Month: August 2011

Lie to me

Let’s say you would happen to be browsing Facebook one night and saw this thumbnail of a picture posted on someone’s wall:

In itself, posting a graphic on your wall is not a big deal. But let’s say – hypothetically – that you then happen to read the caption of the graphic, and it read:

Hand drawn – all rights reserved. Do not copy.

Then you clicked on the picture and saw that once it’s been embiggified, there’s a not-so-subtle watermark on it.

Of course because I can Google shit, my first thought was “bullshit!”. I’m willing to bet it was your first thought too. Unless you thought that it’s a hand drawn watermark?

But being the nice friendly Canadian I am – balanced by the huge skeptic that I am – I had to say something, but something relatively polite and mild. So I wrote this comment under the “hand drawing” that went like this:

“Hey! What graphic program did you use to create this drawing?”

This reply came less than a minute later:

It’s not from a program, it’s done by hand.

So I just let it go. I figured that who cares if that person likes to pretend that she drew a picture by hand when she really just applied a filter. What difference does it make to me? No skin off my back, right?

Wrong.

It turns out that I have a fairly obsessive-compulsive thing going on, and I’m not really able to let go of things. It didn’t help that over the following weeks, that person kept posting all kinds of new “hand drawings” that were clearly done with the help of a computer program. I became literally obsessed by those “drawings”.

I also have a background in social sciences, which unfortunately means that I really really want to help people – even the ones that don’t want to be helped.

So I did what I do best. I asked questions until I got something that could put my mind at ease. My goal was not to catch the person in a lie – even though that would’ve probably been much more gratifying in the end – but to make that person realize why I thought she was using a computer, and ultimately make her realize that people were seeing through her game. I thought that if I could at least get her to admit that I wasn’t crazy for saying her “drawings” looked like photoshop filters applied on pictures, I would call it a day and move on.

You already know that’s not going to happen, right?

For a few weeks, whenever a new “drawing” was posted, I would ask questions about it in the Facebook comment section. How long did this take you to do? What medium did you use? Would you document the work in progress? How did you scan the drawing to your computer? I took it one step further and started commenting on other stuff she posted. When she posted lyrics of a song, I commented that I too loved that signer. I tracked down movie dialogue and literary quotes she posted as her own and commented on how much I enjoyed that movie or book.

Basically, all my comments said: “I’m watching you. I know what you are doing. You may be fooling hundreds of people, but not me!”. There was also a little of “Please stop being an idiot, people know we’re related”.

Finally after 9 “drawings” and a few posts, I received this private inbox message:

Just to be clear on the hand drawings: I do use a Wacom stylus to do them. In 2005, my right middle finger was broken in 5 places so I can’t hold a regular pencil anymore. The only photoshopped part is the watermark, and that’s done to protect my work. Since I use a stylus, they are really hand made drawings.

I immediately stopped posting on the person’s wall, and sent her a polite but frank email about the “drawings”. Basically I asked her point blank to send me the .psd file of one of her “drawings”. I got this:

Maybe for the next drawings. I never keep the electronic files as they take too much space on my computer. You’re funny, it’s like you’re the drawing inspector! LOL!

I told her that I wasn’t, but that I did work with Photoshop and computers in general for the last twenty years or so, and that I was pretty sure that I could recognize a filter when I saw one. I told her that I didn’t mind if her thrill was to apply filters to pictures, but that being told that it was a hand drawing bugged me a little (but apparently not her hundreds of Facebook Friends, who only had good comments to make on her talent). I also included this graphic in my reply, telling her I took 5 minutes of my lunch break to make it.

You can make this bigger. You know you want to.

I concluded my email by saying: “Clearly, you can see where I’m coming from, right?”

Her reply came quickly.

I totally understand how you could be mistaken. Don’t you think that if I post them to Facebook saying they’re hand-drawn, it’s because I’m proud of having succeeded in making these? What would I have to gain by telling people I’m doing these by hand if I’m not?

