On Visibility, or, What do I do when not writing?

I am a Kindle Book Review team member, and have reviewed over one hundred books in that role. Many review requests are non-kindle or kindle-plus, and I do those as well.
Sometimes the recipient of a review offers me some publicity and promotion.

Today I had the honour of participating in a podcast with Rick Lakin of iCrew Digital Publishing. If you want to hear the voice behind my words, click on the link below.
You should be able to hear the podcast. Rick is a skilled interviewer.

Alternatively you can go to this web page, where you can also see some text about this author (me) as well.

I have had the pleasure of reviewing several books written by Mr. Lakin’s clientèle. I can recommend all of them: very fine writing. And, many of them are not poetry.

Toronto: Where Are We Going?

Here you will find a splendid article by Edward Keenan (Toronto Star) on the ‘successful’ pot raids in Toronto. Mr. Keenan claims that these pot raids actually make Toronto more dangerous.
Edward Keenan is correct.

I find it difficult not to wonder what’s wrong with Mark Saunders, our current police chief. In a force that commands raises above inflation during city austerity, with rising crime rates, it seems silly to crack down on pot that will be legal in a few months.

The justifications are similarly spurious. ‘Health Issues.’ ‘Safety Issues.’ When pot is officially legal, these same goods will be sold to these same buyers.

That leads me to focus on Mark Saunders, Person of Interest.

  • who seems to allow carding to continue, and certainly did not stop it when requested?
  • who planned these raids?
  • is it a publicity stunt?

The last point isn’t as dumb as it looks. Crime rate is up, quite unexpectedly, and likely a blip. However, a rash of arrests and charges will make the statistics look good.

Now for my traditional dumb questions.

Given the vast number of unenforced infractions we see daily, is this ‘pot luck’ Project Claudia justified?

Is this a good use of police resources?

Is Mark Saunders the police chief we want, need, and deserve?

Feel free to comment.


IBM, Pensions, Outsourcing, and Absurdity

This is a rant. It is personal.
I am a retiree from IBM Canada Limited. I was offered a package when the company wanted to downsize; it was attractive, and I accepted it. (In fact, anyone who could replace their job was financially incented to do so, and take the bribe/gift to leave what was once a great company to work for.)

That was awhile ago. Recently I received a letter from a company, not IBM, requesting proof of birth for their records as a beneficiary of an IBM pension.

Apparently IBM has outsourced managing its pension. Interesting, since defined benefit plans are always the responsiblity of the original company and its management. Is IBM now starting an end-run around this legal obligation?

In the letter I am asked to confirm a lot of information, and to include a birth certificate or a passport (copy). The passport must be current.
I note that federally issued documents are valid identification even if they are expired. Why must the passport be current? My birth certificate is older, eh?

When I called the ‘if you have any questions’ number, I was asked for every single piece of information ever used to confirm identity. (I have dealt with CRA and banks over the phone; trust me, I know what the list of questions is.)
Add to this a birth certificate or current passport copy, and you have all you need for identity theft.

When I made the comment that IBM never spends money on pensions or pensioners unless they are trying to find some way to trim their benefits, the person at Morneau Shepell got somewhat conciliatory. ‘Don’t have to send this stuff in,’ he said. This when I questioned why, with all the confirmation, there was doubt that I was alive and had worked for IBM who knew my birthdate all that time, and kept track.

Does anybody out there understand why this information is being asked for? Is it simply a bureaucracy taking over a set of files creating an additional initial setup cost? By asking for confirmation? Is it for every IBM Canada pensioner?

If you understand this, or have interesting insights, please post a reply here.
Do include a real eMail when responding to this website; you will be kept anonymous. (But I do test the eMail. If you want your thoughts here, you have to trust me on this one thing.)

On Discrimination

We need a law, here in Canada, to prevent discrimination against left-handed red-headed idiots. Clearly, they are often bullied; tools are not designed for them; they suffer snap personality judgements; and are not sufficiently enabled to meet their potential.

I’m joking, of course. But I’m trying to make a point: we have laws against discrimination, and the existence of a plethora of specific laws is, in effect, discriminatory against any group not shielded by a such a law.

My favourite example is TTC Special Constables. The signs have, I think, been sheepishly taken down, but they said something like this:

It is an offence to spit on a TTC Special Constable.

Like, give me a break. It’s not an offence to spit on anyone? It’s OK for a constable to spit on an offender?

We are in the process of putting in laws to prevent discrimination against LBGT individuals. While I agree that discrimination is bad, imho it should be handled legally by other means.

It should be illegal to treat another human being shoddily. Any human being. In any shoddy way.

I note, by way of contrast, that we have general laws against cruelty to animals. There are no special laws, imho, singling out specific animal groups: large scary dogs, shedding cats, talking mynahs, defanged cobras. It is assumed that bad treatment of animals is understood, detectable, subject to legal action, and under societal control.

I think anti-discriminatory laws are subtly, even overtly, discriminatory against all the rest of us. Doubtless there will be comments on this, eh?

Now for the dumb questions.

Do the Americans need a special law to prevent discrimination against illegal Mexican workers?

