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Reader's Digest Canada rant chapter two - seniors under siege · 27.06.17 by colin newell

Canada Readers Digest Rant 2009 Seniors hassled

or click here for the mp3 if you cannot see the above widget.


This is a reboot of one of my favourite blogs (and rants) from gasp 2009! Enjoy.

I spoke with a rep from Canada Post today…
and he said (from his post office in the Oak Bay village)…

“We get 10 to 15 citizens that come into this little post office every day of business that are returning materials to Reader’s Digest!”

10 to 15 folks. Every day. Most of them seniors. From one Post Office!

I have been on the phone to Reader’s Digest canada twice in the last week and I get the following scripted dialogue from their service partners…

“It is not the policy of Reader’s Digest Canada to send people unsolicited materials or products.”

Okay then. What the heck is happening when 10 to 15 citizens are appearing at each Canadian post office daily?
Here is my theory.
Canadians, by the droves, are returning “pieces of mail from Reader’s Digest Canada” that, according to Reader’s Digest, are no-obligation entry forms for their $500,000 sweepstakes.

What our Canadian seniors are failing to do is read the fine print.

Because with every “win $500,000 now” sweepstakes shills is, very likely, a piece of fine print that states – in exchange for your no obligation entry into the Reader’s Digest $500,000 contest, you agree to purchase X quantity of books at market value.

Market value huh? I am looking at a $700 invoice for my dear old aunt. She has a stack of books on her Reader’s Digest mail strewn coffee table – that she claims that she did not order. So what happened? I suspect that she did not read the fine print… over and over and over again.

Today I returned a 4-CD set of elevator music to Reader’s Digest Canada that one could, arguably, buy at Shoppers Drug Mart for $22.
Reader’s Digest cost: $79

Is Reader’s Digest breaking any Canadian laws? In short, no.
Are they doing anything unethical? That is out there for debate.

I think we are going to be hearing way more about this Reader’s Digest Canada issue.

Because the bottom line, for me, is:
Protect our seniors from scam artists… whomever they might be.

Have a listen!

or click here for the mp3 if you cannot see the above widget.


Colin Newell gets mad when our elderly are exploited in any way. And when he gets angry, he gets blogging!

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Talking coffee health studies with Natasha Hall of NewsTalk 800 CJAD Montreal · 26.04.17 by colin newell

Podcast – Talking coffee with Natasha Hall of CJAD 800 NewsTalk – Montreal –

CJAD 800 NewsTalk Montreal

We were talking coffee with Natasha Hall of NewsTak 800 – Montreal on the topic of those seemingly endless health studies on the dire (or wonderful) effects of caffeine and coffee (in general) on your body!

This podcast (interview) is around 14 minutes long – so strap yourself in.

I average around 20 radio, TV or newspaper interviews annually and this was one of the better ones – a lot of these radio hosts are affable, enthusiastic and well read before they undertake an interview – honored to chat on the subject of my passion. Coffee. Love it.

Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3 download.

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Talking Ham Radio on CBC Spark with Nora · 11.11.16 by colin newell

Social media and its evolution – where did it begin? And where is it going?

We enjoy a spectrum of social media tools and experiences in the 21st Century and rightfully so. We have the tools and the technology to make great things happen. But how did we get to where we are today?

Humans have been communicating, somewhat inefficiently, for thousands and thousands of years – with foot messengers, smoke signals and simple peer to peer links, one on one, through the chapters of human history.

It is only with the advent of the telegraph and, soon after, the radio that we can reach a lot of people, reliably and over great distances. And it was radio, in the form of amateur or ham radio, that facilitated the instantaneous and often random social connections that would become the World’s first social media medium.

Nora Young CBC Spark on Ham Radio

I talked at length with Nora Young on CBC Spark. The entire show was around 55 minutes and covered some of the history of early social media and its links to amateur radio technology and popular music.

Feel free to enjoy the entire episode over here

Or, if you are short for time, have a listen to our near-5 minute chat with Nora on the subject so dear to my heart – Amateur or Ham Radio and its relationship to the modern social media we enjoy today. –

If you cannot see the audio player below, click here for the mp3.

