Sorry Sarge, not happening

I received the following email this morning. I’ve removed the email address to keep me in WordPress’s good graces.

Griffin, Christine Cgriffin

I am Sgt Monica L Brown I have a proposal for you! Please send me a reply on my personal Email:

slinbrown975

Rather cryptic and designed to instill curiosity in the reader isn’t it? Let’s look at it.

I am Sgt Monica L Brown Good for you. Are you in the army? Air Force, or the local police or some other paramilitary organisation that uses military ranking? Just telling me your rank doesn’t tell me anything useful.

I have a proposal for you! Really!! And what might that be? Do you have several millions in unclaimed funds you want me to help you smuggle out of the country for a cut of said money?

The extension on the sender’s email was “begavalley.nsw.gov.au”, which I translate to mean this was sent by, or on behalf, of the government of the shire of Bega Valley in New South Wales, Australia. A quick Google search shows this area is also known as “the Sapphire Coast” and it appears to be a tourist destination.

I have to ask myself why the government of a tourist area on the west coast of Australia would be contacting a 75 year-old woman in Canada with a proposal? The only thing that comes to mind is that the website has been hacked and this is in fact a scam. Having these suspicions, I have forwarded this to the Bega Valley Council for investigation.

As mysterious and inviting as this may sound, I strongly recommend you do NOT respond to Sargent Monica L Brown.

On the plus side, for a change it is well-written.

Cat.

Whatever strikes my fancy

I’m a writer and photographer. I’m working on my autobiography. Funny thing, but if people learn this they will often ask “is it finished yet?” Umm, unless you’re using a spirit board to ask that, the answer is obviously “No”. I’ve stopped it at the point I received my new birth certificate with new name and gender, but I’m still here so it could continue.

I write speculative fiction, also called science fiction and mystery and these pieces usually start with asking myself “what if …?”, then answering that question. That “what if …” could be on any topic – as the title indicates “whatever strikes my fancy”. I’ve destroyed cities and other planets (usually with classical music playing in the background as I write) and in the late nineties I chronicled a war that destroyed this planet. What prompted that was the debate over whether the 21st century would start January 1, 2000 or 2001. I think the answer depends if you ask an historian or a mathematician.

With my blogs, again I write about any topic that strikes my fancy or irritates me. I enjoy writing about various online scams as warnings to my readers. For the most part I stay away from American politics. I’m not American so unless what’s-his-name in the White House had done or said something exceedingly stupid, I ignore it. Having said that, living in Canada and being reasonably intelligent, I am aware that events in the U S may and can have a tremendous effect on us as well, so I do pay attention to American politics. I have however taken Canadian federal politicians to task on many occasions over their pronouncements or actions. And with the current regime in Queen’s Park, I can see that Ontario Premier Doug Ford will become a frequent target.

I prefer to write and edit in longhand, then once I’m satisfied I transcribe to the computer. By doing so, if inspiration strikes while I’m out I can capture the thought at the moment as I usually carry paper and pen.

I use this same approach with my photography. If something catches my eye, I’ll take a photo. A flower, a sign, interesting architecture, a scenic vista or sometihng whimsical such as this shot below taken outside a local shop on my phone, it doesn’t matter. There are occasion , such as grocery shopping, when carrying a camera is too awkward, by my phone has an excellent camera.

I use digital cameras (Canon ever since my first film SLR in the seventies) and have what I consider to be good software – Corel Paintshop Pro for processing. I can usually find something in the raw image to turn into a photo. And of course, by using digital cameras and processing, “undo” and “delete” have become my best friends.

I’ve had various people who like my work suggest to me I should give courses in both writing and photography. Such course would be very short indeed for here’s what I’d say:

Writing: write about what interests you. If that requires research, great – you’ll learn something new. If writing fiction or topical blogs, write the way you speak. If people who know you read it, they’ll hear your voice speaking the words and for others, it will sound more natural. Don’t use what I call “ten dollar words” in an attempt to sound more intelligent. If you don’t normally use them in everyday vocabulary, you’ll probably use them incorrectly.

Photography: if it catches your eye, snap it and sort it out later. Remember, “delete” can be a powerful tool.

There’s the essence of any courses I’d give.

Now, go create something and remember to hug an artist, no matter what their field of endeavour, for we need love too. And to my Canadian followers and visitors, have a safe and happy Canada Day weekend.

