Yes, winter is coming, but this spring, Canadians will be able to legally stream Game of Thrones without a cable subscription. Crave (formerly Crave TV), Bell Media’s Netflix competitor, just added an extended package that includes all HBO and Showtime content, including new episodes and a feature called On Air that allows you to watch shows from those networks as they air on TV before they show up in the on demand menu.
You have to get the basic Crave subscription at $9.95 a month and then add the extended package for another monthly $9.95, so $20 a month plus tax for HBO and Showtime, plus a bunch of recent movies (including what looks like all of last year’s Best Picture nominees), shows like Star Trek Discovery, and original content like Letterkenny. There’s even a very interesting back catalog with classic sitcoms like Cheers, but no Night Court…like c’mon, someone pick up Night Court, please.
It’s currently available on computers and mobile devices and will be available on Samsung Smnart TVs, Apple TV and other platforms as of November 15th. From the looks of it, it’s a better deal than Netflix.
While I’m clearly gleefully plugging this product, this article is not sponsored content, but rather rare editorial praise for Bell Media from a frequent critic. It looks like they have finally embraced the way a good chunk of the population consume TV and have stopped trying to push an old model on those who clearly don’t want it.
Even as HBO made all of their content available, with no strings attached, through their GO app in the US a few years ago, Bell, which owns the Canadian rights, refused to see the light. Sure, they made an app, too, called TMN GO, but you had to get a cable or satellite TV package first and then subscribe to HBO Canada on TV before you could pay the ten or so bucks for it.
So basically, in a lot of cases, the choice was pay over $100 a month on top of the cost of an internet connection to watch one show or risk getting an angry letter for illegally downloading it. Yes, HBO is much more than GOT, but that show’s the hook for people living in a post-cable world.
Bell was effectively ignoring a potentially huge market that they could easily get with no risk of losing the cable and satellite market they already have as a result. My friend’s parents who have been paying for a satellite package and HBO for years aren’t going to cut the cord just because the same content is now available in another format.
Meanwhile, people who don’t give Bell Media any money but still consume the content might be inclined to pay and go legit if presented with a reasonable offer and become customers Bell wouldn’t have any other way. Now, it looks like Bell Media has finally accepted and embraced that fact.
This will only help them promote original content, too, as it will now be running on the same platform as really popular shows. Come for Game of Thrones, stay for Letterkenny.
The future is an internet subscription and two to four streaming services. With the Crave expansion, Bell Media clearly wants a part of that future. Now if only they could add Night Court.
Tomorrow morning, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US is set to scrap Net Neutrality. Specifically, they plan to eliminate Title II protections that force the courts to treat internet access as an essential service.
John Oliver explains this distinction more in depth (if you haven’t seen this segment, you really should, even if you know about Title II):
In a nutshell, without this classification, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would be free to restrict or slow down access to sites that cannot afford or refuse to pay a fee to be in the fast lane. They could also start bundling sites together the same way cable companies bundle stations and charge extra for packages.
The Nightmare Scenario
My guess is they would probably bring in a mix of the two.
First, imagine basic internet including major email providers and maybe the weather network and a few search engines. You could then add the Social Media package with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for an extra fee, the news package with only mainstream sources for another fee. YouTube would cost extra and if you want Netflix, well you’d have to pay extra for it, above and beyond what you pay (or what your roommate, friend or ex pays, let’s be honest) to Netflix.
Don’t think this is possible? Look at this add for mobile internet packages in Portugal:
Meanwhile, smaller competitors, some widely used and relied on but not popular or potentially profitable enough to be automatically included in a package would take forever to load. If Verizon or Comcast can’t make an extra buck off them, why would they make it easy to access them?
While sites with primarily written content that use embeds for video and audio (like this one) may end up coasting underneath the throttling radar, others won’t. What about BandCamp? Vimeo? Crowdfunding sites? Gaming sites? How about sites that don’t use a lot of bandwidth but really irk the ISPs because of their content?
While the FCC is billing this as “Internet Freedom” it’s actually about letting a handful of companies restrict the freedom of everyone else. I have no problem with websites charging for their services or opting not to, they are already free to do that online. ISPs, on the other hand, should not be.
They don’t own the internet, we all do. Or no one does.
Yes, the ISPs may own the cables, but that only permits them to charge a rate for use of said cables. They have absolutely no business telling us what we can and can’t use the cables to access. No one tells you what you can and can’t say on a phonecall, the Internet should be no different.
Beyond the USA
While this may seem like an American problem, but it’s actually a global one as the internet is a global entity and America is a huge part of it. The biggest sites are American and so are most of the largest indie sites and non-profit sites.
Not only that, there are quite a few people that rely on or at least need some American eyes and ears for their livelihood: independent musicians, app and game developers, the list goes on. While their internet access may not be limited, their potential audience and clientele will be.
Meanwhile, the free flow of information and independent journalism could be seriously compromised, with stories about protest in the US not covered, or not properly covered by mainstream press not making it past someone’s computer or phone, let alone around the world. Likewise, smaller stories could have a hard time finding their way to interested people in the 50 states.
Then there’s the whole issue of American influence. Portugal may not set the global standard when it comes to the Internet, but the US does.
Here in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have said he supports a free and open internet and is “very concerned” about the FCC’s attempt to roll that back in the States, but how long will that stance last? You can bet that Canadian ISPs are just itching to do what their American counterparts may be able to do very soon and will use what happens south of the border to influence lawmakers here.
So What Do We Do?
The first thing we can do is fight like hell to make sure these changes don’t pass, and by we I don’t mean me, at least not directly. Americans (those reading this and others) are the only ones who can contact their elected officials and the FCC to fight this at the source. There is also an online campaign to oppose the FCC’s intentions called Break the Internet.
If they aren’t successful, there’s the legal avenue, though that takes time, probably more time than it takes for ISPs to start changing the Internet forever. There’s also hoping someone (ie Elon Musk) decides to offer unobstructed access (he already wants to offer the world access through satellites) and thus make it unfeasible for ISPs to offer anything but the net as we know it even if they are no longer legally obliged to.
Hoping for a capitalist benefactor/Bond villain to save us all may only lead to disappointment. People outside of the US fighting hard to preserve Net Neutrality and those in the States fighting hard to bring it back (or creating some sort of pirate ISP) may be the only way to fight and win.
But if we do win eventually, or even if the ISPs lose tomorrow in the US (or in the near future), we need to talk about how to prevent this from happening again, because you know it will. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about a threat to Net Neutrality and it certainly won’t be the last.
