Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen Raided

January 18, 2018

Fet’s Whiskey Kitchen, 1230 Commercial, is one of the Drive’s longest serving establishments. It has the widest selection of whiskies in Canada. According to a note on Fet’s Facebook page:

“What an interesting day we had down at The Kitchen today.

At 10am three government agents showed up with the police to conduct a prohibition style raid. The government inventoried, catalogued, sealed and removed 242 bottles of whisky from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society [SMWS] worth about $40k. The same raid was conducted simultaneously at The Grand Hotel in Nanaimo, Little Jumbo and The Union Club in Victoria. All 4 establishments are SMWS Partner Bars and the only whisky taken at each location were the Society bottles.

Every cocktail bar in the province has a few specialty products in their shelves yet only these 4 bars were raided and the only product removed was the SMWS bottles.”

It will be fascinating to learn what this is all about.

 

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Constant Surveillance

January 18, 2018

I have never had a cell phone, smart or otherwise (*), or a Facebook account; nor do I take marketing surveys, especially those on the (landline) telephone. I use several apps on my computer to limit the tracking that can occur online. I realise that these days it is impossible NOT to be tracked to some extent (I know that every purchase I make at Costco and Amazon, for example, or using VISA, is carefully tabulated and added to my profile in their records) but I avoid whatever I can.

I avoid tracking because of a deep reluctance to allow governments or corporations to know what I am doing, beyond anything I specifically choose to tell them (census, taxes, prescriptions, etc). It is none of their business and I prefer to keep them out of my life so far as possible. My privacy and security is far more important to me than any marginal convenience smart phones, for example, might grant me.

And then there are cars. I haven’t owned a car for twenty-seven years. This had nothing to do with privacy and everything to do with maintenance costs and the utter inconvenience of parking in town.  However, were I thinking about buying another car I would have serious second thoughts after reading this article with the provocative headline “Why your car company may know more about you than your spouse“.

“By monitoring his everyday movements, an automaker can vacuum up a massive amount of personal information about [a driver], everything from how fast he drives and how hard he brakes to how much fuel his car uses and the entertainment he prefers. The company can determine where he shops, the weather on his street, how often he wears his seat belt, what he was doing moments before a wreck — even where he likes to eat and how much he weighs …

The result is that carmakers have turned on a powerful spigot of precious personal data, often without owners’ knowledge, transforming the automobile from a machine that helps us travel to a sophisticated computer on wheels that offers even more access to our personal habits and behaviors than smartphones do.”

Governments at all levels and corporations have, of course, been tracking us for a long time. However, according to an article in Curbed, “two rapidly rising technologies—computer vision and machine learning—offer the potential to revolutionize” their ability to know exactly what you do outside your home.

“[T]he technology tracks intent and activity: what people pick up and read without purchasing, and even what they look at from across the store. Standard Cognition can follow shoppers in real time, across different cameras and from multiple perspectives simultaneously.”

This article focuses on what it considers the advantages of this technology in urban planning and rational retailing. However, it also notes that

“an October 2016 report by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology, The Perpetual Line-Up, found that national law-enforcement networks using facial-recognition technology include photos for half of all adults in the United States, and the technology was most likely to make mistakes on women, young children, and African Americans, “precisely the communities on which the technology is most likely to be used.”

But you  don’t have to leave home to be tracked. An article in BoingBoing describes security problems with hone devices such as Amazon’s Echo and similar devices by Microsoft and Google. Not only are these devices watching you and tabulating information for the corporation, the corporations are passing much of this data to the government — and keeping quiet about it:

“Amazon was the last major tech company to issue a “transparency report” detailing what kinds of law-enforcement requests they’d serviced, and where; when they finally did start issuing them, they buried them on obscure webpages deep in their corporate info site and released them late on Friday afternoons … Amazon’s latest report shows a crazily high spike in law enforcement requests, but the company will not say which products or services were implicated by these requests.”