Cat.

A sad day approaches

The town I live in has announced that October 26 they are closing the local branch of the public library, citing lack of use. This is a small branch so patrons don’t have direct access to the same resources available at the main branch. I’ve frequently used this branch and know they can, and do, bring in material from other branches when requested, therefore the physical size isn’t important. The library is located next to one of the high schools and hours have been structured in a manner convenient for students wishing to do research.

In my opinion, technology is partly responsible for the reduced usage. When the branch opened, people had to go to a library to do research; the internet was something found in science fiction. But today, there is a wealth of information available at the fingertips of anyone with a smartphone or a computer. That makes trips to the library unnecessary.And people rarely get to experience the sensual pleasure of actually holding a book. The smell of the ink, the texture of the paper and the rustle of pages being turned have been replaced with an electronic device.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against electronics. I’ve got a smartphone and computer as well as digital cameras, so I’m not a Luddite by any definition. But I’m also a writer and I get much more pleasure seeing my work in print than seeing it on a monitor or screen. Useless info: I write these blogs in longhand, then copytype.

It is sad that a building and service dedicated to preserving the written word must close. Village Branch, you will be missed.

Cat

Nice try but not even close update

About a week ago I posted a blog about a threat I received that said they had hacked my computer and unless I sent $810 in bitcoin to a certain purse within 48 hours, my computer would be frozen. If I didn’t, the person issuing the threat would release screen grabs of some of the more questionable sites I’d visited to my contacts list. And to “prove” their claim, they told me what password I’d used. Wrong. They further stated that they had installed a trojan horse that would advise them if I changed my password and would also automatically delete itself once I had made the payment. Well, I laughed at it, wrote a blog about it and deleted it. Of course, nothing happened because they had their facts wrong, mainly the screen grab claim since I don’t have a webcam. Here’s the actual claim: I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.

If people were taken in and actually paid the $810 and then nothing happened to their computer, they would assume they had satisfied the demand and the malware had indeed been removed. What really has happened though is that they paid over eight hundred dollars to a scam artist and nothing was going to happen anyway.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Do not be taken in by these scams and threats. Keep everything backed up on regular basis and remember that in the event such a demand for money is real, it will be cheaper just to take the computer to a technician and have the hard drive replaced than pay the ransom. That, and change your passwords.

Stay safe online and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Nice try, but not even close

I received the following email in an address I rarely use:

Hello!

I’m a hacker who cracked your email and device a few months ago.
You entered a password on one of the sites you visited, and I intercepted it.
This is your password from ghoward@shaw.ca on moment of hack: watson

Of course you can will change it, or already changed it.
But it doesn’t matter, my malware updated it every time.

Do not try to contact me or find me, it is impossible, since I sent you an email from your account.

Through your email, I uploaded malicious code to your Operation System.
I saved all of your contacts with friends, colleagues, relatives and a complete history of visits to the Internet resources.
Also I installed a Trojan on your device and long tome spying for you.

You are not my only victim, I usually lock computers and ask for a ransom.
But I was struck by the sites of intimate content that you often visit.

I am in shock of your fantasies! I’ve never seen anything like this!

So, when you had fun on piquant sites (you know what I mean!)
I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device.
After that, I combined them to the content of the currently viewed site.

There will be laughter when I send these photos to your contacts!
BUT I’m sure you don’t want it.

Therefore, I expect payment from you for my silence.
I think $810 is an acceptable price for it!

Pay with Bitcoin.
My BTC wallet: 1JTtwbvmM7ymByxPYCByVYCwasjH49J3Vj

If you do not know how to do this – enter into Google “how to transfer money to a bitcoin wallet”. It is not difficult.
After receiving the specified amount, all your data will be immediately destroyed automatically. My virus will also remove itself from your operating system.

My Trojan have auto alert, after this email is read, I will be know it!

I give you 2 days (48 hours) to make a payment.
If this does not happen – all your contacts will get crazy shots from your dark secret life!
And so that you do not obstruct, your device will be blocked (also after 48 hours)

Do not be silly!
Police or friends won’t help you for sure …

p.s. I can give you advice for the future. Do not enter your passwords on unsafe sites.

I hope for your prudence.
Farewell.

Where do I start? Let’s pick the obvious and that is the atrocious English. Now, the only sites I visit that require passwords are Facebook and WordPress, and neither of them have “watson” as my password.