Does Toronto need a special law to prevent people waiting for affordable housing from being harassed while they live out-of-doors?

Do patients need a special law to prevent (mostly) doctors (and occasionally, other professionals) from treating them like hostages in their waiting rooms?

Is it the lack of money and lobbying that prevents the above from being dumb questions?

Nonsense in the News: May 18, 2016

The news is often nonsense. I will content myself with two diverse examples.

Today we are told that the oil sands (tar sands, actually) have lost $985KK CAD so far due to the fire (devastation) around Fort McMurray.
That’s like saying I’ve lost money because I cannot now withdraw it from the bank.

The oil is still tarrying in the ground, eh? It will eventually be pulled and sold, eh? So it’s a question of cash flow and timing, not of actual money lost.

That’s the first nonsense; the second applies to Toronto, Canada.

We are told that municipalities will be given the ability to tax. One reason for doing this is to pay for transit and roads. I submit that taxing me (retired) for property that does not drive downtown (pretty much never, eh?) to repair roads filled with cars coming in from Mississauga and beyond (and, I assume, in the East end, from Pickering, Ajax, et cetera.)

I have a simple solution. Add a tax to every vehicle parking space to be paid by the driver who parks there, every single time a car is parked. (Exemptions for disabled? Sure.)

A simple calculation shows that 200,000,000 or even 400,000,000 parking ‘occurrences’ happen in downtown Toronto every year..
So put in a surcharge of one dollar. Two hundred million dollars the first year. And, anyone driving downtown to a job can afford an extra dollar a day.

Then up it to two dollars, et cetera, until we find out what the traffic will bear. (This pun was intended also.)

Meanwhile, our city politicians blather about discussing revenue options.

Sigh. In another post, I’ll revisit the ‘bafflegab’ quotient idea: the amount of words that un-say or de-specify or make-vague what might have been an honest statement with real content. Later. OK?

KB3035583, or GWX*.EXE, or, why I begin to hate Microsoft

The mentioned Windows Update (for Win7) has failed to update multiple times. Sometimes the ‘update’ says, ‘downloading’ when there is no traffic on the network.

We have two very similar Acer desktop computers; they are over four years old, but were considered pretty decent when new. 6 cores, for example.

First Complaint:

My desktop has a very annoying pattern of being busy: immediately after a cold start, and immediately after re-awakening from sleep. Task Manager shows me that one of the following (sometimes more than one) is running:

  • CompatTelRunner
  • TrustedUpdate
  • MakeCab

The first of these is Microsoft ‘spyware’ which tells them all I have on my machine so they can be sure to have compatibility in Windows 10.

The second of these is essentially the same. Both drive the hard disk relentlessly, and sometimes use a lot of CPU.

The third is supposedly code that makes .cab files. Why this would be running is beyond me.

So, net net of this first complaint is this:

Every time I start or un-sleep my computer, it is unresponsive because Microsoft installed code that keeps it very busy. For several minutes.

The second complaint is, perhaps, weirder.

On my desktop, I signed up for Windows 10 but did not actually download and install it. Once I did this, for ages, I would get a pop-up that prompted me to go on with the install. Every Windows Update I did,  had update to Windows 10 checked as a default.

This stopped when the KB3035583 update started failing. This update always fails, with a download step that has no LAN traffic. It takes some time, but does not download anything.

The above update creates files named GWX*.EXE, GWX.EXE being one of them. There are five such file names; I have a total of 27 such files:

  • 8 GWX.EXE
  • 4 GWXConfigManager.EXE
  • 4 GWXDetector.EXE
  • 4 GWXUXWorker.EXE

Since the above-mentioned update started failing, I no longer get on-screen prompts to do windows ten upgrade. The update itself defaults to not-checked when I go from Control Panel to Windows Update.

The third complaint is even crazier.

On the other desktop, the ‘line up for Windows 10’ was never clicked on. So this computer gets prompted to upgrade from time to time.
What’s annoying is, the prompt comes up in the correct shape and in the usual place, but is entirely blank white.
Moving the mouse to the top right corner (carefully) and clicking the pointer-finger, closes this white ghost.

Now for the dumb questions.

Why do I have so many files named GWX*.EXE?

Why does a specific Windows Update always fail? and why does it now defalt to ‘not’?

Why is the pop-up an empty ghost on the other desktop?

Is it fair for me to be annoyed with Microsoft?

Is it fair for me to assume that Microsoft is making staying on Win7 as tedious as possible?

Does anyone at Microsoft, to quote e.e.cummings, give a soft white damn?

Annoying ‘Support’ from WordPress

This is a technical rant. Maybe someone on the WordPress team will actually think about this complaint.

Your ‘improvements’ to hotlink-adding don’t help me; in fact they waste a lot of my time.


WordPress provides very nice support for this blog. I almost don’t need to know html. The single case, for several years, was making a forward hotlink into a specific spot on my own page. (‘Jump to this book.’) For this I need to know a bit of html.

