Friday, December 7, 2012

Happy International Women's Day

Just a message here to say Happy International Women's Day.

As my part for this Women's Day I did something that I did a few years ago when Canada was under the leadership of Stephen Harper. I wrote a letter to our current Prime Minister with regard to the same issues regarding the protection and fair treatment of Women in our society. The last time I wrote such a letter, I received an official written reply (not a canned response) which addressed all of the issues I cited.

I have much confidence in our current Prime Minister and support the family of the Prime Minister's office in the attaining of those goals and others.


Brian Joseph Johns
Hate is not love and love is not hate.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Archive

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

[Note: This is a piece of fiction in progress, and is really in its early stages. Its taking shape as a scratchpad of ideas about the world of the future in which the Pleroma rules.]

Hanlen had been working for the company for years. Everyone did. That was the way of things on this the year of 2132 on the remnants of what had once been the third satellite of the solar body we call Sol. It wasn't work by what our standards might be as drawing sweat from the brow or a return from a difficult day at the office. He considered it serious and important work and for all intense purposes it was far more so than he would have known. 

A lot had happened in one hundred and twenty years. Civilization had twice been brought to the brink of war, and ultimately its own destruction. Inevitably the better part of human nature succeeded and rejoiced and the urban sprawl continued until there existed no land that was not urban. In the course of that time government as we know it had changed to resemble what we would call a dictatorship and had merged into a single body the world over. By 2067 citizens the world over were united under one country, the only one there was: Utopia. 

Unlike its namesake it was far from the perfect state of the equilibrium of human existence. The dictator wasn't human, nor of organic origins at all, though it did manifest itself in the consciousness of what we would call local representatives of government. Just like the software of the early twenty first century it ran in a non-linear programmatic sequence. Unlike the primitive software of the twenty first century, it executed outside of regular space-time in harmonic spheres, the mixed in-organic/organic hardware that we would call a computer and exploited the quantum properties of the human brain for both processing and input within these representatives. The programs ran in something called collapsed space, which was named for the collapse of the wave function as explained by Schrodinger in his (cruel) thought experiment. One possibility would collapse into reality and the next possibility would stem from that one. The program would computer all possibilities simulaneously yielding a result upon observation by a conscious observer. This result was called the harvest and the entirety of this program was called Pleroma.

Life was very different from ours. As alien to us as our lives are to the numerous creatures that populate a coral reef. The internet had ceased to exist, or better described it was a part of every consciousness. The entirety of human experience and knowledge was accessible to anyone, if you had the right level of access for that particular piece of information.  There were no search engines, just pure thought. Hanlen thought about this and discovered this had been the case since the Penrose/Hameroff Consortium of Human Consciousness had mapped the relationship between microtubules in the human brain and quantum non-locality. Amazingly, we had been capable of faster than light transmission of information and communication all along. What that meant in our terms is that our brains took advantage of quantum non-locality, and had the potential to affect any number of a subset of properties of a particle instantly regardless of distance. Any one of us could make a particle dance regardless of our distance from it. This was a side-effect of everyday thought. Its most profound implication was however that whatever made us uniquely us, was not a part of space/time as we know it but beyond it. This still gave Hanlen the shivers when he thought about it. Everything that he was, without the organic hardware of his body existed in something that was independent of both space and time. We had all of the clues but were as close to an answer as we are today.

Hanlen had been an archive analyst for twenty two years. He never found his job boring as one might have found their job boring in the twenty first century. There was no such thing as money as the currency was access to knowledge. We literally earned the right to have access to more information or an access to a higher level of information. The promotion was made by Pleroma itself, which would modify part of the genetic code within the recipent of the promotion, allowing them the level of access they had earned, though the notion of level was more more of an arc than it was a series of steps on a staircase. Analog versus digital. Infinite versus finite. This information naturally transitioned itself to others as it was acquired by those with access. This fed the longing for the answers to age old questions such as what are we or where did we come from and yielded more curiosity and motivation to feed that curiosity with answers.

Most of the original surface matter of the world had been replaced by composite constuction materials and there existed no natural habitats. There were forests, animals and plants, but all were part of the Pleroma and engineered as contained tiny habitats for human experience or for the computing power of the Pleroma itself. The ecosystems which brought forth those species of animal and plant had long since gone from being information as a series of amino acids to information as a series of wavelets, the smallest indivisible unit of information used by harmonic spheres. 

Most of the labor that was performed by people had been replaced entirely by nanotechnology and emergent collaboration. This enabled many nanites (microscopic robots) to work together as a collective and essentially become and organism unto itself, much like an ant colony. There were three basic types or roles for nanites, builders which would fuse two elements together to yield a compound molecule, demolisher which would desconstruct such molecules back into their constituent raw materials and couriers, which would transport raw molecules or raw materials to and from their required locations. The nanites were guided by the Pleroma through the issuing of a task called an intent. A complete intent encompassed everything required to create the end product of what the complete intent represented.

The nanites themselves were fuelled by raw oxygen, which they got by demolishing carbon dioxide, yielding a lot of carbon, which was most often used as a sturdy and abundant building material. The oxygen wasn't consumed, as the energy was gained by the process which combined it with hydrogen to yield water. The side effect was that the carbon dioxide levels of the atmosphere was converted to solid matter and used as a building material by the nanites. This made up for the lack of plant life which historically had been able to eat carbon dioxide as part of their respiration requirements and yielding much oxygen for us.

Most people didn't notice the plants missing, for most people's conscious attention was employed in simulations for the Pleroma, where they would experience a living and breathing world. One that no longer existed in the terms of what we define as being reality and the world had to some lost its lustre for those who sought a newer palette and canvas. The Pleroma provided this and it was where most of existence was situated in terms of being the foci of human consciousness.






Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Updates: Canadarm Anniversary

Back again and one day late for the Canadarm 31st anniversary (since its first use since its deployment). A work horse for the Space Shuttle program and Canada's contribution to the space program in in the mid 1980's.


Have you ever dreamt of flying a space shuttle mission? Here's an official short little flash based mission simulator from the Kennedy Space Center that serves as an educational tool as well that's youngster friendly.


For a very detailed simulation of the space shuttle try Space Shuttle Mission Simulator a commercial program with a freely downloadable demo. It supports a wide number of features including head mounted displays and head tracking for those who want real immersion. Throw in technical support and a good library of expansions and you have a great program. I only got a short peek at it and its great indeed, with the most accurate instrument panel I've seen.




On a low budget? For those of you running a Windows based PC, you can download Orbiter, a great free shuttle simulation with a modern dynamics taking into account such factors as the buoyancy of the atmosphere and a highly accurate instumentation model. It would be perfectly rounded out with SpaceShip 2 a sub-orbital space craft in development and one of the pioneer craft of commercial spaceflight.


Looking for something a bit further into the future where we've already tackled all of the rough bits regarding space flight? You might want to check out Frontier: First Encounters on the PC. Its a bit more of a game than a simulation but it originated way back in the early days of computer as the first space simulation game known as Elite first released on the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64. Imagine that! There was a space simulation game that included IFR (Instrument Flight Reckoning) based and VFR (Visual Flight Reckoning) based space station docking in 1984. It was a completely ground breaking program at the time and will get its place on my links page. There were two sequels to the game, Frontier and Frontier First Encounters, both similar to each other but ground breaking in the sense that they simulated nearly the entire milkyway galaxy in 1993 on two 720KB 3 1/2" disks! 

