

What a sad, sad world it is when an animal welfare organization has to dupe people into believing they're supporting one thing when they're really supporting another. Although the end result may ultimately be the welfare of animals, watch this CTV report or read this and tell me, does Pierre Barnoti, the executive director of the Montreal SPCA / SPCA International / Canadian SPCA not have an extremely (!!!) luxurious office? Let me tell you, I would dare hazard a guess that 99.9% of the SPCAs and Humane Societies across Canada (or the U.S.) do not have posh offices such as that! It almost makes a person want to cry, considering animals across Canada are suffering in order to let him and his organization sit in the lap of luxury. Why? Because local donations are going to his organization under questionable pretenses when they should be staying in their own communities. How many perfectly healthy pets have been put to sleep across Canada because of a lack of space? And how much of this could have been avoided had this shameless individual done the honourable thing and allowed community SPCAs and Humane Societies to keep their own funds by curbing his organization's unethical fundraising practices? In my humble opinion, that man has no honour and he has no shame. I don't know how he sleeps at night.

Just because something is legal does not mean it is ethical.

A little girl's dream toy!

Picture it: Christmas morning 1965. A little girl gets up along with her two brothers to run excitedly downstairs to see what Santa "brung 'em." Her older brother, Sammy, gets a bicycle, some building blocks and a construction set. Her younger brother, Billy, gets a bicycle (too!), a game and a new toboggan. Little Becky, meanwhile, gets this:

... a sink. Oh joy. "Honey, while the boys are playing with their new bicycles, you go ahead and play with your... sink."

Me thinks Santa would be spending Dec. 26th having a certain gift surgically removed from his a** if he ever gave little Becky such a gift these days.

Belly bowls

These are the coolest things and make for a huge freakin' bowl for chips. :) Ha! They're moulded from the bellies of pregnant women and turned into keepsake bowls by artist Joy Olson of Vancouver's Calamity Clayworks studio. Unique, eh? Click here for more information on her belly bowls. (I wonder if the pregnant Suzin Schiff featured on the site is the same Suzin Schiff who starred in the old "Kidstuff" CTV series back in the 1970s?) Well, let's just e-mail Joy and find out for ourselves, shall we? I'll let you know! UPDATE - Feb. 16/07: I heard from Joy Olsen. Click here for the update.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A funny and quirky Super Bowl commercial

I may not care about the Super Bowl, but I have to admit that those annual Super Bowl ads usually offer up something quite entertaining. Yesterday's event was no different. Check out this funny and quirky ad for Emerald Nuts -- named by both Adrants and Advertising Age as this year's best Super Bowl ad. Singer Robert Goulet stars in the ad, which makes it extra "quirky" because, honestly, when was the last time you thought about Robert Goulet?

I just heard from Hi Diddle Day's Noreen Young!

Her letter refers to this post.

"Hi Brian:

That’s quite a blog site you have. I enjoyed reading about Hi Diddle Day. That IS a while ago.

Would you like to post some information about a project that I’m involved in now? We run a puppet festival in August in my town of Almonte Ontario. To find out about it, go to the website (which will be completely updated at the end of today) at
. Perhaps some of your readers might be interested. If you want to learn more, I’d be happy to fill you in.

Thanks for the attention.

Noreen Young"

Thanks, Noreen! I sent your site link around at work and our creative people really loved your puppets. Such amazing and fun caricatures! What an awesome gift for someone who has everything, too! Actually, a woman I work with is from Almonte. She was surprised to see that you were from there, too! If any readers are looking for a cool family-friendly artistic and cultural event to attend this summer, check out the link to Puppets Up! International Puppet Festival in Noreen's letter above.

It was wonderful hearing from you, Noreen! Hi Diddle Day... what memories!


Apparently, lynx and bobcats have been mating in New Brunswick forests and creating a hybrid that's being called the bob-o-lynx. Interesting. Click here for more.

I love it when pure unadulterated greed comes back to bite someone in the butt

Excerpts from this article in today's Globe and Mail:

"PlayStation 3 has it all: a Cell Broadband Engine chip, a built-in Blu-ray disc player, a 60-gig hard drive and full online capabilities. For Derek O'Brien, it was a no-brainer.

