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‘Van life’: While most seek out sun, these people chase the cold





On a recent fall night in Saskatoon that dipped well below 0 degrees, Jesse Boldt slept without a heater in the converted Dodge cargo van he chooses to call home.

Wearing two hoodies and tucked under six blankets next to his dog Layla, Boldt felt alive.

“I felt like I was doing the right thing for myself,” he told in an email interview. “Sounds odd but I remember smiling underneath all my blankets and just feeling good. Like I was on the right path.”

The 30-year-old kickboxing instructor sold his home of nine years in April and moved into a van, which he spent $2,000 purchasing and renovating, with his 6-year-old kuvasz-German shepherd mix. But Boldt chose not to install either air conditioner or heater, and until recently he spent most cold nights in his van. It was part personal challenge and part competition.

“I thought I’d be in a heated garage all winter, but instead I decided to see how long I could last,” he said. Boldt has practiced cold endurance before and enjoys testing himself. “Plus, a fellow van-lifer told me she survived -15 without a heater… So my dumb a** had to beat her.”

Boldt is among a cohort of nomads who’ve adopted the increasingly popular “#vanlife” (an Instagram hashtag with more than 4.2 million posts). Some live in renovated Volkswagen Westfalias, others in souped up Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. No matter the hardware, the typical van life aesthetic is as follows: legs outstretched across a narrow bed dangling out open trunk doors to a beachside oasis, waves lapping a shoreline just steps from the rear tires.

But while most chase the sun, Boldt and a small fraction of van-lifers are practicing the lifestyle in different temperatures: the bitter cold.

“I enjoy doing things that are uncomfortable,” he said. “I’ve tried my best to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Boldt is the rare van-lifer who is public about his choice to go without heat in winter, because most spend hundreds if not thousands prepping their vans for cold conditions.

Recently married Collingwood, Ont., couple Madison McNair, 28, and Raynor Vickers, 33, who operate a mobile mechanic and outfitting business, spent about $1,200 on a diesel heater that Vickers installed himself under the passenger seat. It taps the fuel tank of their Mercedes Sprinter, but has only ever used as much as 1.5 litres of the 95 L tank to keep the van toasty. One night in -20 C was the biggest test.

“It was the first time our heater didn’t keep up,” said McNair. Though the heater didn’t technically pass the “test,” the temperature in the van only dropped from 22 C to 19 C. “The reality is 19 C is still very comfortable and very far from being a problem,” she said. On a recent night of -1 C temperatures in B.C., the heater conked out all together, but the temperature only dipped as low as 15 C inside the van before they got it working again.

“Far from being dangerous for us or our water system,” the couple wrote on Instagram. “We knew and prepared for the reality that things can and will break. Travelling with the replacement parts these heaters sometimes need is important for keeping repair times to a minimum.”

While Saskatoon’s Boldt has yet to install a heater of his own, he has been using a small space heater (with electricity offered by his gym or a friend) and calls it a “game changer.” Though it still might not be enough for the worst of winter. He’s well aware that temperatures can drop to -40 C in Saskatchewan, so he found someone who offered his heated garage for a monthly fee.

Boldt has been overwhelmed by the positive responses he received from people on Instagram and in person, and the outpouring of offers of spare bedrooms, laundry services and warm meals. For the most part though, he’s never accepted any of it.

“I figured I signed up for this life,” he said, “so I must fully embrace it.”



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University of Windsor establishes first Canadian transportation cybersecurity centre





The University of Windsor will be the site of Canada’s first organization dedicated to countering threats to the connected transportation marketplace.

The SHIELD Automotive Cybersecurity Centre of Excellence will focus on developing the skills, innovations and policy to secure connected and autonomous vehicles.

Researchers will partner with industry, government and community stakeholders.

Co-founding and heading up the centre will be Dr. Mitra Mirhassani of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Dr. Ikjot Saini of the School of Computer Science.

In the past year, the two University of Windsor professors were both recognized as being among Canada’s top talents in the automotive cybersecurity field.

“Hardware and software vulnerabilities could put personal information and vehicle safety in jeopardy,” said Mirhassani.

“Transportation systems are especially susceptible to attacks from malicious actors due to the complexity, implementation costs and lifecycles of equipment and platforms.”

The SHIELD centre is a continuation of the Windsor region’s focus on developing its cybersecurity ecosystem.

The province has already designated the area as the regional tech development centre for cybersecurity and border logistics.

The cybersecurity centre got a further boost this week with the announcement of a memorandum of understanding with the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association (APMA).

APMA and SHIELD will collaborate to develop market-based technologies to meet the needs of producers and consumers and build academic programs to address industry’s evolving requirements.

“We hope that this partnership will help to advance a cybersecurity culture shift in the industry in Canada,” said APMA president Flavio Volpe.

“There is much work to be done to protect our collective interest in advancing this country’s globally competitive automotive sector.”

The centre will also promote the sharing of knowledge among parties to advance standards and enhance policies in the field.

Part of the plan is to offer micro credentialing through the university’s Continuing Education programs.

“We plan to offer consultation and test services to small- and medium-sized Canadian companies that will help them stay up to date,” said Dr. Saini.

“Open-access publications and public webinars will widely share the latest information.”

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Hamilton police charge ‘Hugs Over Masks’ protest organizers in two separate events





TORONTO — Hamilton, Ont., police say they have charged two organizers of an anti-mask protest group for holding events that allegedly violated public health rules.

Police say the events were held in downtown Hamilton on Jan. 3 and Jan. 10.

The force alleges that 40 people attended first event and 60 attended the second.

Current provincial restrictions limit gatherings to a maximum of 10 people outdoors.

Police say they informed the “Hugs Over Masks” organizers that the planned Jan. 10 gathering would result in charges, but they went ahead with the event.

They say a 27-year-old man and 38-year-old woman are facing charges under the Reopening Ontario Act that carry a minimum fine of $10,000 if convicted.

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Ontario issues stay-at-home order to start Thursday as Ford declares state of emergency





Premier Doug Ford is declaring another state of emergency, effective immediately, in response to surging COVID-19 infection rates.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Ford announced Ontario is issuing a stay-at-home order, effective 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

It requires people to stay home except for essential activities such as accessing health care or shopping for groceries.

The new measures also include restricting the hours of operation for non-essential retail stores such as hardware stores to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Addressing big box stores, which are allowed to remain open, Ford said an inspection blitz is coming to ensure they are following proper protocols.

“I’m going to come down on them like an 800-pound gorilla,” he said.

Schools in Hamilton, Toronto, York, Peel and Windsor-Essex will not return to in-person learning until Feb. 10.

Other public health regions, including Halton and Niagara, will find out when students can return to class by Jan. 20.

Schools will now require students in grades 1-3 to wear masks and masks will be required outside where physical distancing can’t be maintained.

Child-care centres for non-school aged children will remain open.

The premier announced the restrictions shortly after the province released new projections that show the virus is on track to overwhelm Ontario’s health-care system.

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