Dodging Political Bullets

No, this isn’t about how to do politics and not get in trouble. This is a quick little piece where I express relief that I didn’t run for Midland (Ontario) town council in 2018 when there were few candidates in my ward. (I thought perhaps I should at least try a campaign).

Fortunately(?) I avoided that fate because I was not well enough to enter the race. Likely I wouldn’t have had a chance in any event, but one never knows.

The problem is, that I care too much about our little community and what happens here, so I still participate and am at risk of being drawn into the fray. I don’t want to. I actually don’t think I have the mental makeup for what I perceive to be all the things that go with being a politician.

It’s easy to have a well-founded opinion (and even easier to have a not so well founded opinion, but I digress). Add to this that our little town is actually has quite a bit of information about what is going on at the local level, and it’s easy to get sucked into thinking one wants to be on council.

Having thought about it though, most of what council does is either housekeeping or not all that interesting to me (as you can see from my technical / professional blog my primary interest is technology), so really I’d be spending a lot of time doing things I’d rather not. I’ve also realized that most of council and town staff are actually doing quite decent job of things in our town (contrary to the opinion of at least one councillor who has what I think is a bit of a ‘saviour complex’, or at least one of looking to the be hero in their own melodrama).

I don’t think I personally have enough ‘value’ to add to council for me to put my name on a ballot. On the other hand supporting more truly diverse voices on council, with platforms I can support, would definitely be something I would want to do (and not be in the position of being in competition for a spot with them).

So I’ll pay attention, voice my opinion (probably more often and loudly than I should), and generally ‘do my civic duty’, but I have no intention of being on council, or even all that influential (except of course if no one else bothers to respond when the town tries to reach out to constituents and I end up as one of the few saying anything; but that’s hardly my fault if it happens).

Now if I can just get on with getting back to my career now that I seem to be mostly recovered from major crises.

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

PSA: Protecting Seniors’ Income

Seniors and anyone who knows a senior on Old Age Security Guaranteed Income Supplement , Allowance for People 60 to 64, or Allowance for Survivors are reminded to submit their income information as soon as possible as the extension from the normal July deadline ends this month (December 2020).

During the week of October 5, 2020, Service Canada sent reminder letters and Statement of Income forms to clients in receipt of these benefits whose income information for 2019 had not been received.

These individuals received a ‘reminder kit’ requesting completion and submission of the Statement of Income form. The reminder kit contained:

·        a reminder letter;

·        a Statement of Income form and instruction sheet; and,

·        a self-addressed return envelope.

Each year in July, an individual’s ongoing entitlement to benefits is reviewed based on the most recent income information. Because of the pandemic, individuals who could not be assessed due to a lack of income information continued to receive payments and were notified by letter in July 2020 that income information must be provided.This special measure has ensured that clients who have not provided income information continue to receive their benefits uninterrupted; however this measure expires in December 2020.

Clients who have not yet submitted 2019 income information should do so as soon as possible. Clients who do not submit their income information will not receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement, Allowance or the Allowance for the Survivor in January 2021.

If community members or individuals within your network do not have access to the internet or face other barriers, the Service Canada Outreach Support Centre will ensure they get access to the critical benefits they need. Client can call the toll-free number (1- 877-355-2657) TTY: 1-833-719-2657 from 8:30am to 4:00pm Monday to Friday.

Finding Satisfaction

TL;DR Work and play hard, and relax, and enjoy life setting your own goals that you believe are achievable. And if you don’t succeed, try again, fail better, and don’t get too stressed that you are not an omni* god, but rather a human just doing their best in a crazy world.

Preface

Barring certain dire circumstances1, or a medical condition such as ‘clinical’ depression2, one can avoid the dangers of dissatisfaction by recognizing one’s own capabilities, abilities, and means to achieve what is what actually what matters to oneself, and using this in creating a flexible plan to level up.

NB: You’ve probably realized already, though, that this post isn’t meant to guide you on a hyper-serious ‘get your life sorted out’ kind of exercise. Nor is it intended to be like a BS Goalcast® ‘will yourself to success and greatness’ video. I’ve just written some some rather random ideas to get you thinking and hopefully entertain you.

Basically: Keep it light; just think about this article enough if, and to the extent, it helps you get out of the traps propagandists like to use, and to help you enjoy life a little more.

Take Stock

One could aggressively (i.e. with the goal of finding the positive) take stock of what skills one has, what positive ‘network’ one has (i.e. who one knows that either a social positive, a professional positive, or both), what physical items one has, and what economic resources one has, or to which one has (legitimate) access.

In Case of Empty Shelves

If one is really struggling to come up with any of this kind of ‘stock’, then one should make an effort to confront the question of whether the shelves are really that empty, or whether one is struggling with depression or similar illness for which the best help is to seek medical assistance from a licensed medical professional2.

Determine Your Endgame

What Do You Imagine for the Rest of Your Life

Ignore for the moment where you are and what you have, or what you think is achievable. Imagine how you think you would want to spend the remainder of your time on this mortal coil, should you have the option to live as you wish. Then consider why. For those who dream a life of leisure and ease (admittedly I have to stretch my mind a little to think of this scenario, as it’s not my dream), consider questions such as those below.

Analyze It

  1. What is it about a life of leisure and ease that seems appealing?
    1. Memories of pleasant times?
    2. Does part of the appeal depend on the social situation in the leisure life being positive / pleasant?
    3. Pleasant physical environment / situation / etc?
    4. Lack of pressure / distress?
    5. Contrast to physical / mental discomfort or distress to one currently or often experiences?
  2. How long would this really be pleasant?
    1. E.g. if you’re dreaming of sun-soaked days by the pool or beach, how long before you’d get bored?
    2. Are there other elements that would be required for to enjoy / be satisfied with the life of leisure and ease?
    3. Would you start of feel like you were lazy or negligent in helping others?
    4. Would you feel like life was pointless or that lacking?
    5. Would you need activities where you felt competent / skilled / accomplished?