It took me a good half hour just to think about what I was going to answer, or really if I was even bother to answer. In the end I went with a really long reply, that I will not post here. But basically, I offered these thoughts:

  • Maybe it’s just something that started innocently by posting one filtered picture to your drawings folder. Then you started receiving positive feedback on your talent, so you didn’t want to disappoint your fans and basically painted yourself in a corner.
  • Maybe you simply like the attention.

I then offered that this whole questioning thing had next to nothing to do with her, and all to do with me. You see, I question everything, so why not question that? However, I’m always willing to be proven wrong. So in the spirit of friendship and family, I offered to make the three and a half drive to her place with a nice bottle of wine and watch her draw for an hour or two.

I even offered to blog about how great of an artist she was, and promised to publicly apologize on her Facebook wall if she could prove me wrong.

When 24 hours passed without a reply, I figured the matter was settled. I had called her bluff and she couldn’t answer. Case closed, moving on. I refrained from any and all comments on her new “drawings” when she posted them. I had tried to help, and had failed. No sense beating a photoshopped picture of a dead horse.

See, I can totally joke about this. I even made the following images on my lunch break and had a good chuckle about it. They are some of her “drawings” overlaid on graphics I found on-line.

Well, that kept me busy for about 7 minutes.

Now flash-forward to yesterday night. I see this post in my Facebook timeline:

To all you guys who “sag” your pants and show your butt and underwear …did you know it originated in prison? It was a signal to the other MEN that you are “available”. So if you wanna keep going around looking like you’re “available” for another dude to “tap that” then keep thinking you’re cool while I think you look like a Fool!!! BTW it’s called – PBS (Prison B*tch Syndrome).LOL Pass this on to the droopy pants that you know.

Can you guess this is from the same person? So I did what I always do when I see people pass on false information or chain letters. I posted a comment basically saying “don’t post crap!” and linked to snopes.com.

That comment got deleted in less than a minute. Thinking that maybe Facebook didn’t like the included link – I had linked to a specific article – I commented again. Deleted in less than a minute once more. That made me suspicious… Sure enough, I discovered that all the comments I ever made on any posts on that person’s wall had been deleted. I could sort of understand that, saving face and all. But surely this comment was something different… Why delete it?

So I reposted my comment on my wall, tagging that person in the comment.

“For those of you who didn’t have the chance to see my comment on (person’s name)’s wall before it got deleted…”

That comment was “liked” in less than 10 seconds by that person. Interesting. Thinking that it really was a link problem – I mean why would someone delete a comment from their wall and then instantly like the same comment on my wall – I made my way to her wall to leave a simple comment without any link and was greeted with this gem of a post:

What if I post that I have blonde hair, blue skin and live in a mushroom? Would you call me out on this too? What difference does it make to you? If you don’t agree with what I post, just hang up and go to the next caller. If you’re looking for an excuse to come to my house with wine, you should be mature enough to just come over without having to make up a whole story to justify doing it.

I am now convinced this person truly believes the reality she constructs. I mean seriously, how do you go from a polite version of “I think you’re a fucking liar” to “I’m looking for an excuse to go visit you”? You that I saw last time about 12 years ago for 5 minutes when I dropped off some clothes for your kids at your place. You that in those 5 minutes, asked me for 100$ and a television set.

Delusional.

The worst part of this is that I now realize that some people are just beyond any kind of help. And honestly, isn’t this the saddest thing you’ve ever heard? I know it’s number two on my all-time list.

Because really, nothing can be sadder than learning that I’m related to La Schtroumpfette.

Friday Random Stuff*

*And by stuff, I most likely mean crap.

I can spend the whole day playing with my balls.

I’m sorta in love with Bucky Balls. They are rightly described as “The Amazing Magnetic Desktoy You Can’t Put Down!” and they are right. Because of that, I don’t bring them to my workplace, otherwise I wouldn’t get any work done.

Another way I mitigate spending countless hours playing with balls:  I only bought two sets, one for each of my kids. If it’s their toy, I can’t spend all day playing with them. Until today. I did cave in and order two more sets from their website. Their “Thank you for your order page” cracked me up.