As for my “sites of intimate content”, well, depending upon your point of view, I suppose you could consider videos of Street Outlaws worth telling others about. Oops! I just did, so there goes that threat.

I use very good antivirus programmes, so I’m not concerned about any trojan horses on my system. Another threat dealt with.

If this person did in fact have access to my contacts on this email, they’d note I have only one – and that’s a Toronto Police detective. I’m sure the sergeant would be fascinated by my interest in street racing, considering I don’t have a vehicle.

As for the claim this person used the camera on my computer to capture screen shots of what I was looking at, well, I don’t have a webcam. As I said, nice try, but so wrong.

If you get this, or something similar, I think it can safely be ignored. DO NOT send anything through Bitcoin. There is no way of retrieving it if this is a fraud.

Cat.

Alert – possible system attack

I  received the following email a short while ago.  Actually, I received two – one in my inbox and one in spam.

Dear Corel Customer,

Did you know WordPerfect can import and export to popular Microsoft Office file formats like DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX?

Click here to install the Microsoft Office Compatibility pack to extend the power of WordPerfect and share documents in popular Microsoft file formats. Please note that Microsoft is retiring the Office Compatibility Pack in the near future.
Install Now
For additional information on the compatibility pack or if you have any questions please feel free to contact our customer support team.

Sincerely,
The Corel Team

I do very little work involving Word, and knew that WordPerfect is compatible with Word, so I asked the Corel Support Team whether this would be something I might use. Their response was very interesting:

We have receive several inquiry regarding an email from Corel@email5-corel.com
We are currently investigating this.
For now, we recommend not installing it.
We will notify you once we have validated the source and the content of the email.

So at the moment, it would appear this may not be a legitimate offer. I can understand people may be interested in having the ability to use WordPerfect and be able to handle Word documents, but WordPerfect does this without the installation of external programs or add-ons. If you are one of those people who, like myself prefer WordPerfect, and you receive this or a similar message from the email address in boldface, ignore it. You may be putting your computer at risk.

Cat.

Do it your way

Every once in a while, someone will look at some of my photos, or read something I’ve written and suggest that I should teach photography and/or writing. That presents a problem for me.

I’m sure that each of you is very good at some pastime that gives you a sense of accomplishment. But, how would you go about explaining to somebody else just how you do it? That’s the problem with my photography and writing. Oh, I could probably teach each, but the course would be twenty minutes tops. I’ll try here to explain how I do what I do.

Photography: My philosophy is simple – if something catches your attention, snap it. You may look at the image on the camera screen and not see what you expected, but wait until you get it up on the computer screen when you process it. (I do digital photography, so my comments are restricted to computer processing.) The larger image may show you something surprising that you can turn into a beautiful photo. The photo at the top of this is an example of a photo I thought was “okay” until I saw it on the monitor, then it went up in my estimation.

Take advice if offered. I’ve had some free-lance photographers give me some advice that I think is worth passing on. First, remember that a digital camera darkens an image about 30 – 40% from what you see with your eye. You’ll want to restore that brightness before anything else. This of course wouldn’t apply if you feel the darker image is more effective.

Next, a free-lancer told me to avoid weddings if at all possible because you’ll never please everyone.

Finally, if you want to be a free-lance news photographer, the best advice I was given for this was “f8 and be there”. You can’t take the shot if you aren’t at the scene and an aperture of f8 will give you a decent depth of field.

As I said, I do digital photography and process my own work. There are many photo processing programmes available. My personal preference is a Corel programme called “Paintshop”. Some people prefer Adobe’s Photoshop. I’ve used both and prefer Paintshop. If you can, try as many as you can – some places offer free trial copies – before spending your money on one.

The choice of camera is up to the user. Many of my best work was done with a Canon point and shoot, including the header photo. I currently use a Canon DSLR, but depending upon my plans for the day, I have often used the camera in my phone. The quality of phone cameras has improved greatly.

I’m torn about suggesting photography courses. Yes, I can see the benefits for some people, but when I told an artist friend it had been suggested I take one, her comment was “Why? That would only ruin you. The course would only teach you to take photos the way the instructor does.” If you feel you’d benefit from one, go for it. As my friend said, if you feel competent, save your money.

