Amazon, this website, and freebies

Amazon recently added a feature to their Kindle book market.

If you were looking at a book, one of mine, say, and clicked on the book to get more information, at the right you might see this:


If you click on this, you’ll get a choice:

  • get a link
  • embed on your site

The link provides the same screens as “peek inside” on the page. So I could add this to a web page. You, the reader, could jump directly to the book and peek inside.

I may actually add this to my website, as a second choice. See the next option.

The embed provides something much more interesting: html. If I put this html on my website, it displays the cover of the relevant book. If you click correctly, it will use enough screen space to avoid awkward line breaks. You can read a portion of my book. If you click on the right spot, you can be ‘in’ Amazon Kindle and purchase the Kindle version right there.
Beautiful, you say, and I agree. But there is a catch.

The display of my book includes over forty pages of poetry. In a book of roughly sixty poems, that’s a lot of the store given away.
For this reason, I’ve chosen not to implement this option.

I have tried to let Amazon know that this is an issue for me, and will be an issue for all authors of relatively short books. A child’s picture book would be given away entirely. Many small book authors will feel, as I do, that the giveaway is excessive.

Now for the question, which for once will (imho) not be a dumb one.

Does anyone know how to reach the intersection of

Marketing at Amazon, and
Website Maintenance at Amazon

to get such an issue even listened to?

I think my question will go into a marketing bean counter’s inbasket and get filed in what we used to call ‘drawer thirteen’.

Ontario Insurance – what (or who) gives?

A few years ago, Ontario drivers (where car insurance is mandatory) were promised a fifteen percent reduction in premiums.

Premiums were already too high, and a reduction was in order; however, Our Government decided to give back to the auto insurance industry. They were allowed to greatly reduce payouts for medical expenses. In short, grievous injury got dis-insured.

Insurance premiums went in all directions; some went up immediately. Some went down slightly. Payout costs plummeted. Insurance industry profits soared even higher.

Now we’re doing it again. Ontario home insurance is about to drop, supposedly significantly. What’s really happening is, coverage is being split into new categories, and the insured has to pay more for the same or extra coverage.

A similar tweak is in the works for Ontario auto insurance. Again, it is being promoted as a cost reduction to drivers, but it is in fact a cost increase if the client chooses to maintain the same coverage.

Again, the auto insurance industry wins, and the home insurance industry is getting on board. (In my case, it is the same agent (very good) and the same company (pretty good in a claim).)
What bothers me here is, the profits of the insurance industry keep rising, and we citizens keep complaining that we’re paying too much. Those profits prove we are right.

Now for the dumb questions. They are directed at this post’s Person of Interest, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne:

  • Are you pleased with the effects of previous ‘insurance premium reductions’ that were not reductions?
  • Are you pleased with the current insurance policy changes?
  • Do your constituents pay too much for both home and auto insurance?
  • Have you, in effect, said as much publicly?
  • Is the insurance industry making record profits, year after year, in a country with negligible GDP growth, negligible job growth, and negligible wage growth?
  • Is this fair?

and finally,

  • Are you able to make any real changes to insurance premiums in Ontario?
  • Will you even try? Or will it merely be promises, like those in the past?

Have a nice day. I voted for you once.

Telephone Scams – a brief reminder

Most of you are aware of telephone scams and will avoid them. For the few who have not heard of these, this is your fair warning.

Scam number one. (We’ve received a lot of complaints about your computer.)

One way or another, the caller gets you to run assoc in a command prompt, or something similar. What appears is a Lot of weird gibberish. Your caller will claim that your PC has been generating complaints; that they have sent you messages and you haven’t responded, and that the output from the assoc command proves they have identified your unique PC and know what they are talking about. They will read for you part of the following text, generally starting after the opening curly bracket.


If you google that part of the line above, you’ll find that this scam has been going on since 2011 at least. You’ll also learn that what the line actually does, is tell your machine’s Windows File Explorer how to send a file to a compressed (zipped) folder.

The CLSID part is identical on my Win7 and WinXP machines. It is not unique to your machine. Every Windows computer has this identical entry.

Under this con, you might believe your machine is indeed exactly the one they are getting complaints about. You might, under their kind guidance, log on to a website like
which now opens with a warning. Otherwise you might enter the information your phone caller gives you, and thus allow them complete access to your computer.

