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Merry Chrishanukwandiwaleid

red bow and white lights against the door

Chrishanukwandiwaleid is defined as the inclusive holiday season encompassing Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali and Eid.

Have a Merry one!

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gift card vs. cool gift

Doing some last minute Chrishanukwandiwaleid shopping today, my friend was telling me why she hates gift cards. If you’re going to give a gift, she said, give an appropriate gift. If you want to give a gift of money, give real money, not a gift card.

When you give a gift card, you are forcing the recipient to shop in a specific store. Maybe they can’t find anything they want there. Maybe it will be a hardship for them to get to that store. How many kilometers away is it? Is it accessible by transit?

When your recipient finds something in it they want to buy, if it costs less than the amount on the card, they might be left with a card that has sixteen cents left on it. Or if they buy something that costs more, they have to give additional funds to the store.

Who does a gift card benefit, anyway?

I’m wondering how many gift cards never get used. Even if each card is left with a few cents unspent, the store benefits. In essence, the gift card is more of a gift to the seller.

One of my favorite stores is a shop called Green Earth, which can be found in Conestoga Mall in the southern Ontario town of Waterloo.

looking at the storefront in the mall

It’s part of a chain, so you might find one in the mall nearest you, too 🙂

pegboard wall of masks

Find everything from masks…

faerie perched on the edge of a shelf

… to faeries …

a shelf fulh

… little piggies …

Buddha sculpture

… garden gurus …

a Woman is like a tea bag ... you never know how strongshe is until you put her in hot water

… pithy sayings …

Close up of a stuffed tiger's face

… and furry friends.

text reads: what good can come from a day ... that starts with getting up

Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with Green Earth except as a customer.  Green Earth is a great store full of fun and off the beaten path gifts. Chances are you’ll find just the thing for that hard-to-find-the-right-thing-for person on your list. Whatever you need to get for Chrishanukwandiwaleid

Sculptures of hands holding uo two fingers to form the peace  or victory symbol

Tell you what, if you decide it is cooler to buy a fabulous gift rather than a boring old gift card, drop round Green Earth this week.

When you do, make sure to tell them you read about it here in Lothlaurien’s Lore 🙂

Be Safe Online

hackers or crackers

First, I’m sick of people blaming “hackers” for online security breaches. Hollywood may think that “hackers” are the people breaking online security, but I know too many computer peeps who call themselves hackers, and say a “hack” is a creative solution, not a criminal activity. They call the badguys “crackers.”

Crackers maliciously “crack” open your security, sometimes for fun, the way vandals find vandalism fun, but more often for profit. This is a large part of identity theft; this is the growth are of the crime world.

safe or not

Too often the websites and institutions that are supposed to be keeping us safe online are just making it look safe.

Debit/Credit Cards
: I am so tired of the new “chip cards” that are being foisted on us. Supposedly they are supposed to bring increased security. I haven’t figured out how, exactly. What it does is make the transaction take longer. I have to leave the card in until it is finished. A merchant told me that increases the incidence of forgotten cards. This new technology costs the merchants more (in effect costing us more, too) but does it actually improve our security? Don’t think so.

the appearance of security?

The Internet has happened so fast, most of us don’t understand it. But we need to start taking responsibility for our own security.

After people find themselves victimized by a breach of an email account or a highjacking of a domain name, they start thinking about security. The first thing we look at is the password. Suddenly we think this isn’t enough.

That’s why banks and sites have started adding “security questions.” Not to make us more safe, but to make us feel more safe.

passwords

I’ve heard it said that a username and password is fine if the password is good, and if you keep it secure.

But if your password is “password” or anything:

  1. easily guessable (your birthdate, middle name, dog’s name, etc.) or
  2. simple enough that password cracking software can breach it
  3. a password you use in more than one place
  4. a password stored “in the cloud”

then you are playing with fire.

Any public information is insecure. One thing that would help enormously with online security would be if we were to stop giving out personally identifiable information everywhere we go.

Lie

When I walk into WalMart, I don’t have to show the greeter ID, or tell them where I live. If they asked that, customers would turn around and walk out.