In photography the most important advice I was given was that you have to have imagination and the ability to think outside the box. Photography is as much about feeling as technique.

Writing: I’ve always written, at least back as far as Grade 5. I was fortunate in having teachers who encouraged my writing and have since received advice from others. There are many courses in creative writing available through community colleges that you can take. My ex-partner was part of a group of writers who would meet once a week and present short stories for criticism. Some members were published authors; some were taking courses and others just sat down to write. Through the members of this group (I was a casual member since they often met at our house) I learned the proper format for submitting stories, but that’s about all.

Most often, aspiring writers are told “write what you know”. That is fine if you’re writing factual articles and stories. I have a blog and frequently write opinion pieces that I laughingly refer to as “rants, raves and reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.” The main exception to that is a series of blogs under the general title “Bring him to justice”. This series concerns the attempts by the Toronto Police Service to arrest a man charged with several counts of aggravated sexual assault. This series is factual and, full disclosure here, I’m doing it because I know several people he dated.

For my fiction, it’s rather difficult to write fiction strictly sticking to “what you know”. If I’m writing fiction, the process usually starts with me asking myself “what if…?” then writing a piece to answer the question.

Perhaps the best advice the writer me was given was “write the way you speak.” If you don’t use multi-syllable words as part of your usual vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing. I sometimes paraphrase this as “if you don’t use ten dollar words all the time, don’t use them in your writing, even if you get them half-off. You’ll probably mis-use them.” Something else – spelling counts. Spell-check is great in most cases, but if you use a homophones – and yes, I had to check the definition of this – such as “hear” or “here”, spell-check won’t catch it. Proofread, then proofread again.

There. My courses on photography and writing are finished. As the title suggests “do it your way.” Class dismissed.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Midweek fiction – It’s only a game

I wrote this is 2007 following a disastrous night playing solitaire

It’s Only A Game
copyright 2007 gch
“What to do you mean you haven’t received my remittance yet? Who is this? Why are you bothering me? If you think I owe you money, send me an invoice.” Clyde slammed the handset onto the cradle before the caller could respond and returned to the Solitaire game on his computer screen.

He’d only had Solitaire on his computer for about ten days and found it a good way to relax. His favourite was the Vegas version, where he could see whether he was ahead of the computer or not. When playing, he preferred a two-handed method – left hand tapping the enter key to turn cards and right hand working the mouse to move the cards. It may not have been more efficient, but he felt it required a bit more concentration. “Let’s see … Red six on black seven, yes, now turn over the top card, good, the black five can go on that red six.”

Two days later, the mail brought an expensive looking envelope bearing the name of a well-known casino. Never having been to a casino, Clyde was curious about why they would be contacting him. His fingers told him the envelope was stuffed with paper. Returning to his study, he reached for the letter opener as he sat down.

Carefully slitting the flap, he slid several sheets of paper from the interior of the envelope. Several appeared to be computer printouts and one, on vellum paper, looked like an invoice. Scanning this, he gasped as he saw the bottom line, which read “Balance outstanding as of May 31, $51,118.00.”

Turning to the other sheets, all the while muttering to himself “There must be some mistake. I’ve never been to any casino, let alone that one. Somebody must have stolen my identity and run up this huge debt” he examined them. They were daily tallies of amounts, usually losses, and each bore his name and an account number at the top.

Returning to the letter, he carefully read it.

Dear Mr. Partridge:

As stated in our telephone conversation of June 4, we have not yet received your payment to cover your losses at our games for the month of May. In response to your request, attached please find copies of our records. Kindly remit by return mail no later than June 15.
It was signed by someone in accounts receivable.

In a panic, Clyde again scanned the letterhead, searching desperately for a telephone number. Finding one, he telephoned the casino and angrily demanded to speak with the Accounts Receivable manager. A few bars of soft music later, he was connected.

“Clyde Partridge here. I just received an invoice from you for some $51,000 dollars. I wish to tell you sir that I have never been in your casino before, so I don’t see how I could have incurred this great debt. You must have me confused with another Clyde Partridge.”

“Are you Mr. Clyde V. Partridge of Flaherty? You are? Well then Mr. Partridge, these amounts are indeed your responsibility.”

“But, I’ve never been in any sort of gambling establishment. I don’t know how to play poker. I’ve never even bought a lottery ticket before.”