What Really Matters

It’s probably obvious that the idea is to tease out what really matters to you, and what is only a pleasant daydream that wouldn’t really satisfy long term.

Once you’ve thought a little about what it is that you’re actually wanting versus the myths we’ve been sold, or daydreams that quickly fade, you’re in a better position to achieve your version of ‘the good life’.

Set Some Goals

They’re You’re Goals; You Can Adjust When and Why You Need

A quick preface: You’re not creating an unbreakable pact for the rest of your life. The purpose of this is to give you a sense of structure and purpose that meets your needs.

It’s About What You Want

It’d be counter-productive to make this a high pressure situation where you become stressed from the outset or truly upset if you miss one or more targets. All that’s intended is a possible tool to help you have the confidence
that you can live your life in a way where you not only survive, but feel like your are living life a way you feel ‘right’ about, and that you feel like you can do / achieve what really matters to you. By doing so you avoid being prey for the propagandists.

Ok, Goal Setting

A reminder: This is rather random and definitely not professional advice.

Long Term

  • For this particular purpose, just two, or maybe three ‘items’ on the list.
  • Identifying these first is only meant to give yourself ‘enough’ of guide, that you can make reasonable short and medium term choices (since, as humans, we are unlikely to have to time to do all things we think we want, or even that we think we need, to do), given what you want in life.
  • Should be specific enough to guide choices, rather than merely ‘aspirational’.
  • Instead of ‘Become prime minister’, the kind of goal I’m suggesting might look more like:
    • “Identify and act on ways in which I personally can ethically influence and achieve political decisions that improve life for my fellow humans, with as wide a reach as I and allies are able to achieve.”
    • I consider this more than aspirational because one can identify medium and short term ways in which one can act on this goal.
    • At present, in Ontario, one could,for instance, identify a more immediate goal of monitoring the various provincial and one’s municipal ‘consultation’ websites and opportunities and participating in those opportunities, as well as contacting one’s local representative(s) on those (and other) issues
  • Another, connected, more immediate goal, might be to participate in public discussions of issues (though I’d caution against spending too much time and energy on ‘social media’ such as Facebook and Twitter, as my personal impression is that individuals have very little ‘reach’ on those platforms, except very occasionally, and that those platforms tend to change the rules to increasingly decrease the opportunities to ‘go viral’, especially for ‘free’ accounts).
  • Another example might be:
    • “Experience loving and being loved in a long lasting, healthy, romantic relationship.”
    • It may seem odd to view this is a goal with short and medium term goals, but unless one has an unrealistic, and/or unhealthy notion of romantic love such as the ever popular Disney®, Hollywood, or trashy romance novel versions, or a (probably unhealthy) fixation on taking this approach with a specific individual in mind, one can increase the odds of finding such a relationship compared to the serendipity approach.
    • I think an important more immediate goal though, in many cases, is: “Become comfortable enough with myself, and on my own, that I do not mistake the need to escape a sense of loneliness, desperation, or unworthiness, with a healthy relationship — I want to be ‘in love’ not in ‘in desperation'”.
    • Other steps might include, identifying how one thinks of romantic love, or what a healthy relationship looks like.
    • Also one probably could benefit from thinking about what efforts or changes one needs to make for a relationship to last, since the reality is that it doesn’t ‘just happen’ by ‘magic’.
    • At the same time ensuring the healthy relationship part may mean recognizing when a relationship isn’t really a relationship, but a situation is which one is being played. Rarely is this clear and obvious to the played. One thing to keep in mind though, is that if one is feeling, or being made to feel, like one is not trying hard enough to keep the relationship together, that’s probably a sign the relationship unhealthy, and that, at the very least a sign one needs to take some time to be on one’s own to gain some perspective — if one’s partner rejects that notion outright, whether they are afraid or angry, or both, it’s indication they have their own issues that are interfering with a healthy relationship, and makes pretty clear that real change, probably on both your parts, is needed. A way to look at it is, even if one’s accusing partner was actually correct and that most of the relationship issues were the result of one’s own failings, one should definitely question how it is healthy for a partner who feels that negatively about oneself, or the relationship, to insist on staying in that unhealthy situation, and the onus all being on oneself to change to meet the other’s expectations or wants. And of course the mirror situation applies as well.

Immediate Goals

This isn’t about detailing every task you ever want to do in day, or week, or month, etc, whether created all at once, or updated daily, or whatever. Here were are looking at setting specific milestones for relatively short periods of time (depending on the milestone it could be less than a day, a week, a month, or even three months) that one identifies as leading to achieving one’s long term goals.

  1. One should identify how the goal is relevant to the long term goal(s) one has set.
  2. One should identify how when knows one has completed the immediate goal (if it’s open ended it’s more likely to be a long term or aspirational target than an immediate goal).
  3. One needs to identify any prerequisites goal achievement. If not already met, those prerequisites become immediate goals that need to occur prior to attempting the goal with which one started.
  4. Does one have the money and necessary resources to achieve the goal? If not acquiring them, or changing to goal to one’s reality becomes a prerequisite.
  5. One needs to identify when and where one can work on the goal.
  6. And is this a goal that is easy to motivate oneself, or does one need to use self-rewards, or other mechanisms to motivate action.
  7. One should have a means to identify progress (or lack thereof) and/or completion or failure (or limbo).
  8. What are the consequences of failing to achieve the goal (and how to keep them minimal, and to be able to recover, andtry again)? When/how does one decide a change in goal or approach is required?

Work at It

No explanation required. Just remember you are human and to not beat yourself up if you run out of energy, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Using more resources than your mind and body have available can hurt you more than pacing yourself, even if that means your rate of progress is not what you would like.