Maybe it’s time to look to more radical solutions to preserve what we have and have had for years. Maybe it’s time to nationalize ISPs. At least, the very threat of such an action would scare the corporations who currently control access to the web to forever shut up about changing the rules. At best, we could end up with an internet that could never be changed.
For now, though, let’s hope that the FCC sees the light, or moreover, is forced to see it.
People are increasingly realizing that it’s more practical to carry a phone with you all the time than to rush home agonizing over whether or not you missed an important call. With the proliferation of the mobile phone came the spread of providers competing for your business and until recently, companies have been taking advantage.
In 2013, that all changed when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), a federal administrative tribunal responsible for regulating and supervising broadcasting and telecommunications, created the Wireless Code of Conduct which explains your rights as a mobile consumer and the rules your wireless company must obey.
On June 15, 2017, the CRTC came out with new rules specifying the obligations set out in the Wireless Code of Conduct.
Here’s a crash course on the Wireless Code and what those rules are.
Your wireless service provider must communicate with you in plain language. Written contracts and any related documents such as privacy and fair use policies must be written in a way that is clear and easy to read and understand. That means that they cannot draft contracts and related documents in a way that would dupe you into agreeing to something most wouldn’t have had they fully understood it.
The terms of your contract regarding voice, text, and data services cannot be unilaterally changed without the account holder’s consent. You are allowed to cancel your wireless contract within fifteen days and return your device to the provider in near-new condition at no cost, provided that at the time of the cancellation you used less than half of your monthly usage limits.
Wireless providers have to set out the prices in the contract and specify if they include taxes. They cannot charge you extra if you purchased a plan with unlimited services and they cannot limit an unlimited plan unless the fair use policy clearly specifies when they can and those conditions are met.
Your wireless provider must notify you at no charge when your device is in another country and clearly explain the ensuing rates for talk, text, and data. You can opt out of these notifications at any time. They cannot charge you more than a hundred dollars per monthly billing cycle for data roaming unless you have clearly given prior consent, and this billing cap must come at no charge to you, the consumer.
For data overage charges – data used over your data plan’s limit – the rules set the cap at fifty dollars unless you expressly consented to paying more. This cap cannot come at any charge to you.
Where family or group plans are concerned, these caps apply on a per-account basis regardless of how many devices are attached to the plan.
No More Locked Devices
Your wireless company cannot charge you for any device or service you did not expressly purchase, and as of June 15, 2017, unlocking fees are now illegal.
The aforementioned fees are what cell phone companies would charge to unlock your phone should you try decide to switch wireless providers. That means that before the CRTC’s decision, if you chose to switch wireless providers, you couldn’t just swap out the sim cards and keep using your current device. You would have to pay your old company a fee to unlock your phone.
Wireless providers justified the charges as a way of ensuring the device was paid for should the consumer decide to switch providers before the end of their contract. The CRTC has decided that this is illegal as it puts an unfair limit on competition between wireless providers.
As per the CRTC’s ruling as of December 1, 2017 you have the right to go to your wireless provider and have your devices unlocked free of charge. Any new devices you get must be provided to you unlocked from now on.
If your device is lost or stolen and you notify your wireless company immediately, your wireless provider must suspend your service at no charge. You’re still obligated to pay any charges incurred before the company got notice that the device was lost or stolen, the monthly fee, and if you choose the cancel the contract, any cancellation fee. If you find your device or replace it, you can notify your service provider who has to restore your service free of charge.
If you decide to cancel your contract early, the company can only charge you a cancellation fee. No other penalties apply and wireless companies have to calculate the cancellation fee based on criteria set out in the Wireless Code of Conduct. You can cancel your contract at any time by notifying your service provider.
Penalties for the Providers
Now let’s say your wireless provider does not obey the Wireless Code; what do you do? What kinds of penalties will the company face?
If your Wireless Service Provider does not respect the Wireless Code, you can file a complaint with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, which is charged with administering it. If the complaint falls within their mandate, they’ll get in touch with your provider and ask them to try and resolve the matter with you and get back to them in thirty days.
Once the provider gets back to them, they’ll try and assess if the issue has been resolved to your satisfaction. If it hasn’t, the Commissioner will assess if the issue can be resolved informally. Your complaint can be rejected or dismissed at any stage of the proceedings.
If the Commissioner decides your complaint has merits, they can recommend that your provider take action or refrain from doing so. This can include anything from an apology to stopping collections activity, to compensating you up to five thousand dollars for any losses or inconvenience suffered.
Both you and your wireless provider can decide whether to accept or reject the recommendation. If your provider rejects it, the Commissioner will assess the reasons and make a decision as to whether to maintain or modify their recommendation. If the decision is accepted by you, it becomes binding on your service provider. If you reject the Commissioner’s decision, your service provider does not have to obey it.
It’s not an ideal solution, as it’s a long process to try and get fairness from wireless providers all too ready and willing to take advantage of consumer naivete, but at least there are checks in place.
A cell phone is a modern necessity. Don’t get screwed by the providers.
* Featured image by John Fingas via Flickr Creative Commons
On March 15, 2017 the US Department of Justice announced that they were laying charges against four people accused of hacking four hundred Yahoo email accounts in 2014. Two of the accused are Russian intelligence officers and a third was in the US but has since fled to Russia. The fourth is one of our own, Hamilton native Karim Baratov, age 22.
Baratov has been roasted by media and law enforcement because he openly flaunted his love of luxury items online. When people asked how he could afford these things, his reply was that he was providing online services.
In the court of public opinion, it sounds like Baratov is guilty of the crimes he’s accused of, even though “online services” could mean everything from sexy video chats to tech support.
This article is not about Baratov. He is currently in jail awaiting his bail hearing in April and plans to fight his extradition to the US where he would face charges of conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiring to commit access device fraud, conspiring to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
This article is about how we address hacking in Canada.
It should be said right off the bat that not all hacking is illegal. One of the definitions of hacking is writing computer programs for fun, which is not illegal if the programs are harmless.
The other definition of hacking is the one most people are most familiar with, which is the act of getting into a computer illegally.
Though it’s never called hacking in the Canadian Criminal Code, the section dealing with the crime is the one used to address mischief. That’s right; the laws against hacking are in the same place you find the law punishing leaving flaming bags of poop on doorsteps on Devil’s Night.
The crime of hacking in Canadian law is called “Mischief in relation to computer data” and is defined as willfully:
Detroying or altering computer data
Rendering computer data meaningless, useless or ineffective
Obstructing, interrupting or interfering with the lawful use of computer data
Obstructing, interrupting or interfering with a person in the lawful use of computer data or denying access to computer data to a person who is entitled to access to it.
