Digital Jezebel

shaghai_jezI’m sitting in bed on a lovely Sunday, my most pensive day, oh Great One. Coffee steaming on the night stand. I am covered in my soft and comfy duvet while surrounded by massive pillows propping me up. But something is wrong. Laying around me is techno-carnage: my cell, tablet, e-reader and strapped on my wrist is a smart watch. I sit back and look in horror (Brando echoing in my brain), “Do these ridiculous pieces of plastic and metal actually enhance my life or are they just giant blocks of concrete dangling around my neck,” I think while rubbing the top of my head (fortunately I still have hair – thanks mom). I jump out of bed and as I hit the floor, my brain quickly dashes to my step counter. “Will I reach my goal for the day?” The thought repulses me. Immediately, I unstrap the device and put on a good old fashioned Timex – no counter, notifications or GPS, just the time (remember those days, my friends, when all watches did was .. you know … tell the time). I start to tremble after I realize that my personal world record of 25 continuous days of 10k steps is just about to end. I grab the dog and go out the door not caring if I hit the step mark or not. I feel a great rush of freedom. My dog, on the other hand, looks up and says, WTF? I was in on that record dip-shit.

Now for the cell phone. Device number two is starting to control my life a bit too much (as if the dog doesn’t do that enough). Prune number one. Turn off the little light that blinks every time I receive a notification. Do I really need this? It continuously flashes – pleading me to pick it up and run my soft luscious fingers across her screen, “Please Danny, just a little touch, come on big boy.” I try to ignore it , but it’s impossible. That ugly block of black glass just sits there, blinking, tempting me like a giant bowl of Halloween candy three days before the masks and costumes come out (plenty of time to replenish!). It’s hard.  I turn off the light and blinking Jezebel – gonzo. Prune two. I’ve decided to put the phone directly into my knapsack and not look at it until I get to work, which is a good twenty minutes from the time I jump from bed in the morning (I know right, awesome or what – the control on that man).

As for my e-reader, no problem because I have never even turned the WiFi on. My e-reader does one thing – shows me words that form paragraphs and stories. And this is not a bad piece of advice. If you get an e-reader make sure it can minimally perform one function – read ideas. I’ve pretty much abandoned my tablet for the same reason. Every time I start to read I constantly get distracted. For instance while the dog starts barking out the window as I am reading, I go to Kijiji and search for “People looking for cute dog.”

It’s been a good week now with all my tech modifications and I feel great. I sleep better. I focus better (relationship here!). I actually listen to my students in class. And I think about shit before I actually Google it. The big lesson, though, is either you control tech or it controls you. Surprise, surprise.

The Salty Air of Vancouver

20160403_135401I love going back to Vancouver. The minute I step off the plane my dried out hair and flaky skin just suck up the moisture. The change was so abrupt I actually heard sucking sounds from the itchy pores all over my body. After your lifeless skin has returned to the living, your nostrils take in the salty air, making you feel like you should be on a schooner traversing the globe while wearing a yellow sou’wester as a salty spray drenches you in freedom or dead fish depending on your TV commercial / dream sequence (aren’t they kind of the same?).

And you walk and walk and walk until your legs ache which is such a wonderful thing about the coast. There’s Spanish Banks, False Creek, and finally the Sea Wall, great to do on Monday morning while every one is working. But do people really work out there because there were an awful lot of people on the Seawall for a Monday. One day, I walked over fifteen kilometers (I tracked it on Runtastic). With the excellent transit system, and a good pair of shoes you can be as fit as every second person you see riding bikes, running, or walking.