Another first was the fact that you could seamlessly fly from ground to space without transitions that were common in most space games at that time. It pioneered all space simulations for the PC including Google Earth utilizing LOD (Level Of Detail) and icosahedron subdivision rendering for its geometric representation of planets and moons. Looking a little dated compared to most modern space simulation games, a group of programmers and artists in the FFE community combined forces in two teams to take on the monumental task of updating Frontier First Encounters to utilize modern 3D hardware, which required reverse engineering a few hundred thousand lines of machine code culminating in FFED3D and FFEGL. Highly recommended, and lots of information and resources out there from the Elite and Frontier community. Special thanks to David Braben and Ian Bell, the original creators of those programs. For more information on these great programs please check out Frontier Astro, a great site detailing all of the Elite series of games.

Lastly, for an updated version of Elite! Check out Oolite, a multiplatform version of the original Elite, with updated graphics and object orientation which translates to lots of expandability.

What space themed blog entry would be complete without Star Trek and Star Wars? Well this one certainly wouldn't. Have you ever wanted to command and fly a Federation starship? Have you ever wanted to lead an away team on a surface mission? You can with Star Trek Online, a massively multiplayer online Star Trek game. It lets you do all that and more in a huge universe with cameo appearances and mentions of the crew of all of the Star Trek series. The best part is that its free to play, you just need an internet connection. Highly recommended.

Last but not least is Star Wars Online, an online massively multiplayer version or Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic. Another excellent online game with a free to play version. You can join the Galactic Republic or the Empire, with four different classes and many different races to choose from in each faction. This game takes place a few thousand years before the Star Wars movies and includes many of the locations from the movies. Again, highly recommended.

That should be enough space food to keep your tribbles happy for while. 

Until then, may the force be with you at warp 9.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank You

To every armed forces veteran
both the living and the deceased
who have put at risk their own lives
to improve the quality of life in some way shape or form
whether here or in another part of the world
maybe you fought landlocked in a huge network of trenches in Europe
or stormed beaches against insurmountable odds and over the bodies of your fallen brothers
maybe you patrolled treacherous jungle in support of free society
acted as the neutral peace keeping friend between two warring enemies
maybe you provided emergency assistance 
recovery from homeland attacks or natural disasters
or fought for the rights of women and children to attend schools and use hospitals and vote
a large part of our freedom is because of your effort

Thank you always and on this Remembrance Day

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Good day to everyone. Not doing much for a Saturday so here's to enjoying the weekend.

Watched a couple of great movies last night, Knowing and MI:4 Ghost Protocol. Both were enjoyable and I specifically liked Ghost Protocol, and to top it off it had a great ending.

I also noticed a news item concerning cyber-threats by the Public Safety Department and Vic Toews which is good news. The main thing that I hope that they address is the problem of illegal monitoring by civilians. For an idea of what this problem entails, see Van Eck Phreaking at WhatIs and here care of DefCon. This club or gang possess this technology in their apartments and use it against non-members of their club and will often walk up and down the street announcing this information (my particular harassers in that way seem to constantly blame it upon Oriental culture, mostly out of my affinity for it).

Until they take this threat seriously, there will be considerable problems for Canadians and others in the world whose private information is used illegally or even intimidatingly by perpetrators of this activity. In my neighbourhood it is used to protect crack cocaine.

I've had situations whereby my neighbours might announce specific lines from something that I writing as I am writing it, and without an internet connection whatsoever. They need to address the fact that there are Canadians conducting illegal monitoring against other law abiding Canadians, using means and technology that does not require the presence of an internet or network connection whatsoever, with some computers and phones being vulnerable to this.

I trust the companies asking for the information, but not the people in the next apartment who can read the information from my computer screen with illegal technology, often without me having an internet connection whatsoever.

I hope that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews addresses problems like this and that investigations are made with regard to this activity.

It would be great to watch a movie from one of the online movie rental providers or buy a dvd and watch it without having a neighbour say "you totally ripped up Knowing and Ghost Protocol".

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Congratulatory Message

The American Election

I'd like to say congratulations to President Barrack Obama on his election win for the Office Of The President Of The United States Of America. The people have spoken.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Er... Happy Election Day, Eh!

I just wanted to say that I hope that the election goes well and without too much controversy. I'm not going to say who I'd vote for after all I'm Canadian, eh. Have a great and safe election and many congratulations to the candidate elected by the people.

Brian Johns

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ahhh Movember is here...

Movember is here, so if you want to grow a moustache or borrow one, and lend a whisker of support for Men's Prostrate Cancer and Mental Health, head on over to the web site and get all of the information you need in order to join.

Want to be involved in bring attention to some issues that need attention from you and others? Check out Care2, a place where you can lend your support for petitioning and earn points for doing so. Once you have accumulated enough points, you can buy a school book for a student in an impoverished country or offset a pound of carbon for the environment.

I recently watched The Avengers motion picture, based on the Marvel comic book of the same name, and let me tell you, what a great action movie it was, with a special emphasis on gelling as a team. Joss Whedon helmed the picture and kept pacing in a steady ascent right to the close of the picture. Highly recommended for movie fans, and great food for aspiring team players out there that need a little bit of inspiration to hang on a little bit longer before waylaying one of their team mates.

Speaking of which, it looks like the beta test phase of Marvel Heroes Online has finished and the game is ready for you to join. It's a massively multiplayer online game set in the Marvel universe. From a quick glance, it looks like you can play as an existing superhero or you can play as one of your own design. I wonder if they have Damage Inc. included in the game? Time to call on my buddies Myles, Pete, Buzz, Joe, Steve, Darrell and some other friends (oops, that was 25 years ago)! I guess I'm still a kid at heart.




Thursday, November 1, 2012

Back Again With Smiles...

Good to see everyone again. It has been a hectic few weeks, though I haven't done a lot, but I've been practicing the keys, and doing a bit around the apartment. A fair bit of good food too and even a (non-religious) fast not too long ago just to kind of clean the system out.

Nobody should be made to feel afraid of the world: Put a stop to school bullying!

For my spare time in the evenings I've been watching some flicks and playing a couple of video games.

One of the movies I recently watched was The Departed, directed by none other than Martin Scorcese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga and Alec Baldwin. The movie of course is a great movie, definitely not family material but if you are a fan of Scorcese's previous work you won't be disappointed. Great performances by the entire cast and Mark Wahlberg turns in the most hilariously cynical performance as an Undercover Officer Handler. Two thumbs way up.

Another favourite that I watched, was The Player, a Robert Altman film and of course a masterpiece of film making en par with his usual style, starring Tim Robbins and an all star cast filled with cameos by many Hollywood legends, and is highly recommended if you are a fan of the Hollywood of the nineties. Not exactly family entertainment but a great film. Two thumbs way up again.

Beyond that, I've been playing two games produced by Bethesda Softworks, that have been around for about five years, the first being Fallout 3, the third game in the popular roleplaying saga Fallout, this time given a huge treatment via Bethesda's 3D engine technology used in the Elderscrolls series of roleplaying games. The second is from the Elderscrolls series itself known simply as Oblivion, a great first person rpg romp.

If there's some family out there and during the middle of October someone had a birthday. I didn't forget you so Happy Birthday and a Happy Halloween to you as well!

All of the best to everyone, and I should be back at the typewriter again soon, with an update to a couple of the stories as soon as I can get a window of opportunity with enough peace to work on them. I've been playing with some other ideas as well, but like I said, I need a window of opportunity.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Idea For A Video Game

Just an idea I was toying with a few years ago, had a little bit of a prototype but not much so words are going to have to explain the mechanics of it.


Viewpoint Dynamics

The players viewpoint would most likely be first person perspective or even 3/4 top down perspective. Either would work with the concept.

Flow of Gameplay

The gameplay would take place over a series of maps or levels either indoor or outdoor in a terrestrial setting, perhaps starting modern times. Each map or level would represent a different point in time, and entry to the level except for levels in the modern time would be made via a time machine.

