Does awareness make a difference?

imageI read this in hope that I would discover some juicy, new revelations about how we are spied upon, classified and fleeced. There were many details and specific examples of governmental, military and commercial surveillance, but no stunning news.

The book is divided into 3 sections. Part One: The World We’re Creating, Part Two: What’s At Stake and Part Three: What To Do About It. Since the author has significant security experience and credentials, I expected to get some useful tips in that last part, but no. I already use DuckDuckGo to prevent Google from keeping me in a bubble. I have never owned a cellphone and our car is too old to leak much data. No Facebook or Twitter for me.

We live in a surveillance society and most of us aren’t worried that information collected about us will be used to harm us. That can change, of course, if future political, religious, legal or economic environments change. Data is forever.

The author feels that we shouldn’t stick our heads in the sand, that we should do the work needed to defend our privacy. This reader is sympathetic, but skeptical that any of us really have the time or expertise. It’s ironic that intrusions sold to us as necessary for security and convenience have become a danger and a nuisance.

Data and Goliath
The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World
by Bruce Schneier
383 pages
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2015



Only two swans so far


Last time I was at Woodbine Park Pond, only the male was visible. I assumed, incorrectly, that the female was sitting on eggs somewhere in the reeds. Danica said it was too early for eggs and I see she’s right.

Small works make sense


Danica and I went into the gallery at 1475 Gerrard Street to enjoy Noreen Mallory’s show. It struck me that the small sizes of most of the pieces were perfect for the relatively small houses in Toronto. Big houses in the suburbs offer large walls, but not so in the city core. Modern condo spaces are even smaller and outer walls are glass. Mallory’s little encaustic gems will fit nicely where larger pieces would not.

The rich textures and colours of Mallory’s encaustics and collages offer tactile and visual pleasures that reproductions cannot. They are modestly priced, too. Three or four hundred dollars for real, original one-of-a-kind art is a bargain.

Other artists in the G.A.S. collective are represented by similarly affordable pieces at the back of the gallery. We liked what we saw, especially an assemblage by Debby Wong.

$31,000,000 is a lot of green


Touting a proposal to replace Toronto’s green bins with new ones that are raccoon-proof, Mayor Tory was all smiles. “Defeat is not an option,” quotes the Toronto Star. “It’s Raccoon-Proof!” announced my local  councillor’s newsletter.

Not so fast. When I wrote the Mayor’s Office to ask if the new bins would come with a money-back guarantee, Solid Waste Management’s reply began:

“The Request for Proposals required that the vendor proposed new green bins must be animal resistant.  We stay away from stating that anything is animal proof.”

We already have green bins that are animal resistant. Not perfect, but not an additional $31 million dollars, either. And the “green” factor? The proposal calls for shipping all of our existing bins to Pennsylvania, melting them down and shipping new ones back to Toronto. Sound “green” to you?

The Mayor’s Office says Council decides on new bins on May 5th or 6th. Still time to let your councillor know that we have better uses for all those millions, especially since there’s absolutely no guarantee that new bins will work.

Funny story, if you want to continue

Read more$31,000,000 is a lot of green

A chance meeting on BHGPUD


Beach Hill Garbage Pick Up Day afforded me a meeting with a neighbour. Charles was working his way down Gerrard as I worked my way up. We met at one of the new sidewalk tree beds, he bagging litter from one side while I cleaned the other.

We exchanged the usual pleasantries about how people are pigs and I said I liked his button. “You want one?”, asked Charles, rummaging in a pocket.

“Sure,” said I,  but Charles came up empty-handed.  He said he had hundreds at home and gave me the one he was wearing.

Another thing I liked about Charles … he’s ten years older than me.


BHGPUD is my own invention, not an official acronym. Catchy?


How soon we forget

This photo topped the list in one of those “things from th past” email messages. it was accompanied by another photo, reinforcing the idea that it was used for lettering. Perhaps it was, sometimes, but it had a very specific use that appears to have been forgotten. Anyone remember what it is?

Noxema skin cream, Vicks VapoRub, a dustpan and a tray of watercolours were on the same list … even though all are still common on stores shelves today. The listmaker must live a sheltered life.

Still, these lists are fun and good reminders of how quickly technologies have changed. The ashtrays show our progress. Many other items are still in my basement. Time to let go.

I saw an ad on Craigslist a couple of years ago: Antique graphic arts supplies. Pictured were the exacto knives, wax rollers, rubber cement bottles, T squares and cutting matts that I used everyday for years, before desktop publishing made “assembly” unnecessary. Remember the phrase “desktop publishing”? 

Colombo on Kindle: 21 publications


The Occult Web is a monograph, previously published in print, but recently updated and released to the Kindle Store. It joins another 20 books that John Robert Colombo has online.

James Webb was an Anglo-Scottish historian of “rejected knowledge” and the audience for a book about his writings is limited. Without Amazon’s publishing system it might not have been made available.

One of the best things about ebooks is that they can serve even small readerships. Before the internet was overrun by commercial activity, it was used by academics to share papers, writings and ideas among very small numbers of people. That original usefulness has not been lost.