Another phone scam

Today, within the span of five minutes, I received two phone calls – one on my cell, from the Ottawa area code – and one on my landline from a toll-free number.

Both calls had the same message – they had detected “fraudulent activity” involving my Social Insurance Number and threatening me with arrest and prosecution. Both calls are scams, designed to get you to give up personal information starting with your SIN number.

From the website for Employment and Social Services Canada, a government agency:

Jun 28, 2019 – The Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a 9 digit number that you need to work in Canada or to have access to government programs and benefits. A SIN is issued to one person only and it cannot legally be used by anyone else. You are responsible for protecting your SIN.

The only time you would use this number is when dealing with federal government departments, or when you get a new job. Even then, the employer doesn’t need it until you are hired.

If you get one of these calls, know they are looking for your information, probably in order to set up false identities, which could leave you, the actual holder of the card, is serious debt or trouble. My suggestion is hang up, or if you’ve let an unknown number go to voicemail, delete it.

Cat.

I’m insulted

While trying to post the previous blog, I checked comments waiting for approval and found three. All were on different blogs and came from different ip addresses. The text was the same in all three: This blog O Canada what have you done? has helped me a
lot with my dog. Also, I used this training course (site name deleted) and now my dog follows everything I ask.
Kiss you All!

If you’ve been a long-time reader, you know I didn’t like the Stephen Harper government so that I railed against them yet again would be no surprise. This particular instance the actions of that government struck me as especially high-handed. Until this bill was passed, in order to strip someone of their Canadian citizenship, it was necessary to go through the courts. The Act in question changed it so the decision would be made not by the courts, but by the Minister responsible for Citizenship and Immigration. Naturally I was – and still am- opposed to such a star chamber approach and voiced my opinion.

There is nothing in that blog that would lend itself to training a dog unless, to get silly for a moment, the training goes something like “You will obey me or I will strip your identity as a Great Dane and make you a pug instead”. We had Samoyeds and a book we read on training Samis stated “figure out what the dog wants to do, tell him to do it, then praise him when he does.”

Obviously, these three comments were sent by bots using key words in the three blogs in question to generate the message, but I’m still insulted.

Remember to hug an artist, we need love (and fewer insults) too.

Cat.

Meandering through my memories

I’ll be 76 this year and while I’m still fascinated by what the future may hold in store for me, every so often, I reflect on some of the things I’ve seen over the span of my life.

When I was born, Canada consisted of nine provinces and two territories. In 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador ceased being a British territory and joined Confederation as Canada’s tenth province. So that means the last Father of Confederation, Joey Smallwood, was alive during my lifetime. Fun fact: The call letters of every radio and television station in Canada start with the letter “C” except one. St. John’s Newfoundland station VOCM was in existence before Confederation and they kept their call letters. Today, Canada consists of ten provinces and three territories, the Northwest Territories having been split and the eastern portion is now called Nunavut. I remember the great debate over choosing Canada’s now familiar maple leaf flag. I also remember I was opposed to it at first for I had served in the military under the red ensign, but I now embrace it fully. I remember Expo ‘67, the world’s fair held in Montreal during Canada’s centennial year and the excitement throughout the country at the time. I remember the dark days of the October Crisis, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (Justin’s father) invoked the War Measures Act to put an end to the bombings and kidnappings. British diplomat James Cross and Quebec’s Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte were kidnapped. Mr Cross was later released, but M Laporte was murdered. Eventually most of the FLQ members involved were arrested and served time. I remember when Canada had a female Prime Minister – Kim Campbell. Her government didn’t last long, being brought down on a non-confidence motion.

Internationally, I remember hearing and watching much from news reports. The conquest of Everest (I’ve always had one question about that: if Hillary and Tensing were the first people to climb to the summit, how did the Sherpa guides know the safest path up unless they’d done it before?; the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second. One memory I have of that is the nuns telling us we couldn’t sing “God Save the King” any longer and spending a good hour getting us to properly sing “God Save the Queen”. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was on leave from the army when that got serious and expected to be recalled every time the telephone rang. I remember the Kennedy Assassination and where I was (sitting at my desk at work in Toronto). The rise and later fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Soviet-style Communism. Man landing on the moon. I remember that when Armstrong took that small step for man, I was sitting in my car in an A&W in Scarborough Ontario.

This is but a small glimpse into my memories. I have more obviously, but won’t go into them. And, as I said back at the beginning, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. We do live in interesting times.

Cat.

Random and various

1 – Let’s get the big one over with first: Justin Trudeau. How many of us, excluding Andrew Scheer who claims to have never done anything, did some kind of dumb-ass shit in our twenties? For me, that was the sixties and personal video cameras and social media didn’t exist then, so there’s no proof I was anything other than an angel. (And I’m sticking to that story.)