Each level would be played out of time sequence with a number of level puzzles or challenges. At some point into the game, the command structure requires you to use the time machine to fix problems created by your initial tampering in that time. The risk is that you are not allowed to cross paths with the previous "you", that is that you cannot cross the viewpoint of your previous self on that level. If you do, you are wiped out and must begin the process on that level from your first attempt at the level all over again.

The concept is a little bit similar to the movies Back To The Future 2 and Millenium, which involved time paradoxes effecting time spaces as sort of earth quakes or obliteration of the violators of the laws of time/space. The game itself would borrow nothing from the concept of the movie except for time travel which is a popular theme in fiction and movies but has rarely been explored in video games.

Eventually the player would end up dealing with as many as three or possibly four instances of themselves within each level, maybe with a missions like being required to "disable" one of the prior instances of yourself to prevent it from completing its mission.

Engine Dynamics

The concept could run on any existing modern 3d engine without too much modification, and the only requirement would be that the engine supported the recording of motion paths and events on the level, for later playback while the player entity played the level again.

The playback of a motion for any entities in the level would include the usual collision checks during the process of playback as the second instance of the player entity might collide with any any such entities on that level. As soon as a collistion was detected, the force and impact data would be applied from that point on and the entity that was collided with would be taken off of playback mode and interact regularly from therein.

Comments please?

Idea For Midi Keyboard designers

I was just thinking about Midi keyboards and expression on a keyboard. Expression is every means you have to affect aspects or qualities of a sound while you play according to different things like:


  • How hard you press the keys (Velocity Sensitivity)
  • How you vary the pressure on the keys while they're held down (After touch Sensitivity)
  • How quickly you release the keys (Release Velocity)
  • How far you turn the modulation/pitch bend stick/wheel (Pitch Bend/Modulation Wheel)
  • How long you hold a pedal (Sustain Pedal)


Those are the only means of affecting the sound during a performance other than by turning dials in realtime to affect sound parameters as you play. What I am really talking about are means of expression that allow you to ad different forms of expression that are available on an acoustic instrument like a guitar or a saxophone.

Side To Side Expression: Does It Exist On Any Midi Controller Keyboards?

Another new one if it doesn't exist would be to have an option on a midi controller to use side to side expression, that is by shaking the key to one side or the other would act as an expression channel like pitch bend or filter amplitude (make it assignable of course). There's enough distance between the keys on keyboards that it would be feasible and I don't think it would impact the lifespan of a keyboard's design.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What If The World Knew What You Were Thinking Part 2: A Real World Model Of ESP

To the modern world the idea of collective consciousness is a common idea, given a tool like the internet. With it we can share ideas and collaborate on projects almost at the speed that we can imagine them. Once they've been filtered down through the organic hardware of our brain and through our nervous system and into motor control signals that manipulate our hands into moving a mouse or typing keys on a keyboard, the information contained in the mouse movements and keystrokes are turned into a collection of electrical switches that contain the information content, and in turn are modulated into an analog carrier through a wire or over the airwaves and go through the reverse process on the receiving end. All of that happens in a couple of seconds.

A thought occurs somewhere in the brain or somewhere else in extradimensional space with the brain acting as a "thought receiver". It then goes through a complicated series of electrical signals and nerve impulses to become manifest where it most often translates to an interaction of some kind with an object. That object is used to convey that thought to someone else in the material world. That thing might store the thought for later retrieval by the recipient of the thought as in a paper note that is left on a door, or might convey the thought instantly as in the case of speech.

What if we could bypass that whole process of translating a thought into a series of actions which affect the material world in a way that represents the thought to direct conveyance of the thought itself, or the contents of the mind from one mind to another. The model for how our conscious mind uses the "hardware" of the brain to store and retrieve information works with our conscious mind acting as a kind of magnifying glass (our concentration) with access to the various parts of mind. Those parts might be cumulative cognition (the sum of our perception and senses for a particular immediate experience), recent memory and long-term memory. Such facilities in our mind are accessed by our conscious mind in serial, that is our conscious mind allows us to focus on one thing at a time whether we are solving a problem or remembering an experience. We might be driving a car and our concentration would safely be focused on our cumulative cognition. If we were dialing a phone number that we had previously looked up in a phone book, our concentration would be recalling from our recent memory. If we were relaxing on the couch and listening to music which reminded us of something we had experienced a long time ago while listening that same music, our concentration would be on our long-term memory.


If our conscious process works via electrical impulses that stimulate the various parts of our brain through electro-chemisty, then Maxwell's Laws of Electromagnetism must apply and that is that a current passing through a conductive medium produces an electromagnetic field, and an electromagnetic field passing through a conductor produces current. Now if we take two brains, each functioning on the same principles but perhaps with a little bit of a different structure that is based upon the adaptive growth of neural conduits, it may be possible for one brain to intercept the thoughts of another via Maxwell's laws as the electromagnetism produced by one brain would trigger the other brain to produce currents from the electromagnetic information contained therein. Each of the brains thoughts would produce an electromagnetic field that would contain the sum information of the electro-chemical process required to process that thought. Therefore the possibility exists that each one of two such brains could reinterpret the thoughts of the other by reproducing the current in the receiving brain via the electro-magnetic emanations of the sending brain.

Assuming this to be the case we could then look at models on how one person could retrieve thoughts like looking up information in a computer from another via cognitive steering. Cognitive steering works by the use of suggestion, that is by one person saying a particular word to another person, a thought is evoked and our conscious mind reflexively focuses on the recall of a memory. In this way, one person could with enough experience and given enough such suggestions perform a whole series of lookups in the brain of another person. Such words in this case are like sounds or smells that remind one of a particular experience or memory and focus our "magnifying glass" on the particular part of our mind required to access that experience. By cross referencing the results of such lookups, one could form a complex model (a reference model) based upon another person's thought process and associative analysis, that is knowing what thoughts and memories are associated with what words and how they collectively form a pattern. In this sense, it would be akin to looking up information on a search engine, with different keywords producing different results. 

Each time, the person doing the lookup would likely be receiving the current focus of the allegorical magnifying glass in the other person's mind. This magnifying glass would likely be required of the person doing the lookup as it would be needed to do the translation and accomodate the differences in brain structure between two people. The conscious focus is an abstract feature of the mind that would be common in most minds and therefore would likely be the window through which a person performing a lookup on another person would peer through to be able to perceive the translation of thought of the subject's brain.

Unfortunately for the person whom is being used in this way, this whole process might be somewhat invasive, if not ultimately so if done against the permission of the person whose brain was being used as an organic search engine. Someone who is vulnerable to such an activity could be said to be susceptible. The person who is susceptible might seek to protect themselves with something similar to a firewall (although it would not go so far to simplify the brain to being anything like a classical computer as it is far more complex). Such a firewall against intrusion using suggestion would require someone to exercise their conscious will in such a way that when someone tried to use suggestion to perform a lookup, their conscious mind (or the magnifying glass part) wouldn't automatically jump off to the activity of recalling an experience or memory. To do so, someone might try constant exercises to keep their conscious mind at the wheel at all times and not let themselves drift off into autopilot, a semi-conscious state where they would be susceptible to attempted lookups.

In such a premise, where people's thoughts were retrievable by merely finding the "brain address" (web address?) and then performing a lookup, there would most certainly be much mental noise like radio station static that someone attempting lookups from someone else would have to first navigate to find the person whose signal they were looking up from. This means that to find the connection to the person they were looking up from, they would first have to drop a series of suggestions in the open and look for a candidate amongst the results, that is the people whose brains automatically performed the lookup when the person dropped the suggestion. By using suggestions in a series based upon the reference model for that person's mind, the person doing the lookups could attune specifically to the mind they were looking for. This is somewhat akin to the analogy of the Voight-Kampf examination from the movie Blade Runner although this test was geared to finding artificial humans or replicants that lacked or imitated conscious process rather than those trying to conceal it.

