Monthly Archives: February 2013

Hump Day: It’s a jungle out there in the fresh produce aisle

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Have you ever gone shopping for groceries only to find yourself next to the same person over and over no matter how often you try to get away from them? It’s like we’re living parallel lives right at that very moment. We both show up at the same grocery store and look at the same stuff. Usually when this happens, I lose my patience pretty fast.

Of course, it isn’t anyone’s fault. People are allowed to shop for groceries any time they want. It’s a free country. But how many times have I been one of only a handful of people in the store and two or three of us are looking at the exact same products at the exact same time.

And I’m not talking about something common like peanut butter, milk or pork chops. We’re talking about the aisle with the weird stuff – the international food I can’t even pronounce. I’ve decided to make a new recipe and need something like pickled duck brains and, lo and behold, the only two other people in the store are looking at something right above or below the pickled duck brains and I can’t get access to them.

In my head, I just scream, “Oh come on! Seriously? We all showed up here at the same time?” Then I get out my evil eye and stare them down. Oh, it’s a scary evil eye, too. People have started to shake. They’ve started to cry. They’ve turned pale. They’ve gotten sick to their stomach right then and there. OK, so maybe that was one kid with the flu who happened to be there with his mother. But I’m pretty sure my evil eye gave him the flu. My power is scary.

I’m not exactly known for my subtlety when someone’s driving me crazy in the grocery store, so letting go of an audible sigh is not unheard of on my part. While I try to keep it discreet, sometimes I’m about as discreet as a train whistle.

“Oh am I bothering you, buddy? Can’t a guy shop for cherry-flavoured anchovy paste without being glared at?” OK, sometimes I may sigh a bit too loudly. I admit it. When confronted with something like this, I just look around and blame the nearest senior citizen. “She did it. You know, she really should be put in a home,” and then I point at the poor woman as I deflect blame for my impatient social indiscretion. “Boy! Seniors, eh? So impatient!” For added effect, I twirl my index finger around my temple.

That’s if I’m lucky and have time to deflect my audible sigh of impatience onto an innocent bystander. Otherwise, I just end up in the emergency room with my head hanging low. “Here again, Mr. Cormier?” the nurse would ask. “Yes,” I’d reply sheepishly. And then she’d take to the intercom, “Calling Dr. Smith! Calling Dr. Smith! Mr. Cormier is here again to have something surgically removed from him. It’s a tube of cherry-flavoured anchovy paste.”

It doesn’t pay to make some big muscled guy angry in the grocery store, especially one who can hold you down as he does something terrible to you with a tube of cherry-flavoured anchovy paste. With that said, remind me never to be impatient when standing next to someone in the watermelon aisle, OK? That could be dangerous.

The cash registers are another matter. I like to use the self-serve cashes whenever possible. I’ve used them enough to have the process down pat. There are many out there, however, who insist on using them even though they haven’t got a clue. Not one. Zero!

I swear this happened to me the other day. I’m not exaggerating – as I’m prone to do. I was walking toward the self-serve cash in a local grocery store when a woman literally ran to beat me to it. She only had one item, so I thought, “Well, good for you, dear. You must be in a rush. I’m going to be an adult and not give you the evil eye. After all, your kids must be at home playing with matches or something urgent like that!”

So, she reaches the scanner, stops, and says to the attendant, “How do you use these things?” Oh come on! Seriously? That’s when I got out my worst evil eye and laser beams shot out of my head. She vaporized right then and there! Problem solved!

Three times in the past couple of months, I’ve purchased a hot deli item at the grocery store only to have the cashier pack it in with something that melts. For example, I’ll buy hot fried chicken and the cashier packs it in with the butter. Oh come on! Seriously? It’s always the young inexperienced ones, too. I’ve mentioned this to a few experienced cashiers (translation: older) and they just roll their eyes and wonder what the younger generation is coming to.

Then, there are the shoppers who get in line at the grocery store, arrive at the checkout, load all their groceries on the conveyer belt and then announce that they forgot something. Hey, it happens. Been there, done that. But then they take their good old time moseying around the store looking everywhere for the almondflavoured anchovy paste (the cherry-flavoured stuff was declared a health hazard and removed from the shelves), and don’t come back for five minutes while the lineup grows behind them and I’m sighing so loudly with impatience that I start to hyperventilate.

I really need to start taking tranquilizers before going to the grocery store. Not only will it calm me down, but it will also help me relax for that next trip to the ER to have something surgically removed from inside me when I tick off the wrong guy in the watermelon aisle.

Maybe for my own personal safety, I should just plant a garden this summer and eat what I grow.