While ‘fixing’ your error situation, they will compromise you in some way. Perhaps encrypt your entire hard drive. Then you pay them to fix these problems.

Scam number two. You’re about to be arrested for taxes owing.

Your caller is a recording. A name and phone number are given. You’ve run out of time, and unless you settle federal taxes owing asap, you’re going to be arrested. Call this number now.

Generally they accept payment in a wide variety of ways. One of them involved the victim buying and transferring bookstore gift cards. Other transfer methods have been used; apparently some of the time these can be traced back to the recipient.

Your federal government (on either side of the 49th parallel) will not phone you like this. They will not threaten you like this. I know; I had the pleasure of having mis-directed CRA attention arrive at my door. It was a pain, but nobody demanded money while threatening legal action and jail.

Scam number N. There are others. Be careful. Don’t give out anything to an unsolicited caller.

On Toronto Transit

I’m not sure if the ‘person of interest’ here should be our mayor, John Tory, or our TTC CEO, Andy Byford.

In today’s Toronto Star, our mayor invented a new reason for the one-stop Scarborough subway: it will be better for underprivileged riders.

The fact that it will not be better than the seven-stop LRT has been conveniently ignored. There will be ‘more studies’ to verify or deny this subway-supporting claim by John Tory.

I think it’s bafflegab.
Worse than that, I think it’s a sad progression of John Tory toward the styles of Rob Ford and Donald Trump: say anything.
I apologize to Rob Ford as he can no longer defend himself. Rob was exceptionally effective as a councillor – agitating for what he wanted. Those skills did not serve him so well as mayor. He did, often, get what he wanted.

John Tory will probably get what he wants, too. Like Donald Trump, he can change on a dime and use a new approach to attack what he perceives as being in the way of his vision.

What John Tory really wants is, imho, for everyone to like him. Difficult decisions are not his forte. Taken decisions, conversely, must be defended. (Changing a decision takes real guts and can be unpopular.)

What John Tory really does, imho, is like Trump: sound bites. Like Subways, Subways, Subways, we have SmarTrack, SmartTrack, SmartTrack. And, Scarborough deserves a subway.

Everyone who has followed the Toronto transit debate probably realizes that:

  • The fully-province funded Scarborough light rail was the best solution
  • The fully-province funded Scarborough light rail was the cheapest solution
  • The fully-province funded Scarborough light rail served the most disadvantaged well


  • The first Scarborough subway proposal was pandering to save (only one?) a Liberal provincial seat in a by-election
  • Even a one-stop subway will cost north of three billion dollars
  • We get to pay for it


  • John Tory will come up with a new ‘reason’ justifying this subway to Scarborough until hell freezes over, or the subway is built
  • We taxpayers will fund this monstrosity
  • Development and riders will not automatically appear: look at the Sheppard Stubway, which cost a billion dollars and now runs special short trains
  • Every rider on the Scarborough subway will cost us something like $18.00 per trip in subsidies, forever


  • The same genius team lobbied for, and got, the UPX train, which loses money every day. To increase ridership, fares were slashed to increase the daily cash loss
  • Toronto citizens do not have an effective leadership team with real brains in their heads driving their speeches and (in)actions.

That’s a pretty snarky criticism of John Tory, SmartTrack, and much of our City Council. How did Andy Byford, TTC CEO, get included in this rant?

Byford has been the voice of reason. Byford has apologized for mistakes. Byford has fixed things. Byford has been shafted by Bombardier (streetcars that don’t meet specs, are late, etc etc.) and improvised.
Byford is a genius at running the TTC.


Andy Byford is onside at not re-opening the Scarborough light rail option for discussion. An option which the province of Ontario recently confirmed it will still pay for.

Now it’s time for the dumb questions.

Do we get the mayor we deserve?

Is Andy Byford’s new position on Scarborough light rail a mis-step?

Do you know this author?

I do Kindle Book Reviews.
I receive an eMail request, .mobi file attached, subject Kindle Book Review.

I respond indicating some facts (tough reviewer, probable wait time) and see what comes back.
Usually, the wait duration is ok; then (almost always) I understand the work well enough to review it. I generally post the review on Amazon and perhaps elsewhere, as requested.

Now I need some help from you:

Do you know this author? I need a contact point in order to respond as above.

Nisha Singh    author of       Rain and Other Mellow Things

My searches turn up too many hits. I need someone to give me a contact method for this author.

