The Northern Spy — If that wasn’t enough

The Northern Spy

To the thieves 

who stole jewelry from my Bradner home on September 16–two questions:

1. How much did your fence give you for 52 priceless years of memories? Enough for a couple of fixes each of your favourite narcotic?

2. Why didn’t you also take the flowers in the living room? You could have made a “big spender” impression on your significant other. They were, after all, still fresh from my wife’s funeral.

And a comment: I do not pray for your capture and punishment. God knows your hearts and will handle that. Instead, I pray you will escape the curse of sin by repenting, getting right with God, and obtaining his forgiveness. You will automatically receive mine at that point, and my wife’s too when we all stand before Christ’s judgement throne.

Moving on to the mundanely messed up

The Spy notes that Apple continues to have battery issues–a seemingly never-ending saga of missteps and misteaks. (I has to use that. An acquaintance has a cow called “Miss Steak”.) To the point. The iPhone 13 reportedly has a larger battery than that in the iPhone 12. A good thing, because after only about a year, the battery life between recharges for the Spy’s iPhone 12 Pro is less than half what it was when new. Shades of the iPhone 6. 

At the same time, the 2019 MacBook Pro 16″ his IT department bought when he was concerned about not being able to fly with the 2015 MacBook Pro 15″ despite that it had already had the battery (plus case and keyboard, which it wrecked) all replaced (who knows if airlines employees know how to check serial numbers) has in turn its own battery and power management problems, as previously documented here. (Run on sentence.) Besides consuming an inordinate amount of power when operating, so much so it cannot reliably run external monitors, it eats electricity even when the lid is closed and it is supposedly dormant. Two days in the briefcase without first being turned off and the battery is exhausted. Really?

The old 15″, which he bought out from the university, is a much better computer than its newer and larger screen sibling. Let’s hope Apple can get batteries right one of these days–or decades. The Spy will wait until M2 machines have been on the market for a couple of years. No more Mr. early-adopter nice guy.

Add to the list

of regretted purchases the Thunderbolt-2 monitor he bought years ago for an Apple-inspired high price. Other monitors can be switched easily between two computers, but not that one. There are no TB switches. Moreover, in a multi-monitor setup, it loses its connection periodically. Oh, there is a fix. Turn off the power momentarily, and it answers the computer’s ‘”hello there” once more. 

Then there’s the need

generated by the never-ending serial murders committed against each generation of cables, to build ever more shelf, drawer, and bin space for the next lot. We have connectors A, B, mini B (2), and micro B, in 2, 3, and 3.1 speeds, plus C, the faster of which can have something like RJ45, HDMI, VGA, or DVI on the other end–over 20 varieties, not to mention a dandy dozen dongles needed for machines that have only TB3-4-C connectors. The situation is worse in its own way than when every computer-peripheral pair had to have a custom cable wired by employing a breakout box, because there was no general agreement on how each pin was to be used. At least then one labelled every cable, put it between  two devices and forgot about it until one or the other was replaced and one had to start over. 

Now, one picks up, say, a portable backup drive and must check for the type of cable connector, then root through dozens of drawers to find the best one to use. Anybody here heard of standards? While on that subject, the EU will reportedly soon mandate a C connector for all phone charging. Will Apple have to go back to supplying a port? Or will the EU boffins realize wired chargers have also been obsoleted? And will the courts accept the lawsuits against Apple for not providing a charger in the iPhone box?

Electoral systems on the other hand

would work quite well if it weren’t for:

– blatant gerrymandering and voter disqualification by the party with the power to do so in order to maximize seat returns irrespective of popular vote; 

– extreme negative campaign messaging that generates both distrust of all candidates and voter apathy; 

– unsupportable charges of fraud after an election is legitimately lost; 

– fake audits to further inflame distrust of the system; 

– outcomes like the recent Canadian election (called for a power grab) where one party narrowly won the popular vote, but because it was inefficiently geographically distributed, lost the seat count in parliament by a substantial margin. Worse, the election scarcely changed the seat count from the previous parliament, neatly wasting some six hundred billion dollars on the still minority government leader’s vanity;

What’s worse, in such charged atmospheres, there isn’t a technological solution either. The loser can always claim the system was hacked. (S)he might even believe the claim. One thing the Internet has made plain is that no matter how outrageous the falsehood, people will believe it if they want to. The only change from pre-Internet times is that lies spread far faster, whereas truth still hobbles along.

The Spy once thought that universal availability of information, while it would not birth a global village, could at least ensure that little sister would gain the upper (or an even) hand on big brother. by having access to information As modern nations (some quite large) have clearly demonstrated, it is still possible for the totalitarians to define their own dystopic truth within their borders, and effectively prevent information from reaching enough of their citizens to create a threat.

And speaking of governments,

does it seem to the Spy’s reader that their systems are the most opaque, hard to use, ambiguous, and lacking in both informative power and practicality–when they work at all? Who writes their web sites–a friend of a friend of the cabinet minister’s second cousin who has an office over his mom’s garage?

Take that of the government of Canada, for instance. (Please.) You get an obscure and ambiguous snail mail request for more personal or business information, and a URL where one might suppose it could be provided, but end up in the electronic version of the bureaucratic run-around being transferred endlessly in circles from page to page. When one finally stumbles upon a log in button (why not one on every page as most sensible commercial designers would provide?) one finds that the log in name and password used in the past no longer works. They “may have been revoked.” An attempt on an even more obfuscated site might generate “this service is unavailable at this time.” Whatever. Good luck dealing by phone. The last time the Spy tried that he faced an “estimated wait time” of sixty minutes despite calling two seconds after the office was ostensibly open for calls.

The Spy is understandably

grumpy this month, so feels compelled to end on some positive notes.

First a tech story with a rocky start but a satisfactory ending. A while back, the Spy decided he wanted to hear better sound than the tinny speakers in his monitors could provide, so purchased two desktop Jamo speakers from MacSales for his main home setups. These are controlled by a Bluetooth remote. However, one box offered a defective remote, and the other contained no remote. These would be a nuisance to return but on enquiry to MacSales the Spy was punted to Klipsch Audio, who bought Jamo in 2005, and continued to brand some speakers with the Jamo name (these were probably last of inventory).

A Klipsch representative quickly agreed to mail out two remotes (good on them for keeping stock), which although they arrived without batteries, worked well once the Spy installed new ones from his large supply of at least four dozen kinds. All now is well; his computer has better sound than ever, and the only fly in the ointment is that his wife never got to experience hers sounding this way, as by the time he installed them she could no longer navigate the stairs to the lower floor of the house or use her neuropathy-crippled fingers to type if she were to get down there.

The second is that his two boys, their wives and the seven grandchildren are taking good care of him, and so are numerous friends. PTL.

See y’awl next month–DV.

–The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author’s own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics and Assistant Dean of Science at Canada’s Trinity Western University. He completed his fifty-first year as a high school and university teacher in 2021. He has been involved as a member of or consultant with the boards of several organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and ten alternate history SF novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His various columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (dead tree and online formats), since the early 1980s, and he’s been a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce celebrated their fiftieth anniversary in 2019 and lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of B.C. from 1972 to 2021, where he now continues alone. 

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe’s Arjay Enterprises: 

The Northern Spy Home Page:

opundo :

Sheaves Christian Resources :

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nameman :

General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe’s Books: 

Author Site:

Publisher’s Site:

The Fourth Civilization–Ethics, Society, and Technology (4th 2003 ed. ):

Other URLs of relevant interest: 

BC Government COVID site:


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