They do keep trying

DATE: Oct 11

TITLE: They do keep trying

I received the following email yesterday in an account I don’t use any longer, but haven’t yet transferred stuff I want to keep.

Schedule new delivery for your shipment_Nº_#5523861834 10 October, 2022 16:56
From: Canada Post
To: ghoward@
Dear customer: Your delivery information is invalid
We invite you to schedule a new delivery as soon as possible:
It look like that your pa has been returned to the post office warehouse
The delivery process failed due to an error in the information (invalid address or phone number).
Reminder:
If you do not confirm your information within three days. Your shipment will be returned to the sender.
Re-Schedule Delivery
(this was in a red box I could click on.)
Expected delivery : 2 Days After Confirmation
Status : Waiting Re-delivery Process
Tracking Number : 3535935681768742

There is so much wrong with this I hardly know where to start. Let’s start with the delivery information. This past weekend was the Thanksgiving long weekend in Canada and it is a federal holiday. Therefore Canada Post wouldn’t have been working so couldn’t have attempted to deliver any package (or pa as the message says). Having received packages from Canada Post in the past I know their usual method, at least for the past two COVID years, has been to bring the package to my door. If they can’t deliver it, they leave a notice on or in your mailbox stating they couldn’t deliver it and telling me they’ve returned it to my local postal outlet. The notice also states I can pick it up the next day.

As I said above, I haven’t used that ghoward email for six years or so, ever since I changed my name. And I don’t know of any firm who would show an email address on a shipping label.

I suspect that had I clicked on that “re-schedule delivery” button I’d have been asked for all sorts of information – just to verify my identity of course. Instead the only button I clicked on after copying the message for this blog was “delete”.

Obviously the sender is not in Canada, nor aware of Canadian holidays, or they wouldn’t have chosen Monday October 10 for that was Thanksgiving Day. And no government offices or crown corporations were working that day. Research appears to be an area that they need to improve upon.

I especially like the formal “We invite you to schedule a new delivery as soon as possible:” It contrasts with some of the awkward wording elsewhere.

If you get something like this from the postal service in whatever country you live in, ask yourself two questions: Did I order anything by mail? And, is this the post office’s normal method of notifying me of a failed delivery?

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

Cat.

Writing 101 revisited

DATE: Sept 2

TITLE: Writing 101 revisited

This is from 2013 blog called “Writing 101 by Cat, or what would I say?” in response to a suggestion I offer a course on writing. The only major change is that I’m now ten years older.

On my recent posting “Blogs: opinion pieces or news reports?” one person left a comment and made reference to teaching them how to write in the style I use. I thought about that for about thirty seconds. I didn’t want to spend more time analysing it lest I become the centipede. You know the story of the centipede, don’t you? You don’t? Well, I’ll tell you then.

One day a tiny ant was watching a centipede pass by, legs all moving with military precision, not tripping over its feet or kicking the leg in front of it. The ant stopped the centipede and asked how he managed to keep everything so well organized. Having never thought about it, the centipede had to admit he didn’t know. After the ant went his way, the centipede sat and thought about the question and tried to analyse his actions. Not finding an answer he liked, he gave up and decided to carry on to wherever he had been going. That was when he discovered that in his attempts to figure out just how he did it, he’d managed to lose the ability to co-ordinate his legs and he kept tripping. I didn’t want to spend time analysing how and why I write as I do for fear I’d end up like that centipede and forget how to write.

I know that people are told “write what you know”. Well yes, it is always good to have some knowledge of your topic before you put a single word on the monitor (or on paper– I still prefer to write in longhand) especially if you’re writing an instructional piece.

In addition to “write what you know” I would add “write what you feel strongly about”, be that the antics of your local politicians or something else. If you want to write an opinion piece, write it with passion. If you feel strongly enough about something that you want to voice your opinion, let that fire show through in your writing. My personal view where it relates to opinion pieces is that if I haven’t upset someone then I haven’t done my job properly. Of course that attitude is probably helped by being 68 and not really caring what others think of my opinions.

If you choose to write fiction, depending upon what kind of fiction, some research may be necessary to get the details right. People will pick up on anachronisms very quickly if you choose historic fiction so try to ensure you aren’t introducing something that hadn’t been invented until well after the period you’ve chosen.

