Have we abandoned our seniors to digital pirates?

What responsibility do we have to protect our seniors from exploitation from telephone scammers? Scammers are using every technology available to them, but telephone service providers seem to be falling behind on supporting some of their most vulnerable clients.
Source: http://freedesignfile.com/
New communication technologies have rewoven the way we connect with each other, but have also opened the door for new kinds of abuse.

Over the last months I’ve been trying to help some friends navigate a nightmarish situation with their telephones. This is a  couple in their mid-90s who are still living in their home, helping each other navigate life’s joys and challenges.

But now the peace and calm that they should be enjoying is being disrupted by constant harassing phone calls.

Telephone scammers have found their number and started calling up to 100 times a day. The calls would literally stream together, and it seemed like the phone line may have been hacked, as it was impossible to disengage the call by simply hitting the disconnect button. The only way to get silence was to unplug the main phone line, which can be a safety issue for seniors

The service provider first said there was nothing they could do, as the calls were coming from outside of Canada. Then they said the only way to block the calls would be to follow this process:

  1. Respond to the call (ie click on the Talk button)
  2. Wait 5 seconds
  3. Hang up
  4. Immediately reactivate the line
  5. Dial the following: # 60 # 01 #

This might sound workable, until we accept the fact that scammers can now create a huge number of telephone numbers digitally at very little to no cost.

I’m left feeling like the telephone companies have abandoned a very vulnerable segment of our society. Seniors are sometimes lured into conversations because they grew up in a time when the telephone was a community building technology; and they may sometimes just feel lonely, so they are easier prey for the new generation of digital pirates.

Please let me know if you come across anyone who has solved this issue!


Here are some links to media and resources:

“In 2012, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received 2,815 Jamaican lottery/prize complaints. 343 are classified as victims with total reported dollar losses in the excess of $2 million dollars”:

Jamaica task force arrests 10 people on suspicion of involvement in lottery scam rings:

Authorities in US, Jamaica team up to tackle persistent phone scam:

US Senator warns people to “”Beware of the 876 Jamaican Phone Scam”:

Website designed to help warn people about the 876 scams:








Walk of 6 Ponds Map

The University of Alberta campus is very beautiful, particularly in summer. There are a set of water features tucked around the North Campus, and I wanted to help people find them so I built this map:

This is a work in progress, so I’m happy to take suggestions on how to improve it. *(For example, there is a suggestion to add a loop that includes the outdoor rock samples along Saskatchewan Drive, so I’m working on that.)

Here are some pictures of the various ponds:

Arts / Business pond


Water feature near CAB
Humanities pond
Engineering pond




























Along with the water features / ponds are several interesting things:

The cross-section of a 900 year old tree









A huge spruce burl






Outdoor art

IMG_2331 IMG_2329 IMG_2327

Canadian Rockies – June 2014

Exploring the Canadian Rockies in June 2014!

The Canadian Rockies are very beautiful and I really enjoy helping people explore them. Last week I had the privilege of taking two Belgian relatives through Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper with lots of stops along the way. This blog post will outline some of the things we saw.

One of the first things to remember about traveling to national parks is that these are spaces that we share, both with each other and with the plants and animals that live there. A simple way of thinking about it might be: take pictures and memories, leave everything else in peace. Imagine what would happen if each of the 4 million annual visitors to Banff National Park decided they needed to pick one flower or take one stone…

So instead we cross our fingers and hope that the weather will be good enough for us to see the mountain tops, and the animals will feel like munching on things near the road and paths we travel on.

The best way to increase the chance of seeing interesting things in the mountains is to look around. It is amazing how many people are so focused on the destination that they are barely present on the journey… Animals tend to like shade and shelter, they will browse along eating beside the road but can be difficult to spot if they are even a few steps into the forest. So glance into clearings, look at the shores of lakes and ponds, stare up at the mountains; you will enjoy the journey and massively improve your chances of seeing animals!