The punishments are the same as for any other kind of mischief crime. If the act put a life in danger, you’re liable to spend life in jail. If the crime caused damages worth five thousand dollars or more, it’s an indictable offense with a maximum sentence of ten years in jail or a summary conviction which would mean six months in jail or a five thousand dollar fine. If the value of the damage was less than five thousand dollars, you’re facing either a summary conviction or an indictment with up to two years in jail.
Like many crimes, hacking is often done with intent to commit other crimes like fraud, theft, and unauthorized uses of credit card data. A person guilty of hacking could therefore also be found guilty of additional crimes, some of which – like fraud – carry stiffer penalties than mischief.
Canadian law also holds a person responsible if they counseled or made it easier for someone else to commit a crime and they can face the same penalty as the perpetrator who actually did it. They can also face those penalties if they knew or should have known the crime could be committed as a result of their actions or lack thereof.
Though Canadian governments have been criticized as being ill equipped to tackle computer crime, the government seems to be doing its best not only to protect itself from cyber-attacks but also to teach us to protect ourselves.
In 2010, the Harper Government launched the Cyber Security Strategy outlining a long term national plan to deal with computer crime. The website getcybersafe.gc.ca was created by Public Safety Canada and is full of guidelines for ordinary citizens and businesses with the goal of keeping Canadians safer by increasing awareness of common online threats and how to fight them. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center was created by a joint effort by the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, and the Competition Bureau to fight mass marketing fraud online and is regularly updated with information regarding popular scams.
Technology is advancing at a greater pace than ever and our governments are trying to catch up to protect the victims. The problem with their initiatives is that they seem to place most of the pressure to protect against cybercrime on potential victims, which could lead to victim-blaming even in cases where, due to age or infirmity, a person may not be tech savvy enough to take every precaution. Their plan needs work to put the onus back on law enforcement to protect against cyber-crime back on those charged with protecting us, but at least it’s there.
Thousands of people lined up on the McGill campus Wednesday night waiting hours for a chance to be part of a videoconference with Edward Snowden.
(No, not the guy from Wikileaks, that’s Julien Assange and the only thing they have in common is an outstanding warrant against them for leaking information that the American government wanted kept secret. Snowden revealed that the government agency he worked for, the NSA, was spying on ordinary people on a scale that is neither legitimate nor legal. Basically, he proved that the US and many other countries, including Canada, engaged in mass surveillance. This means the government collects things like your phone records, your videos, your internet data, regardless of whether you are suspected of criminal activity or not.)
You might have missed the videoconference because you were among the thousands of understandably irritated fans left outside after both auditoriums were filled. Maybe you decided to go home after almost getting trampled for the third time in the line-up. Maybe you stayed home to watch the Cubs win.
We can’t recreate for you the distinct Rock Show feel of the overexcited line of people randomly cheering and periodically lurching forward in a panic to get inside, nor the barely concealed distress of the moderator as the video entirely cut off after random people started joining the video call.
The event did not run smoothly by any stretch of the imagination. Less than half of the people who lined up got inside the building. The conference was more than an hour late and the organizers managed to make the Google hangout public, which let to technical difficulties of frankly comedic proportions.
The fact that AMUSE/PSAC, the association representing 1000 members of support staff (most of them also students) at McGill was on strike and picketing arguably didn’t help matters. They became the prime target of the people’s frustration.
However, Edward Snowden himself came to their defense. He encouraged the people present to “hear them out” and reminded the audience of how hard being a dissident could be.
Mishaps aside, the conference happened and Snowden managed to say a lot of interesting things during it. Here are a few of them.
“Surveillance technologies have outpaced democratic control.”
Mass surveillance was a lesser problem when it wasn’t so easy. Not so long ago, it took a whole team to track one person’s activity. Now it’s the opposite. One lone government official can easily track the activities of many people.
The safeguards against the abuse of this power have not developed as quickly. This means that Intelligence agencies have less accountability than ever, while their powers keep growing thanks to evolving technologies.
“This inverts the traditional dynamic of private citizens and public officials into this brave new world of private officials and public citizens.”
But the actions were authorized by the court. For Snowden, this is a sign that the “law is beginning to fail as a guarantor of our rights.”
Intelligence officials have overtly admitted that they would interpret the word of the law as loosely as they could to fit their interests, regardless of the actual intent of the law. In practice, this translates to using anti-terrorist measures to spy on environmental activists or getting access to a journalist’s internet data through a bill meant to fight cyber-bullying.
“How do we ensure that we can trust intelligence agencies and officials to operate the law fairly? The answer is we can’t.”
We can’t trust intelligence officials to respect the spirit of the law; in fact, we can’t even trust them to respect the law itself, argued Snowden. Intelligence gathering programs have broken the law more than once, he reminded, often without consequences.
“What we can do,” he continued, “is put processes in place to ensure that we don’t have to.” He believes the key of these processes is an independent judicial authority able to oversee intelligence gathering operations and prosecute them when needed.
“Canada actually has the weakest intelligence oversight out of any major western country.”
“Now they’re not the most aggressive,” he conceded, “they don’t have the largest scale, but…. no one is really watching.”
The powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) have drastically increased in the last 15 years. Law C-51, in particular, allows them to decide under any motive – however far-fetched – who constitutes a threat to national security and can thus be spied on. “The current Prime Minister did campaign to reform [C-51] and has failed to do so,” reminded Snowden.
The resources to oversee the CSIS, meanwhile, have decreased. The office of the Inspector General, which used to be a major part of it, was simply cut by Stephen Harper. This left the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) as the sole entity reporting to parliament on intelligence agencies. Its members are politically appointed.
CSIS is not the only intelligence gathering agency. The Canadian Border Security Agency, Global Affairs Canada and the National Defense Department all have the power to infringe on the rights of people, including the right to privacy, in certain circumstances and there is no credible authority overseeing them.
Retired Deputy Director of Foreign Intelligence Kurt Jensen pleaded for changing this situation in an article published last January. “Remember the old adage of who will watch the watchers? In Canada the answer is no one,” he wrote.
The conference ended on an inspirational note, with Snowden addressing the students:
“We can have a very dark future or a very bright future but the ultimate determination of which fork in the road we take won’t be my decision, it won’t be the government decision, it will be your generation’s decision.”