On Nov. 16, a day before the system's launch, Mr. O'Brien left his construction job and began driving on Highway 401 toward Toronto. His plan was simple: pick up one or two PlayStation 3 systems, advertise them online and sit back as the sure-to-be hot -- and scarce -- commodity gathered steam in the chug toward Christmas.

Instead, the first-time scalper learned an expensive lesson about consumer demand and when to take a profit. Now that the dust has temporarily settled in the busy gaming marketplace, another lesson is coming into focus: Mr. O'Brien might have backed the wrong box."

... "Mr. O'Brien saw the market for PlayStation 3 systems soar initially after their launch, with the units fetching anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 in eBay auctions. Still, with a month until Christmas, he waited. And waited.

"I just kept thinking, 'keep it until Christmas,' " he said. "And that was a mistake. A huge mistake."

Even before Christmas arrived, demand for the system started to decline. Sony managed to keep up semi-regular shipments through the holiday shopping season, which kept customer demand from ranging into the hysterical."

Ahhhhhhh... I love it when scalpers get caught up in their own greed. Read the entire article for the full satisfaction experience.

The soap opera that made me hate clowns

Just as I wrote that last post, I realized that maybe I'd never stated on this blog that I think clowns are evil and scary. Well, consider it said. They don't make me happy. They don't make me laugh. They just make me start planning my escape route when their inevitable chainsaw comes out and they start chasing me to turn me into tomorrow night's main course at the Knights of Columbus Cannibal Night.

This fear of clowns is in direct relation to a storyline on the now-defunct soap opera Somerset, which ran as a spin-off of Another World from 1970-76. The storyline involved a clown in a hospital. Très scary and definitely not good public relations for these folks. If you want me to scream like a little girl and go into cardiac arrest, just send one of those friggin' things to my bedside. Ugh!

Here's what the Somerset storyline was about, according to this show fanpage:

"Emily called Dr. Stan Kurtz to consult on Andrea's case, but initially to no avail. As a child, Andrea had suffered a debilitating illness that kept her incapacitated much of the time. Andrea fondly remembered that brother Dana would dress as her favorite clown character Jingles and bring a joke every evening along with her medicine. Dr. Kurtz attempted to treat Andrea, but her illness continued to worsen. Then, in the middle of the night, Andrea started having terrifying visions of Jingles the clown lurking around the family mansion. Andrea assumed that the visions were some sort of surreal nightmare, but Dr. Kurtz discovered that Andrea was being poisoned with small doses of arsenic and theorized that the culprit was dressing as Jingles. The natural suspect was Dana, who had dressed as Jingles for Andrea in childhood. However, the terrifying clown was eventually revealed to be Emily's aunt Rowena. Rowena was hospitalized, but the poisoning continued. As it turned out, Rowena wished no ill will toward Andrea, though Julian's crazed wife Zoe did!"

Thanks, Somerset... not!

Someone isn't happy that I posted Gregory Despres' scary mugshot

A reader sent me this today:

"Please let me know when that ugly, sadistic killer face will no longer be on your blog. I let out a scream as I was strolling down your scary as a clown! I hope you have enough complaints to warrant removing it from your "site"... and everybody's in the process! Bad, bad karma that guy. BRRRRRRRRRR..."

(The "clown" comment refers to my avowed fear and loathing of clowns.)

The reader refers to this post. What do you think? I don't plan on taking it down because it's a legitimate photo, but am just curious. (Yes, I agree he's a monster... but he's innocent until proven guilty. I think he's guilty as hell... but I'm not a judge.)

I bet you haven't seen one of these in a while

Remember Cadbury's Bar Six? Man, these were good. They were my favourite when I was a kid, but are no longer made -- at least that I can determine. It was made up of six sections, hence "Bar Six." Here's a great link to some old-time candy wrappers that may bring back come memories.

This week's "Hump Day" column...

... is all about the ferries that used to run between Cape Tormentine, N.B., and Borden, P.E.I. They were a big part of my life because my mother's from P.E.I. (Hope River, not far from St. Ann's Church where the St. Ann's Lobster Suppers are held. You can actually see the church from the home where she grew up. And while we're talking about the lobster suppers, click here for a CBC TV archive story from 1988 featuring Rev. Denis Gallant, the Suppers' founder.)

