Debunking those Troubling e-mail Forwards: Why I do my homework

targetDid you get an e-mail about what a terrible company Target is?  And how they hate veterans, and they’re French owned?  Maybe the email suggested to you Canadians that since Target is about to open HERE, you should consider not taking your business to them. 
I got that email, but before I forward emails, I like to check them out. So here’s the original e-mail.  Read this first, then follow me along…

Subject:  Target Stores Coming to Canada Soon – Please Read!

 Good to know

Target Stores what a surprise!  Wasn’t it last Christmas that Target refused to let the Salvation Army ring their bells in front of their stores?  Dick Forrey of the Vietnam Veterans Association wrote.Recently we asked the local TARGET store  to be a proud Sponsor of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall during our Spring recognition event.  Remember there are Canadians occupying space on these walls. We received the following reply from the local TARGET management:Veterans do not meet our area of giving. We only donate to the arts, social action Groups, gay & lesbian causes and education.  So I’m thinking, if the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and
Veterans in general, do not meet their donation criteria, then something is really wrong at this TARGET store.  We were not asking for thousands of dollars, not even hundreds, just a small sponsorship for a memorial remembrance.As a follow-up, I emailed the TARGET U.S. Corporate Headquarters and their response was the same.  That’s their National policy!!!  Then I looked into the company further.  They will not allow
The Marines to collect for Toys for Tots’ at any of their Stores. And during the recent Iraq deployment,they would not allow families of employees who were called up for active duty to continue
their insurance  coverage while they were on military service.Then as I dig further, TARGET is a French-owned corporation.  Now, I’m thinking again.  If TARGET cannot support American or Canadian Veterans, then why should my family and I support their Stores by spending our hard earned American or Canadian dollars in their stores???  And, have their profits sent to France.Without the American and Canadian Vets, where would France be today?

They, most likely would be speaking German and trading in Deutsch Marks.Sincerely,Dick Forrey
Veterans Helping Veteransps:Please send this on to everyone you know to let Target know we don’t need them either! we’re all in a position to reduce sales to these stores as soon as this gets around….SO THERE IS POWER IN THE PEN AND THE COMPUTER EMAILS!!  NOW THESE PEOPLE ARE INTRODUCING THEMSELVES TO CANADA – WOW !!!

No virus found in this message.”

So, here’s the TRUE story:
This email was written by an American man in 2004. And he’s since recanted it. 
Most of the points he makes in it are FALSE.  Such as: Target is NOT French owned, it’s a publicly traded company (Target Corporation NYSE: TGT). Even if “France” owned Target, which is doesn’t, France is NOT “Muslim Controlled”; what does that even mean?.
Target is not anti-charity, in fact they’ve recently pledged to donate $1million to Canadian charities:  here’s the story from a reputable news site.
The one thing that IS true is that they have decided to no longer allow the Sally Ann kettle folks outside of their stores.  But plenty of other companies (Home Depot, Best Buy, etc) do not allow this either; mainly because they have total “no solicitation” policy which prevents ANYONE from asking you for money, including the homeless, and fringe charities, or the Scientologists, for example.
Here’s a LEGITIMATE news article about the Kettle ban and the reasons for it.
And here’s a link to a website that debunks urban myths like this one.

Now, this all took me about 15 minutes to check out and write up.   It’s not a full scale investigation, but it gives you a good idea of how important it is to do your homework before spreading misinformation.

Perverts, Spies & Videotape, or, How I Busted a Criminal

It was supposed to be a 10 minute errand. It turned into a two hour stint at the mall involving the police, security and a foreign detainee. Yes, I busted a perv.

Here’s how it went down …

I was in a shoe store (the upscale Arnold Churgin outlet in Sunridge Mall, if you must know). The store had only a few shoppers even at mid-day on a Thursday.
I was slipping on some shoes for size, being careful to do it daintily since I had chosen to wear a skirt that day. Ladies will know this means not bending over to put them on, but bending your leg at the knee and slipping the shoe on your foot while standing.

The aisles were quite narrow, making it pretty easy to notice the South-Asian-looking man who kept getting in my way. He was in my space, which was annoying. Even more so, he had a large backpack with him that was constricting the narrow space further. I moved down the aisle to create some clearance between myself, him, and another shopper. Boy was I snappish inside my head when he AGAIN insisted on admiring a pair of ladies strappy sandals DIRECTLY behind me.
So, I noticed him because he was in my space, because he was studying women’s shoes, and because I got a weird vibe. But I rolled my eyes to myself and selected another pair of shoes to try on anyway. Creep.

