Let me tell you about living my life on the road

In passing, I've talked about the fact that my wife and I are full-time nomads. Lemme expand on that.

A few years back, we bought a 21-year-old RV with the intention of living in it while my wife completed her degree in Vancouver, Canada. Typically, winters in Vancouver are mild by comparison to the rest of the country. The climate is similar to what you see in Seattle. Not so while we were there. It dropped to below freezing for weeks at a time. Snow, a largely unknown commodity in British Columbia's lower mainland, hung around for months. We were cold. We blew through hundreds of dollars worth of propane trying to stay warm.

We were poor.

Shortly before we were to make the drive over the mountains, I was informed that, after five years of service to a site that I had built, my services were no longer needed. It shattered me emotionally and financially. I was sent scrambling to find enough work, piecemeal, to make end's meet. There was cash coming in barely enough to keep afloat. Staying in a campground in the lower mainland costs around $800 per month. We couldn't foot the bill. We made do. Weekly, we would sneak into a local university sports complex for a shower. On one occasion, we had to decide between buying food or propane for heat. We chose food. This ended up costing us $1200, money that could have kept us going for months, to replace our hot water tank as it iced up and cracked in the cold. Read the rest

Canadian government investigating mall's use of biometric surveillance

Last week, it was revealed by a sharp-eyed Redditor that the information kiosks at a mall in Calgary, Canada, were full of software designed to track the age and sex of anyone that stopped to use it. Pretty damn greasy. Greasier still, the management company that operates the mall, Cadillac Fairview admitted that the software was in use at a number of its other properties. The greasiest bit out of all of it? They shrugged off privacy concerns raised by a number of news outlets as there’s nothing in Alberta’s laws that keeps them from doing it without permission, or warning mall patrons that it’s being done.

Well, that was last week.

From The CBC:

The privacy commissioners of Alberta and Canada are launching investigations into the use of facial recognition technology, without the public's consent, in at least two malls in Calgary.

A notice posted Friday to the Alberta privacy commissioner website says the investigation will look to determine, "what types of personal information are being collected, whether consent for collection or notice of collection is required or would be recommended, for what purposes personal information is collected, whether the data is being shared with other businesses, law enforcement or third parties, and what safeguards or security measures are in place to protect personal information."

It’s said that Alberta’s privacy commissioner opened the investigation, based on the level of public interest surrounding the issue of whether or not it’s cool for property owners to collect biometric information without a visitor’s knowledge or consent. Read the rest

Calgary malls caught secretly using facial recognition to characterise shoppers' age and gender

Calgary's Chinook Centre and Market Mall -- operated by Cadillac Fairview -- have been caught running background software that analysed the footage from the CCTVs in the malls' electronic directories to guess at the age and gender of visitors, without consent or notification. Read the rest

Kayakers take an intentional 100 foot drop off a water fall

Ram Falls is about 20 minutes from where we're staying for the summer. It's a lovely patch of outdoor beauty. We have a lot of that here. As with the provincial parks that surround the cities of Jasper and Banff, It's a great area to camp in, hike or, you know, fall the equivalent of a 10-storey building off a waterfall in your kayak.

Last week, whitewater kayakers Edward Muggridge and Aniol Serrasolses decided that the time was right to take the 100 foot plunge over the falls. Apparently, the conditions were right.

From The Calgary Herald:

“With whitewater kayaking, you want to have a waterfall that has a combination of a deep enough pool and enough volume of water flowing over the actual lip of the falls,” Muggridge said.

“You want to be able to have enough aeration in the landing and a deep enough pool where you can safely descend the drop. It’s definitely a really risky game and it takes some serious precision and mental focus to be able to pull something off like that.”

I'd rather walk, thanks. Read the rest

Pipelines considered pointless: Big oil seems to be (finally) abandoning Canada's filthy tar sands

Canada's tar sands -- rebranded in this century as "oil sands" -- are the source of some of the world's filthiest and most expensive oil, which can only be extracted by burning tons of already-refined oil to boil tons of sand, producing a product that sells at a global discount because it is so adulterated. Read the rest

Conservative Alberta politician changes sides over Trumpism, gets gendered death threats and slurs from the Tory base

Sandra Jansen was elected to the Alberta Legislative Assembly as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, but now she sits with the left-leaning New Democratic Party, who took the provincial government is a surprise upset that was driven by a mix of a split in the right (the Conservatives are mired in infighting with the ultra-right Wild Rose Party) and the decline of the oil industry. Read the rest

Pro-tar-sands activists say dirty Canadian oil is better because "lesbians are hot"

The "In Canada lesbians are considered hot!" campaign is the brainchild of Robbie Picard, a tar-sands booster from Fort McMurray, Alberta. Read the rest

Kickstarting a DIY back-yard Tar Sands Kit

Jeff sez, "Turn pristine ecosystems into high-octane fuel in your own home -- all ages!" Public Lab'skit helps you understand the devastation and health risks from tar sands extraction by letting you boil your own back yard for oil. Read the rest