Please advise. Reply to this post; the website will send me a notification.

Thanks in advance.

Brexit: some dumb questions

This could be a momentous day many of us will later remember – perhaps as big as the crash of 2008 or 9-11.
Or else not.

There is a lot of panic as to what will happen in markets. Currency traders are moving about like tasered boa constrictors, not sure what to grab ahold of for the next meal after recoiling.

I think it’s time we all thought about money, markets, trade, and profits in a clear and sensible manner.

Money can ‘come out of the sky.’ Governments can print it. However, value canNot come out of thin air, and freely printed money is generally devalued – its existence inflates the prices of all things that money can purchase.
That American and European Central Bank ‘quantitative easing,’ where one agency prints money and buys bonds from another, and that manoeuvre has not created inflation, is one of the conundrums of today’s world of finance.

Money can ‘disappear into thin air.’ Governments can literally collect and destroy cash and equivalent paper. Generally this causes prices to fall, as less money is chasing the same goods.

If that were all we had to worry about, there’d not be much to it. So the UK decides to treat the EU somewhat differently. An Audi car still has the same relative value as a diamond ring or a Swiss cheese or a British pub pot pie. No reason for panic here, eh?

The problem is ‘con-fidence,’ and I use that term in a pun-ishing sense.

Most of the money you and I (and governments and corporations) actually earn, spend, invest, save, et cetera, is not real money. It is an accounting fiction, created in an electronic record in a bank. To give a really dumb example of this, consider myself foolishly lending my Bank a hundred dollars. I’m getting less than one percent per annum on this deal. The Bank, however, due to its ‘reserve ratio,’ can lend that money perhaps a dozen times (when I went to Economics 101; it’s much higher now) and earn a lot more than a mere percent on each of those times.
So my ‘saved’ hundred dollars becomes a spendable thousand or more.

Businesses (and governments and central banks and rich individuals) similarly create non-paper money by swishing magic wands that create mortgage-backed securities, interest rate swaps, credit default somethings, trade finance loans, and much more.

Like my ten or dozen or more friends who are borrowing based on my hundred dollars (many of them using credit cards, or simply credit,) these large footprint actors run their world (and a lot of ours) on assets created as offsets to debts, all of which is electronic and only ‘real’ because everyone behaves as if it is. So long as everybody pays on time, and the system stays ‘liquid,’ all is well.

The crash of 2008 was largely a crisis of liquidity. Even a Bank has to have a ‘reserve ratio’ of ‘real’ money in case its electronic account holders actually ask for theirs. When the reserve ratio is a lot more than one, and a reasonable fraction of account holders (like me) ask for their money in hand, the system stalls.

Brexit is a potential confidence breaker. Traders know that confidence in world finance starts with ‘con:’ the assurance that all will be well and all notional funds can actually be produced as cash, so long as not too high a percentage of holders actually ask for it.

Brexit is a potential confidence breaker. If you live day-to-day with revolving loans, a small hiccup in your access to new credit could lead to business disaster.

Brexit is a potential confidence breaker. Currency exchange includes an element of risk. Normally, funds traders profit from the simpler minds of those who only exchange currency for purchases and sales of real assets.
It’s a bit like horse betting, or card-counting at BlackJack. If you’ve got lots of hands in the fire, and are informed enough to beat the odds faced by lesser mortals, you can make money exchanging currency.

Currency exchange is a big deal in international / trade finance. The EU managed to get most members onto the Euro, with a few holdouts like Britain. But even the EU countries must trade with the USA, China, Japan, … it’s a long list. So businesses need foreign exchange, and professional gamblers / traders supply them – for a fee, and often, with a view to making a profit on exchange rate moves.

So for large corporations, large financial institutions, and central banks, Brexit is a threat to the easy stability and predictable volatility of foreign exchange.
Thus we can expect many traders to sit out what might be an unpredictable storm of exchange rate shifts, coming in waves based on consumer, and their own, fluctuating sentiment.

I think post-Brexit trade agreements can be made. I think the final equilibrium will not be drastically different from before Brexit. I think other issues (migration, for example) will be settled easily enough.

I think the real wealth of countries will not change much.
However, the imaginary wealth created by bank accounts may change drastically.