My preferred field of fiction is speculative fiction (commonly called science fiction). Given the scientific advances in many fields that gives me a lot of leeway should I choose to introduce some new technology. But, as I wrote above, even there some research is required. For example I may have to look at the current state of a field and try to find out what is being looked at. Perhaps a news item on a new scientific process under investigation will spark a thought process best summed up by asking myself “what if…?” Then I try to answer that question in a story.

Many years ago I wrote a long piece about an intelligent computer (artificial intelligence anyone?) and to start I described the setting as follows:

The city was one of those anonymous places that comprise what politicians and pollsters commonly refer to as “the industrial base.” The signs at the city limits proudly proclaimed population figures from the last census, but several minor recessions and a major depression had taken their toll and the signs were wildly optimistic.

Industry had been just diverse enough that when the major employer closed its doors and moved to another location promising low taxes and even lower labour costs, the remaining factories could only slow the decline. Suppliers to “The Factory”, as the locals called it, had either followed their market, or just turned off the lights and walked away.

Along Main Street, vacant shops outnumbered the combined total of those offering “going out of business” sales, and those offering similar prices without going to the added expense of signs. The sparkling new mall at the edge of town (fifty great stores to serve your every need) echoed to the footsteps of lonely shoppers as they passed store front after store front, each closed and locked; and each bearing the legend “for lease – reasonable rates.”

This was the sight that greeted the planners as they descended upon city hall one day, armed with graphs and plans and colourful artists’ impressions and visions for the future; and enthusiasm. Oh yes, they were certainly enthusiastic. They would convert this dying factory town into a model for the future. Self-contained and computer controlled, it would rely on the outside world mainly as a supplier of provisions and raw materials and as a market for its products. The planners had anticipated every objection from city council and included in their schemes a new seniors’ apartment complex; upgraded hospital facilities; and even a refurbished city jail. But the plum in the pudding was their promise to revitalise industry through computerisation and make the city prosperous once again.

This description was essential to the rest of the novella for it shows a city in decline and the willingness of the city council to do whatever they could to keep their town alive. Could I have written the piece without these 300 words? Of course, but I’ve given the reader just enough information for them to form their own mental image of the place.

My last piece of advice to anyone writing is simple: write the way you speak. If you commonly use multi-syllable words in your every day speech, by all means write that way. But if you don’t please don’t make the mistake of trying to use them in your writing. I recall reading an interview with a writer who perhaps said it best: “Don’t use ‘ten dollars words’ even if you buy them at a ‘two-for one sale’ because you’ll probably use them incorrectly” unless those form part of your daily vocabulary.

And that ends today’s lesson. Class dismissed, and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

Cat

.

Not falling for it

I found the following email, dated today, in a junk folder:

MICROSOFT
Thank You For Making A Payment Online We Have Received
Your Order For The AUTO-RENEWAL Plan
•SERVICES = MICROSOFT LICENSE
•PAYMENT = 299.99

SUMMARY = Your MICROSOFT License Key Is #9892305
•PAYMENT SOURCE = CARD
•PAYMENT DATE = 04 / 25 /2020
•CONFORMATION NUMBER = #9891305

NOTE = If You Believe That You Have Not Make
= This Purchase or It Has Been Auto-renewed
= Automatically . Then Call The Help Desk To CANCEL .

TOLL-FREE = (607) 325 3365

I have several problems with this email. First, the only Microsoft product I have is Windows. Second, the spelling is atrocious “conformation”? Seriously? The word should be “confirmation”, which has a different meaning. The English is horrid, for example “..that you have not make...” and “…it has been auto-renewed automatically.” I was always under the impression that is something is “auto-renewed” it did happen automatically and there would be no reason to spell it out. And finally, that “toll-free” number isn’t. Area code 607 covers south-central New York State, such as Binghamton and Ithaca.

The final thing wrong with this is that while it purports to come from Microsoft, the actual sender’s email is kenneth@ gailew. (I’ve modified the email address to keep me out of trouble with WordPress)  Not exactly Microsoft.

If you get this email, don’t bother to phone the help desk. Just do as I did and consign the message to trash.