And while you are relaxing at home, minding your own business, your television is doing a lot more than that:

TVs like mobile phones often betray our most intimate lives, often being located in the centre of our homes. They are often fitted with cameras and microphones, as well as internal memories, which can be used to monitor what we’re doing, saying and watching … Recent news has shown that everyone from manufacturers to advertisers to the intelligence services could be watching you through your TV.”

Big Brother is not just a myth. It is here today in a far more insidious and overwhelming manner than even George Orwell could have imagined. When all this is combined with a US President who spouts Newspeak, and technology companies which have monopoly positions that Standard Oil and US Steel could only have dreamed of, we have to wonder and worry what the future holds in store.

 

* for the sake of complete disclosure, I should note I was given a Blackberry when I was working but never bothered to learn how to switch it on.

 

 


The Long Lens of History

January 17, 2018

I’ve already lived through several generations of photography. My parents had a little Brownie box, and then I graduated to an SLR; we all had Polaroids of one kind or another, abandoned for digital a decade back; and now we have digital-SLRs and telephone cams of extraordinary clarity.

Of course, this sequence is just the latest in the surprisingly long history of photography. While the work of Fox Talbot and Dageurre from the 1830s and 1840s is quite well known, the latest thought is that experiments could go back a further generation, to the 1790s.

A print, “The Leaf”, due for auction, is now thought to be connected to Thomas Wedgwood and Henry Bright who were experimenting with “solar images”. Humphrey Davy (famous as the inventor of the miners’ safety lamp) wrote about these images in 1802.

Jill Quasha is the photo dealer and expert who bought “The Leaf” in 1989 as she was building the Quillan Collection, a group of world-renowned photographs that Sotheby’s sold (without the leaf print) for almost $9 million on April 7. She said that it was still too early to say exactly what type of research would be conducted on the image. Tests could include those to determine the age of the paper and to identify the chemical makeup of any substances on the paper. “I think it has to be done quickly and efficiently and with the least amount of damage to the photograph,” said Ms. Quasha, who added that she hoped the research could be completed within six months so that the print could be put up for auction again with a more iron-clad, and perhaps stunning, provenance. (As a Talbot, it was estimated to sell for $100,000 to $150,000; if it is determined to be older, it could bring substantially more.)

Interesting stuff for those us who follow cultural beginnings.


The Emasculation of the Mars Bar

January 14, 2018

Back in the day, the Mars Bar was the true king of chocolate bars.  It took a long time to eat and satisfied every umami receptor that one had.   The original Mars was a substantial eat:  a thick wall of chocolate that took some biting through encased a vault of the thickest caramel that coated one’s teeth and gums.  It was a real treat and the greediest kid couldn’t eat more than one at a sitting.

The other morning I was feeling a low blood sugar moment coming on and I bought a Mars bar to get me through it.  First up, the size wasn’t what it should have been.  The original Mars bar was a hefty piece of work that filled one’s hand.   What I got yesterday was a disappointingly short stick that weighed hardly anything.  There was no resistance at all as my teeth bit through the chocolate skin, and the bitten piece just seemed to melt in my mouth.  It wasn’t what I expected or wanted.

Looking at the thing in section it was easy to see how thin the chocolate coating was, and how the caramel had been reduced to a slight sliver squeezed into place on a soft whipped mass that filled the bar.   It was just terrible!

Kids today, of course, know no better because the old bars just aren’t available for them to compare. They should sue the bar makers, I say.  Sue them for taking away one of the great joys of childhood.


There Was Life Before TV Or Movies

January 13, 2018

None of us today — at least none of us in the industrialised north and south — can remember a time when there wasn’t either the TV or the movies to give us animated entertainment.  But life before us wasn’t dull or without its own mechanical delights.

The always interesting Low-tech Magazine has a fascinating series of articles covering the Panorama, the Stereoscope, the Magic Lantern, and the Peep Show.

stereoscope

Well worth the time.