“Oh no, Mr. Partridge, there’s no mistake. And by the way sir, these are not poker debts, these are Solitaire losses.”

“Solitaire? The only Solitaire I play is at home on my computer. I certainly wouldn’t go to a crowded room to play a game of Solitaire.”

“I understand that sir, but that Solitaire game on your computer is linked to our computers which keep track of your winnings and losses. If you had won, we’d have sent you a letter telling you that you had a large credit balance.”

“But, how is that possible? I have a computer, but I don’t have any form of internet access. And I’ve only had the Solitaire game about a week.”

“Yes sir. Isn’t wireless technology is marvellous.”

I was playing Vegas Solitaire one night (yes, and losing) when a fiction writer’s favourite words – “what if …” popped into my head. This is the result of that question.

Cat
Enjoy the rest of your week and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat

Enough is enough

I’ve been running four separate Facebook profiles – one for my writing; one for each of the photo businesses, and one personal. Yesterday I deactivated three of them, leaving only the personal account open.

I did so for a variety of reasons, perhaps the prime one being these arbitrary changes Facebook keeps inflicting upon its users. In most cases, there is no opt-out option for these. For each profile I provided such information as I felt comfortable disclosing. Every so often I would get a notification from Facebook that my profile was only 30% complete and ask me to answer such questions as where I live; what high school I went to and where I attended university. I didn’t want to provide that information and was able to just close those sections still blank. Until last week. That was when I discovered that unless I answered the damn questions I couldn’t close the section. Sorry Facebook, I’ve given you all the information I feel necessary.

Another thing Facebook does is change settings. In the newsfeed, there is a choice of “top stories” or “latest news”, with the default being “top stories”. Now I would rather see the latest news from my friends rather than whatever inanity FB feels I would consider a top story and set the filter accordingly. And at least twice a week I find it changed back. Facebook has no idea of my interests (because I didn’t fill out that part of the information) so how can they honestly determine what I consider a top story?

If Facebook continues to force these changes upon their users, they are going to find themselves going the way of MySpace, which tried the same tactics and found people left in droves.

Another reason I’ve closed these profiles is that I’m tired of all the drama some people post. With some, it seems that every little thought they have makes it to their status. I don’t give a rat’s ass. You are not the only person in the world with problems in your lives, so please, please stop posting this nonsense. Keep your problems to yourself or discuss them with close friends in personal messages, not in an open forum.

Others insist upon posting a detailed itinerary of their day (going shopping as I need a loaf of bread). Who cares?? Or they will post recipes containing ingredients I either don’t like, can’t afford to buy, or both. I live alone so why would I care about a recipe that serves 6? One day I deleted 14 recipes from one person. No status report, nothing of interest, just 14 recipes.

As I wrote above, I still have my personal profile, but I can’t guarantee how long that will be open for I know Facebook will introduce some other stupidity that will finally force me out.

Does anyone know of any other social networks? I’ve tried Google+ but find it all but undecipherable.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Don’t take the bait

As you are aware, smart phones are, or can be, as susceptible to phishing attempts as are computers although it is called “smishing” when used on or against phones.  And the aim is the same as it is with your computer – to plant something in your operating system to either screw it up for you or to enable them to download all your data.

What prompts this posting is this: a little while ago I received the following text message:

 Hey, it’s Sarah!  I just made a profile on “justhookupcanada.com” I added some pics too 

This came from a telephone number with a 226 area code, which according to what I can find covers southwestern Ontario – London and Windsor being the two major cities in that code.  Well, I haven’t lived in London since 1957 and don’t recall any classmates named Sarah. And in the intervening years, not only have I moved many times, I’ve also changed my name, so I doubt this is anyone from my past in London.  As for Windsor, last time I was there was the mid-80’s and that was a business trip.  The other area code in that area is 519, so the possibility “Sarah” made a transposition error in entering the number is extremely remote, since my area code contains a zero.

That leaves the only logical reason for this text as being smishing.  There is a link to follow and to increase the chances of someone following it, the bait is that “Sarah” has posted photos of herself there.  Sorry “Sarah” I have no idea who the hell you are, so I’m not biting.

To my readers, remember that your smart phone has more computing power than early computers.  Protect it the same as you would your computer – laptop, desktop, whatever.  And as with spam email, don’t follow links from unknown senders.

Enjoy your week or if, like me, you have a long weekend, enjoy that as well and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.