Liebster Award Nomination

I have been nominated for this award by Inge. H. Borg, writer extraordinaire.

The rules are as follows:

– Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them (In this case me,

My nominees will be added here later. Meanwhile, on with the rules:

– Answer the 10 questions that are given to you by the nominator

            (and don’t be shy). Scroll to the end of this post for your questions from me.
– Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award.
– Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.
* * *
Even though this might be a slight bow to Mr. Ponzi,
combined, we are a force, and we proudly acknowledge each other, our strengths, our genres, our very different approaches to writing.  All are valid in their own right. All are commendable. All are to be celebrated.
Here are Inge. H. Borg’s questions for me:
1) Do you talk to your computer?

If you don’t count swearing, no. However, once in a while something really neat about my setup and/or a program’s function makes me smile and think, this is really neat. Examples: Spell Check (in Canadian English) in ThunderBird; my text editor (PE64) which I’ve customized over the years to do neat things, like tab word.

2)  After someone introduces you as “an author,” people sometimes (mostly at ladies’ luncheons) dismiss your meteoric little moment by saying “Oh, I could write a book.”
a) What is your answer?
Go Ahead, it will be a positive learning experience for you.
b) What do you think to yourself? Remember, this is a GA-rated blog.
Maybe they could. Bet not. {8;^>}
3)  If you use a pen-name, what was your primary reason?
I should have done this. One of my reviewees named himself Eusebius Clay. Unique. There are many Jim Bennett’s out there, also writing poetry. I’m not unique enough.
4)  How lenient are you with people who answer their own questions?
This is fun. I see if the answer is correct, and then ask myself why they felt it necessary to bring a particular ‘fact’ up in conversation.
5)  This is hard. Let’s see: Why don’t you get something off your chest.
No, it can’t be the cat, nor your Labradoodle or pet-elephant. It has to be about – your Love of MARKETING. That should open some floodgates.
I suck at marketing. I think most poetry editors only like their friends.
6)  Did you ever change the original cover(s) on your book(s) and why? (I can answer that. Oops, it’s not my turn – but for Khamsin, it was Russell’s blog article even though I loved the other cover).
Only once, and that was to add an outline for online covers – there’s a lot of white on my covers and they bleed into the browser background. I have been a royal pain for Rory d’Eon, who does my cover images, and is frequently dragged through multiple iterations. But once done, they stay.
7) Someone of your not-so-good friends (at the ladies’ luncheon) insists that the lush in your novella “sounds like you.”
How do you tell them: Hell no! It’s a MADE-UP STORY
(as you order another glass of Merlot). Still, this pillar of the community righteously declares “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Note that I gave her credit to get it right (which she won’t).
I have other problems. In some of my poems there are extremely tough, personal occurrences. All of these are of course totally made up. If some of them weren’t, the police would be very interested.
8)  The best advice you received from a successful colleague.
(Other than to get lost)
Expose yourself in the marketing sense. Every way possible. Every occurrence is an opportunity. I feel like a used car salesman working at a wake. But it needs to be done.
9)  Did you have the fortitude (otherwise referred to as guts), and humility, to follow it?
To some extent, yes. As much as I should? Probably not.
10)  Do you blog to get added exposure, or do you really feel a connection with your fellow-bloggers?
I started for dumb reasons. I have a list of sayings I’ve collected over years of work experience, and some of them are deep and some are funny. Once the website existed, I got much more interested in activism. I blog on current events, sometimes lauding or excoriating politicians and business leaders.
Whenever possible I connect to whatever I think will increase either my own visibility, or that of a colleague. (I didn’t say I was terrifically good at this, but I do try.)
And, I use the website as advertising (Available Now, Samples).
I think a poet should be known in some sense by his readers. The website overall should give you two insights: what sort of person I am, and what sort of poetry I offer you.
Feel free to have a look at
When/If I have ten nominees, I’ll put their names up top and their questions here. No point in warning them ahead of time, eh?

Just what it cost – a short list

The Sheppard ‘stubway’ in Toronto: approximately one Billion dollars (CAD). Four stops.

The Scarborough subway, still under debate, and still only an estimate (expect cost to double): forecast cost per household in Toronto: $1,200.00. Forecast subsidy cost, per ride: $17.00. Two stops, maybe three. Instead of seven via light rail.

Toyota’s US recall of cars, for being less than forthcoming: $1.2 billion. For this Toyota ends the prosecution, but admits wrongdoing (an unusual extra penalty).

General Sinclair’s fine: $20,000. This after a plea bargain in which rape charges were withdrawn, no jail term, and sexual misconduct was admitted to. Oh yes, and he got a reprimand.

Now for the dumb question: who pays for this? In the case of the subways, we lucky GTA residents will be forced to do so. In the case of the accelerating Toyota’s, nobody gets reimbursed – the US Justice Department must have an interesting bank account problem. In the case of General Sinclair, no victim compensation was mentioned. It was treated as a misdemeanour and given a fine.

It will be interesting to follow the General Motors lawsuits, as GM sat on the knowledge of its faulty ignition switches for years, with some eleven deaths resulting.