2 – Sticking with the upcoming Canadian election, I won’t try to influence how you vote – there are plenty of fake news sites already doing that. I’m just going to suggest that rather than just accept a single source for information, check other legitimate sites as well and if it is a third party ad google them to see if they have any obvious bias. You may find that ad you saw that said so-and-so is a complete incompetent idiot is a troll site based in some foreign country. CPAC, the channel that provides coverage from inside the House of Commons, is also offering election coverage and I would think their election reporting would be as even-handed as their Commons coverage. But, where you choose to get your information, and what you choose to believe of that information, is up to you. Question claims, no matter the source and vote according to your conscience, but vote.

3 – I’ve seen some ads on television lately for Quickbooks, an online business accounting system. One of the claims of these ads is that you can get paid quicker. I must take exception to that claim. Yes, you can issue an invoice faster, but you have no control over when it gets paid. Unless the terms of the invoice are “2% 10, net 30 days” I’m not paying it until I have to.

4 – I got an interesting text message last night claiming to be from the Simcoe County District School Board, a legitimate school board in Ontario, telling me my phone number has just won me $3,000,000 US funds. Several things wrong with this. First, Simcoe County is north of Toronto, so why would they choose a telephone number with a Toronto area code as a “winner” in a contest I never entered. Second, this is Ontario and Premier Doug Ford is slashing education budgets on a grand scale, so I highly doubt Simcoe County could afford to give away three million. If they had that kind of money lying around, they’d sink it into the system, not award it to some random stranger. I forwarded the message to the School Board. They thanked me and said they were aware of the scam and are investigating.

Okay, rant finished. Since this is the first day of autumn, treasure the few warm days that remain and enjoy the fall colours. Winter will soon be upon us.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Whatever strikes my fancy

I’m a writer and photographer. I’m working on my autobiography. Funny thing, but if people learn this they will often ask “is it finished yet?” Umm, unless you’re using a spirit board to ask that, the answer is obviously “No”. I’ve stopped it at the point I received my new birth certificate with new name and gender, but I’m still here so it could continue.

I write speculative fiction, also called science fiction and mystery and these pieces usually start with asking myself “what if …?”, then answering that question. That “what if …” could be on any topic – as the title indicates “whatever strikes my fancy”. I’ve destroyed cities and other planets (usually with classical music playing in the background as I write) and in the late nineties I chronicled a war that destroyed this planet. What prompted that was the debate over whether the 21st century would start January 1, 2000 or 2001. I think the answer depends if you ask an historian or a mathematician.

With my blogs, again I write about any topic that strikes my fancy or irritates me. I enjoy writing about various online scams as warnings to my readers. For the most part I stay away from American politics. I’m not American so unless what’s-his-name in the White House had done or said something exceedingly stupid, I ignore it. Having said that, living in Canada and being reasonably intelligent, I am aware that events in the U S may and can have a tremendous effect on us as well, so I do pay attention to American politics. I have however taken Canadian federal politicians to task on many occasions over their pronouncements or actions. And with the current regime in Queen’s Park, I can see that Ontario Premier Doug Ford will become a frequent target.

I prefer to write and edit in longhand, then once I’m satisfied I transcribe to the computer. By doing so, if inspiration strikes while I’m out I can capture the thought at the moment as I usually carry paper and pen.

I use this same approach with my photography. If something catches my eye, I’ll take a photo. A flower, a sign, interesting architecture, a scenic vista or sometihng whimsical such as this shot below taken outside a local shop on my phone, it doesn’t matter. There are occasion , such as grocery shopping, when carrying a camera is too awkward, by my phone has an excellent camera.

I use digital cameras (Canon ever since my first film SLR in the seventies) and have what I consider to be good software – Corel Paintshop Pro for processing. I can usually find something in the raw image to turn into a photo. And of course, by using digital cameras and processing, “undo” and “delete” have become my best friends.

I’ve had various people who like my work suggest to me I should give courses in both writing and photography. Such course would be very short indeed for here’s what I’d say:

Writing: write about what interests you. If that requires research, great – you’ll learn something new. If writing fiction or topical blogs, write the way you speak. If people who know you read it, they’ll hear your voice speaking the words and for others, it will sound more natural. Don’t use what I call “ten dollar words” in an attempt to sound more intelligent. If you don’t normally use them in everyday vocabulary, you’ll probably use them incorrectly.

Photography: if it catches your eye, snap it and sort it out later. Remember, “delete” can be a powerful tool.

There’s the essence of any courses I’d give.

Now, go create something and remember to hug an artist, no matter what their field of endeavour, for we need love too. And to my Canadian followers and visitors, have a safe and happy Canada Day weekend.