It is therefore in this noise that would be the best place for someone to protect themself against such an intrusion, and would be akin to hiding in a crowd. To train oneself to do so, they would have to train themself to break the rules of word association in such a way that when someone else dropped a suggestion, a completely unrelated thought emerged, or no discernible thought amongst the "thought" background noise. A person with this capability could be said to have a stealth mind. Training oneself to this would take a considerable amount of time and effort, but the effort would be worth it. When not in a crowd though, such a mind might attract attention from those attempting to perform lookups, as they would most certainly get suspicious when they encountered a mind with no response. 

Therefore breaking one's associative memory would have to occur in such a way that the associations would in fact retrieve decoy memories or experiences, that would have a relationship to the context of the lookup, but provide no real clues or information that would be useful for someone attempting such lookups. Such a person would require the association to be flexible enough to change it on the fly so as to accommodate associative interpretation of experience when it would be beneficial and switch back to dissociative interpretation in order to remain hidden. Computer software could most certainly help in training someone to gain the ability to switch between associative and dissociative thought so that contextual pattern could not be derived from the results of such lookups by an invasive person. 

We will explore some other possibilities in this paradigm in order to understand the hypothetical risks there are if such a theory were proven true.

© Copyright 2012 Brian Joseph Johns

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Updates: Eat Neat Food And Feed The World

Back for another update and two days in a row making this a serious update streak.

Yesterday my fridge and cupboards were running low and I needed to make something at dinner. Enter into the fold the greatest library since The Great Library Of Alexandria aka the internet. Using it I searched for a cheap and easy meal. Ultimately I found the Canada Foodgrains Bank, a web site with some very simple recipes that people from various parts of the world eat for the need of survival. It was a great learning experience and I got to try a food that is eaten in various parts of the world just for its sheer simplicity. What if I didn't have a choice though? That was what I had to eat day in and day out, as do many families. A little bit of a humbling experience.

This is also the case locally in Canada as well with organizations such as Food Banks Canada, The Daily Bread Food Bank and Various Community and Church, Synagogue and Mosque run programs providing the slack that Canadians need to meet their weekly dietary needs. Just about everything we need to interact with the world in a functional way is dependent upon our diet especially if you`re growing up. A healthy diet is at least in part responsible for a healthy body and mind.

While you're at it, you may want to take sign a petition to help bring attention to a humanitarian crisis in Sudan and spread the word. You might bring attention to this in a way that could make a difference.

Being the adventurous person that I am and coming from a family where just about all of the men cook, I decided to try my hand out at improvisation with next to nothing (I mean these are the exact ingredients I had to work with, and nothing more). Here's what came out of it.

Wanna know what I ate? A simple healthy cheap meal.

Follow the recipe for the simple flatbread and prepare the following after you prepare the dough.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup Balsamic Salad Dressing
  • 1 Can light flaked tuna
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped or crushed
  • Lettuce (Romaine, or any other kind you like)

Prep:

  • Mix the tuna, salad dressing, chopped onion and garlic in a tupperware container. Season to taste with oregano, rosemary, salt and pepper.
  • Chop the lettuce into thin strips enough for bite sized pieces.
  • While you are letting the dough from the flatbread recipe sit, allow the tuna mixture to marinate in the fridge covered for about two to four hours.

Cooking:

  • Break the dough up into pieces a little smaller than a billiard ball, roll them into a ball and flatten them with your hands or a rolling pin.
  • Cook in a skillet, with a light layer of olive or cooking oil until browned on either side.
  • Cut the cooked flat bread into pie piece sections and layer the outer rim of a plate with them.
  • Put the chopped lettuce in the center of the plate.
  • Put the tuna mixture in the center of the lettuce.
  • Eat it using the simple bread wedges as utensils.
Improving it: Sliced olives in the tuna mixture, maybe even some hot peppers.

Got any suggestions?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Updates

Back From My Man Cave


Glad to see everybody and I hope that you're all well.

I'm back from a bit of a hiatus and a bit of a flogging. Thanks to the efforts of some pretty nasty people, I have decided to pull Moving On from the blog. This is not to harm anyone who is going through the difficult road of addiction recovery but more to quell the kind of negative attention that it attracted from the grim underworld that it exposes.

I will post it online in the near future when the second chapter is complete. Unfortunately there are some people where I live who have been trying to steer the direction of the story by outside interference, and if you're anyone who has tried doing anything to make a little bit of a difference these days, you will know exactly what I mean. I can barely go anywhere in the city without a good verbal flogging by people who have read the contents of this blog and Risque Factor.

The people who feel the same way about what I have written don't believe that I wrote it, so they initiate situations to verify that it is indeed the real me and those that stand against it try to beat me up verbally and in groups because of it. Forgive me if I sometimes get a little manic because of it, no offense intended. It gets tiring getting flogged all of the time. The people involved want to steal credit for the efforts of others, so if they can make it appear to others like you don't have the personality that would match what you write on your blog, others won't believe that you wrote it, and they can lie and say that it was someone else. If you stood to benefit in any way from your efforts, that gets stolen from you, while you might end up with the blame for someone else's mistakes. The club involved will even try to make you appear to be hateful to cover it up. It gets very tiring. Be careful, this club tries to create debts that they try to collect from you by stealing credit for the things that you do.

In the story Moving On, I talk a little about the environment that makes all the Evelyns in western life possible:

"A whole economy had evolved to support this little mess. A system of dropping people to the depths of it's pit. A system of hiding people and keeping them hidden. People on the run from the law, the bank, creditors, loan sharks you name it, they were concealed there somewhere. A system of keeping anyone who had something that could be stolen or syphened from them, like a talent or an ability were kept there, often unknowingly against their will, while others around them would take credit and notoriety for their efforts, even pretending to be them. There was even an addiction for some to the theft of the notoriety of others. Thieves of a kind that the rest of society didn‘t even have a name for. Some had the choice, some didn’t and some didn’t want the choice at all, or change for that matter. All of this created a market for girls and hard drugs. Anything that somebody needed to escape for a time and a price. As rare as they were amongst all of this, there were still diamonds in the rough."

Unfortunately there are a lot of people whose goal it is these days to separate one from their past and present accomplishments, whose goal it is to steal them and give them out to others. So if you're not consistent with what you what you create, then they give credit for that to someone else. The same goes for your family and friends as well. If you can't defend all that connects you to what you care about, then they take it and give it to someone else. Its a shame really. Don't let it happen to you.

There's diamonds out there, I've been with a few and that's what makes this all bearable.

Speaking of diamonds:

Music

I finally bought a modest music keyboard, and have spent the last few days tweaking it with my computer setup. Of course it's an M-Audio KeyRig 49 like the same one that I had before at a great price from Saved By Technology, a great place in Toronto, Canada to get the scoop on technology based audio production.

Writing

I haven't spent much time writing recently however I did write additions to The Answer Is In The Keys and Stories From The End a few weeks ago without posting updates.

Movies: What movie should I see?

I am going to check out a flick at the movies next week or the week after and it has been a while since I've been to one. So here's the choices in no particular order:

The Amazing Spiderman, The Avengers, Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, The Bourne Legacy, The Expendables 2, Total Recall, Men In Black 3, Brave, 2 Days In New York and Ice Age 3.

