Category Archives: Misc

Red flags and bullet dodging

As part of our recent (and ongoing, as of this writing) home renovations, we decided to sell the antique dining room set that my parents gave us around fifteen years ago. We loved the set but simply no longer had a place to put it. I talked to my dad to make sure he didn’t want it back, but neither he nor my sister had any place for it either. We called a couple of antiques dealers but they said that dining room sets rarely sell anymore. One of them said they wouldn’t take it at all, and the other said they might be able to give us $300 for the whole set.

We were disappointed so we decided to try and Facebook Marketplace to see if we could get something more. I listed the set at a very optimistic $1000. I figured if it didn’t sell, I could drop the price by half and still get more than the dealers offered. After a week of silence, I lowered the price to $700. A couple of days after that, I received two separate messages, thirteen minutes apart, from the same guy. They were worded slightly differently; one said:

Graeme, I’m very interested! Please contact me if this is still available. My name is [removed], my cell number is [removed] and my email is [removed]. I noticed that you lowered your price. I will be more than prepared to restore the original price and more.

Right away I was suspicious. The first red flag: it looked like he has two stock messages that he sends for such things and accidentally sent both. If I sent two responses saying the same thing, I’d probably delete one of them. Trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe it was an honest mistake – he responded but then a weird thing happened on the web site and he wasn’t sure if it went through, so he had to rewrite it. No big deal.

The second (and bigger) red flag: he’s not only willing to pay more than the advertised price but with no prompting, he offers to pay more. Perhaps he really likes the set and wants to make absolutely sure he gets it. But if that’s the case, I would think you’d wait to see if there is any competition – why pay more if you don’t need to?

Scam Alert

I responded saying that the set was still available but that it was packed away in a trailer so he may not be able to see it for a couple of weeks. He responded that he was moving to London (Ontario) in a couple of weeks so that might work out well. Then I had a change of heart (don’t let the buyer forget about the thing you’re selling, strike while the iron is hot, all that sort of thing) and told him we could unpack the trailer easily and he could see it anytime he wanted. The next couple of messages raised a couple more red flags:

Hi Graeme, I’ve been viewing so many items on kijiji today, I’ve forgotten which dining room set it is and the asking price. Perhaps you could help. Also, in which city are you located?

I’m not entirely sure why this was a red flag, and perhaps if red flags 1 and 2 weren’t there this wouldn’t have been a problem, but it just increased my already growing suspicion. I sent him the link to the kijiji page and told him I lived in Waterdown. He responded again:

The earliest I could be there is Saturday, November 17, 2018. … I will contact my relatives in Waterdown to see if they could assist. … I could transfer the money through an e-transfer, send a courier to your location (not Canada Post), or whatever.

Since I was already suspicious, this raised a few more red flags. First, who includes the full date including the year in an email like this? I’d have said something like “The earliest I could be there is Saturday (the 17th)”. Second, he really has relatives in Waterdown? Waterdown is not a big place. The original ad said “pickup in Waterdown”, so you’d think if he had relatives living here, he’d have remembered what town it was (i.e. “Oh, he’s in Waterdown. Uncle Bob lives in Waterdown”) Maybe he’s got relatives all over this area so that didn’t narrow it down.

And finally, he offered to e-transfer the money and send a courier to pick up the set. Sending money by e-transfer isn’t a problem, I’ve sent and received money that way many times, but the courier thing bothered me. I don’t know exactly what’s wrong with it or how he could scam me using that method but the fact that he didn’t seem to want to meet in person raised a big red flag. Perhaps he’d tell me he’d transfer the money but not do it before the courier arrived. Maybe he figured that I’d want to avoid inconveniencing the courier by letting him take the set before payment was verified.

I responded again saying Saturday would be fine but I would only accept cash. He said that cash was no problem. This all happened on Sunday the 11th and I heard nothing from him all week.

On Friday, I sent him two messages asking what time on Saturday he was coming. After receiving no response, I sent another on Saturday morning saying that if I didn’t hear back I’d assume he was no longer interested. I finally got a response on Saturday afternoon:

I apologize Graeme. I have neglected to do several things lately, yours included. My second round of chemo for my cancer has been difficult. I regret not being able to view, and likely purchase the items. But at this time, I will have to decline this offer. Thank you anyway.