Celebrate Success or Manage Failure; Be Prepared to Fail Better

Depending on how much one is pushing one’s (or one’s situation’s) boundaries, one may not succeed. Especially when pushing hard, be prepared to fail, and to fail again, only better (that is having learned
from the previous attempt). Rinse. Repeat…

Enjoy Life

Remember to enjoy yourself along the way. As the old Kansas song goes, “We are all dust in the wind…”. Find what gives you meaning and satisfaction, knowing that it is not ‘all up to you’. Whether your part in current times is large or small is not what is important, only that you make the best effort you can, with the capabilities and resource you have. Those who would judge you are quite likely privately afraid others will examine them and find them wanting, so don’t worry about them, just work to meet your own standards that you keep realistic for you.

Footnotes

1E.g. an abusive relationship — in which case the goal is to survive and get out — or deathly ill — in which case the goal is to get through the illness, or if the odds or low, to set one’s affairs in order, make one’s peace, and generally manage one’s mental health in a difficult time.

2In which case one should seek professional help. If necessary seek any publicly funded help that might be available — also keep in mind that drinking is not only expensive, the numbing is temporary and one is more depressed afterwards. It is similar with other ‘self-medication’, one ends up worse off than where one began — save yourself a bad trip (sorry about the bad pun) and avoid ending up as a ‘concurrent disorder’ statistic). If truly desperate, choose life, go to your local emergency department. You won’t be committed for life (even if you want to be, although for most that’s a fear than a wish), because there is not enough funding for such a ‘solution’.

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

Dangers of Dissatisfaction

Preface

This shouldn’t be a news flash, but being dissatisfied, despairing, or fearful makes you vulnerable to those who would use you. In politics this is especially dangerous as one then tends to be attracted to those who seem like like they are strong, know ‘the answers’, and are ‘willing to take charge’. In my opinion that appearance is not only a sham, but hides a desire for control and power that has nothing to do with the best interests of most people.

Not Promising Great New Insights

This article is not intended to reveal some great new principle of sociology, or say anything folks aren’t at least subconsciously aware of. It’s really just about articulating my personal thoughts and feelings on the way politicians (and others) (ab)use the genuine concerns, fears, and troubles of the general population, and what we can do to thwart that agenda. It seems like much of modern persuasion (manipulation), including the sale of consumer goods, is based in keeping people unhappy with what they have, their situation, or at the least, fearful of loss of the same, This is too often succeeds, even with those who are in generally solid social, financial, and health circumstances.

If you want articles that cover new territory, or at least present information that is somewhat useful and unique, my closest claims to fame in that respect are fairly technical computing articles such as a recent series on my ‘professional/technical’ blog.

If you’re interested in reading this article despite that, you have been warned.

Otherwise, “Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along…”

Some ‘Blatherings’ About the Difference Between Satisfaction and Complacency/Inaction

I think one of the reasons many people almost prefer dissatisfaction over satisfaction is a tendency (in my view) to equate complacency and/or inaction with satisfaction. For me, first and foremost, satisfaction is an emotion. As an emotion it may or may not reflect reality. (Likewise dissatisfaction). To my way of thinking, satisfaction versus dissatisfaction is part of the set of feelings one has when one feels that one’s own life is relatively good, and that challenges that may come are not insurmountable or unmanageable.

While this can lead to complacency, especially if one values a sense of comfort and ease over the sense one is contributing and doing one’s best (both of which can lead to a the feeling of satisfaction), or one fails to recognize the need to balance these different aspects of life, this is by no means a given.

Complacency and inaction, to my way of thinking, often stem from the feeling that one’s life (and those one cares about) is good, and not in danger, combined with a lack of recognition that one’s own state, and that of one’s inner circle, is not all that matters. Further, a failure to recognize that one has to work with others to increase the level of satisfaction of all if one does not wish to lose one’s own positive situation (especially if failing to help others leads to the appearance or reality that one’s situation is at the expense of others) to those without such.

On the other hand, one can feel good (satisfied) about one’s own lot and still work to increase satisfaction for others, without great hardship and suffering for oneself.

Why Propagandists Hate Satisfaction

Marketers (propagandists for the purchase of goods and services) obviously find selling you something you don’t really need, or even care about without their activities, much less difficult, if they can make you feel like your life is incomplete, or you risk loss without this wonderful new widget, service, or (better for them) widget-as-a-service. When one is satisfied with one’s situation, one is more likely to rationally examine what one needs than if one feels a major lack or fear. Likewise political propagandists have a harder time convincing you to trade your independence and freedom (and that of others) for their increased power, when you feel in control of you own life and that you are in a relatively good place. This is a major reason that much political propaganda (including those media that have abrogated any attempt at objective reporting) aims to make you feel powerless before the corrupt ‘other party’ that seeks to seeks
to squeeze you financially (for the gain of the ‘other party and their cronies’), and to force you to live according to their whims and harmful ideology.

The pursuit power and wealth of seems to lead to this constant hammer on negative messaging, and to feed a sense of despair and hopelessness that is only preventable by (of course) buying into their policies or products. (I suspect a great many of those who have ‘bought into’ this way life would benefit from a serious and thoughtful read of a better quality version of an article like this one, where they actually dare to ask themselves why they are doing what they are doing, and how what they are doing is actually doing to achieve their real personal goals rather than inadequate proxies of the same).

Random Thoughts on Achieving Satisfaction

  • Take inventory and set goals to remind yourself of your ability to find satisfaction.
  • Recognize the good things one has.
  • As mentioned in the finding satisfaction post, assess what one actually wants and why, and what is truly important to you. ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ is a recipe for failure, and if one understands why one wants that, one can make better choices about where to spend ones time, energy, and money.
  • Time, energy, and money are quite finite for most humans, and chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a sure way to be disappointed, disillusioned, and depressed. Instead of looking for ‘more’ to solve unhappiness, angst, etc one needs to recognize that like the end of the rainbow, ‘making it’ it always an illusion that is always ‘just about in reach’, but never found. It’s a trick and lie.
  • There are no magic bullets. Being satisfied is one works at rather than something one finds or gets from some thing or status, and there is no lasting pharmaceutical substitute for recognizing one’s own hard work, good things. In the event there past trauma to get in the way of that, finding help to work through that is more important to healing and peace, than any material or social symbol of ‘making it’.

