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Check your Google account security and get 2GB free cloud storage

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Google is celebrating the 12th annual Safer Internet Day (February 9) by offering 2GBs of free additional Google Drive cloud storage to any user who completes a simple security check of their account. (Last year Google made the same offer for two weeks, so you have some time.)

And seeing as a Google account can encompass so much personal content these days, from contacts, scheduling and email, to photos, storage and spreadsheets, it’s a good idea to check the currency of your security settings at least once a year.

One caution to users of pre iOS 6 devices and Windows 8.1 phones, as well as desktop mail clients—DO NOT allow Google to block access to what it considers are less secure apps.

Otherwise, just click the link to the Google Security Checkup. Sign in to your Google account and follow the instructions. The whole four step process only takes a few minutes. Read more…

Flies are back. Did you miss them?

These two common flies seemed uncommonly aggressive.

In the vanguard. Two aggressive flies intent on tangling with one another.

Monday, February 8, was a nice day; a spring day, or at least a day that smelled like spring.

Flowers smelled like flowers. Dirt smelled like dirt and garbage…well, garbage apparently smelled like flies like it to smell because they were suddenly back, just like someone threw a switch. Read more…

New app maps NYC homeless like they’re potholes to be avoided

The app in the Google Play Store, the live map and recent photos.

The NYC Map the Homeless app in the Play Store, its live map of homeless sightings and recent photos.

Want to know where the homeless people are in New York City? There’s an app for that!

My friend Jezi alerted me to this. It’s called NYC Map The Homeless—an app for both Android, via the Google Play Store and iOS, through iTunes.

The app allows New Yorkers with GPS-enabled smartphones to take photos of homeless New Yorkers. These photos are automatically pinned to a Google Map of New York City so that other users of the app can click on and view them.

In addition to the name of the user who took the photo and date that the photo was taken, users can append descriptive hashtags, such as: #AggresiveBegging, #Threat, #Man, #Woman, #NeedsMedicalAid, #Sleeping, #Smoking, #Crack, #Encampment, and so on.

The app is quite sparse, with only five options: Users can take a photo, view the map, view the photos they have taken, or view the most recent photos taken by all app users. The fifth option, “Settings”, simply consists of the default user name the app will attach to a user’s photos, which the user can change.

The app is clearly in the same—but much meaner—spirit of one that might crowd-source reports of potholes or works crews or other such obstructions that can unexpectedly interfere with one’s plans in a big city. Read more…

I’d like to report a hit and rain!

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At 9:19 p.m the intersection of West Broadway Avenue and South Granville Street was still sheeted with excess water from a fast-moving rain squall heading due east at a clip.

It’s 9:41 p.m now, so I would expect that the nozzle of that great big power washer is already passing over the residents of the next municipality over, namely Burnaby. Click the image to enlarge it.

How I cleaned up on bottles Tuesday

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An hour before midnight on Tuesday, February 2, I was on the west end of the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue, when, from the other end of the block, I heard the sound of trouble.

“CRASH! Tinkle tinkle”

It was the unmistakable sound of a lot of glass suddenly breaking—most often heard in back alleys along with loud cursing. I also heard the exact same sound once when I worked at the Vancouver Masonic Centre—to the accompaniment of nothing but stunned silence. Read more…

It’s a crime the way homeless people sleep

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How to wake up a homeless person: Call the police. That’s what they’re for!

It was nearly 8 a.m. when I locked up my bike and trailer outside the McDonald’s in the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue and slouched into the restaurant.

After over six hours of uninterrupted sleep in my parkade last night I was still tired. And I noticed that my homeless friend Ivan, sitting in an northeast-facing window seat, looked as bleary-eyed as I felt.

But sleepy as we were, Ivan and I were both upright, law-abiding citizens—not like the homeless jumble of long, matted blond hair and puffy parka that was hunched over and sound asleep in a booth seat around a corner from the front order counter.

At first glance he actually had the ruddy look of an early-rising snowboarder on his way to the slopes. But I could see, among his belongings piled on the booth seat opposite him, a plastic milk crate full of junk from the alleys, including used Tim Horton’s takeaway paper cups.

Within 15 minutes two Vancouver police officers were in the restaurant. I watched one of them make a offhand gesture towards my bike trailer as they came walking up the street.

The two officers stood and surveyed the sleeping man as they both carefully put on disposable blue latex gloves. He had been there since nearly 5 a.m., I overheard a manager explain to them.

Then one officer began the process of waking the fellow up—first just verbally, with no result, then by both plucking at the man’s shoulder and calling to him.

“Wake up wake up wake up wake up…”

Not loud or aggressive; just calmly insistent.

As the man stirred, the officer tried to elicit a response from him—repeatedly asking what his name was.

“Wake up wake up wake up. What’s you’re name. We’re not going anywhere. Wake up. What’s you’re name. You have to leave or else we’ll have to arrest you.”

By degrees the man stirred and finally woke up enough so that the two officers could escort him out of the restaurant. Read more…

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