Even more red flags.

We got a message in the middle of all this from someone else expressing interest in a much more typical fashion with no red flags, but Gail and I had enough hackles raised at this point that we both wondered if she was affiliated with the first guy. “I’ll get him excited about a sale and then drop out suspiciously, and you be the “good cop” and come in to save him, then he’ll fall all over himself selling to you. Then you write him a cheque that bounces after we have the set and we’re done.” Luckily, the second person actually did buy the dining room set and that transaction went smoothly. Ironically, she sent the money by e-transfer and sent movers to pick up the set, but before that, she showed up in person to look at it. I received the payment days before the movers arrived, and there were exactly zero red flags with her or her husband.

I still have no real proof that this was a scam, just lots of red flags, but I still feel like we dodged a bullet by not selling to this guy. It’s highly possible that this is a totally innocent exchange that I’m misinterpreting. If it is, then I apologize, Mr. potential buyer. I hope the move to London goes well, I hope the chemotherapy does its job, and I hope you find another dining room set for your new place.

But if not, then you can go to hell.

Dogs are friends, not food

I saw a number of articles on Facebook in recent weeks about an annual “dog-eating” festival in Yulin, China. Of course, all of the comments on these articles were full of anger and disgust over the eating of dogs. Some of the commenters went further and said that some of the dogs were tortured or in some other way not treated humanely. Many would argue that there is no “humane” way to kill and eat a dog but regardless, the majority of the commenters were put off simply by the idea of eating dogs.

What, no tomato?But why?

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m just as disgusted by this festival as anyone else, and the idea of eating a dog is unfathomable to me. I’ve eaten some unusual things like bison, shark, and alligator, but I’d never consider partaking of man’s best friend. My question is more a philosophical one:

Why are we disgusted by eating some animals while others are OK?

Obviously there are vegetarians and vegans for whom eating any animal is disgusting to some degree. And there are different cultures around the world – well over a billion people in India would never think of eating beef. But I’m talking about your standard North American omnivore who eats beef, ham, pork, chicken, turkey, and maybe others like venison, goose, and duck. Most of these people don’t think twice about those animals but those same people would never think to eat a horse. Why is it that eating a cow or pig is OK but horse or dog is not?

I imagine the reason is mostly “that’s just the way it’s always been”. We all know that people as a group are resistant to change, and if that’s the way it is and has always been, then that’s likely the way it will stay until people have a good reason to change. Our parents didn’t eat horse, and so we don’t eat horse. We don’t eat horse, and so our kids don’t eat horse. And so on. Over the years it’s gradually changed from something we simply don’t do into something we would never even consider doing, and now it’s gotten to the point where people who would consider doing it are sick twisted bastards. Is that overly judgemental? Perhaps. I imagine there’s a billion people in India who think that North Americans are sick twisted bastards for eating cows.

Or maybe they just don’t taste good.

Literally: Making stupid people correct rather than correcting stupid people

You may have already seen this, but if you do a Google search for the word “literally”, it comes up with the following definitions: literally

Note the second one, which was apparently added back in 2011 though nobody really noticed it until recently. I see it all the time in the sports world; a player will play very well for a few games in a row and people say he’s “literally on fire”. I’ve heard people saying that someone “literally took the bull by the horns” or something they didn’t like “literally drove me crazy”. Up to now, this has simply been wrong. Now, apparently, it’s not.

At the risk of being (correctly) labeled a “grammar Nazi”, the misuse of this word has been (figuratively) driving me crazy for years. Language changes and evolves, I get that. The sentence “My cell’s out of juice so I can’t tweet” would have made no sense thirty years ago. These kids today People younger than myself use the word “sick” to describe something good, but that’s slang and was likely done intentionally for ironic effect.

