Made in China

nono (2)Shopping with plastic cash and an internet connection is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Problems do arise. I mean no disrespect, but what the hell did this Chinese company send me?  See the picture?  I have no idea what it is (the instructions are in an unknown language).  It is NOT the USB connector I ordered.   In fact I’m afraid to know what it really is – a long narrow slinky thing with two pink stubbies at either end. Ah, maybe that’s what it is – a new and innovative Chinese version of slinky.

On-line shopping is wonderful especially if you are an agoraphobic nut case like myself.  I hate crowds and I’d rather not deal with overly hormoned, caffeinated and device driven teens trying to run me down in the mall.  Nor do I like the constant barrage of buy, buy, buy in loud colours and scents.  Yes, on-line shopping – you always get what you want, there’s never a line up and your “in-house” shopping mall smells like last night’s cheese pizza (oooh too much lactose).

Now I’ve ordered tons of stuff via ip addresses  from skis to cell phone pouches to extra memory for my laptop. I’ve ordered neat stuff for my Dad and had it delivered  while he was golfing in sunny Arizona.  On this occasion, I sent him some golf balls, tees and a putting green that wraps around his toilet, so the next time he’s doing his business, his putter is only inches away. 

However, my purchases are mild compared to some of the stuff people have ordered on-line,  for example a hamster from India.  Now,  how the hell is that going to work?  Is there a guarantee?  Proof of life?  And what do you do before you send? Stuff the poor creature in a box with a three month supply of pellets and the entire Lord of the Rings franchise? How  about ordering some belly button lint?  Yes please.  Six pounds and can you send it anonymously to my boss?  Or perhaps the perfect stocking stuffer of 1500 live lady bugs or twenty-five tons of chicken feet?  Yes, such practical gifts for house and home.

And a note of advice, do not drink and order on-line.  You don’t want to wake up one morning surrounded by the FBI, NSA or KFC because after watching “Homeland,” you wanted to know if you actually could buy some plutonium from Iran.  Ouch!

It’s not like I’m going to stop ordering on-line, just because I received a mystery gift.   The biggest bonus is the hours of fun I’m going to have trying to figure out what this long bendy thing with two pink knobs actually does.  “Here, kitty, kitty.”

Mama and the Baby

Gorey _mamaHappy Halloween my friends… here’s a scary night time story to put the  children to sleep .. or NOT .. Mama and the Baby

The Sum of All Fears

darkk-nesWhen I got up nice and early this morning to go for my run, the sky was still pitch black.   A darkness so black it was like running into a tunnel with no light at the end. As I stepped outside, I  knew a creepy darkness was going to fill my morning escapade. 

So here I am running around 5:30 am and usually I am the only person on foot in the park. There are the occasional cyclists, but I know most of them by their “good morning” or the silence they pass on (that early morning silence speaks tons). Yep, it’s just me, the deer and the beaver clan. On this run through the pit of darkness, I look behind me which I never do because there’s usually no one behind me but, to my horror, there’s a light following me. I try to shake the beam trailing me, but it won’t go away. I speed up. It speeds up.  I decide to take a quick right because no one ever goes this way except me and the beavers.  I  jerk my head and look behind.  The halogen beam is still clinging to my ass like a squished piece of  tomato I just sat on. I’m getting nervous. What if this stalker wants to jump me and steal my disgustingly sweaty reflective coat or my Samsung  Galaxy S 000,  the first one ever made, or maybe they want the ten buck reflective hat I bought on the weekend. Oh the horror!

Of course I don’t think in my paranoid, read too many John la Carre novels mind, what stupid attacker would hide in the bushes or run behind you with a gigantic high beam halogen light.  A light that spreads enough radiance to land a 747.

A new plan dawns on me. I’ll just out run the bastard. I pick up the pace. I’m flying through the air so quickly, my feet don’t even touch the ground. Then I get this idea. I’m going to loop around at the end of the path, so I’ll face my supposed attacker on the way back. And when I see their ugly face, I’ll wish the person a “good morning.” There is nothing worse to a CIA ninja assassin than a pleasant “good morning.”  That’s right kill the agent with kindness. Take that Smiley.

I continue to glide to the end of the path and turn around. I’m running directly towards the ninja drone coming down the path. Our halogen beams ready to tangle.  Soon we’ll be face to face and I‘ll meet the object of my fear. I’m primed, fists clenched.  We meet and I look him strait in the eye balls and I immediately drop my stink eye.  The guy must have been about ninety years old. But he was really clipping along for an old feller. He looks up at me and with a huge gleaming smile and says, “Good morning, young fella. Nice pace you got there. Keep up the good work.” My heart sinks.

