Coronavirus and Government Surveillance

At 4:55am I received a text message. From the Government of Canada. Advising me to register online to ensure that the Government of Canada can contact me.

This was the text message:

Not a surprise that governments can ask their telecomm companies to direct text messages to Canadians travelling outside the country as this message did not go out to all Canadians.

Only to those Canadians outside the country.

The degree of government intervention into our lives over the past few weeks has been breathtaking. Suspension of civil liberties, which I expect will come soon enough, would be a concerning development. Tracking citizen movements is another concerning development.

Then again my government is likely just trying to be helpful.

Although I am wondering why they want to contact me.

I am here. Give me a call. You already have my number.

Toronto Island

Toronto Island is a short ferry or water taxi ride from the city. The island offers some interesting subjects for a photowalk if you bypass the typical tourist areas.

When I did the photowalk with my youngest son last week, we spent several hours at the Toronto Island Marina. Let’s do some exploring.

We crossed on a water taxi. The cost is $11 CAD one-way however the city ferry will provide a free ride back. The cost to cross both ways on the city ferry is slightly cheaper however we wanted the experience and convenience of making the crossing on the water taxi. The waters were calm and it was a beautiful sunny day which made for a pleasant ride. If the weather was not as pleasant, we would have queued up for the ferry.

Exiting the docks, we headed west along the banks of the island. It is here that you see many of the shots of the Toronto skyline. This skyline has changed dramatically over the years since I lived there. A literal explosion of skyscrapers and condos. You can gain an appreciation for the height of the CN Tower, one of the tallest towers in the world, as it dominates the Toronto skyline.

The walk to the Toronto Island Marina takes only a few minutes. It is a strange place. When we were there, it looked like a scene from the apocalypse, so much junk strewn about and seemingly abandoned.

Of course, you can point the camera and take a frame like this one:

Or, walking around the place, you see odd scenes like this one:

Or this one:

There must be life here somewhere, as evidenced by the glasses on this table.

There are over 350 berths in this marina. We did come across three people during our time there. However, large areas of the marina looked like a dumping ground for old boats such as Fairways:

And the Harbourfront centre:

Picnic tables were littered across the property. Most were decomposing.

Others were used for storage.

Chairs also littered the marina. Perhaps used by someone but not today.

The experience of walking through this marina was surreal. At times we thought we were on the set of the Walking Dead. Life had been here but somehow abandoned this marina. A fascinating walk within a short distance from Canada’s largest urban centre, the Greater Toronto Area, with a population of roughly 6 million people.

We took the ferry back. Caught a picture of a similar ferry crossing to the island. Gives you a sense of the view that you can expect when you ride the ferry.

A final shot of Toronto from the deck of the ferry. Another successful photowalk.

The island is definitely worth a visit if you come to Toronto. You can learn more about the park here.

RV Haulers

I haven’t seen one. Not in the real world. Only in videos. Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know that there was an active RV community around this concept of using a heavy duty truck tractor to tow a fifth wheel.

A typical RV Hauler rig might look like this:

This photo is a screen grab from one of the videos I had reviewed on this part of the RV community.

Here is a video showing a rally of these unique RVs.

The man behind the video? Gregg Shields. He has retired from building RV Haulers but his YouTube channel and his website provides a lot of relevant information especially for Canadians interested in going this route.

It looks as though the cost for a used heavy duty truck tractor is not all that expensive. A complete rig like the one shown in the picture above is similar to the cost of a Class A motorhome. And, in our province of Ontario, if you opt for a single rear axle, you may not need a commercial driver’s license to tow a fifth wheel. You would still require a Z endorsement for the air brakes.

The used heavy duty truck tractor might be a better option than a diesel pickup truck when towing the really large fifth wheel units. Plus, they look pretty cool.

Fake Jobs

I hope this might be helpful especially if you have kids looking for work.

Today’s generation of young adults are constantly connected to the Internet. And they are accustomed to doing many things online, including searching for work. But, there are some very sophisticated scams out there making it important to conduct due diligence on any offer that originates from an online source.

My youngest son is looking for work to get himself ready to resume his studies in September. He posted his resume online to indeed, a site which claims to be the number one job site in the world.

He received the following email from a Matt Hicks:

My name is Matt Hicks.
I am Sr. Human Resources Manager at Johnson Controls.

I came across your resume on an online job board (Indeed) and wanted to
reach out to you to see if you might be interested in a contract opportunity.

We are seeking energetic and reliable person to join our team.