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Book review - Straddling the Hound - The Curious Charms of Long-Distance Bus Travel · 30.08.16 by colin newell

2016 Book Review Straddling the Hound

When humanity first put one foot in front of the other and locked its gaze on the horizon, the force of curiosity and exploration would inevitably build nations.

Without a curious nature and desire to follow the sun, we would be an entirely different people living in an entirely different world.

Retired medical doctor, Trevor Watson, is one such 21st-century explorer who finds the attraction of the open road impossible to resist. At a very early age, Trevor would sit in his bedroom and gaze at a large full colour Mercator map; he would imagine ocean journeys between tropical outposts. These junkets would often involve ingenious plans to avoid pirates, bandits, and encounters with malarial mosquitos.

Responsibility and practical demands of life in the adult world settled in and Trevor (in a candid and wry admittance) reluctantly decided on a career in family medicine. It would be a wise choice since it created an opportunity to meet his lovely wife of 46 years and travel and work in some interesting corners of the globe. Being a family physician also led him to write a column dealing with health issues for several Canadian newspapers in the 1990s.

In Trevor Watson’s debut release, Straddling the Hound he takes us on a series of explorations into the American hinterland. He frequently integrates etymological and linguistic analysis of place names, regional personalities and the very industry and infrastructure of the open road.

The book has more substance and surprises than what you would expect at first glance. Straddling the Hound is a very satisfying reading experience – as page after page of first person travel observations reveals unflinchingly detailed explanations of place names, people and the regional origins of successful businesses that ultimately thrived because of travel.

As you would expect, a book about bus travel in North America is not all about smiling faces. This is not the simpler times of the 1950’s and 1960’s. A journey on a trans continental bus is as much about discovering something new as it is seeing the seedier side of the American experience:

One chap particularly caught my eye; he was as stocky as can be; his neck must have been 20” around. He was, I imagined, Carlos “Chopper” Ramirez, out on weekend parole. He had cryptic messages tattooed on his neck and bald scalp. His head actually seemed suffused, as though it was about to explode. Oddly enough, he had – of all things – a huge golden polo medal hanging around his neck. I’ll bet you anything it was stolen, or maybe won in a knife fight.

I found myself drawing the curtains on my suburban home as I fell deeper and deeper into Dr. Watson’s first person dystopian vision of downtown America. That feeling would pass as the writing gave way to a folksier and journalistic treatise on the very fabric of America’s open road, its people, the itinerant among us and the many meanings of our journey.

Straddling the Hound is not just about the bricks, mortar, concrete and blacktop of our interconnecting matrix of highways that connect all the people in their varied splendour. Its also a fearless gaze at the strata of society. Dr. Watson takes us on a sojourn under the soiled fingernails and into the duffle bags of the every day people that ride the bus – heading home, leaving home, and often away from a temporary home. He flirts with often acerbic descriptions of frustrated employees and drivers of Greyhound. He explains the origins of highway-byway diners like Denny’s:

Denny’s was founded in 1953, in Lakewood, California, by Richard Jezak and Harold Butler. The original name was Danny’s Donuts, but a few years later was changed to Denny’s to distinguish itself from a competing chain called Doughnut Dan’s.

Trevor Watson of Straddling the HoundMore than anything else Trevor Watson wants to achieve his mission; to find out about the very essence of the people that he encounters; to understand them and their history and their place in the modern world. It is, I think, the thirst for knowledge that powers, in part, the motivation of the (as Trevor describes himself) hodophiliacsomeone who’s fond of or loves traveling.

Dr. Watson (Photo above) takes us on a dusty road trip leaving us significantly more curious about the world around us. I am very confident that readers of this blog would definitely enjoy putting on their traveling shoes and taking a ride on this bus. Copies of “Straddling the Hound” are available on Amazon.ca and also at Tanners Books in beautiful Sidney, British Columbia, Bolen Books at the Hillside Mall and Ivy’s Books in Oak Bay.


Colin Newell is a Victoria resident, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, who is constantly in search of a great cup of coffee and a good book to read.

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Social media 101 - 10 things about todays internet · 23.08.16 by colin newell

Get back to the basics - of the internet

25 years ago the World wide web was born. In the beginning it all seemed simple enough: Web pages were 100% information. Eventually they would include photos and multi-media. At that point the entire resource became limitless as a medium for knowledge deployment, information sharing and instant global communications.