Conclusion

“Don’t worry, be happy!”

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

The Town is Asking, Will You Answer Or Complain Later?

Below I have three current ‘public engagement’ efforts by the town. Will you participate or will you just complain about something you didn’t care about until negative comments showed up on your social media feed, or word of mouth?

Rant

One (of many) reasons I deleted my Facebook account is that I noticed that many people on social media ‘beak off’ about complaints they have about the town, even when the town (such as with King Street Rejuvenation) have gone to great lengths to meet the needs of as many townsfolk and businesses as possible, or where the town has published on social media, on the town’s engagement website as well the town’s main website information and requests for public input, and gotten little
or no response, and even then have attempted to pay attention to the input they did get.

Now, if there are a great many people who agree on a particular response, and make their opinion known, and their opinion is ignored, then complaining and concern is warranted. In addition the town has an
E-Service System, and if folks are not using that and complaining on social media, that concerns or complaints are not being addressed, it’s a bit foolish. If you’re going to complain, it helps to complain to those who can actually fix the issue. If, one does that, and does not get a reasonable response (reasonable is not based on whether or not one likes the response), then there is a legitimate reason to complain about the town. If the response is reasonable from the jurisdiction or capabilities of the town, but not an acceptable response, then one needs to escalate as appropriate. Adding the social media vomitorium is not productive or beneficial to one’s mental health, or that of others.

Where the Town is Looking for Input Right Now

Please, at Least Try Before You Complain

In recent years the town (staff and council) has been making a large effort to find out what folks are thinking, and get public input in important decisions. Please, at least try to use the available mechanism instead of complaining in an echo chamber where this is no one who can or will change anything. Maybe you’ll do both, and even that would be better than just ‘going off’ without actually trying.

Yes, I’m Frustrated

I got caught up in the complaints and negative views, and I’m annoyed that it’s taken me a while to realize how much it was negative nonsense (to use a polite terminology), and that I viewed members of council and staff through an unwarranted negative lens.

In short I think the ultimate complaint most people have is that they want everything but don’t want to pay for it. This is where a reality check comes in, and we we need to remember TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).

‘nough said.

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

Dig Down the Barriers

As a member of the Town of Midland Accessibility Advisory Committee I’ve been tagged on social media regarding complaints people have had about the accessibility in the Town of Midland and heard the complaint that “the town doesn’t care”.

I have some good news to report, but first a little note. The town is very definitely listening to the concerns and where actually aware of them takes action when the town has the capacity to do so. Further, besides responding to public input / complaints, the town does make an effort to proactively identify potential issues and therefore prevents some problems). In addition, even where there is not jurisdiction the town will work with and encourage developers to listen to the concerns, especially of committees like the MAAC. In general the town attempts to work collaboratively rather than taking a ‘big stick’ approach, even where there is a legal requirement involved.

So the good news is the King Street Rejuvenation has created an opportunity to improve the accessibility of the downtown. In collaboration with the BIA, previous MAAC, other interested or affected people and groups, and the company that won the contract, the “Big Dig” when complete (quite possibility substantially so before the snow flies!) will include a number of improvements to accessibility for downtown.

At a recent MAAC meeting the following points were provided by staff as examples:


Below is a list of features that have been included in the design of King St to help improve the accessibility of the street as well as meet the AODA requirements. Let me know if you need any additional information for the committee meeting. Attached is part of the landscape drawings which I think shows the surface details the best. These drawings are also marked up for the potential accessible parking locations which I’ve
discussed further below.

  • The street has been designed with a flexible cross section to allow for changes in use of certain areas and also allow for a more accessible pedestrian walkway.
    This cross section results in using a mountable curb and gutter system which means there is very little traditional barrier curb throughout the street. What this means is essentially the entire street is accessible however there are a select few locations where traditional barrier curbs were still used.
  • The new street design has also allowed for reducing the length of each
    pedestrian crossing by widening the pedestrian walkway areas and reducing the road width.
  • The new pedestrian crossing are now all 4.0m in width as well as construction out of contrasting unit pavers and concrete to help delineate the crossing from the roadway.
  • New traffic signals are being installed at the Dominion Ave and Elizabeth St intersections. This change allows for much more control of the intersections for cars but more importantly the pedestrians.
  • The new road and intersection design promotes traffic calming by narrowing the lanes slightly and eliminating dedicated left and right turn lanes with the goal of ultimately slowing traffic down on King St which is ultimately safer for all pedestrians.
  • The traffic signals that are located at Dominion Ave, Hugel Ave and Elizabeth St will be programmed so that all three lights will never be green at the same time there keeping vehicles speeds lower. For example if a vehicle is travelling through the Elizabeth intersection heading north with a green light the Hugel intersection will have a red light and Dominion will have a green light. There should never be a time where all three intersection are green at the same time.
  • All intersections on King St are receiving state of the art pedestrian crossing push buttons, signals and audible signals. These pedestrian buttons are fully customizable to meet and exceed current AODA standards they will include locator tones, standard audible crossing signals (chirp chirp and cuckoo sounds). These APS tones are currently programmed to activate after the button is held of 3 seconds which is typical across municipalities.
  • Some locations require two pedestrian buttons to be on the same pole and in these situations the audible signal will verbally call out the crossing direction so it is clear which direction has the right of way (for example it will call out “King St. The walk sign is on to cross King St” this will repeat 3 times and go off and the APS tone won’t be used in the scenario.)
  • The volume control of the audible tones is constantly monitoring the ambient noise and the volume is adjusted to ensure that it can be heard through traffic and it will adjust to not be as loud during the night time when the streets are quiet.
  • The pedestrian buttons also have Bluetooth capabilities to help with both accessibility and also it will help for scenarios like we are currently seeing with Covid-19. There is an app that can be downloaded and used to communicate with the pedestrian push buttons. This app can do a number of things including help with the locator tones, show you where the nearest crossings are and it can even actuate the crossing for you so there is no need to touch the buttons. This is a bonus considering the current times with Covid-19.
  • We have also included mid block crossings in all blocks between the signals to allow for more spaces for pedestrians to cross. It should be noted that the mid block crossings are considered courtesy crossings and vehicles still have the right of way. These crossings will be signed accordingly to notify both the vehicles and the pedestrians of the restrictions of the crossing.
  • All crossing have very large curb depressions with very large tactile plates.
  • We have also attempted, within reason, to eliminate any small trip hazards or steps that lead into buildings to try and make some of the building etrances more accessible. There is a limit to what we can do and we cannot eliminate all the steps but we can take care of some small ones.
  • We have increased the amount of reserved accessible parking stalls that are located on King St. … We are trying to keep the parking signs in the flower beds so we don’t have to install the sign in the unit paves. Since we have taken this approach the flower beds will need to be located in front of the parking stall so that the sign is visible from the driver seat of the vehicle.