When I go home I check my time. Very, very quick indeed. Paranoid equals super fast time. Thanks old feller.  This is my second fastest time on the dark path. My personal best record was when I thought a pit bull in the bushes was chasing me, but it turned out to be a squirrel with an attitude.

Blinded by the Light

blinding light

Winter comes quickly to the lovely city I live in. Just last week, we were hit by a massive snow storm. Yes in September. Officially that’s still summer. Another problem living here in the northern climes is the darkness. It comes very early. Soon we’ll go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. Yep, early fall means we start the move into our northern “cave.” No light except for that dim beacon at the very far end of the cave, called summer. Only nine months away. Well, that was until I met some cyclists on my morning run. Thanks to them the light of summer is eternal.

Usually I go for an early morning run around five-thirty. It’s the only way I’ll get it done (no interference – life doesn’t get in the way before the sun comes up). I especially love to run outside. All summer long it’s been great. It’s been a beautiful sunny Zen experience. It’s not unusual to see beaver, deer and the occasional coyote bouncing across my path. No pit vipers, crocs or nasty spiders in this pleasant garden of Eden. Ah the quiet days of summer. Just me, the trees, the bright rising sun and a few friendly dog walkers who are out at the same time as me.

However, this week it all changed, paradise lost as well as the sun. My route was tranquil because last year we had a flood and it wiped out part of the path. This made it difficult for cyclists because the detour is a rough and narrow make-shift path through the bush. One has to be very careful, especially in the morning darkness. If you tip over on your bike or make a wrong step, it’s a fifteen meter drop into rocks and river. It kept the snakes out of Eden. We pedestrians had a code to keep it a secret. “Quiet this morning, eh?” “Yep.” And then a two finger salute. Sometimes we’d make a hissing sound just as a reminder.

But the code got broke. Somehow, those cycling snakes realized the route around the flood damage was passable (they must have some nefarious network where they gather commuting plans to take over the world). The pit vipers have entered Eden. And with them came their lights. They use these blinding halogen lights that are so bright you’d think your minutes away from an alien abduction.

After these lights blind you, you can’t see anything but dancing dots. It’s as if you had looked directly into the sun for an hour. When I die and see the light, I hope to hell it’s not one of these halogen lights because I’ll crap my pants for fear that I’m going to cyclist hell. This hell is a very bright and hot place where you ride a stationary bike for eternity, but the horror is you actually think you’re going somewhere.

Now, not all cycling commuters are pit vipers with halogen lights. It’s the racing and reckless bastards who need to share the path. Slow down, be courteous and realize there are other people on the path, especially in the morning darkness. And take it easy with those lights. They can burn a hole in a person’s retina. Ah, screw it. Time to hit the gym and run through the bright sunshine of New Zealand. On a screen, of course. The funny thing is I actually think I’m going somewhere.

Picture courtesy unfocusedpolaroids 

Grow up, City Boy

KeepoffGrassI’m in my tranquil and beautiful backyard. Man I love this place. Luscious green grass (as close to Augusta National as I’ll ever get), flowers, trees and a peaceful ambiance (with the exception of the continuous highway buzz and the noxious gas fumes). Continue reading

Edward Snowden – The Interview.

Vector_Russian_Flag_KGBToo many drones overhead, so I decide to leave the country.  I take the cool 150 bucks I’ve got saved under my mattress and go to a casino in Edmonton.  The 150 quickly becomes a thousand.  Whoohoo, mama needs new shoes and she gets it.  The spying Gods must be shining down on me.  I make my way to Alaska and catch a freighter to Russia (I was going to swim but I forgot my trunks).  In Moscow I find Edward shopping at the local “Targetski.”  I ask him if he’ll talk to me.   He says fine.  We go to a daycare centre and order a couple of vodkas. We put on our tin foil hats and both sit facing the front door.

Me: Cheers. (Eddie raises his glass).  So Edward, how’s Russia been?

Ed: Great.  The people are nice. But the weather is a little colder than Hawaii.  Man, I miss the ocean.  But the vodka is outstanding.  You can get it anywhere – stores, daycare centres.

Me: You worked in Geneva, right?

Ed: Yea, I did a stint there.

Me: Bad memories?  You had a “letter” put in your file (I use my fingers to show quotation marks).

Ed: Yea, what of it.

Me: Make you mad?

Ed:  Nope, don’t really care. My boss was a grumpy dickhead.  You know the expression “absolute power corrupts…”

Me: So what are you going to do after the year the Russians gave you? Cuba? Venezuela? North Korea? Iran?