Back to the ferries... So my family and I were year-round "regulars" on the ferries to P.E.I. You'd be surprised at what happened to some of them! Watch for the column on Wednesday exclusively on the editorial page of the Moncton Times & Transcript.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


PostSecret is a blog where people send in their deepest, darkest secrets for posting. It's addictive. It's sad. It's terrifying. It's funny. It's so utterly and devastatingly human... because we all have secrets. And if you don't think people are interested in others' secrets, think again! The last time I checked the counter at the bottom of PostSecret's main page, it was at nearly 62 million. Unfreakin'believable! For the record, my own blog (the one you're reading now) has had 322 visits since its inception on December 31, 2006. I'm just a babe in the cyberwoods, I know, but 62 million hits! Good God! Congratulations on such a unique and fascinating concept which has even spawned books. Now that's a powerful blog!

Well, it seems that is causing quite a stir in the medical community. I have a few doctor friends and have asked them about it. Understandably, they're not pleased. They're wondering how it would feel for patients to have along with anonymous posts? I'm sure some people would be upset.

Here's my beef with the site: the anonymous postings can cause real damage with totally unproven, critical claims that a doctor with 1,500 patients on file can do nothing about. So until goes with registered users and you have to sign your real name to every post, then it ain't worth the cyberspace it's taking up. It's an unfair fight when MDs are bound by legal and ethical standards not to divulge patient information, yet patients can go spewing garbage anywhere they want.

Freedom of speech needs to still be responsible speech. And criticism taken completely out of context is not a good idea.

Today's Super Bowl Sunday...

... and I don't give a poop. Yawnnnnnnnnn!!! Never understood football and never will. If you do care, however, click here to go to the official Super Bowl site. Yawnnnnnnn... oops... Sorry, can't help it. ;-) This is better than The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad and King of the Hill? Oh puh-leeze! UPDATE - 11:18 p.m. - Feb. 4/07: The Indianapolis Colts beat the Chicago Bears by a score of 29-17.

Hi Diddle Day

This is an update to this post where I asked readers to forward me the name of a Canadian children's show from the 1970s that starred a crew of puppets. Well, reader Roland Gauvin e-mailed me today to let me know that the name of the show I was looking for is "Hi Diddle Day," a CBC series that aired in either original episodes or repeats from 1969 to 1977.

Here's what's written about Hi Diddle Day on this link:

A half-hour, puppet show for children, Hi Diddle Day aired on several local CBC stations before it went to the network in 1970. The program, produced in Ottawa, featured Gertrude Diddle, the craggy and brassy mayor of a town called Crabgrass, who was widely thought to be a satire of Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton. She lived in a Victorian house with a beagle named Basil, a 900 year old dragon called Durwood, Wolfgang the Wolf, and Chico the Crow. The selection of sophisticated, latex puppets also included several life-sized political figures. Wyn Canty, who wrote songs for the program, also appeared onscreen as a music teacher. The puppets were designed by Noreen Young, and manipulated by her, Johni Keyworth, and Stephen Braithwaite. The show was written by Bob Gardiner, and produced by Audrey Jordan until her death in 1970, Denny Faulkner (l970-7l), and Brian Frappier (l97l-74). Hi Diddle Day was reviled in 1972 by a Maclean's reviewer, who called it "the most offensive show on TV." However, in 1970, it won an Ohio State Award and was cited as "a delightful, clever, engaging and imaginative children's program."

Click on Noreen Young's link in the write-up above (or the above photo) to go to her site to see her great creations. She also does amazing puppet caricatures on spec, so if you have some cash sitting in your bank account doing nothing and want to buy someone that very special gift, so ahead and contact her through her site. For that person who's extra hard to buy for at Christmas! :) These puppets would also be really cool in ads, too, I think.

Click here for the official CBC write-up on the history of the show.

Thanks very much for sending along this info, Roland!