This is not the same as giving a word (cell, tweet) a new meaning for which no word previously existed, or using a word ironically. In this case, people who don’t know what the word means are incorrectly using it to mean precisely the opposite of what it actually means, and now we’re saying that’s OK. We are catering to the seemingly increasing number of ignorant people. Rather than teaching people the correct meaning of the word and correcting those who misuse it, we are just making it right so that there’s no problem.

We are dumbing down the language.

If this continues, here are some other words that will be added to the dictionary sometime soon:

Prolly: (adv.) Probably. As in “I’ll be there late in the morning, prolly around ten-thirty.”

There: (adv.) Synonym for “they are” (formerly “they’re”) or “belonging to them” (formerly “their”). As in “They can’t remember where they parked, so there looking for there car over there.” Much easier to have just one word since people use them interchangeably anyway. Similarly, “its” vs. “it’s”.

Alot: (n.) A lot. Alot of people use this word, not knowing that it does not exist. But it doesn’t need to make you unhappy.

Ignorant: (adj.) Rude. It actually means “without knowledge”, as in “I am ignorant of the rules of cricket.” But if someone cuts in line in front of you at the grocery store, that’s rude, not ignorant.


Facebook advertising

This is hardly a revelation but ads on Facebook are targeted, which means that Facebook looks over your profile and shows you ads that it thinks you’ll be interested in. For the most part, it does a pretty decent job. I’ve seen ads for Rush and the Tragically Hip, both of which I like. I even once clicked on an ad for a musician that I had never heard of because the ad said he was similar to Dream Theater, which I also like. I’ve seen ads for programming jobs (I’m a programmer), guitar lessons (I play guitar – sort of), books that are along the lines of what I might read, and games that I might play if I were into video games at all.

The other day I saw an ad for a golf video game and another for golf equipment (I like golf), another about Blackberry tips (I’m an Android guy myself, but given my technical job and interests this is a good guess), one that said “Western graduate?” (yup), and another that said “Star Trek fan?” (yup) – all on the same page at the same time. I have to say I was pretty impressed with the ad selection.

I’ve even seen ads for lacrosse-related things. You may or may not be aware of my interest in lacrosse.


Just the other day, I posted a status about my garage door spring having died. A day later, I saw an ad for a company that services garage doors in my area. Neither Home Depot (where we bought the door) nor Rona service garage doors, so seeing this ad was perfectly timely. I gave the guy a call and he came out on Saturday to give me a quote. Thanks Facebook.


But it doesn’t always work. I frequently see ads for “Find Mature Love – for Singles over 40”. My status is clearly “married”, so I’m not sure why it decides to show me that. I wonder if it takes into account the fact that my wife is not on Facebook.

Some of the ads are premium and show up regardless of whether they match anything in your profile, like these ones from a group that tries to get pardons for convicted criminals. I’m OK with this idea in general – if someone commits a crime, pays his or her debt to society, and is unlikely to re-offend, in certain cases granting a pardon may be reasonable. But the advertising people in this group may want to re-think the pictures they choose. I know this is totally judging a book by its cover, but I’m not sure I want these scary-looking people who have already committed crimes walking the streets:


I found it interesting that each of the ads (captured at different times) has a different “deadline”. I’m not saying these deadlines are all meaningless and fake, but… oh wait, yes I am.

Many people complain about advertising on the web, but we all know that Facebook and Google and Microsoft and all these other companies aren’t providing all of these services for free just because they’re nice people. They’re in it to make money. They can do it in a number of ways but the easiest two are (a) sell advertising, and (b) charge users to use their services. Most companies choose (a) because if you charge people directly to use your services, your services better be useful, reliable, easy to use, aesthetically pleasing, and popular, not to mention either unique (i.e. nobody else offers such a service) or the best available, otherwise who’s gonna pay for it? But lots of people will use a web site that’s free, even if it isn’t the absolute best available. And having to sign into your account in order to do things like web searches is a pain (to say nothing of privacy concerns) so people won’t do it.