Shane Koyczan’s haunting anti-bullying poem To this Day goes viral

Shane Koyczan
Shane Koyczan

In a video that Mashable calls “haunting and beautiful, powerful and startling, sad and relatable. And, above all, the video and poetry will reshape your views on name calling, harassment and pain, encouraging you to confront and end the cycle of hatred and bullying kids face,” British Columbia poet Shane Koyczan’s video entitled To this Day has sped to more than four million views in only five days since being uploaded. This is very powerful!

Social Media Matters: Facebook unfriending can have consequences

Social Media MattersSocial Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Friday, Feb. 22, 2013
Metro section

Facebook unfriending can have consequences

A new study from the University of Colorado Denver suggests that unfriending someone on Facebook can have far-reaching social consequences.

According to an article published on ScienceDaily.com on Feb. 4 entitled “Facebook Unfriending Has Real Life Consequences: Many Avoid ‘Unfrienders’ in Real Life,” study author Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student in the Computer Science and Information Systems program at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, warned that, “People think social networks are just for fun. But in fact what you do on those sites can have real world consequences.”

Sibona went on to explain that he found that 40 per cent of Facebook users surveyed said that — in real life — they would avoid anyone who unfriended them on Facebook. About 50 per cent said they would not avoid the unfriender, while the remainder were unsure. Gender seemed to play a role in who would do more avoiding, as women said they would avoid contact with an unfriender more than men would.

Sibona also wrote a study in 2010 on why Facebook users unfriend others. According to the article, the top four reasons were: 1) Frequent, unimportant posts; 2) Polarizing posts usually about politics or religion; 3) Inappropriate posts involving sexist, racist remarks; 4) Boring everyday life posts about children, food, spouses etc.

Have you ever unfriended someone? If so, was there any negative fallout?

Burger King’s Twitter account hacked

Burger King-Twitter HackedIt’s not very often that you see a large corporate Twitter account hacked, but it happened on Monday when Burger King’s account (@BurgerKing) was taken over by unknown hackers who changed the logo to McDonald’s, announced a takeover by McDonald’s, and then started tweeting obscenities before the account was taken down by Twitter.

The account was back to normal by Tuesday and is now functional again, likely after getting a new password that not even Jesus and the Amazing Kreskin could figure out. Burger King has more than 110,000 followers on Twitter.

Top brand name recipes websites

KraftEvery week, I take a look at the top 10 sites in categories among Alexa.com’s website rankings. It’s winter! Time for comfort food to get you through these cold days! Here are recipe sites that use some of the best-known food brands out there ­— and even a few copycats! Statistics are current to Feb. 19.

  • 1) Kraft Food Recipes (recipes and other cooking information from Kraft)
  • 2) Betty Crocker Recipes (recipes for all types of occasions and tastes, including a recipe finder for specific ingredients)
  • 3) Pillsbury (a wide variety of recipes and tips)
  • 4) Campbell’s Kitchen (meal ideas and recipes using Campbell’s brands, including Campbell’s, Swanson, Pace and Prego)
  • 5) Hershey’s (recipes for everything chocolate)
  • 6) Kraft Canada (recipes using Kraft products available in Canada)
  • 7) Nestle’s Very Best Baking (lots of recipes featuring brands such as Nestlé Toll House chocolate chips, Carnation evaporated milk and Libby’s pumpkin purée)
  • 8) Top Secret Recipes on the Web (make your own similar-tasting copycat brand-name foods at home)
  • 9) CopyKat Creations (more popular food brand and restaurant meals broken down into recipes that you can make at home)
  • 10) Hidden Valley Ranch (recipes from Hidden Valley Ranch products including bottled dressings, dressing mixes, dips mixes and condiments.)

This week’s featured YouTube channels

Every week, I feature YouTube channels for you to check out. Statistics are current to Feb. 19. Have a favourite YouTube channel? Let me know and I may feature it here.

Michel Goguen Music1) Michel Goguen (6 subscribers): Michel Goguen lives in Dieppe and is well-known area acoustic guitarist and singer. He’ll be releasing a new CD called The Painter’s Drum in the coming weeks and has also started a new Facebook page at facebook.com/MichelGoguenMusic. The tracks will also be available through Amazon.ca and iTunes in June. There are some really beautiful tunes uploaded to this YouTube channel. Do yourself a favour and subscribe! Take a listen to “River Ride” and tell me that doesn’t remind you of Bruce Cockburn! (Most popular video: Ocean Wave – 253 views.)

Leigh Alderson2) electricleo5 (16 subscribers): Last week, I mentioned Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada dancer Leigh Alderson’s disco music talents. I forgot to mention that he also has his own YouTube channel featuring a variety of artistic videos and personal vlogs (video + blog = vlog), many of them made here in Moncton. (Most popular video: Jerry Burns ‘ANGEL’ (trailer) – 4,783 views.)