Stay safe, stay indoors as much as possible and, given the current situation, just think about hugging an artist, we need love (and social distancing) too.

Cat.

Horrors! A spelling cop!

I received the following as a comment intended for my post “Bring him to justice – progress report”:

Pigment Red 122
obviously like your website however you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I will definitely come back again.

First, this person has apparently never heard of spellcheck. Second, I suspect that his/her main quarrel is that I use English, not American spellings, so the addition of the “u” in words such as “colour” are upsetting him. Too bad. I was educated in Canada so find it natural to use English spellings. (As a matter of trivia, one of the first things our first Prime Minister passed was a law requiring the “u” in words such as “neighbour” and “colour” and I don’t think that’s been repealed.) I will admit that it is well worded, which I’ve found is quite rare in comments of this type.  Finally, does the writer think I don’t know how to proofread?

I will definitely come back again. Please don’t. If your only comments are going to be criticisms of my spelling, which apparently doesn’t mesh with your view of the way things “should” be, go elsewhere.

Since it’s January 1, I wish all my followers and readers a safe and happy 2020. Remember to hug an artist, we need love (and spellcheck) too.

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.

How indeed?

Those bots that use key words in postings to send emails or comments really do need to be refined. Although doing so would probably reduce the material available for me to use for blogs. However, the way these throw random words together can be very amusing on occasion, even if they have no bearing on the item being commented upon.

As I wrote in “How can you not know this?”, I was taking part in a study in Toronto yesterday, so didn’t see this in my spam folder until today.

blogfreely

Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
Look advanced to far added agreeable from you!
However, how could we communicate?

The blog this is directed at was “If you can’t rebut, attack” from March of 2015. In this, I took someone to task because rather than try to counter my arguments/comments on a situation, they chose to launch a direct attack on me. Oh hell, it’s short, so I’ll just reprint it here. It better shows the inappropriateness of “blogfreely”s comment.  The person “Joseph” is referring to is George Flowers, who has been the subject of my “Bring him to justice” series of blogs.

Mar 25, 2015

If you can’t rebut, attack.

Earlier today, a reader named “Joseph” posted a comment on “I don’t follow the logic” in which he made some general claims without backing them up. In response to this comment, which was really only an attack on some other people and myself, I wrote “Anything constructive to add?”.Joseph seemed to feel I was writing an untrue (his word) story. In my responses (two of them) to his comment, it appears I hit a nerve. I haven’t approved his latest comment because it is nothing but another attack rant.

The first part of it refers to other people, so I won’t copy it here, but the rest refers to me, so here it is, complete with foul language and misspellings:
Your saying because the police put out a warrent he’s guilty?
WowYOUR just a lonely little person with nothing better to do but write story’s for your friends.
You are no writer that’s for sure.Won’t even waste my time anymore.You must be one of the ones he told to fuck off.
All your friends but you
You angry?
No, I’m saying the police believe they had enough evidence to issue the warrants. It’s up to the Canadian courts to determine his guilt or innocence following his extradition after two years in a Jamaican jail.
YOUR just a lonely little person with nothing better to do but write story’s for your friends.You are no writer that’s for sure.
I’m not going to dignify these comments with any further comment, for your judgement would depend upon your point of reference.
Won’t even waste my time anymore.
Good. Please unfollow my blog.
You must be one of the ones he told to fuck off. Actually, had he approached me, I’d have told him to take a hike. I didn’t like him on sight. I found him arrogant and thought he was nothing but a poseur.
Joseph, as I wrote above, some of my comments must have hit home or else rather than attack me, you would have attempted to rebut my points. For your information, the term for an attack on a writer, is “ad hominem”. I didn’t use it earlier because I didn’t want the big words to confuse you.
Cat.

Now that you understand the piece “blogfreely” commented on, you can see how my opening comments apply to the message. “Amusement account”? Maybe to some readers, but I doubt “Joseph” found it funny.

However, how could we communicate? I’m going to be generous and presume the message came from a bot and wasn’t written by an actual English-speaking person. Because I couldn’t have a conversation with any type of machine that throws words together randomly, and neither could I have a conversation with a person who writes like this because the only part that makes sense is the last question – sort of.

Cat.