Then there are the oh so tasty morsels and libations and other comforts I love about Vancouver. I only really had one awful meal there (Steam Works in Gastown). But that was my fault. Reminder – always order salad dressing on the side or you get a vinaigrette soup with a bunch of leaves floating in it, but at least the pilsner was scrumptious. Another excellent thing about Vancouver is the beer – Red Truck Ale, Stanley Park Amber Ale, Fat Tug, Yellow Dog and a few I can’t remember. Who can after the fourth? Ok fifth, but who’s counting. I don’t think  I had a bad beer the whole time I was out there (or maybe it was the excellent company). Yep every day at three o’clock spicy edamame and beer and Jeremy – Oh man, life is so good.

And can you say salmon? I swear by the time I left I had gills along with urges to swim upstream. I also had the best Chinese food ever at this place in Richmond, “Tin Tin Seafood Harbour.” Yep I don’t think there’s a city on the planet that can beat Vancouver for food and beer and walking (they do go together). Ok maybe the planet is a bit strong. But you get the point.

My only concern is the temperament of some people out on the coast. Can’t you say hi or smile? For all the beauty out there it’s amazing how unfriendly people are. Maybe you’re too stressed out because you can’t afford to leave your house because every dime you earn goes into your over-priced mortgage. Or maybe you feel confined because the price of gas is so high, so you can’t drive (you know you can bike or walk or take transit – they are all convenient and cheap) However, I found a way to get people to say hello. If you are out on your walk or run, all you have to do is yell. In a rather loud voice shout,”HEY GOOD MORNING!!!” And you know what? People always respond in kind. Or they run back to there million dollar one room condo, screaming`TOO MUUUCH TAAAXX.`

The Mountain

Check this out …  The Mountain  .. Are you tough enough to climb the mountain?

I don’t who he is… but

My VPN or Hiding Behind the Curtains

VPN Network

My beautiful Malibu home (right next to Arnold) is secure. I now have a VPN (virtual pirate network) up to keep evil predators at pirate bay.  Nice. But I have to remember that the network provides privacy not anonymity.  It is impossible not to leave a digital footprint anywhere on the Internet (my goodness don’t you watch “Person of Interest” – Harold can get anyone!!!) and if evilness wants to find you and hack you, they will. But a VPN helps.

The analogy I read this week about a VPN was very appropriate. It goes like this… You have a house (over looking a beautiful virtual non-polluted ocean – plastic palms, a sun that never burns you). A VPN only provides curtains so people can’t look in your house, and see what you’re doing inside (bring out the bong boys!). However, since you have a street address, people still know you live somewhere. A VPN gives you privacy, so you can walk around the house in the buff or exchange banking information with more security. It maintains privacy, but people still know you have a house somewhere in Malibu or London or Toronto.

No one is  one hundred per cent secure with any VPN. If someone wants to break into your house they will and can. Don’t fall for a false sense of security. But in today’s internet you need to setup an extra network for security because the days of your local internet provider assisting you are over.  They provide the cupcakes for anyone who wants to look in your windows.

It was fun setting up the network.  It only took me two days and a couple of hundred bucks for equipment (half bottle of scotch and a neck massage). But man I can feel the privacy. The curtains (thick red velvet drapes from The Game of Thrones) are closed. Now I’m going to put on my favourite pirate costume, with a wooden leg, parrot on my shoulder and shiny metal hook and dance around the house. I just downloaded the first season of “The Ropers” from Pirate Bay (it should be free).

And that’s another reason for hiding behind curtains. No one will know how my favourite TV shows appear on my hard drive.  I don’t even know. All I know is they magically appear on my hard drive (Ummm, really?).  I watch them a week after the broadcast date because they don’t have commercials. I hate TV advertising. It makes me want to take pills, many pills and dress like a pirate. It’s the same useless products over and over, asking me to buy crap that I don’t need or making me drool over a bacon double cheese burger I see flashed a hundred times a day. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic.

Yep and once again kudos to my friend and yours Edward “the privacy man” Snowden. Not that he supports my magically appearing TV shows, but he made us all aware that we had better make sure the curtains are drawn because you never know what creepy bastard is looking in your windows, just waiting to make your Christmas presents magically disappear.

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.