A sad day approaches

The town I live in has announced that October 26 they are closing the local branch of the public library, citing lack of use. This is a small branch so patrons don’t have direct access to the same resources available at the main branch. I’ve frequently used this branch and know they can, and do, bring in material from other branches when requested, therefore the physical size isn’t important. The library is located next to one of the high schools and hours have been structured in a manner convenient for students wishing to do research.

In my opinion, technology is partly responsible for the reduced usage. When the branch opened, people had to go to a library to do research; the internet was something found in science fiction. But today, there is a wealth of information available at the fingertips of anyone with a smartphone or a computer. That makes trips to the library unnecessary.And people rarely get to experience the sensual pleasure of actually holding a book. The smell of the ink, the texture of the paper and the rustle of pages being turned have been replaced with an electronic device.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against electronics. I’ve got a smartphone and computer as well as digital cameras, so I’m not a Luddite by any definition. But I’m also a writer and I get much more pleasure seeing my work in print than seeing it on a monitor or screen. Useless info: I write these blogs in longhand, then copytype.

It is sad that a building and service dedicated to preserving the written word must close. Village Branch, you will be missed.

Cat

The camera doesn’t lie, but your eyes might deceive you

Cameras, by their very nature, record objective views of whatever they’re being pointed at when you press the shutter. We all know the image you’ve just captured can be modified, played with and otherwise altered either in the darkroom, if film is used, or on the computer using one of the many photo processing programmes that are available.

One of these programmes is so popular its very name has become synonymous with altering photos – PhotoShop. (Personally I prefer Corel PaintShop Pro X6.) Given that most digital cameras darken an image by varying amounts up to 40%, all I usually do with my images is restore that brightness I saw through the viewfinder.

But manipulation of images isn’t the point of this posting. When you look at an image of yourself, or at yourself in a mirror, you don’t see the actual image or the reflection. We all carry a mental image of how we look in our minds and that picture affects what we see. Here’s an example:

five miles of leg 01 Sept 97 DRThis was taken in September 1997, on an evening I was going to a party with some friends. It took me six months before I could accept that image as the way I looked because it didn’t match my mental picture of myself. Now, for most people, once that realization hits home, it may elicit a reaction of “damn, I’m lookin’ good” or ‘oh God, tell me I don’t really look like that”.

But, if you’re a transwoman, the effects of seeing that image may be more devastating. To the person viewing that photo, there may still be signs of “him” visible in the picture. That nobody else may see those signs doesn’t matter, to the transwoman, the signs are there, shining like a spotlight. The effects of this can be demoralizing. All this time trying to put the past behind us and we feel betrayed by what we see in the photo.

As the title said, your eyes may be lying to you. You’re the only person who sees that former life in the photo. All the rest of the world sees is a good-looking woman.

When it comes to your reflection in a mirror, or a photo of yourself, just keep in mind that you can’t always believe what you see.

Cat.

Why not wait for details?

We have heard, seen and read much about the unfortunate shooting of a young man on a Toronto streetcar this past weekend.

There has been a great outcry over this incident, based on a blurry cellphone video and news reports.  The problem is that this is still being investigated – we don’t really know what happened.  All the video shows (and this video did not capture the events from the beginning) is a young man standing on a streetcar wielding a knife near the front door and an officer on the street firing his weapon after orders to drop the knife were ignored.  What led to this point; a moment in time that affected not only the family of this young man, but the officer as well?

I’ve heard the question “why didn’t the police use a taser rather than shoot him?”  Why?  Simple.  Because the officers on the street don’t carry tasers.  According to my information, at any given time, there are perhaps 15 tasers on the street of Toronto, each in the possession of a patrol sergeant.   The reports state this young man was tasered after he was shot.  If so, the police obviously felt they had just cause.  The fact there are only 15 tasers on the street at any time naturally gives rise to the suggestion that all front-line officers be issued tasers.

I’ll admit I’m of two minds on this idea.  Granted, it would provide another level of deterrent when dealing with a situation before resorting to deadly force.  On the other hand, the case of
Robert Dziekan’ski at Vancouver International Airport does provide a good example of what can happen.  And there have been other cases where use of a taser has resulted in the death of someone.  Now from what I recall, some of these cases were the result of underlying medical causes aggravated by the voltage, but in the Robert Dziekan’ski case, his death was eventually ruled as homicide.