Job Description

Position: Customer Service – Manager Assistant

What you will do:
The position exists to monitor and respond to all incoming alarm transactions,
calls and requests for access to select clients.

How you will do it:
We will provide you with our software for this.

What Johnson Controls can offer you:
• Training Budget
• Flexible hours / Casual work environment
• Competitive Benefits Package
• Winner of Best Workplaces (Benefits, Perks & Incentives)
• Awesome new development machines (full accessories & dual monitor)
• Salary for Full time: 40 hours/week (880 CAD)
• Salary for Part time: 20 hours/week (440 CAD)

• Place of residence Canada
• You have customer service and computer skills
• Organization skills for successful workday planning
• Ability to multi-task, prioritize and manage time effectively
• Basic knowledge of the PC and basic knowledge of Microsoft Office.

Company Profile:
Johnson Controls delivers products, services and solutions that increase
energy efficiency and lower operating costs in buildings for more than one
million customers. Operating from nearly 2,000 locations in more than 150
countries, we are a leading provider of equipment, controls and services
for heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, refrigeration and security systems.

Please make sure you add the above email address to your contact
list to avoid lost messages or having it delivered to your spam folder.
If you are not interested, please let us know and we will not bother you again.

Matt Hicks
Sr. Human Resources Manager
Johnson Controls Hamilton Office
40 Hempstead Dr, Hamilton, ON L8W 2E7, Canada.

My son called me to ask my advice on the offer. I was familiar with Johnson Controls. They are a large company with well over 120,000 employees. And perhaps they had an initiative where they required students to perform basic data entry activities on a contract basis. Not all that unusual. I took a quick glance and tried to find Matt Hicks on LinkedIn. No profile.

I then jumped on Google Maps and searched the address in Hamilton, Ontario.

Using Street View, this is what I found.

Okay. The address seemed to check out.

I told my son to respond very simply this way: “Thank you for reaching out and I am interested in learning more about this opportunity.”

Within a very short period of time, another email from Matt Hicks which included an application form. As my son’s resume was already online, he used that as a template to fill out the application. We made sure that no confidential information such as a Social Insurance Number, was disclosed.

Then another email from Matt Hicks.

I am glad to inform you that your information has been reviewed.

Our company decided to hire you for the Customer Service – Manager Assistant position.

Equal Opportunity & Non-Discrimination
Johnson Controls is an equal employment opportunity and affirmative action employer and
all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color,
religion, sex, national origin, age, protected veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity,
status as a qualified individual with a disability or any other characteristic protected by law

Get Connected and Grow Your Career
Bring your passion for innovation and we’ll challenge you to help us create a better tomorrow.
We support you at every level of your career.

Learning and development resources offer you a variety of meaningful courses and programs
to guide your career with a focus on tomorrow. Gain the skills and insights you need to make an
impact on lives around the world. We also offer leadership development opportunities to potential
senior-level talent across the company.

Business Resource Groups (BRG) bring together employees with similar backgrounds and
experiences to work together toward professional development, improving corporate culture and
achieving business results.

Please follow the next steps to complete Employment Agreement:
1. Confirm you’ve got this message by sending me an email.

2. You can find a PDF “Employment Agreement” attached to this message.
Please look through carefully, print it, fill out your personal
details in required fields and sign the contract. Please email me back
a scan copy of the document as soon as you are done.

Your duties :
– Be in touch with your manager (It’s me Matt Hicks) by email or by phone constantly.

– Keep your mobile phone switched on (all the time of your work).

– Perform all tasks quickly and efficiently.

– You cannot engage in side issues that hinder your work during the working day.

– Strictly perform tasks (it will affect the decision about your permanent employment).

– Make a report of each done task.

Full Time: 880.00 CAD/week
Part Time: 440.00 CAD/week

You should constantly check e-mail during the day and quickly respond to my messages.

Now I am waiting for the contract signed and will be very glad to see you as a new partner of Johnson Controls!

Matt Hicks
Sr. HR Manager
Johnson Controls
Hamilton Office
40 Hempstead Dr, Hamilton, ON L8W 2E7, Canada

My son passed me a copy of the contract. It looked official. It included the correct corporate logo and the typical corporate legalese that you would expect to see in an employment contract.

There were, however several red flags. The biggest one? This line:

Use Bitcoin during your work to purchase software for customers.


I told my son to not engage in any further communication with this Matt Hicks. And I decided to do a bit more forensic work.

The first, and easiest, task was to check the WHOIS registration information for the domain in Matt Hicks’ email address.