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

Risking Portal to the Void

So I’ve done it. I’ve initiated the deletion of my Facebook account (they don’t actually delete it for thirty (30) days in hopes you’ll change your mind). Apparently a rather crass (but popular) cartoon show I never watched had a rather popular episode where one of the characters was sucked into the void because he tried to leave Facebook, hence the title.

I found the majority of time I was active on Facebook is when I was mentally unwell. This is obviously not in my best interest and probably says something relevant about Facebook’s general negative (IMO) character.

I feel ‘lighter’ already!

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

And I Thought My Finances Got Messy

So, apparently the town’s finances have had a significant number of ‘bookkeeping’ issues! However, the “Financial Leadership Advisor”, and “Chief Financial Officer” say this:

Unfortunately, errors occurred in the recording of PSAB transactions that have gone undetected. This report includes adjustments that impact reporting of reserve balances for internal decision-making purposes but have no impact on current or previous external audited financial statements.

I’ve looked a little at the numbers in https://midland.civicweb.net/document/16411/CSR-2020-13%202018%20and%202019%20Operating%20Capital%20Result.pdf?handle=1DC9006155AE4D0C98A1824E0A668F59 but I’d definitely need a really good reason to examine the numbers enough to really understand if a major problem is glossed over, or if the CFO and Advisor are providing accurate information. I have no reason to distrust either, so I am hopeful that the main thing this does is change the internally tracked split outs that council uses for budget decisions, so that budget decisions are in line with reality this budget season.

It’s certainly not a happy news item, in my opinion. At a quick glance, it looks like the town has a significantly different internal landscape than previously reported.

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

Drugs and Trafficking in Simcoe: Possible Good News

From the stories in the local rags (Simcoe.com and MidlandToday.ca) you can be forgiven if you believe that criminal empires are getting stronger and bolder, and expanding from the GTA into smaller communities along the 400 series highways and beyond.

I have a somewhat more positive hypothesis that I think actually better explains what we are seeing. The thought is that the double whammy of legal pot and Covid-19 is bankrupting criminals who are becoming desperate for new markets as their old ones dry up. Like the ransomware attacks that have plagued smaller municipalities and businesses as larger municipalities and businesses have hardened their cybersecurity, and criminals have moved to smaller, but easier, targets, I believe that drugs and human trafficking are an increasing problem for smaller municipalities not as the result of the growth of empires, but quite the opposite.

I suspect that the ‘underground market’ for drugs has been shrinking drastically in large centres. Trafficking might seem like a lucrative alternative, but I would be surprised if there was not a previously existing supply that met the demand that could be met without such risk that the criminals get caught. It’s also likely that increased enforcement of the those crimes and outreach to victims is making even that market shrink. (I hate to put such a putrid practise in such clinical or financial terms, but ultimately crime is heavily influenced by the economics of that scene).

In short while the immediate future is alarming for small communities, ultimately I think it means a positive end result is possible, and even likely.

I think justice can win!

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

WIP: 23 (Title To Be Decided — Song of the Free?)

This is work in progress poem I am occasionally poking at, but I like the concept enough to share it before it is finished. The title has yet to be decided and I don’t really like the working title I had for it, so you get a poem with only a partial title.

In any event the beginning source of inspiration is obvious, but it draws from a number of (mostly subconscious) influences.

I hope you, the reader, find something enjoyable about the piece, rough as it is.


Yeah though I walk through the vale of death
I will fear no evil
I have no rod and no staff to comfort me.
There is no guard and no guide, and no one by my side,
yet will I lay me down in green pastures
and find the still waters.
I acknowledge no master, nor have
knowledge of any god,
devil,
or spirit.
I do not bend before the fury of the winds of the day,
nor do I bow or break before the storm.
I seek not solace in dreams of heaven,
I do not fear the depths of hell,
nor the dull joylessness of purgatory,
for I have known them all.
I pay homage to no prince nor power,
nor worship gods or demons.
Neither do I claim deification
or pride of place.
I claim, only,
to be
myself.

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

Beating An Encrypted Horse

EDIT: Perhaps Too Negative

I’m debating whether this particular post is too negative. It does illustrate my frustration with this situation and the people involved, but I prefer something I like to call “Positive Political Action”, which attempts to emphasize the good points of one’s position rather than attacking those who disagree, and encourages collaboration over confrontation. Of course the challenge is that one need to be able to recognize the disingenuous or honest but unhealthy (maybe even toxic) people who can derail or manipulate collaboration and positivity.

Perhaps the language I have used makes it entertaining enough that it’s a reasonable balance?

Midland Encrypted Police Records or C’mon Folks, Elvis Has Left the Building

It should be over, but it’s not.