Cat.

Inform me, don’t threaten me

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Canada is preparing for a federal election this October. While the official campaign hasn’t begun, I’ve seen some third-party ads claiming one leader or the other – Scheer or Trudeau – is unfit to govern.

In advance of the start of campaigning, I issue the following plea to the leaders of the four main parties, Ms Elizabeth May and Messrs Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau: I don’t want to hear your opinion on how bad the other party will be for Canada, I want to know how you plan to improve our lot.

For the most part in the last election the Green, Liberal and New Democratic parties took the high road. The Conservatives, then under Stephen Harper, tended toward scare tactics, smear campaigns and dirty tricks. Remember the “Robocall Scandal”?

The current leader of the Conservatives, Andrew Scheer has, from comments made since assuming leadership, apparently modelled himself after Donald Trump. Andy, you don’t mind if I call you “Andy”, such an election campaign is guaranteed to lose my vote. Also Andy, extravagant claims and promises like we heard from south of the border in 2016 and 2017 won’t help either.

I address to the all parties and candidates: Don’t threaten me with doom if the other guy wins. Present me with reasonable, attainable options. I’m sure I speak for others when I say this.

It has been my observation that Canadian voters don’t vote a certain way because their parents did or they have in the past. They consider the issues and options before casting their ballots.

Just remember dear followers and readers, when October comes, vote for who you consider the best candidate.

Cat.

Raandom thoughts inspired by television

1 – Winters in the west can be especially nasty. Just ask anyone who lives in Manitoba or Minnesota if you doubt me. It wasn’t a fashion statement that the Winnipeg police wore buffalo hide coats in winter, it was because they were warm. Yet this week alone about 50 people have braved sub-zero temperatures (Fahrenheit, not Celsius) and walked across snow-covered field in hope of finding refuge in Canada. These people are, or were, all refugees living in the US, some of whom had already been granted the right to live there. They are taking this difficult trek and risking hypothermia because they are aware that if they presented themselves at the border crossing at Emerson Manitoba they may be refused entry. In this particular area, there is no physical barrier separating our two nations, so it is easy to gain entry to either country.

When asked, many of these refugees state they are afraid of what is happening in the States right now and don’t feel safe. And given this week’s shootings in Kansas and Washington state, I don’t blame them. The election of Donald Trump appears to have triggered a wave of xenophobia among many of his followers and emboldened them to the point these followers feel they can shoot or kill anyone who looks or dressed differently with, if not impunity, expectations their actions will be feted by others with the same mind set

Had these people tried approaching the customs house at Emerson, they would have been refused as I wrote above. There exists an agreement between the US and Canada that in essence says that refugees who arrive in one of these two countries cannot use that country as a jumping off point to the other. I’ve heard on the news this may be called a doctrine of “First Safe Country”. But, these people no longer feel America is a safe county, hence a two hour walk across snowy fields in temperatures as low as twenty below F – around -35 Celsius – to seek sanctuary in Canada.

On the news this morning I heard an interview with the Canadian Immigration Minister who stated both the RCMP and Canadian Border Security Agency have sufficient resources to deal with these arrivals. But rather than round these people up and ship them back to Minnesota, the Minister (and this makes me proud to be Canadian) has given the town of Emerson $30,000 to help with the costs of hosting these new arrivals. Further, the news reports that most of these refugees do qualify for Canadian residency. There may be charges after the applications are processed for entering Canada illegally, but I don’t think these people are worried about that too much. We the north – home of the free.

2 – Earlier in the week I watched a documentary on the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent manhunt for those responsible. Just after this happened, I wrote a piece in which I voiced the view that we, journalists, bloggers and anybody who writes opinion pieces are also Charlie. Charlie Hebdo is a publication that relied heavily on satire and while we who also write may not resort to that particular form of writing, we sometimes venture into sarcasm or some other form, such as allegory, to make our point. As someone who is willing to put their point of view “out there” for others, we are bound to upset some of our readers. It may be said that if we’re not upsetting someone, we aren’t doing our jobs properly. In the gatherings after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo many people held signs reading “Je suis Charlie”. For people who write and post their views and opinions on various topics, and I include myself in that group, I think we could modify that sign to read “Nous somme Charlie”, for in our own way we may be just as controversial.

Cat.

Everyone needs a hero

Everyone needs a hero. Whether it be a fictional character such as Superman; an historical figure, or someone from our own lives, there is usually someone who inspires us enough they deserve the label “hero”. For me, there are five people I esteem enough to call heroes, whose actions and attitudes lift them beyond the everyday.