To answer the dumb question: the victims pay. I’ll bet Toyota can find a billion dollars, and that General Sinclair can find $20K. It will be noticed, but not traumatizing. Unlike their victims, with lost or distorted lives.

However, the victims of Toyota have numerous lawsuits going, so their total cost is still unknown, and compensation is going to happen there.

Bitcoin: have some of us been had?

Bitcoins are now famous, simply because at least two ‘exchanges’ have been, er, ‘robbed’ in the sense that their bitcoins are gone, their clients are bereft, and the exchanges themselves, having no deposit insurance of any kind, simply declared themselves defunct.

This is a large post. I’ll put labels here so you can search and ‘jump’ to the part you care about.

Bitcoin facts

Bitcoin risks

Encryption potential weaknesses

How it actually works

My personal take on all of this


Dumb questions

Bitcoin Facts:

Bitcoins have been under some scrutiny for some time. There is a CRS Report, made available (as usual with CRS reports on this blog) via Federation of American Scientists, Secrecy News, Steven Aftergood. (CRS stands for Congressional Research Service. Such reports are requested by the US congress, and generally kept ‘secret’ even though there is little secret in them, other than the bringing together of public information. I recommend this blog and its reports. Clearly. Aftergood returns eMails. Is considered, by the US authorities, to be a definitive expert in secrecy law, process, et cetera. In short, SA is a real human being.)

The CRS report covers a lot of ground. One issue is, do/can bitcoins destabilize economies? The answer was, the amount of wealth in bitcoins isn’t large enough (now) for this to be a concern. I should note here that bitcoins’ value is determined entirely by ‘market factors’, so if they were to become the medium of choice for money laundering, their value could rise.

A second issue in this CRS report is, can bitcoins be used to launder money and/or fund illegal activities such as drug marketing. The answer here is definitely ‘yes‘.

Bitcoin Risks:

There have been at least two instances where a bitcoin exchange suddenly went, er, bit-coin-less overnight.

The value of bitcoins is, er, unclear. In this (as usual, excellent) Wikipedia article, you will find these quotes:

bitcoins are not a reliable store of value and that there is no floor on their value

Steven Strauss, a Harvard public policy professor, suggested governments could outlaw Bitcoin

bitcoins will attain their true value of zero sooner or later, but it is impossible to say when

Bitcoin investor Cameron Winklevoss stated in 2013 that the “bull case scenario for bitcoin is… 40,000 USD a coin”

In late 2013, finance professor Mark Williams forecast a bitcoin would be worth less than ten US dollars by July 2014

Encryption potential weaknesses:

Here you will find a recent paper published about breaking an encryption scheme that is similar, perhaps identical, to the Bitcoin protection protocol. By stealing a small amount of data, they were able to obtain the encryption key with frightening regularity.

How it actually works:

Here is a fairly upbeat explanation of how Bitcoins actually work.

Here is a somewhat less happy description of the protocol. In this page you will find pointers to other aspects of Bitcoin, such as mining, which I suggest you follow if your interest leads you there.

Search the original page for these phrases:

annoying thing 

it can’t be compared with a known-good signature

There are also ways that third parties can modify transactions in trivial ways that change the hash but not the meaning of the transaction

rather than any logical reason

My personal take on all of this:

Thank you for reading, scrolling, or jumping to this point. I am, as readers of this blog must have realized already, a cynic. I am (or was once) Mister Systems Architect in IBM Canada, finance industry. I worked in CIBC in many capacities, including technology steward for a conglomeration of business areas. I’ll get to my opinion in another line or two, but I want new readers to understand that I have more than a rat’s ass’s understanding of finance, programming, system design, and most importantly of all, due diligence.

Due diligence means, before you do anything, you make sure it’s ‘safe’. I did due diligence at CIBC for a number of businesses facing Y2K. I did due diligence at Bank of Montreal for over a year (as an IBM employee) vetting every single application change to their online banking system. I claim, immodestly, to understand diligence and risk assessment. Due diligences means, you can accept, or cover, or avoid, or plan how to recover from, the risks.

My take on Bitcoins is this:

  • The code was distributed free by an anonymous person or group.
  • The code does weird things. Go back to Ken Shirrif’s page if you doubt this.
  • The code was, probably, not vetted by any single institution or person for holes.
  • Holes in the code seem to have been found (go back to 161.pdf if you doubt this).
  • Holes in the code seem to have been used (go back to Gox and Flexcoin, eh?)
  • The value of a bitcoin is based on nothing but user expectations. (Wikipedia, eh?)

Miningis an interesting part of Bitcoins. The Ken Shirriff page has a hotlink to how that works. Basically, bitcoins are recorded by peer computers in a block chain. One of the keys for a new block chain is computed from parts of the chain, plus a ‘nonce’ value, plus other potentially varied data items. The key so computed must have a certain minimum number of leading binary zeros. It turns out that this is a hard problem requiring an astonishing amount of computing power to achieve in ten minutes. (You first try every possible nonce value, then other tweaks.) Typically a large transaction is not considered securely recorded until it has had maybe five other block chains added after the one in which it resides.