I'm leaning towards the Imax 3D ones as I love that aspect of the movie going experience, although if it was a date movie I'd have to lean towards light hearted comedy or action adventure. Of course performance, plot, direction, art direction and music are pretty big points for me. Any recommendations? Please feel free to comment (or flog me if you`d like).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Moving On Part 2


Introduction

The initial draft of the story was inspired by and meant to shine a light on a part of society that just doesn’t get enough of it, mostly because it doesn’t want the attention. In that part of society, there are group(s) of people that fall casualty to this, finding it nearly impossible to get away from. Especially vulnerable to this situation are some of the women who get lured into it and are victimized at the expense of their innocence.

The incredible courage and dedication that it takes for one to get away from such a life and get onto a different track is superhuman. This courage and dedication is exhibited by everyone who takes part in that process and is especially true of every Evelyn there is.

This second part of the story is not based in real life in any way although the person(s) that inspired Evelyn,  the support workers are very much there and always will be. This is new territory for Evelyn and her story. It is her chance to face her demons head on, but whether she ultimately triumphs in her effort remains to be seen.



Evelyn paused, taking in the situation while her gut twisted in both anxiety and withdrawal. The front desk attendant at the Rehab Centre printed some forms that would need Evelyn’s signature. Evelyn’s story could have ended right there at that counter, just like any happy ending. But this wasn’t one of those stories. Some problems don’t leave so easily, and some monsters do come back.

Evelyn finished the paper work for her sign up to the program feeling better than she had in a long time. One of the councillors took her on a tour of the facility, showing her everything that she needed to know about the program and the building. The last point on the tour was her dorm, which had four other beds in it and a shared bathroom. She had been given permission to sleep for the rest of the day, which she did without even getting her bedding in place.

Her dreams were a crazy mixture of memories that crossed over into each other. She seemed to be walking through the lecture halls at the University, where there were lectures were in progress. Girdy, another addict she knew from the Loop was making giant hand puppets with the overhead projector in lecture hall A, a small audience shouting requests to the makeshift performer. Evelyn walked down one of the hallways and into a lab, where there was a classroom lecture going on. This sight startled her. It was Lacy, at the front of the class, giving the lecture. It seemed to be a sociology class, with five of the regulars from Credit Street sitting and taking notes, and showing genuine interest in the subject and the lecture. They listened intently, fascinated by the subject. She smiled at the sight. She continued down the hall and turned into the medical theatre. There laying on a gurney was Tripper, his body lifeless. The medical lecturer, fully clothed for dissection a mask covering his face. He approached the gurney with Tripper’s body, a scalpel extended like a weapon. Evelyn screamed a soundless scream. Unable to wake her self she turned away.

“Young lady, you’re going to lose grades if you don’t pay attention in this class.” the medical lecturer stated in a condescending tone.

She forced herself to look and saw that the medical lecturer had been replaced by the body from the valley, John Doe. His wounds still apparent across his front, his head still slightly arched back, eyes grey.

“Young lady! Young lady! Are you hearing me?” said John Doe, turning his whole body to face her rather than craning his arched neck.

She became aware she was dreaming but was unable to wake herself. Focussing herself, she reached with one of her hands, clasping one of her eye lids by her lashes and pulled it open. She awoke with a start, her chest pounding as she caught her breath.

She tried looking around the room though the sun had set and the room was dark. She stumbled in the dark towards the bathroom, stubbing her little toe on the door way. She cursed again, sitting to use the toilet only to find the toilet seat up. She cursed under her breath a third time, scrambling for the light switch and flicking it when she found it. A clock sitting on a shelf in the bathroom read 2am. Feeling a little stuffy despite the air conditioning in the facility, She had a long shower, cursing yet again when she realized she had left the towels they had given to her with her bedding, out in the dorm. She threw her t-shirt on, still soaking wet and retrieved her towel, retreating to the bathroom again. Occasionally she awoke with a little pain and anxiety from withdrawal. She spent a short time drying off, then cleaning up after herself, leaving the bathroom spotless. She put her bedding on the bed and settled in again, this time not dreaming at all, or at least not remembering her dreams if she had them.

The next few days were spent getting accustomed to her new surroundings and schedule. She had kept to herself for the first few days. Still very cranky and occasionally sick from withdrawal symptoms. Her one on one sessions with the councillor would not start until the following week. Until then she kept herself busy with her chores. She enjoyed that part of the day, and spent her time doing as good a job as she could. It kept her busy and her mind from going astray. At other times, she would make plans as to what she was going to do with herself when she was done. How she was going to finish her schooling, get her career and life back on her track. She had already envisioned her home, how it was going to look, what she was going to buy for it. These details were far down the road, but it gave her a sense of direction even if she was biting off more than she could chew.

Evelyn had been having trouble with mood swings and anxiety attacks which were related to emotional stress and the pressure of abstinence. Her first one on one therapy session went well. Jana, her councillor, a soft spoken lady, whom had miles of patience was very encouraging, and helped alleviate much of her fear. They just talked. Well not really. Evelyn talked and the councillor listened. It was strange at first. Evelyn felt like her own therapist, asking the questions that she had wanted answers to and then answering them herself. The therapist cleverly guided her to the right questions. The ones that were barriers to her progress and the ones that were part the path that she wanted to take. She had felt as if a great load had been taken from her, though it was more like somebody had taken the time to help her organize her own load into a more comfortable arrangement, maybe removing something here or there.

These therapy sessions quickly became the highlight of her week. Every week they would talk. An hour at a time, a couple times a therapy session would go over the one hour mark ten, sometimes twenty minutes. She had noticed her nightmares had receded as well. Her group sessions were the same except that there were six people all together and one councillor. Questions would fly between client and client and councillor and client. One client’s answers would help the other five clients. The group session resolved issues as well, but she preferred the one on one sessions. Evelyn had always preferred her own personal time for her growth. The time in the program had flown quickly. Many of the people present were dedicated to making progress, so there was almost never conflict. This enabled the clients to let their guard down enough to feel safe, and open up to the councilling. Evelyn was always still a little bit guarded in that sense. Her life experiences had taught her to always be on guard, especially when she wasn’t expecting anything.
She had been in a meeting regarding the results of her physical examination and was talking with her counsellor when the counsellor’s phone rang.

“Nancy Wellens, how may I help you.” she answered with clinical detachment.

She paused, listening to the voice on the other end, then hanging up the phone.

“You’ve got a visitor. We‘re just about finished here anyway.” Nancy smiled to Evelyn.

“Thank you Nancy.” Evelyn got up, a little excited and curious as to who it was. She was happy to learn that she was in great health, no sexually transmitted diseases or any other associated health risks that were common in the world that she had just emerged from. She was having a great day and she felt healthy and full of energy.

She saw Detective Grady standing at the front desk, having some papers signed by the receptionist. She smiled as she approached.

“Detective Grady! How are you?” tears trickled down from the corners of her eye.

“Why hello Evelyn. Aren’t you looking strong and healthy today.” he smiled to her, winking.

The receptionist returned his forms, signed and he tucked them neatly in the inside pocket of his blazer.

“Do you feel like taking a little field trip today?” he asked her, already knowing her answer. He was a Detective after all.

“Uhhh sure. Where are we going?” She responded, trying not to look confused.

“We’re in a bit of hurry, I don’t mean to be rude.” the Detective said glancing to the receptionist and then back to Evelyn, masking his thoughts well enough.

They left the building and Evelyn instinctively walked to the back door of the car. The Detective looked at her, a little sympathetically and responded.

“Hey, things are different. You’re in the front seat now.” the door clicked unlocked and she opened it getting in without a pause.

He remained silent on the way out of the neighbourhood. He drove the unmarked car onto the highway southbound for the downtown core. Evelyn held her gaze ahead of her, glancing to the left in an attempt to draw him into conversation. He was deep in thought weighing in on some information that had recently come to him from an outside source.

“How’s the program working out for you? Are you keeping your end of the bargain?” He asked, finally breaking the silence.