Now, I know all my readers are law-abiding citizens, but you may have a friend who isn’t.  Think for a moment: How would you feel if that friend were to die from a heart attack brought on by what is supposed to be a non-lethal way of subduing him?

Cat

I don’t seem to exist

Obviously I do or you wouldn’t be reading these words, and there are some semi-tasteless photos on Facebook, but I am having extreme difficulty proving the existence of my parents.

Before I go any further, as it says on my profile on WordPress, I am transgendered which should prevent your headaches when reading about my ex-wife.

Last October, acting on an order from the Ontario Human RightsTribunal, the government of Ontario changed the requirements to change gender on birth certificates.  The original requirement was gender re-assignment surgery, and someone took the gov’t to the Tribunal claiming this was discriminatory.  The Tribunal agreed and the requirements were changed.  Under the new requirements, I qualified, so applied for an amended birth certificate.

I sent off the application with all the documents and a $97 money order.  The application was returned with the explanation that the short form (wallet size) birth certificate wasn’t acceptable and they needed the long form.  Okay, fine.  Through my eldest son, my ex-wife said she had some documents of mine at the family home, among which was a birth certificate.  Great!  It took forever but I finally got that document and returned the application to the Registrar-General.   Ten days later it was again returned.  This time the reason given is that the document, clearly labelled “Certificate of Birth”, was not in fact a “Birth Certificate”.  They further advised me I would need to apply for this long form Certificate and included the application for that.

Among the information requested on this form, in addition to the names of my parents, was the date and place of their birth.  For my mother, this was no problem since I knew it.  But all I knew about my father was his name and that he may have been born in Nova Scotia.   I’m the oldest living member of my family and am an only child, so don’t have any siblings to ask about this.  My oldest son is trying to compile a family history, so I asked him.  All he had at the time I asked was my father’s name.  Some online searching revealed that he’d died in 1970, which I knew for that happened about two months before my wedding.  I knew when he died and also where he died, so I suggested to my son he check the obituaries in the archives of the St Catharines Standard.  There is about a 75 year gap in the online records of the Standard, and of course 1970 falls neatly in the middle of that gap.  I told him I’d visit St Catharines and see if I could find anything in the hard copy archives.  That will be early next month.  Finding birth records from Nova Scotia is also proving difficult.  Nova Scotia = New Scotland, so looking up a Scottish surname in their records is similar to finding one particular “John Smith” online.  You need more information than just a name and we simply don’t have more.

Thinking he was going about it the wrong way ‘round, he tried looking up marriage records for my mother.  Again, he came up against that black hole in the Standard’s archives.  He knew when and where she was born and when she died and where she’s buried, but I’d given him that information.  He also found one more piece of information that I had also told him earlier.

The application mentions that a letter from the hospital confirming my birth would constitute proof (as if my $97 money order isn’t enough) of my birth.  Back online.  It seems the hospital where I was born – the Salvation Army Hospital in Hamilton – doesn’t exist any longer.  Right now this seems a minor problem.  At one time I did volunteer work with the Sally Ann in Ajax and know some of the staff there, so later this week I will visit them and explain my problem to the Major.  Apparently the Salvation Army archives are maintained in Ottawa, so it should be a relatively easy job for her to contact them with my request.  I can’t see a problem since the Salvation Army probably still has letters and documents signed by General Booth himself somewhere in the archives.

So, there you have it.  Other than the fact my parents gave birth to me and died, very little is available online about them.  As I said, we’re finding it difficult to prove their existence.  We’ve tried ancestry (the Canadian site) as well as publicly available government and newspaper sites to no avail.

Actually, according to my son, there is very little available on me under my birth name or my current one either.  Maybe I don’t exist.

Anyone got any other ideas?  I’m open to suggestions.

Cat.

Don’t take the bait

As you are aware, smart phones are, or can be, as susceptible to phishing attempts as are computers although it is called “smishing” when used on or against phones.  And the aim is the same as it is with your computer – to plant something in your operating system to either screw it up for you or to enable them to download all your data.

