Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Pet Peeves, An Incomplete List

  • When someone answers one question from an email that had four questions in it.
  • When someone replies to an email that had one question in it without actually answering the question, but to tell you something totally unrelated. It’s like they want you to know they got that email, but aren’t going to answer your question.
  • When people send you an calendar invite in Outlook and then email and say “I just sent you a calendar invite.” I know that, because you sent it to me. It’s *directly* below this email in my inbox.
  • The use of the word “solution” as a verb. “We don’t need to solution that in this meeting. We’ll just flag it and send it on the tech team to figure out how to fix it.” “Solution” is not a verb. In fact, we already have a verb for this exact purpose: “solve.” Glad I could solve this grammar problem for you.
  • When my Skytrain arrives at Waterfront Station at the same time as the Seabus. Seabus people are slow walkers and get in my way trying to get from Expo Line to Canada Line. The only thing worse than when the Seabus arrives at the same time as my Skytrain is when the West Coast Express arrives at the same time as my Skytrain. West Coast Express people make Seabus people look like Usain Bolt.
  • People who step onto the Skytrain or bus and stop the moment they are in the door, with no regard for the person/people who are right behind them who might also like to board that train or bus1 See also: people who stop walking abruptly with no indication that they are about to do so, right in the middle of a crowd who is getting off the Skytrain2
  • When someone responds to an email that is not the last email in a chain, so they are responding to old information that is no longer relevant/has already been answered later in the chain. Read the whole chain before you respond, dammit!
  • When someone sends you a calendar invitation with the event name that is only useful from their perspective. Sending me a calendar invitation called “Lunch with Beth” is really not very useful to me!3
  • People I don’t know trying to add me to LinkedIn, but not bothering to actually personalize the note. Using the boilerplate “I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn” tells me nothing. Why are you trying to add me? Do you want an informational interview and need to add me to LinkedIn to be able to send me a LinkedIn email? Did you read one of my papers or see a presentation and think it would be cool to connect? Did we meet at a conference 6 months ago and you are finally getting around to trying to connect (in which case, I probably don’t remember your name and face!)? Do you just want to add as many people as possible to your contacts list? If I can’t tell who the hell you are, I’m clicking “reject”, promptly followed by the “I don’t know this person” email.
  • The fact that LinkedIn won’t let me reply to people who are sending me invites to ask “Do I know you?”. Unless I pay them money.
  • The use of PowerPoint as a document . And when people project PowerPoint slides, but don’t actually use the slide presentation view, so the slide is smaller than it could be and all the menus for building PowerPoint slides after taking up valuable screen real estate. Especially when the font size on the slide is minuscule because you are using PowerPoint as if it were a document instead of a visual aid.
  1. I may have ran right into one of these people the other day as I jumped into the Skytrain car as the doors were closing. I said “sorry,” but I wasn’t really sorry. There was tonnes of room for her to have kept moving. []
  2. I actually once stepped on the back of someone’s shoe when they did this and their shoe came flying right off. It was an accident – I really did not expect them to stop directly in front of me – but I was not sorry. []
  3. Unless I’m having lunch with someone named Beth, which I’m pretty sure has never happened in the 38 years that I’ve been alive. []

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Fact Check, Much?

So I was reading an article on the CBC website the other day and I noticed something curious:

contradictory!

Now, unless the 2nd Canadian on death row was executed between the time that the first sentence was written and the time the photo caption was written, one of the two statements I’ve highlighted has to be wrong. It’s bad enough when a story has incorrect facts in it – but, seriously CBC, conflicting facts in the same article?

And then I saw this:

Tired of Being Referred To As MacKay's Wife

Now, in the first article is a bit surprising that they didn’t fact check from, you know, earlier in the article. But this – this is just a slap in the face. They quote Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay, a human rights activist, as saying that she’s tired of being referred to only as MacKay’s wife… and then refer to her as MacKay’s wife in the headline of the same article1.

Fact checking pro tip: Start with the article you are writing. You’d be amazed at all the facts in there. Ideally, these facts should not contradict each other. You’re welcome.

  1. And, yes, I realize that they throw the adjective “activist” in front of the word “wife,” so technically they aren’t referring to her as “only” MacKay’s wife. But, seriously. []

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Yet Another Thing I Hate About Surrey

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of Surrey. I hate suburbs and Surrey exemplifies pretty much everything I hate about suburbs1. Case in point: Surrey is NOT bike friendly2.

I decided to take my new bike3 for a spin last night. But where to go? I decided to check out Google Maps, which has a feature that indicates where there are bike lanes (in green). For example, check out this section of Surrey:

Surrey bike Routes

Immediately this raises the question:

Surrey Bike Routes 2

How is anyone who lives in that big gap along 152nd Street supposed to get from 72nd Ave, where the 152 St bike lane ends to 64th Ave, where the next east-west bike line is? 152nd Street is a *very* busy street, not one you’d want to ride down without a bike lane.

I actually looked on the City of Surrey’s website to see what I could find about bike lanes and found that they have a Cycling Plan that aims “to create a seamless bicycle network.” I have to say that this is clearly in the “planning” stage, as the bike lanes appear to be pretty haphazard this point. Take this for another example:

Surrey Bike Routes 3

Anyway, I decided to take some convoluted side streets to get to 64th Ave to try out the bike lane there. I wanted to see what it was like given that it is a potential way that I might want to bike to work. Well, 64th Avenue does have a bike lane, but I felt anything but safe while biking it in. It’s a very busy street and has an *extremely* narrow bike lane. The lane is, in fact, barely wider than a manhole cover. I can say this confidentially because there are manhole covers in the bike lane – not really something you want to have to bike over, let me tell you! And you can’t avoid them, because they take up virtually the whole bike lane – it’s that narrow. And the car lanes seem like they are pretty narrow too, as many of the vehicles that drove by me were very close to – or even driving right on – the line between the car lane and the bike lane. Having an 18-wheeler truck whip down the street about 6 inches from your person does not make for a relaxing ride! To make things even worse, the bike line was full of rocks and various other debris, which made it a bit like an obstacle course. A very narrow obstacle course where, if you hit any of the obstacles, you will fall into traffic and be run over by an 18-wheeler truck doing 80 km/hr.

I was planning to ride to King George Boulevard (of Broken Dreams) and then try out its bike lane, but given that K.G.B.(of B.D.) is even busier than 64th Avenue, I decided that I’d stared death in the face enough for one day and just turned around and biked back down 64th Ave to go home4.

Along the way, I met another bicyclist, and when we were stopped at a red light, I asked her if she commuted on this street regularly (She had on a backpack and look like a commuter). “This is my first time ever!” she said. “Oh,” I said, ” I was going to ask you if if it gets less terrifying once you get used to it.” She had a bit of a panicked look in her eye as she said, “Yeah, it’s pretty scary, eh?” I have a very strong suspicion that this first time might just be her last.

Given how scary 64th Avenue was, I really can’t imagine what would possess anyone to try the 56th Avenue (a.k.a. Highway 10) bike lane:

Surrey Bike Routes 4

And while I’m ranting, what’s the deal with all the kids not wearing bike helmets in my neighbourhood? Both yesterday and the day before when I went for my bike rides, there were *tonnes* of kids out riding around on their bikes – and I’m very much in favour of kids being active! – but not a single one of them was wearing a bike helmet! Bike helmets protect your *brains* people. Your brains! Also, if the zombie apocalypse happens while you are on your bike, it’s an added layer for protection from a hungry zombie. Thus, bike helmets are win-win.

  1. In my defence, I only reside in Surrey because I have the BEST. JOB. EVER. here. My plan is to stay here, with my affordable rent, until such time as my student loans are paid off, at which point I’ll have *a lot* more money to rent a place and then I’ll move back to Vancouver. You can call this my “exit strategy.” []
  2. Coincidentally, I was meeting with a colleague at her office the other day and she had a giant sign on her office door that said, “Surrey needs more bike lanes NOW!” (Apparently it had been part of some guerilla Public Health advocacy at a recent meeting she’d been at. I told her I completely agreed – and now that I’ve tried out the bike lanes, I have to say I agree doubly so! []
  3. I’m sure I’ll stop blogging about my new bike soon, if you’ll just bear with me. I have the attention span of a carrot, so I’m sure something else shiny will capture my imagine soon enough []
  4. Otherwise, I might have to start calling it King George Boulevard of Broken Bones []

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Products That Didn’t Need To Be Invented

Chocolate Cheerios

IMG_2260

Were people having trouble meeting their Recommended Daily Intake of chocolate, so we needed to put it in their otherwise healthy breakfast cereal?

Kraft Dinner1 crackers:

IMG_2236

Why? Just, why?

Grapple

IMG_2244

When I tweeted this photo the other day, a few people pointed out the horrifying amount of unnecessary packaging for 4 pieces of fruit. And while I agree that the amount of plastic used here is ridiculous, what drew my attention to this product is that it’s an apple that’s been made to taste like grapes. Why the fuck would anyone make this product? If I wanted the taste of grapes, I would each grapes. It’s not like grapes are hard to come by. They are right next to the Grapples in the grocery store. I don’t want my apples to taste like grapes! I want my apples to taste like apples! I have never – and I’m willing to bet that no one has ever – bitten into an apple and thought, “It’s OK, but I sure wish it tasted like a grape.”

  1. For my American readers, “Kraft dinner” is what we can macaroni and cheese in Canada. Well, it’s what we call mac & cheese that’s made by Kraft. []

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(no title)

And while I’m complaining about lousy customer service, let me tell you about my experience at UBC Library today. I had to drop off some overdue library books and pay the related overdue fines. Apparently some of my library books were due at the beginning of the month but I somehow didn’t get the email notice reminding me they were due. Instead, I got the second reminder notice yesterday saying “hey, this is your second reminder and also you owe us a crapload of money!”  Crap.  So while I was Vancouver for my Saturday seawall walk with Jen, I dropped by the Hamber library branch, located at Women’s & Children’s Hospital. I drop off the books and say I’d like to pay my fine. As it turns out, they don’t take credit or debit cards, or even cheques – cash only. But they only have student assistants working on the weekend and student assistants aren’t allowed to sign receipts. “Usually what I do is just put the money aside and the librarian can do it on Monday,” said the girl behind the counter.  So I’m supposed to hand over a bunch of cash, but I can’t get a receipt to prove I gave it to them. Um, yeah right. Now, I’m not saying that I think the student is going to steal my cash, but the thought of handing over unmarked bills that will just be put in an unsecured drawer until Monday – no way. So I ask if I can pay my fee online and she says “Oh yeah, you can just log into the Student Services Centre and go to the Financial Section.”  Then she looks down at my Faculty card that I’d given her to look up my account. Turns out students can pay their library fines online but faculty members, at least as far as I can tell, cannot. “Can you come during the day when the librarian is here?” asks the girl behind the counter.  “No,” I say, “I work out in Surrey.”  “Well,” she tells me, “Can you get out to UBC Campus during the week?” Not sure how that’s supposed to be helpful, since UBC campus is *farther* away from Surrey that Women’s & Children’s is.  So, basically, I want to pay my overdue fines1 but they won’t take my money. Awesome. I’m going to try calling them on Monday to see if they can charge my credit card to pay for it, because I hate owing money for things. Wish me luck!

  1. well, I mean, I don’t really *want* to, but I’m trying to since I owe it to them []

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The National Student Loan Services Centre’s fax number contains “666”

Twitter

So, yeah, I’m still paying off those damn student loans.  But student loans aren’t what I’m bitching about today.  Today I’m bitching about the Royal Bank.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I keep a separate bank account where a portion of my paycheque goes every month, which is used to make my student loan payments.  I have it separate from my main account, which I have at Vancity Credit Union, because I just can’t bear to see $1,000 disappear each and every month – keeping it separate allows me to pretend that I never made that money in the first place!  Anyway, since I started paying off my student loans three years ago, I’ve had this account at the Royal Bank (which holds two of my three student loans – the third is held by the government).  And every month for the past three years I’ve had the same three debits come out of my account with no fees.  But on my last bank statement, I saw there was a $1.50 charge for an “extra” debit, though I didn’t make any more debits than usual. After a bit of back and forth via email with the Royal Bank peeps, I found out that they had changed the rules on the account type I had.  Up until now, my account had no monthly fee and I was entitled to one free debit per month, plus one free debit for every payroll deposit.  I get paid every two weeks, so that gives me two extra free debits – so a total of the three debits I need per month (one for each student loan payment).  Apparently, though their website didn’t say this when I looked at it when the $1.50 charge went through, they’ve removed the free debits for payroll credits, meaning I’m only entitled to one free debit per month, period.  Which, of course, isn’t sufficient.  “But you can get an account that will give you 15 free debits for only $4 per month,” they told me, after I told them I only ever do 3 debits per month.  Since the account I have gives me one free debit and the extra debits cost $1.50, that would only be $3.  And the last time I checked, $4 is more than $3, so, thanks for offering me a worse deal, asshats! Regardless, I’m not willing to pay $3 per month for the “privilege” of paying off my student loans – I still have about five years left to go, so that would be almost $200 in the end. For nothing.  No thanks!  Anyway, I wrote back and restated my needs for this account, asking, “Do you have any accounts that will meet these requirements that won’t have any fees?” (which, of course, is what I have had up until now).  They replied with a form letter that basically told me to look at their website to see what accounts they have.  You know it’s bad when you find yourself replying:

“Hi Sandra,

Thanks for sending me a generic form letter in reply to my question. I’ve already looked at your website and don’t see any options that meet my needs. I’ll just close my account and take my business elsewhere.

Beth”

Did I mention they were asshats?

My next stop was to visit Vancity and see if they had any accounts that would work for me. The person I spoke to there was new and tried really hard to figure out what I was wanting, but she ended up giving me a savings account from which you can’t write cheques or set up preauthorized payments, so that didn’t really work.  A follow up phone call to Vancity (once I discovered that I couldn’t do preauthorized payments) revealed that my only option there that would allow me not to have to pay fees would be  to open a second chequing account and keep a minimum balance of $1,000 in it, in addition to  my main chequing account where I already keep a minimum balance of $1,000.  Not keen to have $2,000 tied up doing nothing, I decided to look elsewhere.  And it seems that my best option is to open a President’s Choice Financial account – they have chequing accounts that will allow me to set up preauthorized payments with no fees and no minimum balance needed.  So that’s my plan.

But it will take a little while, apparently, to get my PC account set up, so in the meantime I faxed the National Student Loans Services Centre and the Royal Bank Student Loans Centre (which, by the way, appears to have nothing to do whatsoever with the Royal Bank… don’t even get me started on THAT rant!) to set up preauthorized payments from my current Vancity chequing account. I figure I can handle one month of my student loan payments coming out of my main account without being too emotionally scarred. I want to make sure I can pay my July 31/Aug 1 student loan payments without using the Royal Bank account – because they don’t deserve even $3 of my money!  And then I’ll use my *one* free debit – to withdraw ALL of my money from that account and close it down!

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My Apartment Smells Like Varnish!

On Thursday evening, I finally got my new bedroom furniture to go with my new mattress.  You know, the furniture that was supposed to come on Tuesday morning.  Don’t even get me started on the incompetence of Furniture Land, the place I bought this stuff from.  I thought I was so smart negotiating a great deal on a bed, a night stand and an armoire – plus a free box spring, since I’d only bought a mattress at Sleep Country, thinking that I’d by a platform-type bed.  The furniture is really well-made, solid maple and made locally – which is all great.  The fact that they were supposed to deliver it on Tuesday morning and then never showed up and it took three phone calls before they told me that it wasn’t ready (“the varnish is still drying”) – not so great. They promised to have it to me the next day and I told them it would have to be after 4:30 p.m., because I was going to be at a meeting in Abbotsford all day.  So I get a call the next morning from the delivery truck driver – “I’ll be there between 3 and 5 p.m.”  Uh, no you won’t! Because *I* won’t be there until 4:30!  So he says that’s fine and I get home at about 4:30 and I wait and wait and have a teleconference and still no one shows up. So I call the driver again and he said, “Oh, it’s not ready. The varnish is still drying.” What the what?? “But you called this morning and told me you were bringing it today!”  “Yeah, but I called you before I checked if it was ready.”  “And you didn’t think to call back and tell me that you weren’t coming after all?”  Then he tells me “I’ll bring it tomorrow between 4 and 7 p.m.” “No, you’ll bring it at 4:30 because I have somewhere else to be tomorrow night and I’m not going to be home after that!”  Then the next night, it gets to be 5 p.m. and still no delivery, so I call again and he’s like “Oh, yeah, I have to go get the truck and then get your stuff. I’ll be there in an hour.”  Needless to say, I was not pleased and there may have been some more yelling and then my furniture finally freaking arrived at 5:30 p.m.  So, yeah, don’t ever buy anything from Furniture Land in Surrey unless you have copious amounts of time to sit around waiting for people who never show up and you enjoy being lied to.

The silver lining to all this is that I got some really nice furniture for a pretty good price.

Here’s the night stand:

I like the design because it’s simple, yet classy looking.  And like I said before, it’s well-made. This, I’m told (and not just by the people selling me the furniture, is the sign of a solidly built drawer:

Apparently1 in more cheaply made furniture, the wood that makes up the sides of the drawer are just connected directly to the drawer front. But on well-constructed pieces, there is an extra piece of wood attached to the drawer front which allows for this interconnected thing it’s got going on2.

Here are the headboard and footboard:

Apparently I forgot to take a photo of them *after* I unwrapped them (and I’m not at home right now to take more pics), so you’ll have to wait until I get the bed built and take more photos to see what they look like.

And speaking of building the bed, as the delivery guys were dropping this stuff off, I asked them “Uh, how easy is it to assemble this thing?”  “Oh, it’s super easy. The bed rails just snap on to the headboard and footboard.

The bedrails were in this cardboard box; the extra wood on the left side of the photo – I have no idea what that’s for.

This is what the ends of the bed rails look like:

Clearly there are places for screws there, so I’m thinking that “snap together” wasn’t meant literally.  And I honestly haven’t the foggiest what these pieces of wood are for:

And all of this smells heavily of varnish3, so I’m hoping that not having been home all weekend will have allowed some of the smell to dissipate. And I’m guessing that my first task when I get home after the long weekend is to Google “instructions for assembling a bed.”  Wish me luck!

  1. and feel free to correct me if I’ve been sold a line of bullshit on this []
  2. 100 points to the first person who tells me the correct name for that in the comments section []
  3. so at least I know they weren’t lying about this having been made very recently and the varnish needing to dry []

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Wiener FAIL

So, I go into Save On Foods1 and they have this little kiosk thing that says that if you swipe your “Save On More” card2 they will print out your very own “personalized” coupons based on your shopping habits.  Being the curious type that I am, I had to swipe.  Now, mind you, I haven’t done much shopping at Save On, as there weren’t any Save Ons close to my place in Vancouver.  I’ve really only shopped at the Save On near my office to buy food for lunch on days when I’ve forgotten my lunch at home/not had time to prepare a lunch3. So basically the only things I’ve ever bought at Save On are carrots, avocadoes, apples, hummus and these delicious flax seed buns you can get at their bakery.  Oh yeah, and diet Pepsi.  So, it shouldn’t be hard to tell what I’d like based on my “shopping habits.”  Here’s what my “personalized” coupons were:

Wieners? All beef OR chicken?  Wow!  I can’t think of anything this vegetarian-of-more-than-a-decade would want more! I have never, ever bought a wiener anywhere in this *entire province*. EVER!

As you can see at the bottom of that photo, the second coupon is for hot dog buns. To go with the wieners that I will never, ever buy.

The next coupon – Purdy’s Ice Cream – is the only thing I might even possibly buy, but I have absolutely never bought ice cream at Save On, so this definitely wasn’t based on my shopping habits.  And then there’s Nestle Chocolate Bars.  Sure, I’m a total chocolate snob who won’t even look at chocolate if it’s doesn’t have at least 70% cocoa and who believes that “milk” and “chocolate” have no business being anywhere near each other.  But yeah, give me that coupon for cheap crappy milk chocolate candy bars.

Tod assures me that they never had any intent to *actually* give me coupons based on the stuff I actually buy4, but rather they are just trying to sell me things I wasn’t going to buy, but I say “bollocks!”5  If they just want to give away coupons, why not have a bunch of coupons on the wall, a la Superstore, so you can just grab the ones you *actually* want instead of printing out a bunch o’ crap that I don’t want!

  1. a grocery store we have here in BC []
  2. it’s their discount card they use so they can Big Brother your shopping []
  3. so much cheaper and healthier than buying take out! []
  4. as I may or may not have been ranting about this to him []
  5. that “bollocks,” by the way, is in honour of Sir Kalev, who became a British citizen today! []

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Bike Helmets

When, exactly, did everyone stop wearing bike helmets?  It seemed like everyone was wearing them for a long, long time and then, all of the sudden, I’m seeing way more people on bicycles sans helmets.  Did I miss some sort of memo?  I mean, just the other day I was out for a run and saw a women with a toddler in a babyseat on her bike and both the woman AND THE TODDLER didn’t have helmets on.  Who does that?

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Bad Driving 101

Bad Driver's Handbook by billypalooza.On the way to work the other day, I saw the wreckages of THREE car crashes.  Fortunately for me, they were all on the opposite side of the road to me, so I wasn’t slowed down1.  And it doesn’t surprise me, given the horrible, horrible, horrible drivers I’ve seen lately.  Seriously, how do these people get their driver’s licenses?

Examples of atrocious driving behaviours I’ve seen lately include:

  • countless people who drive 80 km/hr in the fast lane on roads where the speed limit is 90 km/hr (and most of the traffic is going 100-120 km/hr and so have to slam on their brakes when they get to the asshat who doesn’t know the meaning of the words “fast lane”)
  • conversely, the asshats who driver 140+ km/hr when there’s thick traffic that’s all going 95 km/hr. They zoom up behind you and then change lanes aburptly, despite the fact that there are two cars driving side-by-side in front of you on the two lane road.  Do they really think they are somehow going to get ahead? Where exactly do they think they are going??
  • And then there’s the jerkwads who drive really, really slowly in the fast lane, forcing you to change to the right lane to pass them… and then they speed up the moment they see you trying to pass them in order to block you from passing them. I hate that.
  • Also, people who are averse to getting into the turning lane. In Vancouver, there are a fair number of right hand lanes that aren’t for driving – they are parking lanes, or they are bus only lanes during certain hours.  And when people want to turn right, instead of getting into those lanes once they are passed any parked cars (or buses), just turn right from the left lane. And, of course, they have to slow down pretty much to a stop before they turn, meaning I have to slow right down and it’s all for no reason seeing as they could just get in the goddamn right lane to turn right!
  • one car who decided he was going to come into my lane while I’m driving right next to him. I’m not in his blind spot, mind you (and even if I were, he should be checking that), but directly beside him.  He doesn’t look in his mirror or over his shoulder or even signal – just abruptly turns his steering wheel to the left. Only my quick wits in the swerving and honking departments saved me and Zaphod from this man’s idiocy.
  • a car driving right up to the end of an on ramp lane – and then onto the shoulder – because the driver was incapable of figuring out how to merge. And – surprise surprise – when I drove past the car, the driver was on her cell phone.
  • Two cars, parked in adjacent parking stalls, who both started backing up out of their spots at the exact same time. When I was already in the lane. And neither noticed that they were backing up directly at me until I honked at them.
  • a woman – and I’m not making this up – who was plucking hair from her chin at a stop light. Seriously.  She pulled up to the stop light, pulled her visor down to look in the mirror, grabbed a pair of tweezers and started plucking away.  Now, this might not be the most dangerous driving behaviour I’ve seen – she was stopped at a light – but… gross. 2

Incidentally, if you search “bad driver” on Flickr, you will find plenty of photos of license plates attached to cars driven by drivers who have done something to piss off someone with a camera.

Image Credit: Posted by billypalooza on Flickr.

  1. but those poor schmucks heading *into* Vancouver were pretty hooped []
  2. If I hadn’t been in extreme pain at the time and just trying to get to Tod’s so I could take my T3s and curl up on the couch, I would have rolled down my window and yelled “DO YOU KNOW WE CAN ALL SEE YOU???” []