“I’m right on track, although it was hard for the first few months.” She replied, not giving up any extra information to him.

Although her nightmares had subsided, something still bothered her about the situation with the body she had discovered, and Tripper’s disappearance. She knew there was a common thread that connected the two events and was afraid that her hunches about that yarn might be closer to reality than she thought.

“Have you ever heard of Alicia Danvers?” He broke the silence again, suspecting that Evelyn may have more answers than she had talked about in their conversation at the station months prior.

“She was a backup girl.” Evelyn answered, thinking that her silence would be more harmful than helpful.

“A backup? What do you mean?” he asked.

“We had regular customers. We’d be on the street at a certain time expecting them. If we couldn’t make it, she’d be my backup girl.” She answered, filling him in on the business of pleasure, though it was not the way that movies would romanticize it. Dirty cars. Dirty clients in dirty disguises. Dirty in a way that it would take a lifetime of showers to wash away. It was usually very quick as it would be in any piece work related business. The faster they got done, the faster they’d have their money and the faster they were able to score a hit.

“How many other ladies did she backup for?” asked the Detective, changing lanes as he did.

“She had about three or four other girls that she’d cover for. She was hoping to get her own spot in the area. That’s how you put your time in.” Evelyn answered, remembering the life like she had read about it in a novel more so than having lived it. It kept her detached in a way that she needed to feel when she talked about it.

“How about some names?” He asked her, keeping an eye on the sparse traffic ahead.

“Suzy. I mean blondie Suzy. You know her I’m sure. Trish the dish. Shirley and Wendy. That’s it I’m pretty sure.” she looked at him, waiting for approval.

He kept his eyes on the road, momentarily glancing in the rear view mirror.

“Did she have any problems with any of those girls?” he continued, typing a name with one free hand into the comtech console in the car.

“No. She was always pretty easy to get along with. She never caused problems and none of my customers ever said anything to me about her.” she answered, trying to get a peek at the computer out of the corner of her eye.

“What about with the customers. Anyone ever mistreat her, argue over money?” He asked, changing lanes hurriedly and nearly missing the off ramp.

“Not that I could remember. Though she did have some problems one time with Tripper. She was in an argument with him about a month before he disappeared.” she arched her head hoping to get a better view of the console.

The Detective stopped talking as they merged into city traffic from the highway. Tripper had been a non-stop source of problems from the time he had arrived on Credit Street. He quickly took over small time distribution for crack cocaine and crystal meth, nudging some of the other dealers right off the street a few times. He had even chased a competitor down and pistol whipped him, leaving him curled up in a ball on the sidewalk. The Detective had questioned him a few times, only to get all attitude and no answers. This made Tripper a hero to the other Credit Street misfits and put him on the radar of some people who did not like the attention. Tripper had a notorious reputation to the women working the streets, and he often took advantage of their situation if he could somehow profit by it. On one particularly bad night, just after he had been busted for possession, he had taken out his anger on a new girl to the Credit Street tour, beating her senseless and leaving her in a bloody heap on his front lawn. The paramedics had whisked her off to emergency and the police had been notified but the poor girl was too afraid to “rat” on Tripper out of fear of the repercussions from the rest of the Credit Street denizens. Suzy came onto the scene, hitting Tripper solidly in the face with an unopened can of cola several times and swearing to him that if he ever did anything like that again, she would kill him. He didn’t dare hit her back as she had friends at a local underground establishment that had a reputation of having ties to the mob. One week later and Tripper had disappeared completely although the timing was a convenient set of circumstances. Legend had it that Suzy had put a hit out on Tripper and that he was in the bottom of the harbour now sleeping with the fishes. Suzy did little to put a stop to the rumours, as not a finger was ever laid on any of the girls ever again by anyone on Credit Street. From that point on, Suzy had become the den mother to the girls there.

This did little to help the situation with Alicia Danvers whose body was found just outside of the downtown core in a dumpster behind a manufacturing plant. Alicia was a little ball of energy and never a bad bone in her body despite the hardship she had experienced as a little girl. Her parents were small time scam artists who sought to support their lifestyle through a series of rip offs that left a trail of wreckage across the city. She had left her dysfunctional home when she was thirteen and lived with her friend’s family until she was seventeen, at which point she had become quite a partier and dropped the idea of being a student. Her and her friend left that home together and were working Credit Street three years later hoping to achieve the freedom twenty-five retirement plan, which of course was quite literally a pipe dream.

She had been an on and off regular at Credit Street for the years that followed, and had become a backup girl just before Evelyn arrived on the scene. She had liked it that way, as there weren’t as many commitments as there were for the other girls working the streets. That and it was easier to remain a stranger to the customers as you never had regulars. With regulars, the girls became a part of their customer’s life and this presented some difficulties and risks for the girls working in that trade.

The Detective pulled the car into the coffee shop driveway and ordered some coffee and lunch for Evelyn and himself, paying at the drive thru window.

“I’m going to need you for the next couple of days while we try put together some pieces to a puzzle, and maybe get Credit Street cleaned up for good.” He handed her a soft drink and a sandwich, which she accepted gracefully, consuming the sandwich in three bites.

“Cleaned up for good? You mean closing it?” asked Evelyn in shock.

“No. I mean opening it. We’re fixing an open wound in the city that has been left for too long. You‘re going to help out.” he looked to her, offering up some of his fries. She paused for a moment, grabbed a small handful consuming them in little bites.

“What’s in it for me?” she said like a shrewd negotiator.

“Closure.” he offered, his stern face hiding any details of what may lay ahead.

“Won’t that be bad for your business to do that?” she asked sardonically, a little smile rising from the corner of her mouth.

He paused looking at her, his poker face slipped just a little.

“It would be bad for all of us not to do it. My business will just move its focus to other markets.” he replied looking her square in the eyes and in all seriousness.

“Are you planning on running for office?” she asked, still smiling that she was able to keep him on guard.

“No, but I may be running from the office with you as my partner.” he said firmly, breaking his assuredness with a wink and a smile as he pulled out into the midday traffic.



© Copyright 2012 Brian Joseph Johns





Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Answer Is In The Keys

Smoke filled the air in a dense cloud around the patrons of the bar. The house was packed, as it always was on a thursday and the whiskey flowed at a steady pace. This was the best night so far in the year of 1946 and the temperature peaked on the dance floor in the mid July night. Rolly Peters, the owner of the establishment eyed the packed room from behind the bar. He kept a close eye but never a close count of the transactions in the bar. His father had taught him that was bad business and bad luck. There was plenty of time to count your fish after you pulled in your net as they used to say on the Mississippi bayou, where his father had raised him. His father had worked his fingers to the bone on the bayou and Rolly had learnt everything he knew from his Pa. From the time Rolly was five, he had started out helping his mother with washing and fixing the tralling nets. When he had turned eight, his father had dragged him onto to the fishing trawler, claiming that he was going to teach Rolly a man's job. At eighteen, Rolly was running the fishing trawler himself while his father tended to the business and got into the juice. Rolly's father was an obsessive pragmatist and kept a close eye on his coin, but never jinxed a haul of fish with a premature count. Rolly had learnt it all, except for the love of the bottle, and it was the bottle that had killed his father. Rolly had been twenty five at that time, his poor mother found his father dead in a pool of his own piss and vomit. Rolly retired the fishing boat in a sale of the business and invested the money and their massed fortune (which was modest at best) in a new house for his mother, and bought a bar on Bourbon St. and never once thought about the irony.