But the only way a company is going to allow you to do stuff for free is if someone else is paying for it. You don’t pay to listen to the radio, do you? Nope, because there are advertisers. TV used to work the same way, but now you pay the cable and satellite companies. Technically, they’ll tell you you’re paying for the delivery mechanism and not the TV content, so I guess it kinda still does work the same way. But anyway, if some advertising is what lets me use gmail and blogger and google and twitter and facebook and the majority of the rest of the web for free, I’m OK with that. As much as I like facebook, I’m not going to pay for it.

National Home Services’ dirty tricks

The doorbell rang this afternoon. I answered it, and there was a guy who said he was representing National Home Services. He even had a badge with the company logo on it, and it might have had his picture, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it. He said that he and his colleague were in the neighbourhood checking on people’s hot water heaters. (Aside: why do we call it a “hot water heater”? It doesn’t heat hot water, it just heats water. It’s a water heater.) He said they were making sure that the heaters were as energy efficient as they could be, and they were upgrading them for free if not. I told him that our heater was only a year or two old so it was unlikely that we had a terribly inefficent model (this may have been a white lie – I’m not 100% sure how old it is, but it’s certainly not more than four or five years). Then he said that there was a mistake made at some point, and some of the heaters that were installed were the wrong ones and they should be replaced. Lie #1.

I don’t remember the exact words he used, but the impression he gave me was that his company was contracted by Reliance Home Comfort (the company from whom we rent our hot water heater) to check our heater and make sure it’s OK. I asked if Reliance was worried about whether we have the right heater, why didn’t they call us? He said that he didn’t know. I said that I was going to call Reliance to verify that they were sending someone for this purpose, and he admitted that he does not work for Reliance, and that National is one of their competitors. He then went on a little rant about Reliance, saying that they were an American company (Lie #2), that they are actually an investment company (Lie #3), and that George W. Bush owns 51% of the company (Lie #4). He must have mentioned three or four times that National is a Canadian company while Reliance is American. He also said stuff like Reliance had bought all the hot water heaters from Union Energy for $30 each as an investment, so it’s not in their best interest to maintain them or replace them. I have no way to verify that but from what I’ve found, Reliance Home Comfort used to be Union Energy and just changed their name in 2005. I’m guessing that that was Lie #5 but I can’t be sure.

He offered to come in and take a look at our heater and see if it was one of the ones “mistakenly” installed. What are the odds that he’d take a look at our heater and say “Nope, this one is OK. You don’t need your heater replaced. Have a nice day”? Pretty low indeed.

Eventually he must have figured out that I was not going for it, and he left. Of course, I then did some research on the internet to find out how much of what he was saying was true. I found that Reliance Home Comfort is a limited partnership, whose brand name is owned by a Canadian “open-ended limited purpose trust” called UE Waterheater Income Fund (this could, I suppose, be viewed as “an investment company”). That company is privately owned, so it’s possible that the ownership is American and it’s even possible that Mr. Bush does own 51% of it, though I found no evidence of either of those. However, the Reliance Home Comfort part operates solely in Ontario and the corporate headquarters of both Reliance and UE Waterheater are in Toronto.

I cannot say with certainty that the bit about Reliance installing the wrong water heaters was a lie. But even if it’s true, he tried to imply that he was there to simply fix the problem, when in reality he was trying to get me to switch to an entirely new company. He failed to mention that part until I pressed.

But even if what he told me was true, why do I care whether the company I rent my hot water heater from is Canadian, American, or Brazilian? As long as the heater functions properly, their service is reasonable when needed, and I’m not paying an unreasonable price for it, the fact is that I don’t care. I’ve only had to call for service once that I remember, when the heater wasn’t working very well. They came out within a day or two and replaced the heater with a brand new one, and the new one (more efficient and bigger – same monthly price) has worked flawlessly ever since.

The guy’s whole sales technique was based on (a) misleading people into thinking that he was there on behalf of whatever company they were already dealing with, and then when that didn’t work, (b) bashing Reliance by telling lies about them.

I posted this on National Home Service’s Facebook page:

Pushy sales people are one thing, but sales people who mislead and tell outright lies about your competitors are unacceptable. It doesn’t matter how good your prices or services are, I refuse to deal with a company that uses such underhanded sales techniques.