For me, the first of these is my best friend, someone who loves me without reservation. I won’t go into detail to preserve her privacy, but in her short forty-something years, she has survived much that would break lesser humans. And no – being my friend is not one of those things.

Another person is also a personal friend named Angelena Bonet. She has suffered so much in her life – devastating heartbreak; sexual assault as well as being beaten and left for dead. This amazing, strong woman has turned her misfortune to good. In her Facebook profile, she describes herself this way: Documentary Filmmaker, Singer/Songwriter, TV Host / Producer & Humanitarian.

Being trans, obviously I consider Caroline Cossey a hero. This lady has, over the years, broken so much new ground for the trans community it would be criminal to leave her off my list.

And there are a couple of Canadians I include on my list. The first of these is retired General Romeo LeBlanc. General Leblanc was in charge of the UN force in Rwanda. He did his best to stop the massacre but was handcuffed by unreasonable orders from the UN that prevented him from taking effective action. Still, he did what he was able.

Finally, just to show that as I’ve aged I haven’t lost my rebellious streak, I include Louis Riel. For those unfamiliar with the name, or are not versed in Canadian history, Louis Riel led the Northwest Rebellion in the late 1800’s that eventually led to Manitoba becoming a province of Canada. He was later elected to Parliament, but fled to the US to avoid prosecution. He eventually returned to take his seat in the House of Commons. Unfortunately he was arrested, tried and found guilty. He has the distinction of being the only sitting member of Parliament hung for treason for his role in the Rebellion. (And yes, I’m sure we can all think of a few politicians we’d like to see swinging from a gallows.)

As I said, everyone needs a hero. Why not share yours in the comments, along with the reasons you feel they are heroic. Be certain to get their permission before you use their names, please.

Cat.

We must support our US friends in their fight for equality

In a posting on her site dated December 31, 2016 editor Jillian Page mentioned that she had considered shutting down LGBT Perspectives. In that posting she mentioned something that I’ll admit I take for granted and that is the incredible advances the Canadian LGBT communities have made in the decade since same-sex marriage became law of the land.

At both the federal and provincial levels laws have been enacted that give us the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every other citizen of whichever province in which we live. As well, at the federal level, and not widely publicized, in February 2016, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration quietly announced that Canadian citizens would be allowed to self-identify when it came to changing gender on federal documents, except the passport. You still have paperwork to fill out for that one. Otherwise, all you need is provincial documentation showing the changes to change any other federal ID.

While we revel in our new-found recognition, we must remember that our sisters and brothers south of the Canada/US border aren’t so fortunate. The different system of government in the US gives each state power to make its own laws. Consequently, members of the LGBT communities, especially the trans community, face a patchwork of laws with which to conform and hoops of varying sizes at different heights to negotiate to accomplish anything. This is true even with the Obama administration and from what I’ve seen, the difficulties will only increase under Trump.

I have seen estimates that put the number of trans Americans at 10% of the population, which translates to about 30,000,000 people. To put that in perspective for Canadian readers, that’s only slightly less than the population of Canada. Thirty million souls. Think about that number for a moment. According to pronouncements, both now and in the past, a Trump federal government and states governed by members of Trump’s party are declaring war on these people, either reducing or removing whatever protections previous administrations put in place. Perhaps one of the ,most egregious of these laws was North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, the so-called “bathroom bill”. From other reading I’ve done – and no, I don’t just rely on a single source for information – this is typical of what our sisters and brothers can expect to face over the next four years.

While we sit here north of the 49th parallel or Great Lakes, perhaps smugly because we haven’t had some of these struggles, we must not forget those who went before us that are the reason we have what we do. We must support our counterparts in the US in any way we can, even if it’s only to offer moral support so that even if they fail, those who follow will enjoy our freedoms.

Cat.

Bring him to justice – Canadian justice pending

He’s coming back. According to an article in today’s Jamaica Observer, George Flowers has lost his final appeal against extradition to Canada. A representative of the Toronto Police Service will be travelling to Jamaica to escort him back to Toronto to face justice in a Canadian courtroom.

I must admit I have mixed feelings writing this. On the one side, I have some concerns for his accusers; that they will have their carefully reconstructed lives ripped apart by his lawyers in court; that the secrets they’ve been hiding for many years will be exposed. On the other side, that George Flowers will finally face the justice he so richly deserves is satisfying. Full disclosure here: I know people he dated, some of whom have tested HIV positive, so I am finding it difficult to remain neutral in this, but I will do my best.

His sexual assaults date back at least twenty years and he has played the Jamaican legal system for at least three years. Finally though, he has run out of options and the Jamaican courts have said to Canada “you can have his ass, just come and get him”.

I’ll write more when I have more details, but in the meantime I ask for your prayers for his victims.

Cat.