Lorna's Bayou as he had named the bar after his ma, had opened in 1935 and had pulled in a whole thirty five cents for its opening night. He had spent five dollars for catering from the local deli and cannery as there was no kitchen in it then. His ma even cooked up enough crawfish to populate the muddy river while a crowd of hungry cats waited eagerly for the scraps and droppings. Eight people turned up for the opening night and seven left at closing time. The eighth, a man in his late forties had passed out in his chair and Rolly didn't have the heart to throw him out. He let the man sleep off his drunken slumber until five in the am and then woke the man with a glass of water and a complementary helping to the catering from the previous night. The man consumed the jambalaya, crawfish and guzzled the water down without so much as a peep and then stumbled out the door with a wink and "ah thankya boss". Rolly thought he saw his father's eyes looking back at him for a moment as the man left. He locked up the place and went to sleep for a few hours, it was Friday after all and he had to open the place at three pm. There'd be plenty of time for restin' when he retired to his grave.

Determined to make the Bayou into the best place in town, he tried every trick he could muster to draw in a crowd. He played with the prices, setup deals on off peak hours a la happy hour and had a small kitchen put in. The local economy was hit hard and the looming threat of war left most people weary of spending their hard come by money. Rolly had nearly given in to defeat when he came across a piano for sale in a competing bar that had recently gone out of business. He paid two whole dollars for it and a gave a half a bottle of Wild Turkey and a plate of seafood to the two guys who moved it for him. It was an oversized upright with eighty eight keys and a couple of cigarette burns on the lower register keys, as its last player had been left handed. It sat on a small stage in the corner of the bar and a section of tables covered what was now the dance floor. Rolly never had a piano, so he had no idea of how to play one or what was required to care for it. It was an investment for his business just like the cash register and like the cash register it had a lock.

Every day at three o'clock Rolly unlocked the bar and the piano. For two months the piano sat in that corner, without so much as a second glance, while the bar struggled to stay afloat around it. Rolly had been stressed out about the state of his business and kept himself busy running the business to stave off his worry. It was an historic night and war had just broken out in Europe and the air was full of tension. There were a moderate turnout that night and the energy in the air had changed after ten o'clock, but Rolly couldn't put his finger on it. At eleven o'clock pm on that fateful night Rolly had just about given up entirely when the piano began to sing. It began quietly at first, with a slow Southern Louisiana drawl that drew itself into a triple feel groove that left people swaying and feet a tapping. The entire bar had gone silent and all eyes had focussed on the corner where it sang. Rolly recognized the man who had slept in the chair on the opening night of the Bayou who was perched on the piano stool and bringing the place to life. The tune ran its course and the bar began to fill. By the beginning of the second tune, the place was full to the brim. The bar and kitchen were running at full tilt and Rolly found himself with more to do than he had the time to do it in. That was the way he liked it and he remembered the fishing trawler and the Mississippi bayou air.

"Don't you be countin' your money..." the singer's voice pierced the air and hit Rolly smack dab in the chest. Rolly had to stop and look.

"But you can always count on me" the voice continued while the ebony and ivory of the keys countered.

She was a medium framed lady with a figure like a violin and a voice like the night that left you in anticipation and wanting more. Rolly held his eyes steady on her, unable to move.

"Don't you be giving up lovin'..." she continued, the words rolling off her tongue and over her red and glossy lips.

"Unless you're giving it up to me" she winked at Rolly, and his heart jumped five steps back.

She moved her hips gently in sway to the beat, and Rolly stepped forward to clear away some tables from in front of the stage. A few couples stepped forward and started to dance and before long it was officially dubbed the dance floor.


"You don't have to keep on looking..." she looked towards Rolly and then to the rest of the room which was in motion to the rhythm that everyone shared.


"Unless you're looking at me" and she found Rolly's glance again and this time it was him that winked.

The music continued and the room peaked at midnight and Rolly hadn't stopped while this crazy river ran its course through the Bayou.

At exactly one in the am, the last tune ran its course and the floor cleared as quickly as it had been overrun by those eager couples. Rolly had during the course of the night hired two extra hands to help out, one a neighbor from down the street who had a tiny apartment above the shoe repair shop and the other a young lady and former waitress he had met while picking up the piano. By the time the music had stopped, his team had gelled like they had been together for years. Something magical had happened and Rolly's confidence returned along with his father's pragmatic discipline. He took inventory of the situation without counting the fish.

"Not the same man I saw a few hours ago." the serendipitous siren approached him from his flank, catching him off guard.

"Did that angel's voice come from you, or was I just dreamin'?" he replied, turning on his charm, and smiling slightly from the corner of his mouth.

She just smiled back at him, leaning seductively against the bar in a display of her confidence. It wasn't an invitation as much as it was an expression.

"I'm Rolly Peters, the owner of Lorna's Bayou." Rolly extended a hand, which she accepted gracefully.

"And who is Lorna?" the siren inquired, no visible change of her expression.

"Lorna is my mother. I named this place after her." Rolly answered, looking around and appreciating the moment the singer had given him.

"By what name may I call you?" he asked the singer without pushing her.

"In due time I'll let you know. You just look after old Jimmy and I'll see you again." she replied, looking over to the piano bench where the piano player had passed out onto the piano keys. A bottle of Old Port sat on the piano beside him.

"I'll see you soon Mr. Peters." she started for the exit of the establishment, strutting her stuff playfully as she left while maintaining her dignity; and her strut.

Rolly watched her every step of the way without giving her that impression, but she knew all the same.

The bar had cleared a little since the music had stopped, and Rolly let the atmosphere die out on its own. His father always told him never to pull the nets too early:

"Sometimes too late is a little better, even if it means that you lose some. Those ones are just on their way to tell their other fish friends about the great spot they found. You'll just get 'em next time." and then he'd take a pull from the bottle, and that would be Rolly's cue to start cleaning the deck for ten minutes until he'd pull the nets.

Jimmy took a long and hard pull from the bottle, setting it down on the piano. Rolly jumped over to it and pulled it from the piano, wiping the spot clean. Jimmy looked over almost at Rolly and spoke:

"I'sa just checkin to see if you was payin' a tenshun boss."

"That's alright Jimmy. You played a good night here Jimmy and I thank you." Rolly replied to Jimmy, not really sure of who was taking care of who.

"She's a beauty, aint she. Huh boss?" Jimmy spoke again, not really looking at Rolly as much as we was looking through Rolly.

"She's an angel and that's for sure. A voice like one too. Sent by the almighty himself. She sure is a beauty." Rolly replied looking at the door where she'd departed just five minutes earlier as if he could make out the imprint her figure had made upon the smoke.

"Boss. I'sa talkin about the piano." Jimmy responded in all seriousness.

"Well I..." Rolly tried to finish before Jimmy broke out into laughter.

"I know who you was a talkin' bout. Its ok boss. Yousa with Jimmy." Jimmy responded again before responding to the call of the bottle.

Rolly smiled and ventured back to the bar. He had been thinking about how he was going to make this up to Jimmy, and the mysterious singer but wasn't quite sure how.

© Copyright 2012 Brian Joseph Johns

Friday, July 27, 2012

What If The World Knew What You Were Thinking Part 1: Modern Law And Communications

Imagine sitting at home one night, maybe reading the news on your e-reader or from the classic wp-reader (wood pulp reader ie newspaper). You come across an ad for a vacation spot that you are might be interested in. As you ponder the possibility of doling out the one thousand simoleans to do so, someone in a car drives by your house and screams out the window of their car: 

"You don't want to go there, its a lousy spot to go".

A little shaken, you write that off to coincidence and continue your reading. You come across an article that has a picture of the columnist, who reminds you of an ex-girlfriend and you reminisce about a provocative evening you enjoyed with her. Somebody walking by says:

"Way to go buddy, I thought you didn't kiss and tell. I can't wait to tell the guys at corner store about that".

Now you are feeling a little agitated, maybe even violated. Frustrated, you decide to try finishing off a sales presentation that has to be finished by the end of the week. 