Here are some of the animals you might find (these photos were all taken in June 2014 with an iPhone and edited with PicMonkey, a free photo editing site):

Raven taking flight near Columbia Icefield, Canadian Rockies – 2014
Male and female wapiti.
Male and female wapiti near Jasper, Canadian Rockies – 2014
Black bear
Black bear near Saskatchewan River Crossing, Canadian Rockies – 2014

There are also grizzly bears!We didn’t get the best picture, but please keep in mind that the grizzly was only 20 feet from the road… we were trying not to stop and disturb it so we kept rolling.

Grizzly near Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park - June 2014
Grizzly near Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park – June 2014

Here are some of the wildflowers you might see in the Canadian Rockies:

Clockwise from top left: tiger lilly, wild rose, Indian paint brush, fireweed, cinq feuil.
Clockwise from top left: tiger lily, wild rose, Indian paint brush, fireweed, cinquefoil.

If you would like more information about these flowers please click on the links embedded in the following. Wikipedia is a fantastic shared resource, we can help each other learn cool things about plants, like their fancy names:

tiger lily = Lilium
wild rose = Rosa acicularis
Indian paint brush = Castilleja
fireweed = Chamerion angustifolium
cinquefoil = Potentilla

My Mom, the Artist

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how intricate, difficult and beautiful life can be. Somehow, sometimes, art can help us explore those issues.
This is a painting by my Mom, Uli Rossier:Image

Intricate and beautiful, isn’t it? This was the painting that helped her win the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts – People’s Choice Award in 2011.

Mayor Stephen Mandel & Uli Rossier (2011)
Mayor Stephen Mandel & Uli Rossier (2011)

In 1980, my Mom had a brain aneurysm. She was 36. She was in a coma for many weeks, and should likely have died. She had a stroke, became blind in one eye, had to be fed by a tube through to her stomach for several years, and lost almost all her memory–but somehow she survived.

Before the aneurysm she was a very active person: tree-planting, milking cows, raising teenagers, helping to create a craft centre in Edson, Alberta. She was so big-hearted that she would welcome any young family members to come, at one point she was taking care of 8 children, only 3 of whom she gave birth to.

Uli Rossier (1979?)

Art is by far the most important thing in my Mom’s life… in many senses of the word… my Dad’s name is Art. Below is a picture of them tossing coins into the fountain at Zocalo.

Art and Uli Rossier (2013)

But Art in general is also vital for my Mom, and we are very fortunate to have the Nina Haggerty Centre.

Painting at the Nina Haggerty Centre

The Nina, as some people call it, is a fantastic organization that supports artists with a wide range of physical and cognitive capacities. Painting, and making art at the Nina gives my Mom, the Artist, a place to share her joy with the rest of the world!






Pyramid Lake – Jasper national park

Jasper National Park has a lot of beautiful places to explore. IMG_0999One that I’ve just visited is remarkably accessible, no need to hike 3 days into the back country… just drive to the end of a clearly marked road that leaves the North side of Jasper!

Pyramid Lake, Alberta
Pyramid Lake, Alberta

I started with a coffee and pastry at the Bear’s Paw Bakery on Pyramid Road and then just followed the Pyramid road straight(ish) North for 5 km.

It was a gorgeous morning of strolling around in the crystal clear air, the only sounds were birds and… the cracking of the lake ice!

There were no other people on the island, and no cars could drive by because the road stops just past the beginning of the walk.

Pyramid Mountain is a very distinctive reddish mountain, and yes, from the right angle it is pyramid shaped!

And if you take the time to look carefully into the forest… you might be lucky enough to find some wildlife. This is what I saw one morning: 2 mule deer, 2 coyotes, 25 wapiti. Pyramid_Mountain

Celebrating Kathleen

Kathleen Newman’s Solitudes is at the Extension Gallery at Enterprise Square until April 10th. This is her final project for the Visual Arts Certificate through the Faculty of Extension at University of Alberta.

Solitudes opening
Solitudes opening

Kathleen has a very relaxing painting style, full of warm colour and comfortable settings. Her subjects are people and things she knows very well, and it shows.