Yesterday I was walking down Assiniboine Avenue here in Winnipeg, past the Legislative grounds, where often many Pokemon Go players gather. Indeed on a couple occasions, I, as a casual player, have hung out here as well.
This time I was just passing through on my way home from the grocery store. In the short time it took me to walk through, I heard several other people who were passing by make loud derisive comments to or about the people playing. Comments about how stupid it is, how stupid the people playing it are, how it’s sad that they have nothing better to do with their time.
As I walked further I got kind of angry. What right do these people have to judge? This is something that makes people happy, gets people out to have fun, brings people together. Why the hate? It’s a hobby.
Just because it’s not your thing, why do you have to try to spoil it for those who enjoy it? Then I got thinking about it a little more, and realized that this isn’t any different than people shitting on any other hobby, it’s just new, so people are more vocal about it at this moment. And I realized the sad fact that literally EVERYBODY does it. This is just what people do.
I guarantee every person complaining about how much they’re being judged for playing Pokemon is guilty of judging other people for doing things that they like doing.
In recent years I’ve noticed an especially vitriolic movement among people who don’t like sports to wear their ignorance of sports as a proud badge, to ironically talk about “sportsball”, and assume that all people who like watching sports are ignorant uneducated brutes, and brand them as such.
It’s the same thing I’ve seen with people who are militantly smug about how they don’t watch TV, because according to them TV is an evil, brain-killing thing that has no redeeming qualities, and anyone who is stupid enough to fall under its spell deserves to have their mind rotted out because they’re intellectually weak.
I could go on and on about the things I’ve heard people straight up hate on for no reason other than they personally aren’t interested in it; reading books, being a foodie, playing board games, and dozens of other things that people just do because they enjoy them.
We’ve all done it. I’m certainly not innocent of doing it. But I’m trying to be better. Everybody has things they like doing, so let’s just fucking let people do them without all the criticism.
Go catch Pokemon. Go play fantasy football. Go knit. Go watch superhero movies. Go birdwatching. Go collect records or porcelain dolls or insects or stamps. Go play basketball. Go play Magic. Your hobby isn’t any better or more valid than anyone else’s. And if you think it is, you’re an asshole.
Y’know what makes you just as much of an asshole, though? Criticizing other people’s interests just because people have been criticizing yours.
* Featured Image: Pokemon GO players in Cabot Square, Montreal by Elizabeth Ann Keenan
The internet has been mourning and remembering David Bowie ever since news of his passing broke a week ago. Amidst all the sharing of classic Bowie tunes, astonishment at his latest video being a farewell (a performer to the end), personal tributes (like the one FTB’s Cat McCarthy did) anecdotes, musical tributes, Labyrinth nostalgia and his latest album going to number one in the US (something no Bowie album had done before) something caught my attention.
It was a video of a 1999 interview with Bowie by the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman. The conversation turned to the Internet, still a relatively new phenomenon at the time. This was when AOL still shipped CDs and many people still thought it was a fad or simply an emerging platform with which to get pretty much the same content.
Bowie had a different idea. He thought the Internet would fundamentally change the relationship between performer and audience. Over 16 years later, it’s clear he was right.
David Bowie’s enormous talent and creativity were a huge part of his success. His willingness to set trends instead of following them, all the while constantly reinventing his public persona, made it possible for him to have a cultural impact for decades. This much is widely known.
There was, however, a somewhat less known key to his prolonged influence. It was his mind. In particular, his ability to understand our culture on a fundamental level and see just where it was headed. If you want proof, just watch this video:
This fall, I began working tangentially in the tech industry coordinating volunteers, who inspire and empower kids by teaching them to code, for a local non-profit called Kids Code Jeunesse. In light of recent and troubling events making headlines and spreading like wildfire over social media, I thought it necessary to speak with local #WomenInTech and hear about their perspectives and to discuss gender in the Tech and Gaming industry, and mostly, to learn from them, for myself and my work, and to share that knowledge with others.
Firstly, I spoke with Carolyn Jong, who is an organizer at the Mount Royal Game Society and a member of the Technoculture, Art, and Games Research Centre. Jong has been involved in many projects including making games of her own, and looking at intersectionality in gaming cultures. She is also an active member of Montreal’s indie game community.
A few days before we met for the interview, Jong hosted a discussion on recent events, including threats of a massacre at a feminist speaking event on the topic of gaming that would be given at a school, and about the “hate and harassment campaign,” also known as #GamerGate, with its persecution of game designer Zoe Quinn and others. Jong felt that there was a need for local collective conversation about what had been happening.
According to Jong, in terms of discussing issues affecting women in tech and games, there is a whole gamut of reactions. Some people recognize the issues and work towards addressing them while, on the other end of the spectrum, there seem to be two types of reactions: one of dismissal (“There are no issues!”) and another of a more aggressive nature.
Jong noted the irony of the dismissive response, which forces those seeking to address gender issues to keep close tabs on research and statistics, in order to demonstrate the “realness” of an issue that they may have experienced first hand. On the other hand, the more aggressive reaction is linked to power, privilege, and fear: “It’s complicated and part of a much bigger trend. This is a reactionary response.” In her blog post, “GamerGate and the Right,” Jong explores the disturbing nature GamerGate and its relationship with other movements and politics more in depth.
There are many initiatives aimed at bringing women in the industry together (such as GAMERella) along with initiatives aimed at getting young girls interested in tech and games (Girls Who Code, Ladies Learning Code). Jong has been involved with some of these groups, including the local group Pixelles, and has found meeting others with similar experiences and looking to address similar issues has also been a validating experience.
“For my own experience at least, it has been inspiring,” Jong explained. “These spaces have kind of given me, this sounds corny but, the strength to keep pushing on [addressing gender issues]. It would be really hard to do that kind of work because it’s not something that tends to be rewarded in other places.”
“I’m hoping,” Jong emphasized, “that the sort of push to get girls and women involved in games is going to branch out to include other people that have been marginalized or minoritized in circles. Current movements tend to be inclusive and aware of these issues but I’m hoping other initiatives specifically addressing these groups will emerge.”
Second, I chatted with Julia Evans, a Montreal-based web developer and data scientist, who organizes monthly events for programmer women with the Montreal All-Girl Hack Night. She also co-founded the local chapter of PyLadies Montreal.
“My daily experience in this community is mostly of super wonderful people, but for lots of women (and other minorities), it’s not like that. They work with people who routinely don’t take their work seriously or sexually harass them or just exclude them in a series of minor ways every day,” Evans recounted. “The more friends I make, who are women who work in this industry, the more I hear about [how] super competent wonderful technical women regularly get harassed and threatened. There’s a lot of really blatant sexism.”