As soon as he put his backpack at my feet and I felt the fabric brush the sides of my ankles I knew.

As a journalist, I’ve done this story before; a guy either has a pinhole camera in his shoe and steps a little too close, or he has it in a bag that he drops at your feet. With it he gets a great view up your skirt. And a major thrill when he gets home.

As soon as the backpack hit the floor, I thought, “You have got to be kidding me.” Sure enough when I looked down at the backpack, my mind knew what to look for; a tiny camera, the reflection of a lens… something not right. And my eye was drawn to it right away. A tiny black camera tucked into a side pouch, its evil little beady eye staring up at me.

As time slowed perceptibly around me, I debated the options in my head, feeling that strange luxury of time to make a decision that only occurs when you have just a split second.

My choices were these; kick him in the nuts, make a scene, grab the backpack and smash his pervy little head with it, then holler for a 9-1-1- call.  Or, walk away, pretend nothing had happened, and call the cops to arrest his pervy little ass.

I figured a fight and a loud dramatic scene would end up with him running off, never to be seen again… with whatever pictures he had snapped under my skirt posted on That was the worst of all options, as far as I figured it.

So I meandered away, pretending to take interest in the childrens size-twos, all the while, getting out my cell and pretending to read a text, while actually dialling the cops. I whispered to the dispatcher what was going on, and they said officers were on the way. But in the meantime, buddy had vanished. I was busy giving the operator a description of the guy and telling them where he was… but suddenly, just as fast as he arrived… he was gone.

At that point I was furious, and did what the police always advise you NEVER to do (And DID in this case). I went after him.

Still on the phone with 9-1-1, I walked out into the mall looking for him, and quickly spotted him and his backpack a couple stores down. He was easy to recognize and spot from the backpack– and the close-up view we’d had of each other in the store. I kept giving our location and direction of travel while I stalked him at a distance. Security had been alerted by the 9-1-1 op and after a few minutes I bumped into a guard, gave him the lowdown, and we continued watching him.

At that point I think he got hinky because he slipped into a bathroom. The guards held the fort outside the door as we all waited for the police, who came charging into the mall with stern faces and purposeful, quick strides. I was so very pleased at how seriously they were taking this.

Eventually the perv was cornered in the washroom by uniformed police officers.  His bag was searched and he was promptly arrested when a camera and recording equipment was found squirreled away inside. I would later learn that there were at least 10 other womens’ images on the camera.

But here’s the best part. I work as a TV news producer.  As soon as the 911 dispatcher let me hang up the phone, I called our newsroom and asked for a camera right away. As our suspect sat in the back of a cop car, a TV news cameraman stood outside taking HIS picture. As soon as he realized there was a lens pointing at him, he ducked. Seems that for someone so attached to photography, dickweed is camera shy himself.

The man was charged with voyerism… it’s a new criminal code offence that carries a max of 5 years in jail. The suspect is a British citizen, and it’s not clear what he was doing in Canada or Calgary. In very short order, and after hiring the best defence attorney in Calgary, the man pleaded guilty.  From what I understand from detectives, trying to secretly videotape a TV PRODUCER is a bad idea, mostly because we’re familiar with how to give good descriptions of people from listening to police scanners, and covering that kind of news, we’re not afraid of punks, and when it comes to spotting a hidden camera, well, DUH.  In the end, a fine, a donation to women’s charities and a deportation order solved the criminal case.  But he was ordered deported back to Britain.

If there is anything to be learned from this it’s that you should always trust your instincts; when you get an odd feeling or a strange vibe, change your situation. Don’t ignore nagging thoughts. And call the cops if you think you see or DO SEE something bad/ugly/illegal going on. Too many people I’ve talked to since this happened have said, “Oh, I wouldn’t know what to do” or “I’d be too afraid I was wrong”. That’s how guys like this can get away with crimes for so long.  And how this man DID; after his computer was seized as evidence, THOUSANDS of upskirt images were found.  It’s unclear how many he took and how many were shares by others, but bottom line, from what I’ve learned, this is happening far more than many women know.   Don’t be afraid to speak up.

In the end, my story did end up on the news… but that’s really a product of who I work for. It was very odd being on the other side of the camera, but if it helps convince someone else to get a scummy perv into a jail cell, I’m glad.

One final note. The errand was to pick out a kick-ass pair of cowboy boots for the annual Calgary Stampede. I like to think that they’re certainly that.