There is an Offer of Settlement in Principle

The Town of Midland sent a memo to councillors regarding the status of the lawsuit. Subsequently a memo was sent indicating that a settlement has been reached, as reported in the two local mainstream news outlets: Simcoe.com: Town of Midland Settles Lawsuit with Councillor Bill Gordon — $95,000 later, and MidlandToday.ca: Town Offers Settlement in Litigation Against Councillor.

And Yet the Flogging Continues

Despite that, Councillor Bill Gordon has started calling the settlement a ‘police data breach’ on his Facebook page

In response to the settlement memo

Councillor Bill Gordon I was forced to commit the largest police data breach ever known in Canada. But they promised me indemnity in exchange for dropping the law suit that’s cost me a years worth of council pay…

There’s making political hay, and then there is…

I Think I Just Had a ‘Poltergeist’ Moment

Later, his friends at the local ‘citizen journalist’ group “Our Midland” posted on Facebook the following claims

§ One week prior to Midland Police Service (MPS) disbanding, all administrative data was pulled from the MPS server/hard drives and provided to the Town of Midland. This was done again as a refresh on the final day of operation of MPS.
§ On the last day of MPS operations, the server and all hard drives from MPS were physically handed to the administration at the Town of Midland. The data on the hard drives were encrypted.
      o Reason for encryption – All data remaining on the hard drives were of police sensitive nature and are to be used by authorized police personnel only or an approved third party “officer of the courts” (lawyer). This data is not for public viewing.
§ The Town of Midland (ToM) Chief Administrative Officer, CAO John Skorobohacz, and town Solicitor, Amanpreet Sidhu and the personnel from the Midland Police Services Board, which comprised of George Dixon, Mayor Stewart Strathearn, Deputy Mayor Mike Ross, Judy Contin and Judith Clapperton, began negotiating with the OPP in an attempt to gather the data off of the hard drives.
§ The original draft agreement between the two parties had the OPP redacting two particular classifications that were held in the hard drives.
§ Upon further investigation by OPP legal counsel, they wanted to speak to Michael Osborne (former MPS Chief of Police) and Bill Gordon (former MPS IT Manager).
§ Senior OPP personnel attended the meeting with Mike Osborne and Bill Gordon. After OPP was made aware of further information that was on the hard drives, they decided to send this information back to the OPP legal counsel. It should be known that it was now into July 2019 and with multiple personnel on vacation the process between the ToM and OPP had slowed down.
§ The ToM was made aware of the slowdown in proceedings and at the same time Councillor Bill Gordon had scheduled and entered into council agenda to update all of Midland Council as to where the proceedings were at this time.
§ Before Councillor Bill Gordon could present this information to Council, the group from the Town of Midland quickly proceeded to lodge a lawsuit against Bill Gordon and Mike Osborne. By doing this, Bill Gordon was legally stopped from speaking on this subject, even to his fellow councillors.
§ When the OPP found out about the two lawsuits that the group from the ToM had filed, they immediately pulled out of any negotiations with the ToM.
§ It should be noted that during negotiations between OPP and ToM, the town attempted over 10 times to have the OPP charge Mike Osborne and Bill Gordon with a criminal offence for depriving the town of the data. Both individuals were interviewed by the OPP and the OPP came to the conclusion that no criminal acts had occurred. When the group from the ToM were made aware of the decision, they were not pleased and lodged their complaint straight through to the Commissioner of the OPP. This proved to be unsuccessful.
§ After the lawsuit was lodged, the ToM legal representatives began talking with Bill Gordon’s legal counsel. Many exchanges of communication occurred over the next while and even some offers from both sides to find a settlement. When this was not successful, eventually, the ToM group proposed a concept of finding an independent ‘officer of the courts” (lawyer) who would be a custodian of the hard drives with data.
§ From this a proposal was drafted outlining the actions and commitments for both sides.
§ Bill Gordon and his legal counsel agreed to the settlement. These final steps all occurred in the early part of March 2020. Bill Gordon through his legal counsel provided the encryption keys for the hard drives and those were delivered to the agreed upon “officer of the courts”. This “officer of the courts” is bound by strict laws as to what information can be released from these hard drives.
§ By March 20, 2020 all business proceedings were fulfilled to meet the “Out of Court Settlement”, although, there is one procedure that still has not been finalized. Over 133 days have passed and we are of the understanding that the Town of Midland has still not filed with the court system the “Minutes of Settlement” to close the case down.

Silence is Golden

This actually makes me wonder about the timelines and understanding I originally had about this matter, and not in Councillor Gordon’s favour. Of course, having conversed with these folks in person, and seen a lot online, there is a whole undercurrent of a “Made in Midland ‘Deep State'” theory going on. It’s getting rather tiresome. One thing I think is clear is that for all the claims of wanting things over and done with in a positive manner, that’s not the reality.

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

Poetry From The Archives

I’ve begun the gradual pull of things of items from archives into the new site. For the moment I have picked two poems from 1994 – 1995 which is the period when I was first diagnosed with a mental illness.

These poems are not obviously poems related to my mental illness (there are others, which I probably won’t share, which are), but the fact I was writing poetry at all had more to do with a need to express myself due to being in crisis than due to fancying myself as a poet or an author of fiction.

The first poem is Thoughts on a New Room which is fairly self-explanatory for those who have lived the poor student life and have boarded in a dwelling with a room and shared common facilities.

The second poem is About the Trash which is about a bar I visited a few times while unsuccessfully trying to deal with loneliness and depression. That has never been my scene and I doubt it ever will be.

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

Moved ‘professional’ away — This is personal

I’ve moved my “professional / technical” content to https://www.danielfdickinson.ca. This site will remain my personal website.

You may observe that there a number of other changes to the site, not the least of which is a ‘less formal’ font and theme for the site (for now at least). I’ve decided the theme I’ve been designing is really still too experimental and needs to be relegated to test mode while I pick away at it.

Not all content is still available, but where content is available I’ve made an effort to redirect to the document on this or my other site where the content now lives.