So why should I have to tell a website I visit my name and post code? None of their business. But if they ask, it usually means you can’t get into the site without giving the information. Rule of thumb: if they don’t have the right to ask for the information in real life, they don’t have the right online.

If you buy something from the site, obviously you need to give them the real info. But if you are just shopping, or doing price comparisons, it is none of their business who you are or where you live. The only thing to do is lie.

Find a post code located far away, tell them a made up name. If you’re feeling really adventurous, change your age or your gender. There are also places where you can get disposable email addresses if you need to validate. Like Mailinator.com

The more people with access to your personal information means there is more chance that your personal security will be breached.

public = anyone can find out

Once you have given it out, used it anywhere, online, EVER, it is not secure. Online anonymity is only as anonymous as you make it. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says in most cases all it takes is three personally identifiable pieces of information to find you.

questioning the questions

Adding a “second layer” doesn’t help when the question is “mother’s maiden name” or “elementary school” as the question. Seems to me those “security questions” are rubbish, only giving the appearance of security. When the answer to “security” questions are publicly identifiable information, you end up using public personally identifiable information which identity thieves can use to crack your account.   #FAIL

You can get around this by answering a different question, so the question and answer no longer make sense. Mother’s Maiden Name: Pepperoni Pizza … but then you have to keep track of the question and answer, too, so instead of keeping one password per site you have to keep track of username, password, question, answer and perhaps another question and answer. So now instead of one reasonably secure password, you need a book or file to keep track of it all. This makes it much easier for the bad guys to grab hold of this. So this “security” nonsense can end up being even less secure.

Funny story: I forgot my bank question thing, but was able to get online access back, over the phone, by telling them my mother’s maiden name. This is my BANK. You know, the ones pushing the chip cards.   #FAIL

real security

Better security can be achieved by keeping out malware. Start with a trusted virus protection program. AVG is good. Check for spyware periodically too.

Don’t open suspect email. If anyone you know has had their identity stolen or sitejacked, don’t open email from their old account. Don’t open attachments. Or apps.

I use the Firefox Browser. Before I click a link on a webpage I am new to, I can hover over it with the curser arrow, and the link’s URL appears in the lower right corner of my screen. This way I can see that the link will take me where the site says it will take me.

One of the ways malware find itself onto people’s computers is through security holes in FLASH which allows crackers entry to *your* computer when you upgrade (don’t do it!) or, my personal favorite: javascript.

I use NoScript because when you allow javascript free reign on your computer, you run the risk allowing executable code on your computer. This means that the java script can have a trojan horse in it, it can start a program to do all kinds of things to your computer. Nowadays they don’t usually turn your computer into a brick, at least right away. Usually they will suck information on your family and friends or record your keystrokes and so find your passwords. Malware, viruses etc.

When I come across a website that is broken without forcing me to load Flash, or worse, that has been javascrippled, I leave. The security risks are simply too high.

passwords

Just so you know: if you use your mother’s maiden name as your password, it doesn’t take a cracker to crack it. The seven year old two doors down the block could likely manage it for a laugh.

Internet bad guys just use a different set of tools. Think of your email password as the lock to your front door. Who would you share the combination with?

If you give the combo to the builders, after they’ve done the job, it is time to change it. The beauty of passwords is that they are much easier to change than physical locks are.

When in doubt, change it.

Keep it secret. Keep it safe.

Waterloo Region Festivals and Such

Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema - November 17-20 2011, The Chrysalids Theatre, Kitcheneer, Ontario - www DOT wfac DOT caPoster illustration by Andrew Kolb

november

The 11th annual Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema is on now, running until November 20th at Kitchener’s Chrysalids Theatre located at 137 Ontario Street North. Founded in 2001 to promote, review and celebrate feature length animated films, being the only annual festival for animated films intended for adult audiences in the world.


coming in december

[Last I heard there were a couple of spots left for vendors at both these shows, but space is available on a first-come-first-served basis.  If they’re all gone now, don’t blame me!]