You start working on it and your neighbor yells out their window:

"You're going to try to gouge your customer with a 10 percent commission? That's highway robbery". 

Your tension level rising, you think about your commission and decide that it might be a little high. You mark it down to 8 percent and the neighbor says: 

"I made you lower your commission! Slap!".

You decide to give up and go to bed. You don't sleep as well as you usually do though you have an enticing dream involving the girlfriend you were reminded about. You wake up in the morning and your neighbor says:

"Whoa. That was some night you had. You don't mind if I give her a call, do you?".

You clench your fists, ready to explode and lay a speech on the neighbor about your privacy and then realize that you are dealing in an issue that would be impossible for others to know about unless they could read your mind.

Does this sound a little too far out? Well it is possible with a little bit of technology and psychology to add the finishing touches. Here's how something like that could work.

The technology enabling the transmission of information over wireless networks is pretty stable and secure. Even with some expensive technology it would be pretty difficult to turn the frequency modulated waves back into their originating information though it would be possible given enough time and resources, but let's rule that out and stick with a more simple possibility. Imagine that every electronic device that has a video display, such as a video monitor could broadcast the signal that it receives from the computer to other computers (or just video monitors) as long as the other computers (or video monitors) had the right kind of receiver.

So now we have the technical means to keep an eye on what you are reading and working  on right from your screen that doesn't require monitoring your internet connection. This kind of a configuration would work even if you didn't have an internet connection. Nor does it require a scary Orwellian totalitarian Government to make it possible, they would have better things to do, like having an interior decorator improve the visual presence of Room 101. It could be done by people in your neighborhood with ease for a relatively low cost and would only require one neighbor to act as a relay, that is if one computer receives the video signal from your computer, that could be relayed to fifty other monitoring computers if they have an internet connection or the right receiver.

Now imagine that one of the fifty computers keeping an eye on what you are checking out on your computer screen has someone that knows or knew you. They knew that the columnist you were looking at looked like one of your ex-girlfriends and relayed this info via text message to someone driving by your house.

This isn't really too far from the truth of what is possible. This sort of a scenario is the antithesis of data mining in relation to targetted marketing. The difference is that I see targetted marketing as a great thing. Based upon my web browsing habits, I will receive ads or search results that highlight the relationship of those browsing habits. That's great because the stuff that a person might want has a better chance of coming to them without them having to look for it.

Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that there are people that are using this kind of technology and they are using it to protect an underground economy. Finding those that may stand against this is the goal of such a group and the utilization of information technology to these ends has proven a benefit to them.

By doing so, they may have been tricking the public into thinking that it is the Government that is doing this when in fact it is just a group of well organized civilians. In doing so they would risk turning a greater number of people against the Government and creating civil unrest and increasing the number of people that would support their cause.

The problem and the extent of this situation makes it a very dangerous prospect if laws governing the unauthorized use of monitoring technologies are not reeled in and modernized to meet the risk they pose. If such technology makes its way into the hands of identity thieves, corporate spies, intellectual or technical property thieves the economic risks become monumental.

Imagine a civilian group being able to monitor your activities when you are filling out a bank funds transfer, or an online purchase, or the use of a Government service that requires a registered user. Such a civilian group would not have to be bonded in order to be insurable in case of liability. There would be no safeguards against the misuse of such information.

People monitoring in this way would literally be able to see everything a person could see on their screen. That is they could see the answers to your secret questions about account verification. Enough of those when combined with your name, address, date of birth, social insurance or social security numbers and the rest of your personal information would provide an identity thief with a smorgasbord that would keep them able to operate with your identity for years.

Another scenario involves the group being able to see who you interact with, send emails to, chat with. With that information if they were seeking to damage your reputation they could then use that connection to spam email the people you emailed, or send them damaging emails. They could start harassing the people that you chat with. There are a whole plethora of nasty things that they could do with access to such information.

Creative and Intellectual properties could fall risk to such theft at the hands of the people monitoring. People could literally take your ideas, and perhaps your creations and claim them for their own without you even knowing. They could then obtain a legal copyright against your works and be the legal owners of those works.

What about a corporate venture or deal involving millions of dollars. Having advance information about such a deal could have effects that would ripple markets world wide. What about a Government official monitored so as to compromise a bill proposal, or an amendment to an Act or Statute ahead of its presentation to the Senate.

The current hurdles that exist in the legal arena with regard to such activity is that the laws concerning the protection of privacy must be modernized to take into consideration that an internet connection between a provider and a customer is a private communication.

The Nevis Consulting Group Inc. conducted a study which was turned into the Department of Justice Canada on April 28, 2003. Here are some of the recommendations:

J. INTERCEPTION OF E-MAIL

1. E-mail should receive the same treatment by the Canadian government as first-class mail, affording it the same protection as any other private communication. Thus the statutory and common law rules of evidence would apply equally to e-mail as to postal mail.

2. The Criminal Code should be amended to clarify that e-mail, at least while in transit, constitutes a "private communication" under section 183. It would then be subject to the same procedural safeguards as all other interceptions under this provision.

3. The Criminal Code should define clearly when an e-mail ceases to be a communication subject to interception and when it becomes a document subject to search and seizure.

4. Canadians have a similar reasonable expectation of privacy when using e-mail as they do with other forms of communication. The legal treatment of e-mail should not be determined by technological capability but rather by our values as a society. If we wish to communicate privately by e-mail we should construct our laws to make it so.

5. Non-profit ISPs run by community associations that offer confidential e-mail lists to enable lawyers to consult with community advocates on difficult cases, law reform issues and other sensitive matters are concerned that the proposed legislation may violate the privacy of advocates and others using this service.

6. Although ISPs are private companies, they should be subject to state-imposed regulation because they are responsible for the essential service of e-mail delivery.

What this basicly states is that email should be covered under the same laws that protect postal mail and that a breach of a person's email would be the same as opening someone else's private postal mail. It also clarifies that the communication between and ISP and a customer's computer should be considered a private communication and protected by the criminal code by section 183 which covers laws regarding the interception of communications.

These laws should further be expanded to cover the scenarios that I have listed above involving the interception of display signals or any such monitoring that may occur independent of a network connection at all.

Another area of consideration should be the area concerning the offshore interception and collection of data. The dangers of such a practice pose risks outside of the legal jurisdictions of the originating countries. The risks are similar to the ones mentioned above except that the laws protecting one domestically would have little or no effect on those operating offshore. Combining the display monitoring technology with a computer receiving the wireless display information then relaying that information to an offshore data harvesting operation could be potentially disastrous personally and potentially politically and economically.

In closing, it is important to note that some of the aforementioned situations involve scenarios that are within the realm of possibility and are definitely in practice today. That does not mean that one should lose confidence in the great potential for business and communications that the internet and computers pose. Its does ascertain that one utilizing the technology should be aware of some risks so that they may recognize the warning signs of such a possibility being realized and further to understand the necessity of the Government updating these laws to cover these possibilities.

As of the report date of April 28, 2003, the following Canadian Government Departments and civil society groups are responding to the recommendations:

Government Departments

Alberta Justice

Alberta Solicitor General


Civil Society Groups

B.C. Civil Liberties Association

British Columbia Freedom of Information and

Privacy Association

Canadian Bar Association

Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Canadian Library Association

Civil Liberties Association, National Capital Region

Electronic Frontier Canada and

Electronic Frontier Foundation (US)

Electronic Privacy Information Center (US)

Internet Law Group - University of Manitoba

Option consommateurs

PovNet

Privaterra - Computer Professionals for Social

Responsibility

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Vancouver Community Network


Risque Factor

(c) Copyright 2012 Brian Joseph Johns