I am fortunate enough to have been born before the internet. To have lived at a time where I did not have instant access to everything, I think, was something of a developmental benefit. It was a valuable experience. Like growing up without electricity or television… not that I was one of those people! It gives one perspective.

At this 25th anniversary juncture, I have some thoughts and questions about where we are at right now – and yes, it is going to come across as “you kids get off of my lawn…” Here are 10 thoughts:

10.) When did content on the internet become all about search engine ratings? Everywhere you look, you see rubbish, junk content and click bait. This article, for a refreshing change, is 100% information. There is nothing for you to click on, no sensational content, no mass reloads of pages to see one simple article. You are not forced to load 10 pages of ads to see a 300 word article. It respects you and does not treat you like a fool. This is actually the top thing that gets me fuming. Because I am fuming, I put it at the top of the list!

9.) When did the internet (our greatest knowledge resource) become so dumbed down and assume we are all stupid? We are not stupid. The average person functioning on this planet is quite smart. You have to be to survive. So why does the “internet media” feel that we are all idiots?

8.) Where there is potential for so much more we see endless quantities of junk or rubbish content, scandal sheet articles, click bait and pointless advertising shills that pose as meaningful consumer reviews. It’s everywhere. This article has no hidden agenda. There are no surprises. No insults.

7.) Whither integrity? I may not believe in the same things that you do, but I have stood for some things all the years I have been online and have not really changed my perspective that much.
Websites that try and pass off rubbish for pure profit – or legitimate media sites that include rubbish content (like our local Times-Colonist newspaper) leave me feeling kind of cold.
In their favour I imagine that the life of newspapers is a pretty tight one right now and maybe their very survival depends on this strategy.

6.) Too much information. Yea, I use Facebook and Twitter. When did the curtain of a reasonable expectation of privacy fall away with everyone (quoting a dear Hawaiian friend…) “Drop their panties for the camera…” Is it because we all want to share every moment of our lives and all our desires OR have we been conditioned to do so. I think it is the combination of the two.

5.) Is this a lost opportunity. I think every day we are given the chance to make a small contribution to the greater good of the Planet. The power of the internet and access to information could help us do this. But we waste our time running around after junk content, passing off jokes and gags as a meaningful use of our time and chasing phantoms in the street as a game (Pokemon…) Yup, full on old man rant now!

4.) I’ve still got hope. Actually, I think during a crisis situation the net becomes an awesome tool for coming to the rescue and marshalling a response really fast. Examples include the devastating Earthquakes in S.E. Asia (Indonesia, Thailand), Japan and Haiti. There is no question that people can pull together when they need to. And who knows, maybe the greatest global challenge is still ahead of us.

3.) Why all the eggs in one basket? I worry about the centralization of media and information on the internet and the abandonment or neglect of traditional forms of media, like newspaper, TV and radio. When you think about it, for the consumer, radio is one of the most economical mediums to reach a very large audience at little cost to the end consumer. TV used to be like that in the day we had TV antennas. Truth is, you can still put up a TV antenna and pick up a lot of good stuff – even HD. Most people don’t know this. For most of us, our cable bill (often bundled with internet) is often the priciest of utilities that we have little or nothing to show for our expenditure at the end of the month… apart from wasted time maybe.

2.) Spam is still king. It takes many forms but by and large, unwelcome e-mail is still the bane of the internet that has been with us every day the internet has existed. If anything, our laws and tools against spam may actually be improving. Ironically perhaps, we have grown to trust online commerce for its robust nature, selection and time-saving capabilities and it might just be that we don’t even need spam anymore – of that it might be completely ineffective anyway.

1.) There is hope. I just told you a bunch of different things. Perhaps they may have been laid out in a haphazard manner without the best grammar or punctuation. What I have tried to do is challenge my readers on some level, getting them to stop and think for a few minutes. This content is simply that. Content. No more. No less. So on this 25th anniversary of the world wide web, I offer you this. A single page of words with no music, no photos, no links, no promoted content, no rubbish or bullshit.

Take this knowledge freely. And in your internet travels, keep a watch out for the truth and integrity – two things often in short supply.


Colin Newell is a Victoria area resident, writer, technical analyst and a bunch of other things who has been writing on the internet for an awful long time.

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