His email address:

I entered the domain “” into the WHOIS system and out came the following:

Another red flag. Domains By Proxy is used by fraudsters as the registrant information is private.

Compare the WHOIS information above to the real Johnson Controls domain “”:

Corporations do not hide their identities by using a service like Domains By Proxy.

Time to do a bit of pinging.

Pinging the domain “” brings back an IP address of And, as expected, this is the direct IP address of the domain.

Pinging the domain “” brings back an IP address of That IP address points to the following domain: “”.

Enter that into a browser and here is where you land.

I knew that my son was being targeted by a scammer.

If my son had proceeded, here is how the scam would have unfolded.

He would have been asked to electronically transmit his personal information, along with banking details. Then, he would have been asked to arrange a wire transfer for funds related to the job duties to “use Bitcoin during your work to purchase software for customers”.

He would receive either an Interac e-transfer or a cheque prior to the transfer of funds. Once received, those funds would need to be withdrawn immediately and deposited into a Bitcoin account. The e-transfer or cheque would fail to clear a few days later causing the bank to reverse the transfer. My son would be on the hook for those funds.

The scammer would then look for another target.

Online fraud is becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Be careful.


We all want to be secure. Secure in our retirement. Secure in our home. Secure in life.

And then it happens. Perhaps it is just a teeny tiny prick or a major impact with a blunt instrument but something hits you. And your sense of security is gone. Just like that. Your life falls apart like jello nailed to the wall.

The stock market crashes.

Your retirement is no longer secure.

A thief breaks into your house.

Your home is no longer secure

The last checkup with the doctor brings bad news.

Your life is no longer secure.

You order a burger with ketchup and it comes slathered in mayonnaise.

Your stomach is no longer secure.

I spend a disproportionate amount of time in worry. I must love it. Worry, that is. I spend so much time worrying. About anything and everything I can.

But, more than anything else, I worry about making mistakes.

I imagine the worst possible outcome. Frequently. Lorraine might even say always.

Sure, I blame it on my corporate career. There I had to be constantly evaluating alternate scenarios around impactful decisions. The question “what might happen” was foremost in my mind when working with other senior executives, board members, and team members. As a former Chief Information Officer, or CIO, I was painfully aware that even one little mistake could result in being given a different CIO title: Career Is Over. The unemployment line. End of the line.

And I brought that thinking home.

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.

That quote, attributed to Michel de Montaigne, way back in the 1500s, resonates. I might even toss it on my tombstone although I am not quite ready to do so. Not for a while I hope. Hmmm. I worry about that too.

What happened to us a few months back was a wake-up call for me. A time to really get serious about preparing for the inevitable. To face the unknown, unknown risk, that, even though unknowable, must nonetheless be faced.

Some of you may recall that our vehicle was ruthlessly ransacked in Florida.

Okay, perhaps not necessarily ruthlessly. I had, after all, left the doors unlocked, and the thief had simply opened the door to get into the car.

Not really ransacked either. He opened the glovebox and the storage area under the armrest and the only trace of his entry and exit was a streak of suntan lotion. I could understand the suntan lotion. It is sunny in Florida after all and, despite the fact that the crime occurred sometime after midnight, I applauded the thief’s desire to protect his skin from the sun. He was a fellow worrier. He knew how to face the unknown, unknown risk. After this incident, I immediately started applying sunscreen at night.

Just in case.

Better safe than sorry.

What was stolen from our vehicle you might ask?

As it turns out, nothing. Despite having significant amounts of Canadian money in the car, roughly 10 dollars or so in coins, worth perhaps 50 cents or so in U.S. currency, the thief decided to abandon that stash of cash and try his luck elsewhere.

Back to the unknown, unknown risk.

I live by the following words of one of the greatest leaders of the free world, Donald Rumsfeld, who once said and I quote:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

Ah yes. The difficult ones.

We must have eyes on our coach and on our toad.

After all, I spend far too much time hiking around in the remote regions of California.

I might look happy up there in that photo in the middle of nowhere but really, I am worrying. Worrying about whether some other thief is going to try to break into our vehicles and leave our stuff alone because our stuff isn’t worth all that much because we bought that stuff using Canadian loonies. And Canadian loonies are really just pennies in these United States.

Yes. The unknown unknowns!

And so I searched high and low. Low and high. Wide and narrow. Narrow and wide.

I even went on Amazon. Then Google.

And lo, there it was.

The solution to all of my worries. The thing that would singlehandedly restore my sense of security.

The Nightingale Drone.