For including hotlinks to outside web pages, the support was generous. Find the page, ctrl-c the URL, select the text to ‘be’ the hotlink, and click the paperclip icon. Up comes a dialogue which allows four things:

  1. Entering the URL. Generally by ctrl-v.
  2. Checking the box for ‘open in a new window’ option.
  3. Adding ‘mouseover’ text
  4. (never used by me) selecting from some historical search choices. Not clear what this is useful for.

Several updates back, the WordPress Support Team arranged it so, if you actually typed anything in to box 3. above, it replaced the text you selected to be the ‘blue’ hotlink. For example, if I wanted ‘here’ to be a hotlink, selected that, clicked the paperclip, and added (say) Star Article as mouseover text, instead of that becoming mouseover, it would replace the word ‘here’ with ‘Star Article.’ There was no way of inputting mouseover text anymore.

My bug report on this was closed, marked as a duplicate. So I waited for the older report to be fixed. And waited. Finally I tracked down the earlier bug report to discover that it had been closed, marked, ‘we did this on purpose.’

So, in this dialogue box, there is a slot to allow you to mess up your blog text. That you’re not supposed to use.
But wait, with a later ‘improvement’, this got better.

I found out how, in ‘text’ editing mode, to add mouseover text. Find the html that has the hotlink, and before the URL, add
“title=Star Article”
with one trailing space. Return to ‘visual’ editing and all is well.

This simple, but time-wasting, fix now is more complicated. And more time-wasting. Thanks to yet another ‘improvement.’

Once the paperclip has been clicked on, a new and smaller dialogue box comes up. It allows you to simply paste in a URL. However, if you want to ‘open in a new window’ you have to click on the gear icon.
Now you are back at the old dialogue, and will have to add in the mouseover text later, as before.
And, when this dialogue box closes, the ‘short form’ is still there and you Must Not click on the ‘X’ as this will delete all your hotlink input. You must click outside the new small box to close it.
Then you still have to add the mouseover text in ‘text’ editing mode.

To recap:

What once was one click on a paperclip, plus one paste, one check-box, and one text entry,

has become

one click on a paperclip, followed by
one click on a gear icon, followed by
one paste and one check-box entry, followed by
close the dialogue
carefully click outside the still-open mini-box, followed by
switch to text editing mode, followed by
scan down looking for the right spot in the html, followed by
type in title=”text of title”     followed by
switch to visual mode, followed by
check to see if the mouseover actually works.

Thanks. Thanks to you for the patience to read this far. Tell WordPress what you think, eh?

Variations on Justice

Sharia justice includes elements I cannot comprehend. (Please read to the end, eh?)

Maybe I misunderstand the historical context. If a nomadic tribe, where everyone knows everyone, has a serious criminal discovered in their midst, it is conceivable that:

  • everyone knows who did it
  • the truth of the crime is clear and uncomplicated
  • the survival of the group depends on deterrence

In this case, it is conceivable that group survival depends on extreme punishments: beheading, stoning, mutilation.

Maybe. But in a ‘modern’ ‘society’ we pride ourselves on doing things differently.

  • Some ‘enforcement’ agents have actively promoted torture
  • Some ‘enforcement’ agents actively induce crimes to be committed
  • Some ‘enforcement’ agencies arbitrarily blacklist individuals (infants on do-not-fly lists; Maher Arar sent, on false Canadian information, into torture in Syria)

The ‘big advantage’ we have in our so-called modern society is the judicial system and its prisons. Let’s have a closer look:
Our judicial system can take years (ask Mike McCormack about this) with inequitable results: serious charges dropped due to delay, while other suspects are held long-term while awaiting trial.
Certain forms of evidence, and certain sources of that evidence, are overly relied on with disastrous results. Look up ‘Motherisk‘ for an example.
Our prison system is rife with drug and other criminal activity, and our use of solitary confinement is gradually becoming recognized as a form of torture.

Our justice system includes elements I cannot comprehend.

Car Insurance: Ontario: the Companies win, again

Some time ago, Ontario drivers were promised a 15% decrease in car insurance. As I recall, this was accomplished by reducing the maximum injury compensation. The insurance companies’ profits soared, and premium reductions were trivial or negative.

Now we’re doing it again. We’re being told our insurance premiums can be reduced – but only if we accept merging of benefit categories (injury versus long-term care, for example.) This is, clearly, a reduction in coverage. Today’s Toronto Star article estimates that, to keep the same coverage as before, will cost the average car driver some $143 per year.

So, our latest reduction in-car insurance premiums is quite like the last one. It is actually an increase.

You can probably guess what the dumb questions are on this topic, but here goes anyway:

  1. Is the net effect of Ontario politician promises, and insurance company deliverables, a fine example of public mendaciousness?
  2. Could it be that insurance companies have a powerful lobby, and in fact control insurance premiums to ensure (sorry for the pun) large profits?
  3. Are we stupid? to allow our politicians to sell us this pile of dogpatch?

Meanwhile, in Alberta, the largest property insurance loss, overall, is looming over the property insurance companies (most of which ensure drivers too, eh?) So for the final dumb question:

Does anyone out there believe that property (home, cottage) insurance rates will not rise dramatically in Ontario, as the insurers seek to recoup Alberta losses from the entire country of clients?