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

Mutual Aid in a Fragmented Society (COVID-19 Response)

The following are a couple of emails I wrote and sent to a number of
people because I want to use my skills to help in this crisis, but have
found it difficult to find a useful way to do so.

It’s rather frustrating to say the least. These may not the most exemplary
emails in the world, but I think they are reflective of what a number of
folks feel, even if for different skills, or other concerns.

Setting up a neighbour helping neighbour website for Midland / North Simcoe

Hi all,

I’m looking to set up something like https://neighborexpress.org/ for Midland / North Simcoe. It is a site that is designed to connect volunteers with people who need help during the Covid-19 pandemic (although it’s usefulness could extend beyond that).

I’m primarily a technology professional, however, and the full solution for this involves much more of the getting and managing volunteers. I’m therefore reaching out to everyone I can for either direct support in this endeavour or to pass this on to those who can and would be willing to support this.

I had initially just planned on setting up a Discourse instance on a VPS (virtual private server) I already have, but quickly realized that really make this works will take more than just a quickly setup forum on a very small server.

Obviously I’m looking to provide technology support and much more to try to make this happen, but I can’t do this alone.

If you know anyone who can and might help, please pass along this message!

Central location to find help, who to help, and information during COVID-19

Dear <contact>

There are a plethora of sites and social media groups popping up, even just in Simcoe North, aiming to connect helpers to those who need help (and vice versa), as well as to provide information (of varying degrees of validity and usefulness). A central resource centre is needed in each community, however maintaining such a resource (and managing the community-based centres at the provincial and federal level) is beyond the capacity of government using only government workers.

Therefore I suggest that it would be wise to engage technology professionals like myself (at least when I’m well) — https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielfdickinson — as well as community leaders and agencies to moderate resources which involve community members e.g. offering and asking for help, or answering questions (with mechanisms for removing those who are providing inaccurate or unhelpful information), and to do it quickly (i.e. not get bogged down in endless arguments about policy or doing a lot of bike-shedding).

I am ready to assist to the best of my ability, and I am sure there are many through the country, province, and town who are of the same mindset. If there is anything I can do to get this happening more quickly, please call email me or call me at [offline contact info redacted]

+++

Since my last email, I’ve been talking to others, doing research, and thinking about how I can help others during this crisis. As a technology professional (https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielfdickinson/) when I’m well, my initial reaction was to build something to solve problems like mutual aid / neighbour helping neighbour, and accessing help and resources in the community. It quickly came to my attention that there are many fragmented efforts of this variety already, so instead I’m putting my offer to help those who are in a position to create centralized resources that still tap community members (which I believe organizations, especially govt tend to be bad at).

It is my hope that this kind of approach can continue to exist in some form beyond the pandemic, but the immediate concern, obviously, is preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus while ensuring the community, province, and country remain safe and well during the shutdown.

Regards,

Daniel F. Dickinson

https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielfdickinson/

[Offline contact info redacted]

© 2020 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

MPS Encrypted Data

Note that date of article is date first item (at end of this page) was originally published, not the date it was consolidated and moved during a rebuild of the site.

My (hopefully) Final Thoughts on the Matter

I now think this has been way over-dramatized and ended up a sideshow that it didn’t need to be, and Councillor Gordon now characterizing it as a data breach is beating a dead horse. I waffled a lot on what I thought was the truth, but I think ultimately the truth is that the data situation is not ideal, but that Town isn’t in it for nefarious reasons, but because of a flawed transition process. If I understand the presentation correctly Midland is only the second municipality for the the data which was transitioned under a new OPP policy. I think that policy was flawed, and is ultimately why the data situation was even a factor.

Matter has Reportedly Been Settled

At the July 29, 2020 special meeting of council it was stated that the matter with Councillor Gordon has been settled. As I understand it the matters as they relate to former chief Mike Osborne are still in progress.

Link to Video of August 14 Staff Presentation to Council

August 14, 2019 Town of Midland Council Meeting. It’s good to watch the MPS presention at about 3:31:15 in the video. The verbal part of the presentation has what I consider important information not in slide deck or the report itself.

August 14 Town Presentation to Council and Press Release of Council Decision

Town staff made a presentation to council August 14, 2019 about the Midland Police Services Controversy (i.e. the ‘encrypted MPS hard drives for which encryption keys have not been turned over’). The council decided, 6-2 to pursue legal action to compel the turning over of the encryption keys and consider possible legal action against Bill Gordon (currently a member of town council). There is a press release regarding the Town of Midland’s decision to pursue legal action on the matter of the encrypted drives and possibly against Mr. Gordon.

I personally did not attend the council meeting as this issue is not good for my mental health, especially with a crowd of people in attendance, and I’ve decided to step back from it. I will of course follow it, though, and watch the recorded Town Council meeting.

Timeline on Simcoe.com

https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/9549328-timeline-the-battle-over-encrypted-midland-police-records/

Two Questions Regarding the MPS Controversy

  • Question #1: Why was the data in question not handled through the OPP as part of the transition?
  • Question #2: Why was there a soup of data (civilian data mixed with non-civilian data) rather than being operationally separate and therefore the non-civilian data transferred to the OPP with the data that was transferred to the OPP?

August 9: Town Council Agenda Includes Encrypted Hard Drives issue

The agenda for the council meeting coming up August 14, 2019 contains the Town’s position regarding the controversy surrounding the transfer of records from the former Midland Police Service to the Town.

Statement of Claim by Former Police Chief Mike Osborne

Statement of Claim by Former Police Chief Mike Osborne

August 2, A Brief Brief on the Situation

What is this all About?