I also mentioned them on Twitter in a similar message. I don’t imagine that the Facebook comment will stay there long or that they’ll respond to it, but between those two things and this article, I’ve managed to say what I wanted to say. I don’t care if they give me a brand new water heater for $5 a month, I’m not dealing with this company.

Open letter to Mr. Kobus

Dear Mr. Kobus,

I have no idea if that’s your name, but it is your license plate. I’m the guy whose van you were parked behind at the Burlington GO Station tonight.

We arrived at the GO Station around 9:00am, and pulled through an empty spot into another spot, so that I could simply pull forward to leave rather than backing out. When I left my van, there was nobody parked behind me. When we returned around 9:45pm, we could see before we even got to our van that yours was right behind ours, parked very close. The front of your van was definitely over the yellow line marking the edge of the parking spot. When we looked closer, we could see that it wasn’t just very close, the front of your van was touching the back of mine. My phone’s battery was too low to take a flash picture and so this one is fairly dark, but it shows pretty clearly that the two vehicles were touching:


After taking this picture (and one of your rear license plate), I pulled forward to see if there was any damage, and saw a deep scratch near where the vehicles were touching. This is about when you arrived. You looked at the scratch and asserted “That’s definitely an old scratch”, but I saw no evidence to support this.

However I also saw no evidence that your van did cause the scratch. I did not see any damage to the front of your van. The front bumper of your van is plastic with an indent for the license plate, and it did not appear that the plastic could have caused the scratch. It also did not appear that the licence plate was sticking out from the indent far enough to have caused it. However if the bumpers were squashed a little (not unlikely), the screw holding the license plate on could have caused it, since it was at about the right height and would have been sticking out the furthest of any part of the plate. I found no red paint on your license plate or the screw. I also cannot confirm that the scratch wasn’t there when we parked that morning; it might have been. I don’t remember seeing it before, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.

So in a nutshell, I cannot say with any certainty that your van definitely caused any damage to mine, so no harm done, I suppose. Please be a little more careful when parking in the future.

However, you should at least accept the possibility that you actually did park that close to my van. Simply saying “But we didn’t park that close” does not qualify as proof that it wasn’t your fault. Not accepting that possibility led you to an implausible alternative theory of what happened – that someone must have pushed your van into mine. “But I don’t see how”, you said, “the doors were locked.” You even went around to the back of your van to check for evidence that someone pushed it forwards. You didn’t attempt to determine if this is what actually happened, whether it was even possible, or why someone would do this; you skipped directly to “how did they do it?”.

Are you really trying to claim that someone broke into your locked van and hot-wired it (something that’s exceedingly difficult to do on modern-day cars and vans) only to drive it forward a few inches so it was pushing on my van’s bumper, then locked the van again and left? Or that someone used their vehicle to push yours into mine and did this without leaving any damage to the back of your van or any skid tracks on the ground?

Yes, it’s possible that someone pushed your van forward into ours for no obvious reason and without leaving any trace. It’s also possible that Martians moved it forward with a tractor beam. Or maybe you just parked too far forward and didn’t realize it. Which of those three is the most likely, do you think?

Graeme Perrow

Oh Canada! Ribfest 2012

This past weekend was Waterdown’s 3rd annual Oh Canada! Ribfest, and not coincidentally, this is my 3rd annual article about it. I find writing these articles helpful, since last year’s article helped me remember which ribbers we especially liked or didn’t like. In previous years, there were six ribbers but this year, there was an extra one. There were actually two new ones, but we lost Fire Island. This year, we had:

Kentucky Smokehouse – These guys were new, and I have to say we weren’t that impressed. The ribs weren’t very meaty, and there wasn’t much sauce. What sauce there was wasn’t bad though. Maybe we got a bad batch, because these guys finished second in people’s choice best ribs and people’s choice best sauce.

Boss Hog – My favourites last year, and this year I’d have to put them second. The ribs were very meaty, and there was lots of sauce. The sauce was somewhat sweet but not too sweet. Not as smoky as last year. These guys swept the awards: best judged ribs, people’s choice best ribs, and people’s choice best sauce.