Food &Drink: Cooking for Yourself

The other day I brought lunch to the office. It was leftover pasta–penne with tomato basil cream sauce and fresh parmesan from the dinner I made the night before.

After re-heating, I carried it to my desk, and opened the lid. The smell brought colleagues sniffing around wondering what I had ordered in that smelled so good.


When I told them it wasn’t take out, they were shocked.

I’m young, enjoy going out, and have enough disposable income to dine out when I want. And most people assume that I do—all the time. The truth is, I feel like I’m somehow cheating myself if I *don’t* do most of the cooking.

I grew up in a family where restaurant dinners happened maybe once a month. It was just cheaper to eat at home. But as I got older, I realized it wasn’t just about the cost. It was about how empty a lot of fast food or even some restaurant food made me feel—and by empty, I don’t mean hungry.

So I started paying attention to what was going on in the kitchen.

My mom; one of the best and most creative cooks I know.
My mom; one of the best and most creative cooks I know.

And I learned young that people appreciate homemade. I also learned people appreciate dessert most of all. So for family gatherings, I put myself in charge of the last course. I tried cheesecakes, then pies, cakes and soufflés. I graduated to sweet-tart Cherries Jubilee, and the wonderful warm orange flavour of Crepes Suzette. I loved making people happy, and in truth it was easy. Both mother and grandmother were excellent cooks. And they were there to tell me if a batter was too runny, if meat was verging on overdone, or if the cake batter I’d prepared was supposed to be that colour.

My grandmother; chic, beautiful and skilled.
My grandmother; chic, beautiful and skilled.

I cannot think of one dish either my mother or grandmother made that we turned our noses up at. (Admittedly we snubbed certain vegetables…and liver of course.) Although sometimes we would complain about the evening’s dinner choice. Not because we didn’t like it, but because we wanted something else. So my mom responded in a way I now realize was the epitome of clever, “If you don’t like it, YOU cook what you want. For all of us.”

So I stepped up to the challenge.

If I felt like lasagna, instead of stew, the next day my mother would buy the ingredients for lasagna, and I became the chef.

A vacation to Mexico became the inspiration for another meal I’d prepare for my family; Chicken fajitas. I looked it up in a cookbook, and realized it wasn’t so hard; chicken, peppers, onion and some spice. On an exchange program, I learned the Spanish rice dish paella with it’s delicate saffron-seafood flavour. I started building my repertoire.

I realized I really liked seeing people enjoy my labours. But it never felt like work. It was pure praise.

When I moved out on my own it was a thrill to walk through the grocery store and select anything I wanted for my meals. It’s a joy that hasn’t worn off. I take my time preparing dinner after work, sipping a glass of wine and chopping vegetables, stirring sauces, shredding salads or just toying with ways I could tweak a recipe to make it my own. And the leftovers were always perfect for the next day.

One of my co-workers complained the other day about how her kids were snubbing what she prepared for them. I imparted my mom’s wisdom on her. Now she gets a couple nights a week off duty. And the some savoury leftovers for the rest of the office to envy.

Want to whip up something that will make perfect leftovers?  Try our Family Recipe Potato Salad; we’ve been makin’ it like this for over 40 years! 

 Family Potato Salad

4 c cold diced potatoes

1 ½ c diced celery

2tbsp finely chopped onion

2tbsp finely chopped parsley

Dressing: stir together:

¾ c mayo

1tbsp vinegar

1 tsp mustard

1tsp salt


Toss the potatoes and vegetables with the dressing.  Add sliced hard boiled  egg on top, and sprinkle with paprika. Let sit, refrigerated, for 4 hours or overnight if you can.  It’s even better the next day!