These incidents of blatant sexism range from the microaggressive and discriminatory, to flagrant misogyny. Evans cited the blog posts of two women, Cate Huston and Julie Pagano, who publicly left the tech industry or community as an example of the types of issues women face. Evans also cited as evidence of blatant sexism how Christien Rioux, co-founder of Veracode, dismissed women’s abilities to write security exploits. Recently, the CEO of Microsoft, speaking at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, responded to a question for advice for women who might be nervous to ask for a raise with a statement that they should not ask for a raise but trust in the system to pay them what they should earn. Problematic to say the least. There exists, and Evans pointed to it, a timeline of sexist incidents at the Wiki for Geek Feminism which includes the École Polytechnique massacre of 1989.
For Evans, who is used to the kinds of environments that welcome a diversity of programmers, it comes as a shock to attend conferences where 98% of the people in the room are men. “What went wrong here? This is not what a developer community is,” Evans recounts thinking in these situations. She finds it really upsetting that it would be considered normal to have a conference with an overwhelming majority of men when there is a considerable and established presence of women in programming already. Moreover, Evans nods to the magazine Model View Culture as highlighting the already existing diversity in tech whilst addressing and offering solutions to some of the barriers present.
Evans, like Jong, pointed to the importance of spaces which recognize these issues and aim to make change. Initiatives like AdaCamp, a women-only conference around open technology and culture, and workshops like Hacker School where, Evans explained “people work incredibly hard on making sure everyone is taken seriously and that everyone is given an equal chance to learn and grow.” Evans recommends reading a post by fellow Hacker School attendee Sumana titled “Hacker School Gets an A on the Bechdel Test” which highlights the diversity of women and their conversations in tech spaces.
Forget The Box would like to thank Julia Evans and Carolyn Jong for their time and for sharing their experiences and knowledge with us.
Most people know by now that the US uses drones quite a bit in the Middle East these days. Some are aware that drone killings are frequent and don’t always hit non-civilian targets. But very few get an accurate sense of what’s happening in almost real time.
Now, that may change because of a new iPhone app called Metadata+. Developer Josh Begley, who also runs the Twitter account @dronestream, culls data from news reports of US drone strikes from the New York Times, BBC and other sources and makes that data available in map format on his app which also sends out a push notification each time a strike happens.
Apple rejected the app, which was originally called Drones+, five times. Now with a name change and a more generalized description (“real time updates on national security issues”) it’s available for free in the app store.
Here’s Begley talking about the app before it was approved on MSNBC. In this interview he asks the question: “Do we want to be as connected to our foreign policy as our iPhones?”
It’s an interesting question. Are people and in particular activists speaking out against the US drone program and targeted killings going to download an app that effectively announces each time one of those killings occurs? Can people stomach having their day interrupted regularly with a buzz from their pockets every time the US military kills someone with a drone?
This post originally appeared on ForumM.ca, republished with permission from the author
Back when LA Noire came out in 2011, it took the gaming world by storm with its episodic mission structure, facial animation technology and unique gameplay. While the game had DLC, no sequel or similar game has been released that makes use of the formula found in LA Noire. Here is a list of five games I’d like done using the LA Noire structure for next-gen consoles.
5. Law and Order / CSI / Criminal Minds
I’m serious. Law and Order. Remember back when there were Law and Order and CSI games? Most if not all of them were point and click PC games that never made you feel like you were playing a character from the show. LA Noire, as a whole, gave you the feeling like you were playing and sometimes even watching a detective program, especially with its mission structure. This would be perfect for any of the above primetime TV shows.
I’m giving Dexter its own spot after the other TV shows because of the potential to either cash in on the under appreciated novels or a potential prequel/tie-in to the program. While a game would be hard to place within the TV show’s timeline, after Season 2 but prior to season 3 may be appropriate with some fill-in-the-blanks needed. It would also probably be the best-selling LA Noire-like game due to the show’s popularity and potential for interesting gameplay mechanics.
Take LA Noire, add in some paranormal elements and you have yourself something almost as good as chocolate covered bacon on top of a naked cheerleader. Need I say more?
2. A more mature “Ace Attorney” game
A big part of LA Noire was determining if someone was lying and asking the proper questions. While the premise for such a game would definitely have a small market, if done right, even as a downloadable game, it may be worth checking out and could get a cult following.
1. LA Noire 2
While LA Noire had a very mediocre ending, a sequel with a change of setting and characters may be Rockstar’s best bet. While I doubt Rockstar would make a game based on anything else on the list, a sequel to the first game with improved gameplay and graphics has a lot of potential and honestly, who doesn’t want more LA Noire?
Coffee Town is the first feature film from the online fun-house that is College Humor. The film stars Glenn Howerton, who runs his online business from his laptop out of the local cafe (commute much?). When he hears that the owner is planning on turning the place into a sleazy nightclub he and his buddies try to stop it.
The interesting thing about Coffee Town is that for years College Humor has been drawing in massive online audiences with their comedy shorts, articles and memes but this is their first foray into feature film. The film, apart from having an all star cast, (Coffee Town is written and directed by Brad Copeland, Arrested Development, and stars Glenn Howerton, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Ben Schwartz of Parks and Recreation, Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights and singer Josh Groban) is following an alternative distribution model. By-passing theatrical release, the film is banking on digital distribution as it’s primary means of income generation. Films have been doing this for a little while now but Coffee Town is the first to rely solely on it’s online reputation to carry the film.
The film is showing this Saturday evening at Just For Laughs and will be accompanied by a Q&A with writer/director Brad Copeland, Ben, Glenn and Adrianne. You can get tickets through Just for Laughs or you can download it via iTunes and other on-demand platforms.
When: Saturday, July 27 at 7:00pm
Where: Place Des Arts – Cinquième Salle, 175 St-Catherine W., Montréal
This post originally appeared on ForumM.ca, republished with permission from the author
Going into E3, I was doubting Microsoft. After debuting the Xbox One the way they did, I thought there was no way I would buy the console and would make Sony’s PS4 my primary next-gen console.
At Microsoft’s E3 press conference, I was blown way. The exclusives shown were incredible: Titanfall was jizz worthy, Dead Rising 3 looked fun, Ryse was a nice surprise and overall, they did exactly what they had to do to put the ball back in Sony’s court.
The only major drawback was the $500 console pricetag. Steep, but not unreasonable. An Apple iMac is unreasonable. This, however, seemed like Microsoft was stepping up their game.