Every bitcoin peer maintains this block chain. There are mechanisms to detect and repair extension collisions. Thus there is no central record; every peer eventually has the record, up to some point, at some point in time.

Miners get bitcoins for their trouble. Apparently it’s worth about $19K USD to successfully mine a new block (actually, the key for one).

Mining creates new bitcoins. The miner’s payment rate (in bitcoins) will drop by 50% every four years. The total number of bitcoins is capped at some large number. (21 million? go check google, eh?)

Everyone who moves bitcoins as an intermediary gets a small percentage. Miners get one, as well as their fee.


I think we were set up. A currency with no intrinsic value started to be exchanged, and bought/sold for real, national currencies. The value of this bitcoin has been, and could continue to be, extremely volatile.

The implementing code, open source, was imho never vetted by anyone for weaknesses. At least not until weaknesses were demonstrated two ways (theory, theft).

Some of the stolen bitcoins are now circulating, answering my question, ‘were they destroyed or were they stolen?’ It will be interesting to see what legal or other actions occur against those who now ‘own’ stolen bitcoins.

So, if you’re waiting for the dumb questions, here the are:

  • Have (at least) some of us, been had? a not-understood protocol? weaknesses?
  • If you had a lot of unused processing power, would mining bitcoins be a good side business?
  • How did the first bitcoins get created? After some existed one could mine bitcoin transactions.
  • If you were the US economy, would you make bitcoins illegal?
  • would that mater, if bitcoins are exchangeable worldwide?
  • and, have we been had?

Police, Cameras, Name Tags: a suggestion

Here you will find an article wherein the Toronto police are considering using lapel cameras. In short, the officer will be perhaps recording everything. Or not: who gets to decide what gets deleted? (I suspect the cameras will not have infinite memory onboard; will they link to some cloud storage repository for all this image data?)

I have an idea for the police, and chief Bill Blair. Some cameras have limited on-board memory which can be used when a memory card is not inserted. I use this to photograph myself with my own camera, then install a card (SD in this case); at this point, a thief is unaware of the image on the internal memory as the camera will only display from the card, if there is one installed.

My idea is this: in some way, put the image and badge number of the officer on/in the proposed lapel camera’s memory. Arrange the camera so that this image is always displayed on the camera front: in short, announcing the officer videoing or photographing you has this badge number and this name.

Why would I suggest this? Remember the G20 where officers removed their name tags? How much real disciplinary action happened to them?

Do you think police, who will now be photographing you (which, like their notes, you have to hope will be correct and complete, not edited after the fact, eh?) … do you think a police officer should be able to record you when you cannot record his/her name or badge number?

Feel free to respond here. Cogent comments will be aired.

Boeing Pension Cuts: Is this fair and necessary?

Here you will find a BBC news item. In essence, Boeing is cutting pensions for some 68,000 employees. This is necessary to curb the “unsustainable growth” of its long-term pension liability.

Here you will find this: Boeing’s fourth-quarter profits rose 26% to $1.23bn (£742m) as it delivered more commercial aircraft.

And finally, here you will find these words:

Boeing Co. awarded Chief Executive Jim McNerney almost $27.5 million in annual compensation for 2012, a 20% increase from a year earlier, as its jet deliveries surpassed rival Airbus for the first time in a decade.

Surging sales of Boeing’s 737 jet helped trigger executive bonus plans that were unaffected by global aviation regulators’ grounding of its new 787 passenger plane on Jan. 16 after battery problems.

Now for the dumb question: Is it conceivable that Boeing is increasing executive pay while cutting benefits for more lowly, ordinary employees? It is a dumb question, eh?

US Nuclear Weapons information, courtesy of F.A.S.

Here is a link to a CRS report on this topic. (There are no sensitive secrets in this report.) This link is provided by Steven Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists: You can go there and subscribe to Secrecy News, eMail edition, as I have. This will provide you with insights into the manifold secret apparatuses of the USA and their penchant for withholding information. It will also get you access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports which are not normally available to the public.

So what, you say. Click on the first link above and read the entire report. Or, scan it for these words and phrases:

  • scathing
  • fiasco
  • concreted shut
  • substitute oversight recommendations
  • cancellation risk

You will also note that 100 rem is considered OK, whereas Wikipedia thinks 100 rem gives a high chance of acute radiation syndrome, possibly death within weeks.

This CRS report is a unique, bizarre insight into the entire issue of nuclear weapons manufacture, government boondoggle spending, all in the name of researching how many ‘pits’ can be made in a year (a ‘pit’ is the detonator for a nuclear weapon – whether on a bomb or a rocket) and how to increase that number.

Apparently 11 pits a year is now all that can be actually constructed. While this seems fantastically low, especially given the enormous building floor spaces involved, the difficulty of managing plutonium is clearly presented here. Merely checking the chemistry (is it pure enough?) uses an army of Chemical Analysis people, dealing with radioactive material. Plutonium is aptly named, it is the devil itself to deal with.

Read the whole CRS Report. Subscribe to Secrecy News.

If you’re really impressed, send Aftergood a donation. Canadians don’t get tax breaks on this, but are known to contribute once in a blue moon.