Tennessee Fatbacks – Another new one and again, no big deal. The ribs were OK, the sauce was OK, but nothing to write home about.

Ribs Royale – Didn’t think much of these guys last year, though lots of other people seemed to like them. This year, again I heard lots of good things but they just didn’t do it for me. The ribs were OK but didn’t “fall off the bone” as with the other ribbers. The sauce was interesting though – tangy but not sweet. Had a kick, but wasn’t exactly spicy. Hard to describe, but pretty good. They got 3rd place in the best judged ribs.

Camp 31 – The ribs were really good, and the sauce wasn’t bad. Had a bit of a kick and wasn’t as sweet as last year.

Silver Bullet – Our favourite. The ribs were really good, with an awesome spicy sauce. For the second straight year, we bought a bottle to bring home. For the first time, we also tried a pulled pork sandwich from these guys, and that was fantastic. They got second in judged ribs and third in both people’s choice best ribs and people’s choice best sauce.

Bone Daddy – we didn’t get there. Really liked them last year, but this year the timing just didn’t work out.

Once again we volunteered as a family, first on Saturday afternoon from 3pm-7pm and then again on Monday from 11am-3pm. We originally signed up to be in the recycling tent, just like last year, but we said we’d go wherever they needed us. On Saturday they needed people at parking, so we stood at the entrance to the parking lot and collected money. This worked out pretty well, and the boys both got into it and were very helpful, collecting money and making change and everything. Despite the “No in and out privileges” sign, lots of people asked if they could leave and come back later. If they had a decent reason for it (my kid is sick and I’m going to drop him off at his grandparents place and come right back, I brought my dog who is not allowed in the park so I have to take him home) and they could be back in five minutes or so, I generally let it go, but there were people who wanted to come back “in an hour or two”. Come on people, get real. And a couple of people didn’t want to pay at all, so they just turned around and left. One guy said he was just going to the skate park and not the Ribfest, but I told him too bad, this was Ribfest parking. He said OK and drove into the parking lot, saying he was just going to turn around, and never came back out. The number of selfish jerks out there who just try to take advantage of everyone really amazes and disappoints me sometimes.

Anyway, on Monday, they split the four of us up, and Gail and Nicky went to one of the far entrances to the park and counted people coming and going, while Ryan and I were given the most glamorous of volunteer jobs, the one everyone strives for: walking around the park in 32° heat for four hours picking up garbage off the ground. After an hour or so Ryan was pretty hot and tired and was starting to get grumpy, so I sent him to sit with Gail and continued by myself. Have to say, there were an amazing number of cigarette butts lying around, considering smoking was not allowed anywhere in the park. One of the Rotary Club guys who was in charge of volunteers stopped me after about 3 hours, told me I was doing a great job, and then asked “Hey, would you like a beer?” Needless to say, I took him up on his offer – did I mention it was 32° and humid? It was only a ten minute break or so before I continued with my work, but man, that was nice.

I have but one complaint about the whole event – and I also heard it from a number of other people I know who went – and that’s the beer selection. A local microbrewery called Nickel Brook was the only beer choice, though they did have a couple of types of coolers (Smirnoff Ice being one). Not a huge fan of the Nickel Brook. This year I only had one, which was an organic beer. (Yes, I’m the last guy who’s likely to buy anything organic, but this was the one that the Rotary guy, Nick, bought me.) It wasn’t bad, but I won’t be partaking again. Once again though, I did enjoy Nickel Brook’s root beer.

One thing that was new this year was the fireworks on Canada Day, which lasted a good 20 minutes and were excellent. There was no world record attempt this year, though maybe that’s for the best. Last year we set a new record for “most people singing simultaneously live on a radio broadcast”, with about 650 people. As it turns out, the record was smashed a week later in England, when 3,885 people sang at Wembley Arena. It’s kind of too bad that so many people worked to make that happen, and then we only held the record for a week. Oh well.

Once again this year, snaps go out to the Rotary Club, the sponsors, and the rest of the volunteers who made this great event happen. Looking forward to next year already!