Then Sony had their conference. It. Absolutely. Sucked. Balls. Then, they announced it: no DRM, and $100 cheaper than the Xbox One. After a whole press conference of being bored out of my mind (as I’m sure others were too) they made the one announcement everyone labeled a KO.
Following the announcement, Kotaku uploaded this image. No text. Just an image. And yes, they mock Fox’s “fair and balanced” slogan:
For me, the cheaper price was the only thing here that even mattered. The $100 cheaper price tag was enough for me to still buy a PS4 first, but bottom line, Microsoft had won E3.
However, everyone went on and on about DRM. The same people who’d trade in a brand new game at Game Stop or EB Games and only get $30 for it when EB would then re-sell it for $50. The same people who love Steam and Steam’s amazing sales were against DRM. Really, people didn’t get it.
Everyone and their mother complains about how gamestop fucks them on their trade ins, getting $5 for their used games. We come in trying to find a way to take money out of gamestop, and put some in developers and get you possibly cheaper games and everyone bitches at MS. Well, if you want the @#$@ing from Gamestop, go play PS4.
The goal is to move to digital downloads, but Gamestop, Walmart, Target, Amazon are KIND OF FUCKING ENTRENCHED in the industry. They have a lot of power and the shift has to be gradual. Long term goal is steam for consoles.
While no one is positive this actually was a Microsoft employee, the bottom line remains the same: DRM could, in fact, lead to cheaper games. COULD. People had written off “Micro$oft” as being an evil, money-hungry fiend and Sony fanboys needed a reason to claim victory.
Could DRM have led to cheaper prices for games? I’d like to think so. While others deny, the fact remains: we’ll never know.
Microsoft’s decision to backtrack on DRM was the result of their complete failure to communicate with gamers and the backlash that came with it.
Dexter is in its 8th and final season with only 10 episodes left. With speculation on how the series will play out running high amongst fans, ForumM has uncovered that IMDB lists Lauren Velez as Capt. Maria LaGuerta in episode 4, Scar Tissue. Could this be a return in the form of a video tape or flash back? Let’s wait and find out. Also, for those wondering when Yvonne Strahovski returns as Hannah McKay, the answer is episode 6, A Little Reflection.
This isn’t the first time IMDB has helped uncover spoilers and returns ahead of time for those seeking Dexter spoilers. Back in 2011, IMDB listed Christian Camargo returning as Brian Moser for the 6th episode of season 6, Just Let Go.
Worth noting, IMDB does not list Yvonne Strahovski after episode 9. Could this be her final appearance?
Also, on a final note casting-wise: episode 11 lists Kevin Brief playing a boat buyer. Does this mean that Dexter will attempt to sell his boat, The Slice of Life?
I was having a really shitty week. My mind-numbing office job was driving me crazier than usual, my sinuses were completely plugged, causing a massive headache and I had an unexpected call regarding a four hundred dollar bill that I have absolutely no way of paying. And then I saw a post on Facebook with a picture of a bright-eyed, smiling teenage girl named Rehtaeh Parsons standing in front a lake with her dog. I read her story and bawled my eyes out at the kitchen table.
The 17-year old was gang-raped by four boys, then taunted and cyber bulled about it to the point where she took her own life earlier this week. Somehow, even though photos of the crime were widely circulated at Rehtaeh’s school, the police decided there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the rapists. This devastated the Parsons family, who called it a slap in the face.
Rehtaeh descended into a deep depression after the rape. “She was never left alone. She had to move out of her community. Her friends turned against her. People harassed her. Boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking her, asking her to have sex with them since she had sex with their friends. It just never stopped,” her mother Leah said in an interview on CBC’s Maritime Noon radio show.
After the tragic tale made international headlines, the hacker collective Anonymous got involved. They tracked down the identities of the guilty parties in matter of hours, with a combination of internet sleuthing and character witnesses:
“Dozens of e-mails were sent to us by kids and adults alike, most of whom had personal relationships with the rapists. Many recalled confessions made by these boys blatantly in public where they detailed the rape of an inebriated 15-year-old girl,” they wrote in a statement on April 11th.
Instead of outing the guilty parties and leaving them vulnerable to vigilante justice, Anoymous used the names as bargaining chips, putting pressure on the Nova Scotia justice system to reopen the case or else they would make the rapists’ identities public.
Nova Scotia police finally caved to the pressure, releasing a statement on Friday that the case would be reopened. They denied that it was because of pressure from an outside source, claiming instead that a person had come forward to them with new and credible information.
It makes me incredibly sad that we live in a world where something like that could and will continue to happen. As if being physically violated wasn’t bad enough, to have everyone know about it, see pictures of it and question your version of the events is enough to break anyone, especially a sensitive, compassionate teenage girl. But it also makes me angry to know that for every case like this that makes the news, there are probably tens, hundreds or thousands that don’t.
“I had to write something about this. I don’t want her life to defined by a Google search about suicide or death or rape. I want it to be about the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life and the beautiful way in which she lived it.”
Benji Rogers, founder and CEO of Pledge Music, kindly sat down with us to explain how he plans to revolutionize the way that artists and fans interact by allowing fans access to the creative process of music making. Pledge Music is not equivalent to a crowd-funding company. They bring something unique and valuable to artists and fans alike. Read about how they deliver their unique and tailored service:
Can you start by telling us about what you’re doing at Pledge Music, a brief rundown of how you help artists and what the benefit is to both sides.
I was an artist myself and I made five albums over about nine or ten years. I was obsessed by the fact that fans wanted to be a part of what I was doing as an artist and what my band was doing. It was very much a participatory thing. When I was going into a town, they’d be like, “don’t stay at a hotel, come stay with us, we’ll make you dinner.”
What we found was that if you offered fans a kind of online version of that experience, I always thought in my head, if fans could be a part of that wherever they are in the world, that would be kinda cool. I was lying in bed one night, and saw in my head, artists, fans, charities. So the concept was, rather than say, “buy my album, it’s coming out August seventh,” we say, “pledge here to be a part of the making of my album.”
And from day one you get access to a special part of the site that has on it rough mixes, live tracks, demos, video blogs. It tells a story of the album as it’s being made. And private video blogs. It’s not just posting on You Tube. It’s private for the pledgers. At the end of it, if you make more that what you needed, a part of the profits can go to a charity of your choice.
So the artist wins because they get the fans involvement early. The fans win because they get to see this process unfolding. The charity wins because someone shows up with a cheque. And within that, the producer, the engineer, the manager, everyone else gets something because it’s not reliant on selling it all after the fact.