What prompts this posting is this: a little while ago I received the following text message:

 Hey, it’s Sarah!  I just made a profile on “justhookupcanada.com” I added some pics too 

This came from a telephone number with a 226 area code, which according to what I can find covers southwestern Ontario – London and Windsor being the two major cities in that code.  Well, I haven’t lived in London since 1957 and don’t recall any classmates named Sarah. And in the intervening years, not only have I moved many times, I’ve also changed my name, so I doubt this is anyone from my past in London.  As for Windsor, last time I was there was the mid-80’s and that was a business trip.  The other area code in that area is 519, so the possibility “Sarah” made a transposition error in entering the number is extremely remote, since my area code contains a zero.

That leaves the only logical reason for this text as being smishing.  There is a link to follow and to increase the chances of someone following it, the bait is that “Sarah” has posted photos of herself there.  Sorry “Sarah” I have no idea who the hell you are, so I’m not biting.

To my readers, remember that your smart phone has more computing power than early computers.  Protect it the same as you would your computer – laptop, desktop, whatever.  And as with spam email, don’t follow links from unknown senders.

Enjoy your week or if, like me, you have a long weekend, enjoy that as well and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

When I say “no”, I mean “no”

I’ve written before of my ongoing battle with computers, which is now some 30 years old.  My first opponent was a Commodore 64 and the current combatant is a Lenovo B575 laptop.

About ten days ago, I was reading one of the news sites I frequent when the computer froze. It wouldn’t accept any input – mouse, keyboard, touchpad or foul language, so the only way out was to shut the system down.  When I rebooted the computer, Windows wouldn’t load.  Fine.  Put the computer away for a couple of days.  I wasn’t going to be home anyway, so that was no sacrifice.

The Lenovo has something called a “one key recovery” feature.  Checked it out.  Two options were presented, the first being restore to factory specs and the second being restore from a backup disk.  Naturally, I hadn’t backed up the hard drive, in fact I don’t know many people who do, so “column B” was out.  Reading the information on option 1, I saw that using it would eliminate everything not on the hard drive when it left the factory.  I had about $300 in software that I’d ordered online (Paintshop Pro Photo X5 and WordPerfect Suite X6) and taken as downloads (dumb idea).  It was a couple of days before I remembered to phone Corel, the supplier, to see if I could get backup disks for these two programmes.  For a fee, I could.  Great.  Now that I know I haven’t thrown away three hundred dollars, I decided to proceed with the restore.

It didn’t take that long to restore.  I was pleasantly surprised to note that Future Shop, where I bought the Lenovo as a demo (last one in the store), had removed a lot of things from the system before they put it on display.  These are things I don’t use or, having tried them, don’t like, such as Chrome.  The system also came with MacAfee antivirus ware.  I’ve never been impressed with MacAfee, but before I uninstalled it, I downloaded and installed my preferred programmes. I might not like it, but at least it should ensure I get  clean download.  Got all my software installed and restored my files from backups which were about a week out of date.  I frequently chat with a friend using Yahoo messenger so went to download that as well.  During the installation process, I was asked if I wanted the Yahoo toolbar.  No.  Guess what.  Despite declining the offer, I got the damn thing anyway.  Uninstalled Yahoo.  Noticed a separate line in the programme listings for this toolbar.  Uninstalled that as well.  No use.  Still stuck with this thing I don’t want and don’t use.

Checked tools and settings in Firefox.  Couldn’t find a way of deleting the toolbar.  Looked in the computer settings with the same result.  Finally had to resort to restoring to factory specs again, which meant back to February 2012 when this system was built.  Through the process again – deep six Chrome and MacAfee; download my choice of antivirusware and reinstall my own software.  I noticed that Adobe Reader was two versions out of date and decided to update that as well.  I know from experience that occasionally there are unwanted hitchhikers on Adobe updates.  In the past my system has caught key loggers and, in one download, a worm buried in these updates.  This time I ended up with something called “Yontoo”, which is adware.  It planted itself in 37 different locations on my system.  Spybot was able to remove 35 of them and I was able to track down one more and delete it, but that last one was in a registry key.  Now I might be crazy, but I’m not stupid enough to go messing with the registry.