Commotion Engine3) Commotion Engine (153 subscribers): Commotion Engine is a California-based video marketing firm that creates animated ads and videos for clients. I love these types of videos since they’re usually fast-paced, creative and fun to watch! As ads, they’re very powerful! Check out their website, their Facebook page  and their Twitter account. (Most popular video: Commotion in 90sec – 13,237 views.)

Hump Day: Don’t be foolhardy during blizzards; just stay home

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

In the past 10 days or so, this area has received two blizzards. Driving has been treacherous. Visibility has been zero. Cars have gone off the roads by the dozens. One officer I saw interviewed even admitted the police had a hard time finding those who had gone off the road due to the whiteout conditions.

Now, I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer sometimes, but what in the world are people doing out in these conditions? For the love of Mike, I just don’t get it. Perhaps it was a one-time thing and people just had to get home? Maybe they were coming home from work after their employer refused to close for the day? I’m not sure.

All I know is that I took that risk once and I’ll never do it again. Years ago, I had a business meeting in Fredericton and decided to go anyway despite a questionable weather forecast. The drive there was OK, but the drive back was snowy, to say the least. By the time I hit Sussex, I was white-knuckling it and driving 40 kilometres per hour behind a transport truck making promises to God, Queen Elizabeth, Pope John Paul II and even Oprah that I would do whatever would please them if I could just survive that drive.

I should have taken the hint earlier that it was a drive I shouldn’t take. As I was leaving Fredericton, I was driving a bit too fast for the conditions and a car had stopped to turn left just outside the city. This was years before that nice four-lane highway was built. Cars stopping on the two-lane highway to turn onto roads or into driveways were a constant menace.

Anyway, after I figured out that there was no way I could stop, I decided to chance it and go around the stopped vehicle to the right on the snow-packed shoulder. I hung on tight and managed to make it. Eureka! Man, I’m smart — so smart that I continued moving left back into the correct lane and right into the opposing lane with a dump truck coming straight at me.

Needless to say, an adult diaper would have come in handy right at that moment as I saw my life pass before my eyes and openly wondered why in the world I decided not to just stay in a hotel that night and come back the next morning. I had no pets to feed at the time. I had no absolutely necessary reason to get home other than it was a Friday night and I just wanted to relax.

Let’s just say that meeting a dump truck head on during a snow storm isn’t exactly as relaxing as sitting in front of a nice crackling fireplace with a glass of red wine and watching the snow falling gently outside through the window.

So, I did all that I could do and quickly steered my small compact car away from the oncoming dump truck and back into the lane in which I was supposed to be. Oh, and did I tell you that I didn’t believe in winter tires at the time? Way too expensive and overrated, I thought. Didn’t need those silly things, eh? Well, let’s just say that was the last time I didn’t have winter tires on my vehicle. These days, their studded with spikes that dig into the pavement like knives.

When I finally made it home, I can tell you what I told myself as I opened the door to my apartment. “Cured!” That was the first and last time I ever pulled that stunt.

Perhaps these people who were out in the storm on Sunday night and the previous weekend didn’t have a choice. But if you did have a choice and you went out anyway, give your head a shake! Nothing is worth putting your life on the line for.

And what’s up with non-essential businesses remaining open and putting their employees’ lives in danger? Sure, many closed, but did the cinema really need to remain open on Sunday evening? Was business that brisk that they found it profitable to risk everyone’s lives? I don’t know. I do know that they announced online that they were closing early and not proceeding with their late shows. I found myself shaking my head at that announcement and openly questioning whether they should have been open for the early shows, as well. Don’t expect any applause from me for closing many hours later than you should have in the first place.

I understand a pharmacy staying open. I understand gas stations staying open. Then, of course, there are the essential services, such as hospitals and the like. But does anyone really need to get a full order of groceries in a storm? Is there not a pharmacy or 24/7 corner store that can provide the few essentials it would take for 24 hours? And do we really need to go to a restaurant in the middle of a blizzard and keep those poor staff there when they should be trying to get home before they’re stuck?

Oh, I’m sure I’ve done all that stuff in the past. I’m certainly no angel when it comes to pulling those stunts, but as I grow older I become a lot more concerned for those making minimum wage and also being forced to drive home in treacherous conditions because their employers put money ahead of employee safety.

Quite frankly, there should be a municipal bylaw in place to force non-essential services to close if the police decide the roads are too dangerous. Fine the owners and managers of these establishments. If they made $500 staying open, fine them $1,000. Hit them where it hurts. I’d vote for that in a heartbeat.

Wintery scene from today here in Moncton

I took this video earlier today of birds feeding in the back yard. My neighbour stocks the bird feeder and I supply the tree! When I looked out the window earlier this afternoon, I saw the birds (mostly finches) stocking up like mad as a snow storm hit the area!