We often get compared to crowd-funding companies, which are like, “please give us something, we will go make something and then we will deliver it to you at a different time.” To me that’s just another form of consumer commerce, if you will. But if you say to the fan, “we’re going to go into the studio today and as we do that, at the end of every day or every couple days, we’re going to share something with you.”
We’ve got an iPhone app that literally says, “hey, I’m in the studio. Come check it out, I’m going to beat my drummer over the head with a stick because he can’t keep time. We’ve had a great day, have a listen.” Then it auto-feeds the artist’s account on Facebook and Twitter. If I’m a fan, that same update can feed my Facebook and Twitter, so what you end up seeing is a thirty second clip and you can pledge to see the rest of it.
Really I think what it was, was I think there’s a place in music for just selling to consumers. But what the industry has never addressed is how to sell to fans. Fans are the ones that want to be a part of something larger than just the moment that they go into a shop and buy.
There’s still a place for retail. There’s still a place for labels. What we try to do is build a tool that means an artist and fan can have a direct connection and that the label can also use this tool to foster that same thing, because it’s coming from the artist in real time.
You can’t go back and have the experience. You’ve got to have it while it’s drawing out. It’s like a gig that unfolds in real time. If you don’t offer that, then the fans simply can’t be a part of it. All they can do is go to a shop and buy a CD or go to iTunes and download it.
We did a study with Nielsen (SoundScan) in the U.S. and what they found was that there’s between 0.5 to 2.6 billion dollars available to labels and artists if they open this method up. All fans want to do is connect. They want to be a part of it. You want to say, “I was there. I got the signed vinyl that says ‘I was there.’” That’s really how I view us.
It’s part crowd-funding because there is an element of reaching a hundred percent goal and doing that, but we never display how much money is being raised because I think it distracts from the point of it, which is not how much is being raised, but the music. So I don’t care if they’re raising $5000 or $500 000. I care about how good the bass is sounding, personally.
So that’s basically how it started and I built a tool as a musician that I would want to use. I launched the company on my own EP and it works really well.
Compared to crowd-funding programs, we tried to start it as a larger way of releasing music than just a show up and buy it, or fund it and then I’ll make it. It’s about the participation all the way through. So we just elongated the way in which you can do this. Rather than say, “we’ve got six weeks to sell, fund and make an album,” you’ve got six months.
I think this is a brilliant idea because what you end up doing is you get music fans for life.
That’s a great one. You’re right.
In today’s world with social media especially, everything’s happening so fast. People want things right away and if you’re not constantly in their face, there are other things that will come along.
And also think of it this way. If you post on social media, “hey, we’re in the studio, day one.” That’s a broadcast to everybody. What can I do about it? Nothing. I can stare it, I can comment on it, I can like it, but what have I done?
What if you could pledge on it at that moment? Then, all of a sudden, you know that the album will show up. You bought in. Then all you have to say is, “whatever we’re doing on a social level for everybody, we’ll create another layer in between,” and all you need is an iPhone to do it. We don’t have an Android app, sorry.
Really what I think it’s about is that the artists are creative people. They’ve never been given a tool that is this creative to release music. People who work at the record labels are creative people. They’ve never had this tool to use. So we provide not only the tool, but the team who will help get it done as well. That’s a big key to it.
How do you choose who you work with? Do you take anyone on?
We have A&R reps who go out and find artists to work with who are at the right cycle, who are making an album or have made an album. We have a sign-up process and artists can sign up on a platform and one of our team will work with them to help get their campaign ready to go.
We don’t say no, we say, “not now.” Unless it’s something racist or sexist, or offensive. We look at whether artists can do what they want to do in the time they want to do it, and if not, let’s not let them fail. Let’s work with them to get to where it makes sense.
Millions of crowd-funding campaigns launch all the time and die because no one takes the time to just say, “that won’t work. That’s just not possible.” I didn’t want to do that.
How does it benefit Pledge Music as a company?
We commission whatever comes into the platform and the artist owns the rights all the way out. We take fifteen percent and that includes the credit card processing fee. So it’s slightly more expensive that other straight crowd-funding companies, but what you get for that is us and we’re the guys that help make it happen.
It’s been a good year. We saw 176% increase in pledges! Our CFO said that to me. I think that’s good.
Wow! I’ve never run a business, but I’d hazard a guess that that’s extremely good. Geographically who do you take on?
Global. Anywhere where credit cards or PayPal can be used, we operate there.
So all languages? All genres?
All genres. We have a Spanish version of the site, a German version of the site and English. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about how we’re going to grow and give Canada what they need to work, but then we have to do a French Canadian version of the site. If you know anyone! I’m a big ice hockey fan too.
What are hoping to achieve from this point forward?
I think there’s not going to be one album in the next twenty years that wouldn’t have a better experience for everybody involved if it had Pledge as part of it. So my goal is that all albums begin their life in this way. With me being a part of it. With me being able to be a part of it as a fan.
It’s not working the way it is. It’s not effective anymore. You can’t just say “go buy stuff in shops, go buy stuff on the internet.” That’s not working. So we have to reinvent the way in which music and art gets to be built.
People who have done crowd-funding campaigns have said they feel bad going back to the well. My thing is abolish any concept of the well.
Do you stop making albums because the last one was the best you’re ever going to get? No. You just make a better campaign, a better way of doing things. Our job is to help with that.
The next time someone asks me if they should travel through South America for four months or more, I will respond with another question: “Are you prepared to lose everything?” Despite bringing along my Macbook Pro, iPod Touch and Canon DSLR Camera, I really felt mentally prepared to lose everything for the sake of world experience. After all, they are just things. I even left my iPhone at home in Canada with the idea that even if they took everything else from me, at least I’d have that. However, despite my preparation, losing stuff sucks!
Below find a tale, not about loss, but about an outstanding couple, a thief, and the power of social media. By the end, it might just restore your faith in humanity, I know it did mine.
Why the hell would I travel by myself? At least with people you might have more security. Another good question, but I feel that if I wasn’t alone, I wouldn’t have the freedom to meet such incredible people like Damian Martone, the friendly Argentinian graphic designer who allowed me to stay in his apartment for over a week in Buenos Aires through the networking site CouchSurfing or Bruno Beserra, the flight attendant from Brazil who made the video of Carnaval with me and lent me his camera for the rest of my trip.