I spoke with my son, who is also my tech despite being 3,000 miles away, and he recommended AdAware.  I’ve heard of this programme before and knew it to be good.  Downloaded it.  Again, during the installation I was asked if I wanted to replace my current search engine, Google, with the AdAware secure engine.  Again I said “no”.  And again I might as well have saved myself the effort.  During the install AdAware replaced Google with its own search engine.  Decided to deal with that later.  Ran a full scan of my system with AdAware.  After four hours it caught 13 tracking cookies in addition to the remaining Yontoo irritant.  Deleted all of them.  Decided that if AdAware wasn’t willing to listen to me when I said “no” in response to their offer, I would uninstall the programme.  With AdAware, part of the uninstall process is asking why I don’t want it.  I told them, quite bluntly, that when I say I don’t want part of the programme when asked, I mean I don’t want the f’ing thing.  I must say though that AdAware did also give me instructions on how to restore my preferred search engine.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m offered something in a download, and I decline it, I have an expectation that my wishes will be honoured.  When I say “no”, I mean “no”.

Anyway, my computer is now back up and running and free of any unwanted visitors, so I’ll be posting more rants/raves/reasoned discussions (as usual, reader’s choice).

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Updates and a new grumble

1 – On January 11, I wrote “I didn’t ask for it” which talked about the fact a company called U-file had sent me the CD containing the 2012 Canadian tax return.  As I had used U-file the past couple of years they apparently assumed I’d want to use it again for this year’s return.  My marital status had changed on the 2011 return, and when I clicked on the new status, I was greeted with a screen that asked all kinds of intrusive questions that, as I later learned, Canada Revenue Agency didn’t need the answers to.  That CD has since found its way into my trash can and I purchased a different programme which worked quite well and was nowhere near as nosy.

2 – February 12 brought a rant called “Customer service, what’s that?” about the response I received from Virgin Mobile when I mentioned I was being actively wooed by another cell phone company.  After posting that blog, I decided to contact customer service at Virgin by email.  Being somewhat lazy on occasion, rather than write a whole new piece, I sent them the blog – minus some of the snark of course.  About three days later I received a telephone call from a nice gentleman at Virgin who first apologized for the apparent lack of interest shown by the people who had spoken with me.  I explained that I had much customer service experience and suggested that the negative replies I had received did not reflect well on Virgin, then offered a couple of possible responses.  He told me they were valid ideas and he’d bring them up with the supervisor.  He then explained that Rogers Communications, the firm who had contacted me, (more on Rogers in #3 below) had an advantage over Virgin since Rogers could offer package deals on cell service, internet, cable and landlines, whereas Virgin only offered the cell service. The result was that he smoothed my ruffled fur (I’m Cat – I have fur, not feathers ☺) and I renewed my phone contract two days later.  No, I didn’t go for the BlackBerry Z10.  It might be good, but how many times over the past year or so have we heard of the Eastern Seaboard losing email and messaging capabilities because BlackBerry’s server went down.  Instead I went for the Apple 4s.  One advantage to that was that since Apple brought out the 5, the phone I chose was no cost.

3 – The new grumble.  Since April 2011, Rogers Communications have supplied my internet, cable and landline.  I was able to get some “incentives” on all three services when I signed up – two of them for a one year period and 24 months on the cable.  I’m on a pension, so these discounts play a great part in being able to afford the services I enjoy.  Last Saturday I called Rogers’s customer service to see if it would be possible to extend these incentives, or failing that, if there was something else I could take advantage of to keep my bills at a reasonable level.  I was told flat out that I’d have to wait at least 60 days then see if they had anything.  The girl did point out that I would still be getting an 8% discount on my cable bundle.  Big deal.  I’m looking at my bill increasing by about $30 a month and she’s telling me I still get a $2.76 discount on cable.

Tuesday I called Rogers again, but this time I spoke with a gentleman in sales.  I should have called sales the first time.  He couldn’t extend the current incentives, but between us (him offering and me accepting) we came up with new plans that increase my cost by $4 a month, but give me more features on the telephone service.  So I would have to score the interaction between Rogers and me as “Sales 1; Customer Service 0″.

Why does it seem that companies put people in customer service for whom the entire idea of customer service is a foreign concept?  Is it possible these people are chosen because they show an aptitude for being unhelpful?  In the case of Rogers especially, while they may be the largest company offering these services in Eastern Canada (east of the Manitoba/Ontario border), they are not the only one.  I am constantly pulling adverts from my mailbox for Bell, who offer the same services as does Rogers and at competitive prices.  You might think then than Rogers would be interested in retaining me as a customer rather than have customer service trying to drive me away.

Oh well, I’m guaranteed reasonable prices for all my services for at least the next year, so I’ll stop complaining.  And I’ve got a new cell phone and still have the same plan, so I’m happy.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.