Solitudes at Extension Gallery
Solitudes at Extension Gallery


Serendipity’s snowy swirls

I had a series of serendipitous events last weekend:

On Saturday, Edmonton was buried in a thick blanket of snow. Here’s a link to the Edmonton Journal article about weather warnings. So I went to help shovel the snow at my Mom’s, this is where the serendipity started:

1st seredipity: After I finished shoveling, I helped my Mom navigate the snowbanks down to a nearby cafe. My plan was to have a nice warm drink and to ‘let’ her beat me in a few games of cards. As we walked in we heard the warm sounds of Christmas music flowing out from the back of the cafe. I IMG_9447looked closer and it turned out that the violin player in the duo was a very good friend of the family! Izumi is a wonderful violin player (and music instructor) from Japan, and she was collaborating with a very strong minstrel from Chile; for the first time that day, in that cafe!

2nd serendipity: Following a series of nice conversations, games, songs etc,   I walked my Mom back to her place. The sun had already set and I was thinking about where I should eat supper. I got into my car carefully, avoiding the cars slewing down the street. Just as I started the engine, a woman appeared and pounded on the passenger window!

“Can you drive us?!” she shouted. I was completely confused, of course, I didn’t know: her, who the others were, where they were going, or why the heck she was asking me!

Brain overloaded, again, my efforts to solve all these unknowns slewed together, like the snow and slush on the roads around us. “Where are you… Who are you?” I asked, grimacing as I realized that I had almost asked where she wanted to go, before knowing who she was!

It turned out that she lived right next to my Mom’s and had been waiting in vain with some other neighbours for a taxi that was supposed to take them to a dinner. So I agreed to give them a ride to…

It turned out that the place they needed a ride to was the exact same church that I had the very difficult task of trimming the hedge at, more than 20 years ago! Here’s a link to a Vine that I made of the church as I walked in. 

3rd serendipity: The trio of people that I was driving convinced me that I would be very welcome to come in for the dinner, and I thought they would also likely appreciated a ride back – given that the taxi situation would likely only worsen. So I went joined them, solving my dinner plans issue.Anglican church Nov 2013

4th serendipity: We sat down and started eating a hearty, healthy meal. I thought about how interesting the whole series of events had been, and realized that I had forgotten to go to a talk on nanotechnology and Edmonton community building. (If you’re curious, and seriously who wouldn’t be, right? here is a link to the talk) Another person sat down at our table; someone from Singapore who had been lucky to arrive in time for the food as it was going pretty fast. She said she was fortunate that someone at her last event had been kind enough to give her (and two others) a ride… Right, a parallel situation where a guy drives three strangers to that exact dinner… and you likely already guessed where they were coming from – the talk I had wanted to go to!

5th serendipity: I drove the trio back to their homes. One of them accidently dropped some leftovers on the back seat, and there was a strange smell in the car for a few days, but nothing permanent, and nothing that diminished my optimism about the world in general! They left in good cheer. As I drove myself home through the on-going blizzard, I was thinking about the fact that I was going to have to shovel a lot of snow… and I was thinking that I was getting tired… I pulled up to the house to find a blur of snow flying at me, horizontally in my driveway…

[now we have to go back in time a wee bit…Dog in shelter

About a month ago, I was rushing out of my house on my way to work hoping to be able to drop my Dad off at the metro station and still make it to work on time. A neighbour was in our drive way crouched over her dog. She was calling out to it and trying to get it to walk. But the poor old dog had just given up. My Dad and I helped her carry it back to the neighbours back porch. (We had never met before.) My Dad is a nurse and he thought that maybe the dog’s heart had given out. It was starting to snow so I suggested we build a little shelter for the dog while the neighbour called the vet. Here is a picture of the dog looking out from his porch.

The vet came and helped ease any pain.

Anyway, back to the day of the snowstorm… the snow shooting at me was the neighbour’s husband using a snow blower to clear my driveway, in thanks for helping with the dog.

Now you might think that would be the last thing… right?!

7th Serendipity: The snow blower ran out of gas about half way through the job… and I had just enough gas leftover in a jerry can to refill the snow blower!