A dumb example might explain this latter point.
In a fictional story, the anti-hero escapes wartime Italy with fabulous wealth hidden in his clothes and hand luggage. Unfortunately, in the USA, table salt (extremely valuable in wartime southern Italy) is worthless.
A man can become rich and poor holding the exact same assets.
What matters is, do those around think those assets are valuable, or not.

In conclusion,

panic is in the eye of the beholder. If the gurus and wizards of finance panic now, we’ll have another ‘adjustment.’
Those who created illusionary wealth might suffer. Or, watch for bailouts.
Citizens might find sudden goods or job shortages: can’t get potatoes in England; can’t sell tea to Germany.

Real value (whatever that means) will remain.

Now for the dumb questions:

  • Is much of ‘the money supply’ created by financial institutions as ‘deposits’ in the accounts of borrowers? (and in their credit card ceilings?)
  • Is one function of ‘global trade’ to move jobs and the means of production to the lowest bidder, least sustainable-practice enterprise, cheapest human rights jurisdiction?
  • Does all of this lubricate corporate profits at the expense of employment (pay and opportunity) in developed countries?
  • Will this be disrupted by Brexit?

and finally,

If there were no human costs to Brexit, would any of us mere live persons care?


John Tory, Person of Interest

Trying to follow Toronto’s current mayor is an exercise in confusion. Trying to understand SmartTrack is hard. I’m not good at making sense of either.

Here is just one article on Smart Track. There’s a lot of confusion here.

I’ll give some (potentially unfair, out-of-context) quotes. You should read the article for yourself, and possibly look at others – if you care about Toronto transit.

As always, emphasis mine.

But his much-ballyhooed project has shrunk significantly from the 22-station vision he put forward on the campaign trail, and critics say it’s become virtually identical to the province’s pre-existing Regional Express Rail initiative.

The six new stations are fewer than half of the 13 new stops Tory had proposed, and the 15 total stops now being contemplated for SmartTrack are fewer than the 22 he pitched during the campaign.

But Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale High Park) charged that “we’re not getting anything close to what the mayor committed to.” Perks said Tory’s SmartTrack promises “change day to day and they never add up . . . The fact of the matter is that the proposal that was made during the election campaign said: using existing rails, 22 stops.”

I could add more, but interested readers will simply click on the hotlink earlier.

Now for the dumb questions. These are not necessarily polite or nice.

  • Can anyone name a significant promise kept by our mayor in regard to Toronto transit?
  • Can anyone name a significant decision taken and implemented by our Toronto mayor?
  • Is ‘SmartTrack’ the Tory equivalent of ‘Subways, Subways, Subways?’

And finally,

Is it conceivable that our political elite, including our Mayor, John Tory, will ever have the guts to replace the Scarborough Subway (Subway, Subway) with the light rail the province agreed to pay for, even if it’s not a SmartTrack?
Is it conceivable that our Mayor would lead such a charge to rationality?
Is it possible for our Mayor to make a sound, numbers-justified, ridership-tested, Scarborough transit decision?

Or is it all about provincial seats, and influential councillors, in Scarborough?

Comments? the usual rules apply.

Mark Saunders, Person of Interest

Mark Saunders ‘expressed regret‘ over some roughly-done police raids of bath houses. This happened some thirty-five years ago.
Observers don’t think this is much of an apology. The word ‘sorry’ is, er, absent.

Many were arrested, most later dismissed.

This reminds me of the infamous Toronto G20 policing incidents. A crowd was kettled in the rain for over three hours, a kilometre away from the seven-metre fence defending the G20 summit. Peaceful protesters in a designated protest area, also far from the actual summit, were ridden into / over by officers on horseback. Police removed their name tags, and all supervisors had amnesia over which officers were involved in beating of several demonstrators, including Adam Nobody.

And then, finally, (thanks to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star: a picture of an identifiable officer’s face relating to the ‘Nobody’ assault) one officer was charged and convicted. Of assault with a weapon.
Sort of. Here are some of the background facts.

It is worth noting that a second judge removed the jail time. At last notice, the officer was still being paid.

I bring these two incidents together to ask several questions:

  • Has police practice changed much in thirty-five years? Crash raids on bath houses, kettling and mass arrests and assault far from defensive fences?
  • Has police accountability changed much in thirty-five years? No officers charged in the past, I’m pretty sure; one convicted and then un-convicted today?
  • Will some future Toronto police chief, without saying ‘sorry,’ apologize for the G20 roughhousing of innocent citizens?
  • Will we have to wait for thirty-five years?
  • Are police apologies only to be expected when the apologizer is unconnected to the relevant events?

and finally,

Will the present Toronto police chief, or the present president of the police union, or the police chief at the time of the G20, or the police union president at the time of the G20: will any of these individuals have the guts and decency to apologize to all of Toronto for the treatment of citizens at that event?