But all this journalism, travelling and partying can be taxing on the body, so since Carnaval I pledged to limit my drinking and start to run everyday. I kept to my word on the morning of Sunday, March 3rd and hauled myself out of bed at 8 am after a sober Saturday night for my morning run. In my morning drowsiness I accidentally bumped the foot of an Argentinian man sleeping above me in the 10-person dormitory in Salvador, Brazil and woke him up.
“I’m going to Praia do Forte!” he told me confidentially in Spanish as he started to pack his bag. “Cool!” I responded, having been to the nearby beach a few days prior. “There is an amazing, tranquil beach with no people and white sand if you continue walking from the main beach for 10 minutes. You have to go there!” Appearing delighted by the recommendation he agreed to go. I then locked my locker with all my valuables inside of it, took the key and set off on my run.
When I returned 45 minutes later, I saw the Argentinian on the way out, exchanged a friendly “Chow!” and went to unlock my locker. There, I discovered that my MacBook Pro and the Nikon point + shoot digital camera that Bruno had lent me were missing! Fortunately, however, everything else including my passport was there.
Before the embarrassment, disappointment and general bummed out feeling hit, I just felt confused as to how those items were stolen. I always make sure to lock my locker even if it is for a second to go to the bathroom.
Who could have done this!?
Immediately my mind shifted to the friendly Argentinian. He did rush out and he was probably the only person who saw me open my computer on that morning and could have been fast/sneaky enough to nab it, but there was no evidence to prove this. Where’s Dexter when you need justice!?
Justice had a rough start. At the police station nearby, the casually dressed policeman did not speak a word of English. Less than three words into my explanation in Portuguese (slow and choppy, but I know it made sense) the officer wrote “Pelourinho” (the name for the historic centre) on a piece of paper. Apparently in Pelourinho there is a tourist police station where they speak English.
Of course when I got there, both employees did not speak a word of English. One of them spoke broken French. It’ll do.
In the meantime, a beautiful Uruguayan couple living just north of Salvador named Veronica and Nicolas decided to make a surprise visit to the city to visit Nicolas’ sister.
Unprepared for their arrival, Nicolas’ sister was in the process of interviewing an Argentinian named Rodrigo about renting out her apartment. Rodrigo and the couple got to talking… The couple works with computers, Rodrigo has a new MacBook Pro (wonder where he got it…). Que buena suerte (such good luck) he must have thought! They can wipe the computer’s hard drive and it’ll be just like he never stole it! Having never touched a MacBook before, he asked Veronica and Nicolas to show him where the CD eject button was so that he could take out his Bob Marley CD.
Rodrigo went to the beach and left the computer with the couple with hopes that it would be all ready when he came back.
Suspicious of the odd request to wipe my computer’s content, Veronica and Nicolas took a peek online where she found myFacebook signed in with myphotos. If that wasn’t proof enough that this computer was freshly stolen, they saw my full name displayed in the top right hand corner of the screen.
So here’s me sitting at the tourist police station awaiting a police report that a snail could have preformed faster, while Veronica is on my Facebook posting a status to contact me because I had been robbed.
When Rodrigo got back, Nicolas would not let the thief back in to get the stolen computer. He asked Rodrigo for the camera too, but the Argentinian wouldn’t give that back, nor the SD card. After about 15 minutes of arguing he finally left, without my computer!
It was only by chance that I found out about the status, despite some of my friends’ best efforts to contact me through email or Facebook. I had no access to Internet because it was a Sunday and nothing was open.
I was eager to set off for Lencois, a nearby tourist town, to get rid of the bad energy I was feeling in Salvador, but had to wait for my police report – which would take another two hours because the lady writing it was hungry and wanted lunch! Ahem, wasn’t there a crime to solve!? This no-pressure attitude while handling necessary services is something that Salvador and Brazil’s Bahia province is infamous for.
While I waited upset and with thoughts of my retreat home to Canada out of disappointment, I went to a nearby hostel to visit a Canadian friend. She wasn’t there, but her boyfriend Pedro who works at the hostel was. Reluctantly, I told him the embarrassing news – that I had apparently left my locker and lost my computer and camera.
“Dude!,” the Brazilian told me in his perfect colloquial English accent. “You didn’t see your Facebook status? Someone found it and they want to meet up!”
Huh!? This must be a joke! My first instinct was to laugh.
I went to look and alas, there on Facebook, was my own status updated with all the information I needed to contact Veronica and Nicolas!
Veronica truly went above and beyond to get a hold of me. She messaged Damian, the Argentinian from CouchSurfing and called the hostel to get a hold of me.
They also took photos and posted them on my own wall to prove that they had the computer.
The comments on Facebook were filled with heart warming messages from family and friends from all walks of life. “Good things happen to good people,” said a friend I knew from high school, but hadn’t seen in over five years. “Well today officially became the shitiest day of the year…! At least Joel Balsam’s story still gives me faith in the world!” read a status of a former teammate from the French Jeux de la Communications.
I called Veronica. No answer.
I went to message a close friend of mine on Pedro’s computer to express my shock and suddenly I was typing my own name in chat, but I really wasn’t… Veronica was also logged in to Facebook and was communicating with me through the same message!
Didn’t Facebook used to sign you out if you were signed in at two different locations?
Anyway, Veronica messaged me the address and I punched it into Google Maps. Ready to head out the door, Pedro, the guy who worked at the hostel stopped me. “Dude, that’s in the worst and most dangerous part of the city.” Crap! Salvador is already pretty dangerous, so I could only imagine what the locals would do to a white gringo like me. Hopefully, a white gringo with his Macbook.
A closer search on Google Maps found the same street in a completely different part of the city. Relief.
Two hours later by bus and taxi I arrived to Veronica and Nicolas’ huge condominium and rang the doorbell. Finally, I would meet face to face with the saints that found my computer! But… you guessed it… they weren’t there! Crap, I thought as I looked out the window. I was in some strange place and still unsure if this was all real. Seconds later, a happy couple looked up at me from the street and said “hoy!” I knew it was them!
I sat at their kitchen table, still numb from the whole experience as they related the wild story back to me of how they encountered Rodrigo and hustled the computer back for me. Soon, we got to laughing and talking about each others’ lives.
If it wasn’t enough that they saved me the grief and expense of buying a new computer, Nicolas offered me an old shirt as a keepsake to take with me on my journeys.
I took Veronica and Nicolas out for pizza dinner and drinks and they offered me a place to stay when I come back from Chapada Diamantina, a nearby national park. And, Veronica wants to teach me to surf! How could I say no?
So, there you have it. There are good, even great people out there! Something I will tell the grandkids.