The Vancouver Election Starts Now

January 11, 2018

In exactly 40 weeks’ time, a new Vancouver City Council will be hatched. And just like any pregnancy, while it may start off in a quiet way, we all know — or should know — that the more preparation we can do before the fast-breaking activities on the big day, the more likely the event itself will be a joyful experience.

Vision seems in disarray with Robertson, Meggs, Reimer, and Vdovine no longer available, a terrible by-election result behind them, and the big promises of homelessness and affordability shoved aside by the greed of their financiers.  But they are a real full time party with more than a decade of dark money behind their operation. I’m sure that Joel Solomon and his big money buddies will do their best to attract what Solomon calls “extraordinary world class candidates” and, with an established GOTV operation in place, with a more than friendly Meggs-driven NDP government in Victoria, and helpful nods from Trudeau looking for Vancouver votes, Vision could pull off another victory, but …

The NPA seem likely favourites going in this time. Although popular George Affleck is stepping down, they have the new found weight of BC Liberal organizers, and the renewed interest of businessmen such as Peter Armstrong behind them this year. The newly drafted electoral financing rules might cause some dismay but, with the blatant third-party spending loopholes, I’m sure their Postmedia buddies will make sure their message gets through. And what will their message be?   George Affleck laid out one line of attack — an end to “excessive” taxation due to “wasteful” spending. Meanwhile the progressive-minded Glen Chernen is running a far more attractive platform, though it is doubtful that Armstrong et al would be happy to see him as their candidate. On the other hand, I’m sure we will see and hear a lot more of newly-elected snake oil salesman Hector Bremner pushing some supply-side trickle-down Reaganism as the panacea for all our ills. That could be enough.

And what of the Greens?  I would love to see the Vancouver Greens hammer out an agreement with Jean Swanson, COPE, and perhaps some other independents and go for broke, seeking both the Mayoralty and control of Council. Unfortunately, the history of progressives working together has shallow roots in Vancouver municipal politics, though, and in 2018 I am guessing the best they could achieve would be a controlling three-way split on Council; but that would be infinitely better than either a Vision or NPA majority.

The real point to this is that if we want to ensure the developers and businessmen have their control of Vancouver City Council ended, we need to get organised NOW.


Robberies on the Drive

January 9, 2018

As many of you will know, Mary Jean “Watermelon” Dunsdon operates the Licorice Parlour at 1002 Commercial Drive. The following is quoted from Watermelon’s recent post on Facebook:

“Dear Fellow Commercial Drivers: Commercial Drive Licorice Parlour got broken into last night by a seriously professional thief. He has now hit up at least 4 businesses that I know of just in our block alone . Sometime between 1 and 2 AM. He is packing all sorts of tools in his back pack for any type of lock. Caucasian male, approx 5 foot 8. He was wearing a lighter colour hooded rain coat with a hat as well and of course his back pack. He has a really long nose and pale complexion.

Please be on the look out. Also please tell all your friends and neighbours who work or live in the area. Together we are stronger.

I only found out about all the other robberies after mine got broken into. He tried breaking the front lock too said the lock smith tonight, which would explain why our door has been a bit off the hinges for two weeks. Which means he tried to get in a week before Christmas, then kept coming back. Last night he sawed off some of the metal lip on the back door and must have picked the other locks or used magnets to get in. It is a mystery. A few nights ago he smashed the window on a store two doors down and when no cops came he went in and robbed the joint with the alarm going. Across the street he got through two security doors and tripped up the alarm somehow. This guy is bold. We all have him on camera.

Tomorrow I will campaign all business to put up signage and fortify themselves. It is already a disgrace how hard small business need to work to survive in this city. The cost of a break-in could make or break any one of us.”

 

It is an unfortunate reality that these bad things happen even our wonderful neighbourhood. If you know anything about this or recognise the guy, please contact the store or the police.