Because really, isn’t that what ChatRoulette is for? 

Boxed

I’m happy to report increasing sightings of “don’t block the box” paint on the road. Not sure if I’m using the right term, so let me illustrate:

Shot from a NY intersection.

See those lozenges painted in the middle of the intersection? They mean: “you should not be stopped in that zone, at any time”. Frankly I’m sad that we’re becoming a nation who has to be reminded that it’s stupid to block traffic when you yourself are not moving.

I thought Canada was known for its politeness?

Users

I try to stay away from blogging about my work, but sometimes it’s just too funny. Here are a few help requests we received.

How can I get some help?

Yes, this was sent through our help form.

My students cannot access their grades and I have all of them turned on. Suggestions?

Don’t do that? Get a room?

Student is having problem with virtual campus.

You’d be amazed at the number of requests like this one. We need details, people!

Any chance campus wireless printing will soon support iOS AirPrint?

If only I was in charge of that. You’d also be surprised at the number of requests we gat for stuff we don’t manage.

I need students to have access to this course IMMEDIATELY.  The course started today and they cannot get into the virtual campus to access the materials.

How about using the big “Manage Access” menu? Too easy?

I would like to obtain a copy (on CD) of the files currently in my Virtual Campus courses.

You mean the files you just uploaded from your computer? Is this a clever ploy to not buy a CD?

Can you tell me why do I get the “Why am I seeing this page?” page?

Did you read the page or just the title? I guess you forgot to include TL;DR.

My password (********) works on my email, but doesn’t work on [system B], so I can’t access [System C].

Yes, the person actually typed her password. Yes, we manage [System A].

I can’t enter [System A] anymore, but I have to access it because I still have to pay something. Can my login credentials for accessing [System B] please be restored?

We do manage [System A] but it has nothing to do with paying things. We don’t manage [System B].

Don’t remember any of my passwords (Lists all systems on Campus).

Ha, the shotgun approach. Our website clearly states that we don’t have sufficient privileges to reset you password, and the number to call to get ANY password issues fixed.

Star

Did you notice that the asterisk in the title is not the same as the asterisk in the post? The title has five points, the post six.

WORDPRESS: Y U MESSIN’ WITH MY OCD?

The death of a Joke

So yesterday I published what I thought was a rather simple yet charming post, asking you my dear readers to “follow the yellow brick road”.

Apparently, I didn’t make it obvious enough. It seems that not a lot of people understood that I wanted you to click on the picture. 😉

That would’ve taken you to Sheila’s blog, where you would’ve seen a post for her Birthday.

A post that I made.

Of course, I had inserted a few hints that this post was not made by Sheila:

But it seems that I may not have been clear enough that it was actually Sheila’s Birthday. 😉

But no worries: Because she is damn old In a weird turn of events, it turns out that even Sheila forgot it was her Birthday yesterday! So you get a do over! Go visit her blog and wish her Happy Birthday!

A prisoner in my own house

Ever since I told this teenager to stay the hell away from my daughter, I get anonymous phone calls every night between midnight and 3:00 A.M. Yesterday I decided that I would now put all the phones on mute before I go to bed.

However, I’m also a guy who doesn’t go to bed that early, especially when I happened to nap from 5pm to midnight. So here I am, half past midnight, sitting in the living room, phone ringers off, when I see this on my TV screen:

Yes, my TV provider offers HD TV, but for some reason their cable box is WLD (Way Low Def).

Call display on the TV. Brilliant.

That happens to be “the number and name” of the person making the anonymous phone calls. How do I know that, you may ask, seeing as anyone who calls my house and has the “block my name and phone number” option would be displayed exactly like this? There’s a few reasons why I know.