December 3rd is the Forgotten Artists Market Christmas Shop, a showcase for the work of local authors, musicians and amateur photographers; You’ll find Books/e-books, CDs, home decor; author readings, musical performances, and refreshments. Admission is free to the event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m at Emmanuel United Church, located at 22 Bridgeport Rd. W., Waterloo; 519-880-8533 The show is organized by The Writer’s Path

A little later into the month is The G33K Art Show featuring the work of sci-fi, fantasy, animation, alternative and many other unique artists and craftsmen will be held December 17 – 18th, 2011. Admission is free to the show, which is being held at the Kaufman Arts Studio, 132 Queen Street South, Kitchener.

Found Art?

Art truly is everywhere. Sometimes in the most unexpected places.

Cam Winston's back window dust mural features Dracula, Frankenstein and

Cam Winston very carefully removes dirt from car windows and leaves dust murals behind. It’s kind of ant-painting, because instead of adding layers of paint, this artist uses his brushes to remove layers of dust. You can see more of Cam’s work at Cool Things and Dirty Car Art

metavariable‘s photograph of Car dirt art is used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Sharealike license.

Secret Ballot

ART: Yellow background, green foreground; Modern take on an old style telephone, near the elevator at the Hotel Palomar in San Francisco

When I answer the phone and hear that the caller is a Bot (electronic robot), I usually hang up. But this isn’t normal life right now, it’s election time in Ontario.

There is legislation in place to protect citizens from automated telemarketing calls and spam, but political parties are exempt. (Funny how that works.)

So far, my house has received four – count them – FOUR – automated calls from the Conservative Party.

[And none from any other party.]

Yesterday I was called by the Conservative Party Phone Poll Bot. It wanted me to tell it who I would vote for, and it ran through the list of parties, expecting me to push the corresponding number of the party I support. I didn’t.

In these days of identity theft, when we are hounded by telemarketers, as we drift on oceans of spam, I don’t give information to live human beings on the phone, and certainly not to a bot.

The automated Conservative Poll didn’t allow me to choose “None of the above” or “none of your business.” So I didn’t push any buttons. But then the phone bot thanked me for participating and disconnected.

So what did it count my abstention as?

An Ottawa Sun story cites an Abacus Data poll alleging the Conservatives have 41% of decided voters, the Liberals at 32% and the NDP 20%.

This poll was answered by just over a thousand people, which sounds like a lot until you consider Ontario’s population exceeds thirteen million. That is a TINY sample.

Through a chain link fence in an East End Toronto waterfront  parkinglot

I Hate Polls

One reason I hate polls is that they can be skewed to prove almost anything. If polls told the absolute truth, why would we need to bother with the inconvenience or expense of elections?

Another thing no one ever even talks about is the fact that anyone can lie to a pollster.

Some say that poll results fluctuate depending on when they are held. On September 14th The Mark did an article about the results of two polls from the same day. The poll trumpeted by the Toronto Sun boasted the PC party has “a nine-point lead over the Liberals” while the Toronto Star proclaimed “the PCs are polling in third place in Toronto, well behind the Liberals and NDP.”

Depending on who you ask as well as what you ask, a good pollster can get the exact results they want. Polls could be used to obtain valuable feedback, but they are seem to be used as a marketing tool.

Used in this way, propaganda polls do a great deal of damage to what passes for democracy in Canada. Many people hear the majority is going to vote for this party or that, and they change the way they vote.

strategic voting

Canada needs electoral reform so bad that most of us who haven’t given up on voting altogether spend most of our energy trying to figure out how to beat the system. We get pelted with political ads and told how we should strategically vote to get sort of what we want. Strategic voting is the order of the day in the vain hope that our votes might actually count for something.

Many Canadians have been convinced if we vote “strategically” (i.e., not for the candidate we want to elect) there is a better chance to stave off the other party’s bogeyman. But, of course, in a first past the post system, we will never get what we want if we don’t vote for it.

Privacy

As bad as our electoral system is, one of the few protections we have is a secret ballot.