Ed: Don’t know.   Cuba sounds good – rum, cigars and good health care.

Me: Let’s cut to the chase.  Traitor or Whistle-Blower?

Ed: I did it to help the citizens of the world. We need discussion on the topic. The government needs clear guide lines about when and why they can monitor citizens. In this age of technology, it’s too easy to collect data on citizens.  You can just press a button and wham.  It’s like the proverbial cookie jar.  If it’s in clear sight, you’re gonna grab all the cookies you can.  You don’t care about how fat you get or if they’ll kill you. Now, if your mom is in the kitchen you’re gonna be careful.  You have to make sure you ask and you only get a cookie if your mom knows it won’t spoil your dinner.

Me: The cookie jar is information?

Ed: That’s right.  Ten or twenty years ago it was much more difficult to get information.  You needed people and equipment and a judge. Now, just press a button and you’ve got cell phone, computer, car and cameras anytime. In London there are over a million cameras.  It’s just too tempting for the government.  We need discussion.

Me: Have you seen Enemy of the State?

Ed: Yup, love it.

Me: Despicable me?

Ed: One or Two?

Me: Are you gonna give yourself up? You know there’s talk about a movie.  Matt Damon is gonnna play you.

Ed: Really?   Matt Damon?  I was thinking Steve Carell.

Me: Well, Ed I gotta go.  It’s a long swim back to Canada. Hey, can you spot me a couple of bucks? I need to buy a bathing suit.

Ed reached into his pocket and gave me a fist full of roubles – it worked out to five bucks. He told me to go to Targetski.  It wasn’t a lot of money but enough to make it back to Canada.

It is so sad that these two encrypted sites (Lavabit  and Silent Circle ) had to shut down due to government interference.  They want these sites to hand over data (although it appears Silent Circle is up and running).   If you can help and save democracy, please do.

Thanks to GURPS for the graphic

Damn you, Edward Snowden!

large_woman_tin_foil_hatI have tin foil secured wrapped around my head and all my windows are painted black.  I have withdrawn my entire bank account (all 150 bucks) and securely tucked the cash under my mattress.  I don’t need a bank machine. I’ve gotten rid of my cell phone and computer.  I sold my new car due to the event data recorder (EDR) or black box installed in it.  I bought a 1979 Chevy Impala because in ’79 a black box for cars was unheard of. Oh how I long for the seventies, when you could walk down the street and know you weren’t being watched.

I read a very interesting article recently (see link below) about how easy it is for the government to track a person if they want to.  I’ve always known this (see Enemy of the State), but to see it laid out in black and white was a revelation (quick look outside, are those cameras, pointed at me because I wrote the “E” name?).  Fortunately for me, the only thing they need to track is that nasty wine habit I have (just how does he afford it on a teacher’s salary). Luckily, I don’t live in the US. Our government is so “spy” incompetent they couldn’t track a black bear on a sunny day in the frozen arctic.

Yes, it only takes the push of a button, a small selection on a drop down menu, making sure they have the proper legal rights, and all your bank accounts, cell phones, computer and car data is now monitored (makes me want to move in with said bear). However, that’s not the scary part.  Certain governments (I won’t mention the two for fear of tin foil penetration, but one government uses drones and the other has the most CCTVs in the world) are in collusion with cell phone companies and are forcing them to create “back doors” into your cell phone so they can access them any time they wish. And if you create inscription software, the government needs a code to break in. So much for free enterprise.

I know, I know. All this is to protect us from the bad guys and if you’re a good guy you don’t need to worry. But that’s not the point. This is an impingement of our civil liberties.  What if by writing this article, it makes me a bad guy? We have the right to know when and why we are being stalked by any person or entity. And this is a global issue. Don’t think that Timbuktu government or incompetent government won’t phone drone government and ask for a favour; “Hey we’ve got this guy who drinks way too much wine.   Can you stalk him and then put a drone on him?”  “Thanks, sure I can get you Stanley Cup tickets.” Or vise versa, “Hey we want to track one of our nationals in your country, is that Ok? Sure I’ve got Super Bowl tickets.”

Snowden’s revelation wasn’t a shock. What worries me is that we are doing nothing to stop it. Do you really trust the government that much? (Ouch, this tin foil really uncomfortable.) We, as a global community, need to monitor this situation closely because the repercussions are very dangerous. Well I have to run.  I hear a drone circling over my house and I need to watch “Enemy of the State” for the tenth time this month.   If you never hear from me again, I’ll be living with Edward Snowden in Siberia. Damn you, Snowman.

Guardian article by John Lanchester

Thanks to Mind the Gap for tin foil head graphic