Rosie's old "Mystery Guest" segment

You all know that Rosie O'Donnell had a hit talk show before her current moderator gig on The View. Here's a funny clip from one of her 'Mystery Guest" segments where she had to guess the identity of, well, a mystery guest. In case you don't recognize him, the guest on this occasion was singer Ricky Martin. Listen to the crowd go completely bonkers when he pulls away the mask to reveal his identity. Although his career as an English-language singer seems to have waned, Martin is still a popular singer in the Hispanic world and continues to record in Spanish. He also has a wonderful new charitable foundation in support of children's rights.

More poutine chit-chat...

Paul Melanson wrote:

"You definitely came from another branch of the Acadian diaspora since we have always put salt on our poutine instead of sugar! Quite the contrast, eh? I gather we are in the minority though, with sugar being the condiment of choice.

You mention "a large grey snowball" to describe a poutine. It seems that all home-made versions are grey but any poutine you buy in a shop or restaurant are white, some being almost bright white!

So you mean to say Claude's Poutine Rapee are no longer around? That's too bad, since they always did the job in a pinch. Why do you think that they stopped making them? I can't believe its because they are losing popularity. Without knowing the details of the poutine rapee making cessation, I would guess that they could not compete with all the places where you can now get them done up fresh.

I know that unless you plan properly, you are out of luck to buy fresh made poutine, certainly around holiday time. I only made it to buy poutines from a local lady (near Shediac) between Christmas and New Year and all I could get from her was a half dozen (broken) remnants out of a total of 700 poutines that were made and snapped up!

I'm certainly one of those that is always on the lookout for "The Ultimate Poutine Rapee". Yum!"

Hey Paul... thanks for the great e-mail. Salt, eh? Well people in my family added salt if they weren't salted enough, otherwise it was sugar -- usually white... or nothing. But yes, salt is another thing a lot of people add. In my family, though, adding salt is considered an insult to the cook -- i.e. "You didn't salt these enough, you poutine-ruiner you!"

The white poutines are the result of a whitening agent added to stop the potatoes from darkening. It works, but a grey poutine is a "real" poutine. :) I've heard that some people can taste the "bitterness" of the whitening agent.

Apparently Claude's closed because they could not afford the equipment upgrades to remain financially feasible / up-to-date with health standards, etc. (That's what I heard from a local person. If this is not the case, please let me know and I will correct this.) I guess the plant just got old and it cost too much to make it economically feasible to even bother with. They were good in a pinch, yes... but kind of like canned peas vs frozen/fresh peas. Making homemade poutines is so bloody labour-intensive that many people resorted to canned.

Good poutines are hard to find, yes! I bought some yesterday from Bouctouche Homestyle Poutine in Dieppe. Not bad. Would prefer the meat to be saltier, but they're OK.

Worst movie in the history of humankind...

This 1978 (supposed) comedic British adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles is the worst movie I've ever seen in my life. I remember seeing it when I was 14 at the movies with friends. It was complete and utter excrement, to put it mildly. I shouldn't even be telling you about it because some may get curious and run and out and rent it just to see for yourselves. The horribility (is that a word?) of this film has stayed with me for nearly 30 years. If there's a hell, folks, it's a cinema where this movie is playing 24/7. If you have a peeing-chihuahua fetish, though, this film may be for you. Don't ask.

Sunday mornings when I was a kid...

... were spent watching those old Davey and Goliath cartoons that were sponsored by the Lutheran Church. It was the only thing on other than televangelists, so we watched it. Here's a modern-day incarnation of Davey and Goliath who sold themselves out to do a Mountain Dew commercial:

Weird, isn't it? It's like Billy Graham doing a McDonald's commercial. Just doesn't seem to be a good fit. If you search on YouTube, you can find politically incorrect parodies of the show that I won't post here, but I have to admit they made me scream with laughter (well maybe not scream). But anyway, you get my drift. That sick sense of humour always does me in.

Sunday mornings were also spent playing some of the few records we had in the house, including "The Unicorn" by The Irish Rovers:
My God... the stuff you can find through Google. This is the exact 45 rpm record we had as kids. The "B" side is "Black Velvet Band."

Other music we listened to on Sunday mornings included 24 Groovy Greats, a wonderful compilation record that was chock-full of goodies: