Some Sunday silliness

At least here in southern Ontario, there is currently a commercial for Tylenol Nightime being aired. This commercial shows a lady tossing and turning, unable to sleep and the voiceover begins by making comment on the way one’s mind will jump from idea to idea when one can’t sleep.  Then the voice changes to what I presume is the woman’s voice and we hear her asking herself questions (“do I need snow tires?” – sarcastic answer: not in bed).  The final question she asks is “What if the hokey-pokey really is what it’s all about?”

Now this question is obviously rhetorical, for as any fan of Douglas Adams knows, the hokey-pokey can’t be “what it’s all about”.  In “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”, Mr Adams clearly stated that the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything is “42″.  Unfortunately, he never wrote the question needed to get this response.  Note “42″.  Not “the hokey-pokey and 42″.   Not “the hokey-pokey or 42″.  Just “42″.  I can’t recall for certain, but that may be repeated in all five books of the trilogy.

Who are you going to believe – some songwriter who claimed the hokey-pokey is what it’s all about, or Douglas Adams, who stated categorically that 42 is the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything?

While you’re thinking about that, enjoy the rest of your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat

Is this necessary?

Saw a commercial last night and it made me ask the question that forms the title of this piece.  The commercial was for a product called “Kinder Surprise” and was trumpeting the fact they now offer something called “Kinder Surprise for girls”.

Is this necessary?  Do we really need more gender-specific toys?  We’re in the second decade of the twenty-first century.  Presumably we have reached a point in human evolution where gender stereotypes are no longer necessary. Surely there isn’t a man alive who still adheres to the June Cleaver image of women.  The days have long passed when the only career choices for women were nursing or secretarial work.  There is no limit to what women can now accomplish if they choose to so do.  So why do we need gender-specific toys?  I can’t speak for you, but to me that seems like a step backward.

According to Google, Kinder Surprise is manufactured in Italy by Ferrero.  That it is European doesn’t surprise me, for it was some toy company, also in Europe, that put out special catalogues containing gender-specific pages.  These were for only certain countries, with the catalogue for the home country being more gender neutral, but still…

I suspect the reason behind this idea really boils down to profit.  Personally I feel these men are misogynists who won’t be happy until women are sent back to the kitchen.  Guess what guys.  Women can vote now.  They are out in the workforce at all levels, not just junior staff, so if they’re in the kitchen, it’s because they want to be there, not because you want them there.

Maybe that both my grandmother and mother were strong women has a bearing on my perspective.  Maybe not.  Maybe that I’m transgendered and have seen both sides has an effect on my views of this.  In any case I find the whole idea of branding toys “for girls” or “for boys” abhorrent.  It’s 2013 people, not 1320.  Women are people now, not property.

Cat.

Numbers don’t lie, but they can be manipulated

Have you noticed how advertisers manipulate figures in attempts to make products more appealing to us?  We’re all familiar with the “ninety-nine cent’ phenomenon, where a price  ending in .99 is seen as being a better bargain than something rounded up to the dollar, but I’m not talking about that.  Hey, something priced at 99  is still a buck.

No, I’m talking about perhaps more subtle manipulation.  What prompts this piece is a commercial I heard on the radio this morning.  Can’t recall the product or service, but it was probably something I wouldn’t consider.  I presume it was for some furniture outlet, for what caught my attention was the statement near the end of the spot that “you don’t pay for 540 days”.  540 days sounds great, doesn’t it?  It sounds as if it would be so much longer than 18 months, which is roughly 540 days, yet not as long as “a year-and-a-half”.  That sounds far too long.  They are approximately the same span of time, yet something about the 540 days, advertisers believe, sounds just fantastic.

I haven’t seen any for a while, but do you remember when car manufacturers and dealers were offering financing over 72 months? Seventy-two months – fantastic term.  Now, ask yourself this: Are you still going to have that vehicle in 6 years?  Because that’s how long 72 months is.   Again, the advertisers are giving us the full term of the loan, but stating it in a manner to make it sound more appealing. If they stated “You can finance this vehicle over 6 years”, most people are going to say “Forget it – that’s far too long”.  But 72 months – that isn’t all that long.

I’ve recently noticed some adverts from (usually) used car lots and dealers in which payments are expressed as, for example, “$200 bi-weekly”.  Again, this is someone having fun with figures.  Two hundred bucks every two weeks sounds manageable for most of us, especially if we’re fortunate enough to have a job.  But, when you do the math on it, well, things look a little different. $200 bi-weekly is a hundred bucks a week, or $14.28 a day. Figuring on a 30 day month, you’re looking at $428.40 a month.  Is that still in your budget?

All the instances I’ve mentioned above sound good on the surface.  It’s only when you do some calculations of your own that the true nature of the beast is revealed.  Don’t just accept anyone’s word for it when faced with this kind of offer.  It isn’t that difficult to work out exactly how long that term really is nor is it hard to expand a bi-weekly quote into the actual monthly payment.

Enjoy the rest of your week.  Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.  And don’t forget – we’ll all still be here to see the sun rise on December 22.

Cat.

Why doesn’t this inspire me?

The following ad was sprawled across the top of my Gmail account a short while ago:

Fix My Registry Now (Recommended) Free Download. – fix-registry.winzip.com – Fix Registry Errors in 2 Minutes.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m always suspicious of ads that offer something free, especially when the offer involves my computer.  And the fact that this is “recommended” does nothing to allay those suspicions.  Rather, that just raises more questions, such as recommended by whom?  Of course that is in addition to the usual questions these kinds of ads raise.  Questions such as “what is this going to plant in my computer?”  And “okay, the download is free, but how much are you going to ask for to activate the programme?”

From the various security and maintenance programmes I’ve installed, I know there are ways of cleaning the registry.  That someone is offering to do it for me (“free download”) is not really very reassuring mainly because this isn’t a problem I’ve expressed any concerns over.

Once again, an offer like this might sound good, but unless you’ve specifically asked for help on fixing the registry, I’d ignore it.  As I wrote above, something like this will either cost you money or allow some stranger to install something nasty on your system.  And, if it does install some unwanted routine on your system, it will probably cost you money to remove it.  Stick with sites you trust.  Although, I must admit there have been a couple of times my securityware has detected, and blocked, keyloggers in Adobe Reader updates.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and honour our veterans today.

Cat.

It’s far too soon

This one will be short, I promise.

I realize that now that Hallowe’en is over, it is time for the Christmas merchandise.  American Thanksgiving is coming up at the end of the month, but that merchandise was  fighting the Hallowe’en stuff for shelf space so we can ignore that.

November 11 is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans’ Day in the US.  This is the date in 1918 when the Great War ended and now commemorates all those who have lost their lives throughout the years and across the world defending our freedom.  November 11 is also this coming Sunday.

That is ten days after Hallowe’en.  Given that Remembrance Day is this weekend, would you  agree that Christmas commercials are more than a little premature.  Remembrance Day, or as it is becoming more commonly known Poppy Day has, over the past few years, become a ten day celebration of our brave warriors.  Other than the desire to serve the great retail god of profit, can you think of a single reason why advertisers and stores (who are preparing their Christmas windows even as I write this) couldn’t wait those ten days?   These men and women sacrificed their bodies and yes, their lives, to ensure that we would have the freedom to have the lives we currently enjoy.  Is it really asking too much to hold off the Christmas displays and adverts until after November 11?  Personally I don’t think so and I will boycott any product or store I see advertising Christmas before we have properly honoured our veterans.

Cat.

Not very impressive

I have a Statutory Declaration that requires the services of a Commissioner of Oaths  before I can present it to the government of Ontario.  Not knowing where I might find one, I went onto Google and typed in my criteria “commissioner of oaths Ajax Ont” and clicked on “search”.

Among the results were two adverts for Red Seal Notaries.  The second one actually read “Red Seal Notaries – Commissioners of Oaths”.  Great.  The blurb said they had a local office, so “click”. Found the “locations” tab and that was when I decided that I wouldn’t be using Red Seal.  They showed four locations (actually 3 – one was a duplicate) in my area.  Unfortunately, the information left much to be desired.

The first was as far as it is possible to get from my home and still be in Ajax. And from what I can find from the bus schedules, if you’re using transit, you can’t get there from here.  There was no telephone number listed and only a street corner for an address.

The next two – the duplicates – were just as unhelpful. One showed “Pickering Village” for  a location, and the other “Kingston Road West”, again with no telephone number or street address. I live in Pickering Village and I’ve never seen anything resembling a sign advertising someone’s services as a Commissioner of Oaths.  And on the map for these two, someone, and this is probably the fault of Google maps, has Duffin’s Creek labelled as “Lake Ontario.”  Sorry, the lake is about two miles south of this location.

To my mind, the most blatant example of not checking for accuracy is the final location, which they have listed as “Old Kingston Road”.  In this case, they show the intersection as  “Kingston Road W and Brock Road, Ajax.  The real problem with that is that the intersection of Kingston and Brock, as shown on the map, is at least a mile inside the City of Pickering, not in the Town of Ajax.  And it is “Kingston Road”, not “Old Kingston Road” I live on OKR, and it is a relatively quiet side street.

When I look at the website I note a little box that says “call for an appointment” and an “888″ number.  I don’t think I’ll be calling.  If they can’t ensure their website is complete and accurate; if they aren’t willing to give potential clients sufficient information upon which to reach a decision, how can I be certain they are truly qualified to administer an oath swearing the information I’ve presented is correct?  Fortunately for me, the listings also showed that the Town of Ajax has on staff a Commissioner of Oaths.  And the Town gives its telephone number and address and  shows its prices as well. So Friday morning, I’ll be paying a visit to Town Hall.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat

Bimbos eat free

The title is how I read a sign while driving one evening.  That I was concentrating on my driving should be apparent for obviously that isn’t what the sign actually said.  This was one of those portable signs businesses often put at the curb in front of their establishments, in this case an Italian restaurant.  This was a relatively new restaurant and they were using the sign to advertise the fact that children ate free on Tuesday nights, but being an Italian  eatery, they got cute and used the word “bambinos”.  But as I said above, I was paying attention to the road, and my mind interpreted “bambinos” incorrectly.  Too bad, my interpretation of the sign might have made for some interesting Tuesday nights.

One day I was driving east of Toronto along “old” Highway 2 (Highway 401 is now the main Toronto – Montreal route) mainly because it was more relaxing and scenic.  As we approached a sign for the town we were entering, my passenger, who’s attention was only partially on what was happening through the windscreen, read the name of the town as “Post Hole”, rather than the correct “Port Hope”.  Now Port Hope is a beautiful historic town on the banks of the Ganaraska River and in no way resembles a post hole.  Again, the misnomer was the result of not paying attention.

And finally, there is a GM model called the “Terrain”.  I don’t know if it’s the way the name plaque was made, or its colour, but my mind constantly insists upon deciphering that name as “Terrapin”.  Is it that there is very little separation between the letters that causes me to add that “p” to the name, or is it just my preference for the products of another manufacturer that turns the name into an insult?

There are many cases of people misreading signs.  I’m sure you have your own instances of that happening.  Care to share in the comments?

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

And yes, I proofread this twice to make sure I hadn’t let a spelling error through.
C.

The doctor is too busy to see you

This seems to be the week I pick on commercials, specifically commercials for pharmaceutical products.

I understand the rules governing the advertising of pharmaceutical products differ between Canada and the US.   Now that I have cable, I can see the effects of those different rules.  And I really have to wonder about some of these products being touted.  Can American advertisers really think people are going to consider a product when the announcer is saying something along the lines of “serious side effects can include death”?  Do they honestly believe someone is going to hear this and think “oh well, as long as it does what it’s supposed to do, so what if it may prove fatal”?

As I said, the rules are very different, so as a result, Canadian commercials can be maddeningly vague as to what the product is supposed to accomplish.  Each ad always has, somewhere near the end of it, the request urging to “ask your doctor”, or in some cases “ask your pharmacist”.

If you have a regular family doctor, you know how busy she/he is seeing patients and dealing with the regular running of an office.  Based upon the number of ads for various products, you also probably have some idea of just how many new pharmaceuticals there are out there.  And in Canada, if they advertise these products, in each case, the advertiser exhorts us to “ask your doctor.”

I was speaking with my doctor’s receptionist today, just after she’d taken yet another brochure and business card from a pharmaceutical salesman.  She admitted that most of those that come into this particular doctor’s office go straight into the recycling bin.   During the course of our discussion, I mentioned that if the doctor were to actually read all of these brochures and product monographs, he wouldn’t have time to see patients.

“Ask your doctor”.  Sure.  Oh wait!  I can’t.  He ’s too busy reading all the product literature you keep dumping on him to see patients.

I don’t know when these rules were put in place governing the Canadian advertising of pharmaceuticals, but they are terribly out of date.  Perhaps at one time, with extravagant claims being made about some products, they were necessary, or those in charge of setting advertising standards felt the public couldn’t handle even a brief mention of “erectile dysfunction”.  But, as I’ve commented before, Canada, and those who decide what we may or may not see, read or hear (“Money for Nothing” comes to mind) seem determined to make, and keep Canada as a “nanny society” where Big Brother – the feds; other levels of government, and various advertising boards – has the final say in to what we are exposed.

We can make up our own minds.  Yet it seems the only time we are permitted to do that is during elections.  Once we’ve put these people in power, they seem to feel they know what’s best for us.  Not by a bloody long shot.

Enjoy your week and stay safe.  Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Random thoughts from the weekend

Thanksgiving weekend is almost over.  Unfortunately the turkey will continue.

1 – Two for one.  In Toronto, and probably other jurisdictions as well, over the past year there has been an outcry by cycling groups for trucks to have some form of anti-underride bars on the trailers.  This really became an issue  when a young pregnant lady was hit and killed by a truck – I don’t recall if it was a tractor-trailer or not – making a right turn, when she somehow came in contact with the truck and fell under the rear wheels.  Perhaps you’ve noticed, while on the highway or perhaps just watching traffic flow by, that many tractor-trailers now have what appear to be sails hanging from the bottom of the trailer.  These are slightly curved at the front, fitting under the trailer, and then extend, even with the side of the trailer, to the rear wheels.  The main purpose is to reduce the amount of air that gets under the trailer.  Air under the trailer at highway speeds significantly increases drag, which increases fuel consumption.  These “sails” are a way to combat that added air resistance.

There is this hue and cry for some form of protection for cyclists to be mounted on trucks,  but governments are reluctant to legislate such protection. My thought on this is that since many companies are now using these wind reduction panels anyway, why not just make them mandatory? That way, the transport companies get the reduced fuel consumption they want and the cyclists get the anti-underride protection they want.  Makes sense to me.

2 – It’s supposed to be used.  There was an item in one of the Saturday papers, which of course I didn’t bookmark, about some Honda models that have rolled away, even after the driver has turned the engine off and removed the key.  Apparently the problem is that something in the ignition switch breaks or wears with use that will allow the key to be removed without the transmission being placed in “Park”. And, since the key could be removed, the drivers never checked to make sure the transmission was indeed in “Park”. As I said, I didn’t bookmark the item, so have to rely on my memory, but one man broke his leg when his vehicle ran over him.  He tried to chase it and the open door knocked him down.  There is a lever between the seats, or a small pedal at the left side of the driver’s footwell.  That controls what is variously called an emergency brake; parking brake, or in the case of the lever, a hand brake.  Note that second name – “parking brake”.  Activating this feature, either by pulling the lever, or stepping on the pedal, causes a cable to apply the rear brakes.

One benefit I can think of off-hand is that if you’re parked on an incline,  using this takes a lot of stress off the pawls in the “Park” position of the transmission. No more fighting to get the transmission into gear when you want to leave wherever you’ve been.  I usually drove vehicles with manual transmissions, so to me use of the “parking brake” became second nature.  Even when I drove taxi (all automatic transmissions) I’d use that brake whenever I parked the cab at the end of my shift. In the US the feds are looking at issuing a recall for these particular vehicles, but a bit of common sense and making use of the equipment in cars as standard equipment would prevent this happening.  That brake isn’t for decoration – it’s meant to be used.

3 – That isn’t correct.  I freely admit I’m something of a fanatic when it comes to grammar, composition and spelling.  I’ll also admit that there may be times when I don’t get it right either – I’m only human and prone to error.  One place I do expect to see proper usage though is in advertising or other signage in stores.  I’ve previously ranted about the sign in a coffee shop in a mall that asks patrons not to remove trays from the premise, so I’ll just leave that one alone.

I spent yesterday in Toronto with friends and came home today on the commuter train.  These trains have some advertising – where isn’t there advertising today? – and just before I left the train, I noticed an advertising placard.  I couldn’t see who the company was, but they need to have a talk with their ad agency.  The largest lettering on this placard was the following: Be your boss’ boss.

Notice anything wrong with that statement?  What about that incorrect possessive – “boss’”?  It should have read “boss’s”.  People just don’t seem to understand how to use possessives any longer.  Much like algebra, that seems to be one of the first things forgotten once they leave school  But then again, people seem to have forgotten the proper use of an apostrophe in general. They seem to have forgotten, or never learned, that it is used for contractions and to indicate possession.  Instead they sprinkle it everywhere and yes, on occasion they do get it right.  But the handwritten sign on a door admonishing people to “mind you’re step” certainly isn’t one of those occasions.

Ah well.  I’ve resigned myself to the idea that when it comes to proper English usage, as my tagline reads, I’m a lone voice calling in the wilderness.  Still, it would be nice if one person listened.

Enjoy your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

We are not the same

Something caught my interest the other day, and if you’re a regular reader, you know that means I’ll either photograph it or write about it.  This came out of a casual conversation with someone whom I knew had changed jobs and I asked “How’s the new job?”.

His situation was this: he was working with an American firm that had recently opened a branch office in Canada (although why do it now, with the economy still as shaky as it is, wasn’t explained) and set about their normal business practice.  The head office couldn’t understand why they weren’t getting the response they expected and their bean-counters had assured them would happen and was taking it out on him.

I didn’t have an answer for him, even though I’ve worked in international trade and have studied marketing, but then an answer wasn’t required.  He merely wanted to bitch to someone.  But, the question of why things weren’t happening stayed with me.  I doubted the problem was with the product itself – it was just another product on the shelf and it functioned as it was supposed to – so it had to be the way they were marketing it.

I suspected they were using the same marketing techniques they used in the US – after all,  Canadians are just Americans who talk funny and add a “u” to words like “neighbour” (just an aside: Sir John A Macdonald, our first Prime Minister, was able to get an Act through Parliament making the inclusion of that “u” the only legal spelling of certain words).    Many American firms have made the same mistake as my friend’s employer – assuming that because we share a continent, we are alike.  Wrong.

Although our culture is indeed influenced by what we see on American television and movies – I think 85% of the population of Canada lives within 100 miles of the border with the US – we are a distinct society.  Our tastes differ and how we react to advertising differs.  Even our humour is different.  If you’re of a certain age, you remember the Ed Sullivan Show and a comedy duo that held the record for the most appearances.  Wayne and Shuster were Canadian.  The skits they were best known for were “Rinse the Blood off my Toga” and “A Shakespearean Baseball Game”.  The first was based on Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” (favourite bit from “Rinse the Blood…” was set in a bar: the lead character in the skit says to the bartender “give me a martinus”, to which the bartender replies “You mean martini.”  Response: “If I want two I’ll ask for them.”) and the other was a mix of various Shakespearean characters and titles.  Moving up to date, one of the more popular shows was “Corner Gas” with comedian Brent Butt as the star.  In both cases, the humour was both literate and slightly subversive.  There is currently a programme on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp) that I can’t honestly say I could see being on the air in the US.  The programme, a comedy, is called “Little Mosque on the Prairie”.  The premise is a Muslim group settles in a small town in Saskatchewan (same province as “Corner Gas” was set in) and deals with the attempts of both the Muslims and the townspeople to adapt to one another.

Yes, many of Canadians’ favourite programmes are American, but that is more because  there are certain genres the Americans are better at producing than are Canadians.  Other than the CSI series (Vegas and New York especially); “Bones”, and “Castle” there are very few American shows I watch.  When it comes to police dramas I actually prefer British or Australian progammes.  In fact as I type this, I’m watching “Law and Order – U.K.)  Oddly enough, one of the biggest hits on CBS in the past couple of years has been “Flashpoint”, a Canadian police drama.

Music is another area where our tastes differ.  How many times have you read  articles on European groups where it states that outside their home country, their biggest fan base is Canada while in the US, the reaction is “who’s that?”

Canadians are very nationalistic, although we seem to frown upon the displays of that nationalism so common in the US.  American firms trying to do business in Canada need to understand this quiet patriotism and tailor their advertising to Canadian perceptions.  As I wrote in the title “We are not the same”.

Enjoy your weekend and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.