  1. Nobody calls my house at half past midnight to “not talk”. If there’s an emergency of some sort, people are happy that I pick up the phone, even if they dialed a wrong number.
  2. There is a history of some kids in my daughter’s class – including the current friend – calling my house in the middle of the night, but at that time they did it from a listed number. I tracked them down and got them to admit it was them. This time they figured out I couldn’t track them from an unlisted number. Hey, at least they are learning.
  3. It so happens that three days ago, my daughter received a call from that friend from an unlisted number. But since it was before I told her to stay away from my daughter, they had a decent conversation.
  4. The first night those kids started making anonymous phone calls to my house, they called three times within 15 minutes. The machine got the first call, but they didn’t leave a message. I picked up the second call, and they hung up after I said hello a few times. On the third call, I just picked up and said nothing. After a few seconds, I heard one of them say: “I don’t hear anything”.

In a surprisingly lucid and calm moment between the bouts of rage I called my phone service provider to ask them what could be done about this situation. Basically, I wanted calls from that person intercepted before they ever got to my phone. I was happy to settle for “no one with an unlisted number can call me” if that was a possibility.

Unfortunately, I was told that the phone service provider can’t take on himself to block incoming calls from a specific number, even if they have the technology to do it, even if I specifically ask them to do it. WTF?

The normal procedure is to *57 all anonymous calls. That command sends to the police the time and phone number of the last call received from the number who dials *57, at a cost of 5.00$ every time I use the option – to a maximum of 10.00$ a month.

Then I have to call and complain to the cops that I’m getting anonymous calls. They can then go the *57 registry, and match the times and my phone number with the phone number of the person who placed those calls.

But what would the cops do about this? Would they even consider doing anything about kids calling my house and hanging up? I had my doubts, so I called them. Not on the emergency number, on their other number for less important stuff. My suspicions were confirmed. Unless I received actual death threats during those phonecalls, the case would not even be considered. The cop who answered me was really nice, and seemed genuinely sorry to not be able to do anything about this.

What did I learn about this whole thing? Knowing that:

  1. My phone service provider has some technology that they are not willing to use, for no apparent reason;
  2. The cops will not do anything regarding this matter since no death threats have been issued.

I can safely say that my options are limited to these:

  • Call all the parents of the suspected anonymous callers and ask for their cooperation in the matter (doubtful that will go smoothly and resolve anything).
  • Get a new unlisted phone number (The cost to get a new unlisted phone number is around 100.00$, plus having to distribute that phone number to people I actually want calling me).
  • Move to a different continent (May be a little extreme, but might be worth it in the long run).

None of those are particularly attractive options. It looks like I’m condemned to receive anonymous phone calls for the rest of my life or until those friends grow up / get a life.

On the other hand, I learned that I can place anonymous phone calls from my house, and that as long as I don’t issue death threats, I am absolutely not exposing myself to any form of consequences.

Now the only question that remains:

How long will I choose to take the high road before I finally snap? 

One of those DAD posts

You know what is really really hard?

Come on, get it out of your system… I can hear you say “that’s what she said” from here. 

What is really really hard is parenting other people’s kids. In fact, it’s not “really really hard”, it’s damn near impossible. Okay, it’s impossible. Parenting your own kid is hard enough as it is – I could give you a thousand examples of the situations that are making me lose my mind as a dad and even as a human being in general. I already wrote about how my son got shot in the park, I already asked you for advice about letting CutieDaughter get a Facebook account, I already told you about ripping the wings of butterflies, and of course I already told you that when it comes to my kids I’m a complete emotional mess.

As a dad, I get through those moments by thinking about the eventual benefits we’ll get as a family once we go through the crap. That is what keeps me going, and often a healthy dose of Whisky.

But when it comes to other people’s kids, there’s no real incentive to go through the crap with/for them because quite frankly the rewards would not be mine to enjoy anyways. I’m not saying that always prevents me from trying. I am a real softie at heart you know, and can’t stand the thought of giving up on anyone. Even kids that are mean to my kids.

In that spirit of not giving up on anyone, I spent about an hour chatting on Facebook with a friend of CutieDaughter.

A friend who basically spent an hour writing that my daughter was the biggest liar who ever lived, and also that she really missed her on Facebook since they were BFF. A friend who calls my house at 2am and hangs up when I pick up. A friend who made my daughter cry more times than I care to recall.

I give up.

Goodbye, friend.