In a first-past-the-post system, even when we get a so-called majority government, only a fraction of the citizens actually voted for that government. (Canada’s current federal “majority government” received votes from only about a quarter of eligible voters.) The theory is that once elected, all Canadians are supposed to be represented by that government. However in a 2001 scandal Canadians were faced with the fact that is not actually the case. A legally blind 81-year-old Canadian WWII Veteran named Jim Baxter appealed to Liberal MP Tom Wappel for help in getting the veteran’s benefits to which he was entitled. This is the basic assistance due to any constituent, but MP Tom Wappel sent Mr. Baxter a nasty letter instead.

“According to my records, you were a past supporter of mine, yet it seems that in this past election you supported the Canadian Alliance. How is that you are writing me for help if you did not think enough of my abilities to justify voting for me?”

~ MP Tom Wappel, CTV: MP who scolded blind war veteran relents

This is precisely why we have a SECRET ballot.

Anyone naive enough to tell a political party who they will vote for could well suffer the consequences.

Who we vote for is secret, as a democratic protection.  It protects us from them.

balancing act

The government is big and powerful, citizens are small and weak. The government’s vast powers range from deprivation of liberty to denial of assistance. We lowly citizens have but a single super power: we can vote.

A secret ballot ensures that we do not suffer repercussions for voting “the wrong way.”

We are under absolutely no obligation to tell a polling company, a political party, or even our mother who we will vote for. Just asking us is an invasion of privacy.

X is the symbol for Elections Ontario

Think how much cheaper the election process would be if we dispensed with the secret ballot nonsense. Instead of going behind the cardboard barrier to mark our “x” we could just tell the official who we’re voting for. Of course, if you want to vote Conservative and your boss supports the NDP and she’s standing in line behind you, well, you might find yourself looking for work. Or if you support the Ontario Socialist Party and your doctor is a Liberal your treatment just might not be the same. Or if you are a small business owner, and you vote against the party that sweeps into power, you might just find yourself being audited. Over and over again.

Funny. I was just called by the Liberal Party.

At least it was a real human being. But nonetheless, he wanted to know who we would support if an election were called today. When I told him we never give out personal information over the phone he promised that if I answered the question, he could mark my answer “not disclosed.”

The letter  “ X ”

I had to insist that who I will vote for is none of his party’s business. He still didn’t get it.

So I asked him if he’d heard of the infamous Tom Wappel. He hadn’t, of course.  But then if he had, would he have admitted it to me? By the end of the conversation, I still don’t think he understood why it is even a problem. But it is.

They act as though they have a right to know.   They don’t.

It is none of their business.

Because it’s our secret.

[Telephone photo art by Trace Meek, and licensed for reuse with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License

Driving Photography

I’ve been playing around with taking photographs when driving.

Of course, only when I’m a passenger.

the sun is setting behind three hydro towers at the side of the road.

I expect taking photos while driving the car would be even more dangerous than driving while on the cell phone 🙂

Sunset photographed from a moving car

The twin advantages digital photography has over film is that you can see immediately if what you’re doing is working…

Zooming past a tree with the sun behind

…and you can take zillions of photos until you get what you want.

Sun sets behind a bare tree and a highway traffic sign frame

I’ve been known to shoot a few thousand pictures on a two hour drive. So I thought I’d share a few.

Sometimes you capture the most extraordinary images:

an aerial view of the traffic and pedestrians in my wake reflected in the glass of the new addition to the ROM.

Or stumble on a serendipitous moment:

the biplane dives past a highway light standard headed for the trees

close n the biplane diving for the trees

A red biplane marked "Lucas" trails smoke in a deep dive

And sometimes even ordinary scenes can appear extraordinary…

rainy street at night; the traffic lights reflect on the road and in the raidrops on the windshield

… or provide a new way of looking at things.

looking at the following traffic reflected in the side view mirror

I love it when I catch a glimpse of art

A mural adorns the side of a corner building in Chinatown (cc by lothlaurien.ca)

or even architecture.

disgorging traffic on the last day of the Canadian National Exhibition

There is always something.

this pgoto of the CN Tower dome has been enhanced and filtered to make it brighter

Because art is all around.

city scape of Toronto at night


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lothlaurien's lore by lothlaurien.ca is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada License. images created by lothlaurien.ca unless otherwise specified are also covered under this cc-by license. Note: Images reproduced from other sources retain their originating copyright.

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