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Success–what works for me

-Adapted from a presentation I gave at an women’s networking event. I was asked what some of my own “Secrets to Success” are, and how I’ve gotten ahead in life and my career.
Many of us know that hard work and sacrifice are some of the keys to success.  If asked, we could probably name a few more.  But all too often it’s the “little things” that help pave the long, cobbled road to success, that we forget.
Don’t underestimate the way you dress, how you write an e-mail, the way you speak, and your attitude towards those smaller,  even menial tasks, as small steps to making a great impression.
ru tired of not knowing WTF is up in msgs?  hrd 2 decifer thoz emails? 
As we struggle to get more done, faster, and with less, it’s all too easy to dash off a quick note to someone sans capitilization, without spell-checking, and with the ubiquitous smiley face.  This is not professional.  If you want to be taken seriously, write like you did back in school; properly punctuated, spelled correctly, and in full sentences that make no mistake about your meaning. Doing otherwise may make you seem rushed, unfocused and minus attention to detail. I’m not saying pull out your CP Stylebook, but put it this way:  you’ll never be faulted for perfect e-mail-writing skills.  You could be for sloppiness.
“Like, I thought I’d be anchoring the 6pm news by now.”
If your job came with a fully-written job description, Congratulations!  Most of us don’t get so much clarity.  While you’re likely clear on the basics of what your job entails, make sure you don’t draw any lines that may put you at a disadvantage.  Case in point; We had a 20-something intern  in our newsroom who was there to ‘learn the ropes”.  Our newsroom manager– whose job also consists of taking viewer phone calls and sifting out story ideas–was sick, so we were all swamped and had to pitch in answering the phone.  As it continued to ring off the hook with most of us already on a line, I asked the intern to please pick up the phone.  She looked at me and gave me a huge eye-roll, and mumbled “I’m pretty sure I’m not here to be a receptionist” before reluctantly picking up.
She made a classic misstep… elevating herself above what she thought was a meaningless task, when in fact story sifting is a huge way we get new and enterprise news stories.  And this girl was hoping to be a reporter.
Bottom line; don’t assume something is beneath you.. especially when you’re learning a new job, company or career. 
Her debut flip-flopped
We had just hired someone to run an aspect of our newsroom.  A newly created position, the job was evolving with the employee.  As she stepped into our first news meeting and flopped into a chair, her sweatshirt-grey yoga pants and flip-flips said it all.  This was a job, not a career.  It was something keeping her from the sofa at home, not a position that she could use to work herself into a promotion.
You may think no one cares what you wear, but it makes a huge impact.  The above mentioned outfit says you’d rather be lounging, not “I’m here to make this new job kick-ass!”  Similarly, if your toddler spilled juice on you and you just can never be bothered to change, or mop it up, it says you don’t care about how you present yourself.
Yes & No
Successful women know to say yes to new challenges and opportunities.  Volunteer to learn new things–especially things you think are impossible to learn.  In my line of work, TV is an extremely complicated technology.  I’ve tried to learn as much about the technical side as I can.  It benefits me in that I can carry on a discussion or contribute to troubleshooting with an engineer or technician and really get a sense of why something’s not working, then help make suggestions in how to fix it.  In one case my new-found technical knowledge allowed me to save a live national broadcast because I found a way to hook up the news anchor to the control room using a blackberry instead of relying on the crashing technology on board the remote satellite truck.
So maybe you don’t need to know that much.  But can you fix your own e-mail when things go wrong?  Can you pull your own computer out from the blue screen of death?  There are easy things you can learn or have your IT expert show you so that next time you can save yourself… or maybe even others in your office. Your value increases exponentially with each new skill you learn.
“No.  Well I mean I could, but it’s just that I have to go to the doctor and pick up a back rest for my lower spine, I well… ok yes.  Yes I can. I guess”
Knowing when to say yes to is important.  But knowing HOW to say “no” is equally important.  Have you ever been asked to work overtime and tried to say no, then felt so bad about why you were saying no that you relented and ended up working?  Don’t offer excuses .  If you can’t do something, say no, plainly and firmly.  You don’t need a reason, an excuse, or a story.  Just a firm, “No, sorry, I’ve made other plans,”  with a follow up, “No, I really can’t change them” if required is all you need.  I’ve heard so many women launch into a full story about why they can’t do something, and it only undermines them.  People at work don’t need to know your life story.  Just say no and get on with it.
Be on PAR
No matter what you do; if you work in an office, a lab, or if you’re at home with your kids, you’ll be successful at what you do if you remember to be Polite, Appropriate, and Respectful. In any situation if you don’t know how to act or react, remember those three things  You can never go wrong. I got this advice from a mentor and it’s served me well.
Keep Calm and, Well, You Know…
One other thing has served me personally very well:  be the voice of calm in the storm. There’s rarely ever a reason to freak out, swear, raise your voice, or panic. Always keep your tone, even, calm and measured.  Being the calm, reasonable, thoughtful person in the midst of chaos calms others with a ripple effect, and says that you’ve got things under control.
Lastly, in the middle of  a frenzied day, each time the phone rings, take two deep breaths before you pick it up.  The oxygen will help you think clearer. The relaxed voice you answer the phone with will say you can handle anything.
-Erin is a TV producer & task master, writer, silversmith, and former newsroom manager and reporter/anchor in Canada.