Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Visit

We are so privileged to be here in Sri Lanka with Sleeping Children Around the World, the wonderful Canadian charity that has distributed well over a million bedkits to needy kids in 40 developing countries.

The Sri Lankan version of the kit contains a sleeping mat, mosquito net, shoes, socks, backpack, water bottle, school supplies, and new clothing, all produced and assembled right here in the country by local companies.

Two of of the families who received the kits invited us into their homes, and expressed much gratitude for your gifts. Many thanks to all of my friends and neighbours who contributed.

Three generations live in this little house. Note the shoes being proudly displayed by the young lady who received a bedkit.
This is the kitchen. Food is cooked and prepared outside.
Most of these kids sleep on the floor like this this fellow who we caught napping. I spoke with teachers who said children often fall asleep in class.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New shoes!

What is it about ladies and shoes?

I'm in Sri Lanka with Sleeping Children Around the World, the Canadian charity that ditsributes bedkits to needy kids in developing countries.

These kits include mattresses, mosquito nets, clothing, and school supplies, all items that are virtually unaffordable for poor families who often get by on a few hundred dollars a year.

This year's kits for Sri Lanka, include shoes from manufacturer DSI, and that is turning out be a big hit with the children and their parents.

Here's a short video showing some of the 4,500 kids who will get kits here, as they get fitted with their new footwear.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hello from Sri Lanka

Well, gang. I'm in Sri Lanka as a travelling volunteer with my favourite charity, Sleeping Children Around the World. We will be working with the Kelaniya Rotary Club to distribute bedkits to needy kids in some of outlying areas.

The kit includes a mattress, mosquito net, shoes, school supplies, a backpack, a clothing outfit, and some other items. Receiving one of these kits is the biggest event these kids have ever experienced in their young lives.

Of course, it's all made possible by our donors back in Canada.

This little One Minute Movie shows some of the last minute preparations before we head out into the countryside. Click on the full screen icon at lower right for a larger image.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cloudy thinking

Do you know where your data is?

Until recently, you would have answered, "On my computer, stupid."

But now we have The Cloud.

That's where many people are opting to store, and/or backup their Word and Excel documents, Powerpoint slides, personal photographs, family videos, financial information, and everything else that used to be on their own hard drives. In many cases, such as your e-mail or your online stock trading account, you have no choice.

For a decade, businesses have been using The Cloud, often paired with accounting and information management systems, to store their financial and customer data. Of course your Facebook, G-mail, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts are in The Cloud. This blog is in The Cloud. One of Google's businesses is managing health records for governments. Your medical history may be stored in Google's cloud.

Now this has arrived for consumers, thanks to Apple's iCloud and similar services.

Sounds nice, doesn't it. It evokes an image of benign, fluffy clouds scudding across the sky, but nothing could be more misleading. The Cloud is simply a collection of huge "server farms." A server farm is a giant, air conditioned building that houses huge numbers of hard drives.

If you opt to store your stuff in The Cloud, that's where you'll find it when you go looking. It's very convenient, enabling automatic backups and software updates, as well as access to your digital stuff from anywhere with all your devices.

The question is, who else has access to your info?

We've heard plenty lately about snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency and its Canadian equivalent, Communications Security Establishment Canada. Apparently, the Canadian government has no problem with American spooks keeping an eye on we Canadians, as our data is sent across the border to The Cloud which, it turns out, is mostly located in the U.S, at least on this side of the Atlantic.

As usual, big business is prepared to trade off your privacy for the potential of greater profits, as evidenced by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce's lobbying against requirements to store personal information domestically, as BC and Nova Scotia have implemented.

How far does all this go? Who is poking around in The Cloud to see what they can find? How about companies who want to sell us stuff, and who find that easier when they know more about us? Big Data is the catchphrase on marketers tongues these days, and Big Data resides in The Cloud.

Frankly, I don't think you can go wrong by assuming that at least some of the players in the "Cloud" business are selling your info without your knowledge, despite assurances to the contrary.

Am I paranoid and anachronistic, or are you a bit creeped out by this, too?

My advice --- keep your digital stuff on your own hard drive, and install some good security software on your PC.

Stay out of The Cloud.

[Thanks to several articles by Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa for much of the above information.]