My understanding of what are the key components of this situation (Daniel F. Dickinson, a Midland resident)

  • The Town of Midland (Ontario) disbanded the former Midland Police Service in favour of policing by the regional Ontario Provincial Police.
  • There was a rather acrimonious debate surrounding the disbandment.
  • Shortly before disbandment the town ordered the Midland Police Service to not remove any data from it’s servers, even data that would be normally be at the point it should be deleted under the data retention policy.
  • Shortly after the disbandment the town revealed the there were outstanding legal fees incurred by former chief Mike Osborne—the town claims it was unaware of the amount of money owing to the legal firm involved in the case.
  • The Town of Midland ordered former chief Osborne to hand over the encryption keys for the data on the former Midland Police Service servers (which were encrypted at rest, as is the expected and customary best practice for sensitive data).
  • The former chief has refused citing concern fro the privacy of citizens.
  • I found out about this issue about the time of the October 2018 municipal elections and at that time, and since then, have publicly and privately stated my belief that the data ought to vetted and managed by the Ontario Provincial Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or a privacy watchdog. The town has not indicated whether it agrees or disagrees with this position, however my judgement, based on the agendas for closed session council meetings, is that they are in disagreement with the position. (The town solicitor has also, in the past, expressed the opinion the data is town property, and the previous council went so far as to express the opinion that the data encryption amounted to theft).
  • It has been claimed, to me, that the data on the former MPS servers includes things like police informants, criminal records checks, dispatch notes/information, and a variety of other extremely sensitive police data, which is the reason for the refusal to turn it over the town lock, stock, and barrel.
  • The town published its statement of claim against former chief Osborne regarding the legal fees mentioned above in a public agenda, which I viewed—unfortunately the town’s file naming scheme and website search, and organization are rather terrible, and I’ve not been able to locate the PDF in order to share a link here.
  • I expressed my opinion to the town (not sure of council was forwarded the emails) that the town does not the have IT staff, and especially not the security budget and infrastructure, to properly protect that ‘classification level’ of data. I’ve to date not received a response the that proposition, but again based on the agendas for closed session, I believe that the town solicitor is arguing against that belief. EDIT: After reviewing older town agends I may be trying to read tea leaves in trying to glean information from close meeting agenda, rather than getting an accurate picture.
  • Over a year after disbandment, the Town of Midland has still not settled the severance pay for former chief Osborne.
  • Former chief Osborne has initiated a lawsuit against the town and police services board, with a number of serious and concerning allegations. EDIT: I am reminded that I should emphasize that these allegations have not been tested in a court of law.

Of interest may be the response to my Facebook post linking to this entry of a friend of mine who is a privacy advisor/auditor at a large tech company:


This is interesting… the Police Services Board act doesn’t specify what happens to the data if a police service is dissolved. And MFIPPA has obligations for municipalities to protect the confidentiality of data – since they don’t typically have access to identifiable police data, I don’t believe they should be the custodians – it should be transferred to the OPP (as the OPP has to determine that there is adequate policing available which would include having the necessary information transferred appropriately)

If anything, the municipality may have responsibilities to making sure the data is held/stored safely; the former police chief may have responsibilities to hold the keys – but the city is fighting otherwise I guess

© 2019 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

Princes and Madmen

A strange idea came to me in conversation the other day, namely that my experience with schizophrenia helps me understand, just a little, what it must be like to be Prince William. I say this because one of the most persistent symptoms of my schizophrenia is the feeling that everyone is talking critically about me. Some of that feeling is likely due to the fact that thought patterns formed while ill remain even after the physical cause which created those thought patterns has been treated with medication. In any event, this paranoia causes me to wonder what it would be like to really have people talking about me all the time.

Dealing with feeling like my every move was being analyzed was quite difficult; life is much happier now that medication has greatly reduced the frequency with which I feel the pressure of being watched. I can only wonder what life is like for Prince William given that he truly is under a microscope. I think would be worse to be royalty and have my symptoms, however. I say this because, even without being royalty, I find it hard enough to tell when I’m being paranoid and when people really are talking about me.

I’ve discovered that there are three things I need to think about with respect to that question. This first of these is whether it is in fact true that I am being talked about. It is important for me to recognize that while feelings of being talked about can be symptomatic of schizophrenia, it is also true that people really do talk about other people. For example, in healthy families, family members are concerned for, and therefore talk about, other family members. Secondly, it is important to determine whether what is being said about me is critical, good, or neutral. I find I have to fight a tendency, both from schizophrenia and insecurities, to assume the worst. Finally, evaluating how much the opinion of the people doing the talking matters to me is helpful.

In general, if the opinion of everyone matters to you, then, as a person with schizophrenia; royalty; or celebrity, you are in trouble because there is no way you can please everyone all the time. For myself I’m learning to not worry so much about what other people think and concern myself more with what I think of my own actions as well as to accept my imperfections as normal human limitations. This is harder than it sounds, but I’m certainly happier for it.

I hope that you, and Prince William, can say the same!

© 2003 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

The “Everything’s Fine” Mask

Let us all play pretend.
Let us show the world
    I will not end.
Let us all play pretend.
Shall we don the mask,
so none will ask,
"Is everything fine?"
When all is said and done,
to whom will we show
the thing others do not know,
That our mask
    is not for fun.
We wear the mask
and all believe
they know
the weave of of our life
though, truth be told,
would leave all aghast.
Hide your fear;
hide your tears,
all those years,
To overcome the pain,
but what happens
when it is time to laugh again?

Neofrost February 21, 2001

© 2001 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

About the Trash

There's smoke in the air and music
pounding
in my ears
There's cracks in the floor
and glass under my feet
There's hope for me and for you
Only we must meet
Tell me how it ought to be
Tell me what you want to see
Tell me.
Dance with me and watch me fall
in love
Dance with me and we will be
Dance with me.
Crowds of people
Sounds of music
atmosphere all its own
Send me to the outer home
Send me a picture-postcard
Send me your love.

Author’s Note: The Trasheteria is/was a bar in Guelph colloquially known as ‘The Trash’

© 1995 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License

Twice

Tis twice now
that friendship and love
have died twin deaths
what was wasn't and what wasn't was
to speak more plainly;
in retrospect
twice, best friends, weren't.

Perran November ’94

© 1994 Daniel F. Dickinson released under Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 License