That was the dumb question. Asking for the word ‘sorry’ would be even dumber.


Deb Matthews, Person of Interest

This may seem like an unkind post, but I think it is warranted.

When Ontario Health Minister, Matthews presided over the ORNGE debacle. She did not seem to probe what was really going on there, when Mazza apparently designed and ordered helicopters that do not support CPR while in transit (insufficient head room).

Here is an historical article on the ORNGE probe from the Toronto Star. I’ll give a small quote; go read the actual page for more.

For the last four months, an all-party provincial probe has heard of CEO Dr. Chris Mazza’s reign at ORNGE including the promotion of his water-ski instructor girlfriend to associate vice-president, of a Porsche-driving board chair who pocketed $200,000 in compensation, of a senior employee with drug problems and another who was told to fake an MBA because it would impress investors.

Then there were the dreams and schemes of now-defunct ORNGE spinoff companies, lavish business trips, a $6.7-million marketing services agreement that is being investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police, and a $275-million “bond issue” to pay for a fleet of helicopters and office space.

Throw in a speedboat, a law firm that billed 22,000 hours and a couple of customized orange motorcycles and you’ve got the latest scandal of an agency that seemed to fly off the government’s radar.

Matthews is expected to face hard questions from the opposition-dominated public accounts committee about what she knew and when she knew it.

PC MPP Frank Klees wants Matthews to admit she failed both to live up to her responsibilities and to use the “authority she clearly had as minister to put an end to this abuse.”

OK, so Deb Matthews had a bad outcome as Health Minister. Let’s move forward.

In 2013 Matthews was involved in the handling of a sexual harassment incident. When this became news in May 2016, Matthews told us that it had all been managed very well. Here’s one article. I’ll give a small quote; emphasis mine.

TORONTO – Just take the Liberal government’s word for it.

That’s what Deputy Premier Deb Matthews said Tuesday when asked how Ontario’s Liberals can prove they looked into allegations of sexual harassment against a former caucus member.

Matthews wouldn’t say if the government would release a report penned by a third-party investigator or discuss the allegations against former Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor.

There’s a lot more in the referenced page; go read it for yourself.

OK, so Deb Mathews backed up the Premier of Ontario in a controversial, with withheld reports, incident. Let’s move on again.

Deb Matthews is now Deputy Premier of Ontario – the second most powerful provincial politician. She is also in charge of managing all government spending. That makes this next piece of news a bit discomfiting. Again, emphasis mine.

TORONTO — Ontario’s deputy premier says she “certainly didn’t know” about a reported $65-million reserve fund the public high school teachers’ union had when the government agreed to pay them $1 million for negotiating costs.

Deb Matthews, who is also head of the department that manages all government spending, wouldn’t say if the government as a whole or the bargaining team knew about it before they agreed to the payout.

Even better, this quote:

The Liberal government has defended $3.74 million in payments to several unions over the past three rounds of contract talks as necessary because the transition to a new bargaining system made the process quite lengthy.

Meanwhile, a tentative agreement that Ontario reached with elementary teachers may have ended their work-to-rule campaign, but it still won’t be mandatory for them to do parent-teacher interviews.

Questioning these points in order:

  • How could the Minister of Health not have a clue about a lot of money going in very strange directions at ORNGE?
  • Is a qualification for Deputy Premier being able to keep a straight face while saying, in effect, ‘trust us,’ and, ‘I don’t know if we’ll give you the report?’
  • Do we expect the Deputy Premier to understand that a union, whose ‘negotiating costs’ are being defrayed with taxpayer dollars, that that union had lots of cash on hand?
  • Is this a fine negotiating result: parent-teacher interviews are at the discretion of the teacher?

Those are rational questions. Now for some dumb ones:

  • Why does Deb Matthews keep getting senior appointments in the Provincial government?
  • Why does Deb Matthews never seem to have any problem ‘stick’ to her?
  • Are Ontario voters, and taxpayers, all dumb sheep?

Comments? The usual rules apply.