Nice try, but wrong target

I found the following in my spam of an email I rarely use:

I am aware watson is your passphrases. Lets get right to the purpose. absolutely no one has paid me to check you. You don’t know me and you’re probably wondering why you are getting this e mail?

Well, i actually installed a malware on the X videos (porn material) web site and guess what, you visited this site to have fun (you know what i mean). When you were watching video clips, your web browser began working as a Remote control Desktop with a keylogger which gave me accessibility to your display screen as well as web camera. Right after that, my software program collected all your contacts from your Messenger, social networks, and e-mailaccount. Next i made a double video. First part displays the video you were watching (you have a good taste lmao), and second part shows the recording of your webcam, yea it is you.

You actually have just two possibilities. Shall we read each one of these choices in particulars:
Very first alternative is to neglect this message. in that case, i will send your very own video clip to almost all of your contacts and then just imagine about the humiliation you will definitely get. Moreover if you are in a committed relationship, just how it would affect?

Latter choice would be to give me USD 888. We are going to regard it as a donation. in this case, i most certainly will right away erase your videotape. You can carry on your way of life like this never happened and you are never going to hear back again from me.

You will make the payment through Bi tco in (if you don’t know this, search for ‘how to buy b itcoi n’ in Google).

B T C ad dre ss: (I removed the address to keep myself out of trouble with WordPress.)

if you are thinking of going to the law, okay, this e mail can not be traced back to me. I have taken care of my actions. i am just not attempting to ask you for money very much, i prefer to be paid. message if i do not receive the bi tco in , i will send out your video recording to all of your contacts including membe rs of your family, colleagues, and so forth. Nevertheless, if i do get paid, i will destroy the video immediately. If you really want proof, reply with Yea! then i will send out your video recording to your 7 friends. This is a non-negotiable offer, so please do not waste mine time and yours by replying to this email message.

Where do I start? First, the “passphrases” is nowhere near to anything I use so right there I could tell this was nothing more than an attempt to extort money – $888 to be exact – from me. Next, the grammar and syntax is absolutely horrid. (I’m a writer so know how proper English should scan.) The typing itself shows no regard for the rules of writing and that the writer(?) uses a lower case letter “i” when referring to themselves indicates, to me at least, they have a low opinion of themselves. Also, the way this person has turned “bitcoin” into three words seems to show they have no idea what they’re talking about. The part that really tells me this is a scam … is which gave me accessibility to your display screen as well as web camera since I don’t have a webcam.

As for tracing it back, somehow this person made it appear as if the message had come from my own email address. I would not have to attempt to blackmail myself because – well, I already know I don’t have an extra 888 dollars. Don’t you think that’s a rather odd amount to ask for, by the way?

Finally, even if I were gullible enough to believe the sender has incriminating video of me I’d really have to be a fool to believe the (non-existent) video would be deleted.

If you get something like this even if you do visit those sites, don’t panic, just delete it.

Cat – and no, I don’t visit those sites.

Consider all you like, you’re still wrong

I found this in the inbox of an email address I rarely use:

AMAZON

Dear Ghoward, Congratulations!
Because we consider you as one of our customer, we’d like to informe you that your rank on our clients list qualified you to get a spcecial FREE REWARD.
Click below to start

Start

This offer is limited*

If the English and spelling weren’t enough warning this is a phishing expedition, there are a couple of other things about this that scream “FAKE!” to me. First, I’ve never purchased anything from or through Amazon, so I couldn’t be a customer.

Second, it has been my experience that when (or if) you open an online account anywhere, you provide your full name, not just an initial. Therefore, any offers directly specifically to you would have your name and possibly other identifying details, not just the first part of your email address.

Next, I don’t use this email address much any longer as I changed my name about two years ago and set up an email account under my new name elsewhere. I couldn’t change the name on this one as it was originally set up for me by my son when he worked for the service provider.

Sorry Amazon or whoever is trying to run this scam, you can consider me “one of your customer” all you like, you’re still wrong and I’m not clicking on that “start” link.

If you receive this, even if you use Amazon religiously, check the little things like spelling, sentence construction and where the email is from. As I said, I didn’t click on the link, but I suspect it would have asked for details of my (nonexistent) Amazon account. Once they had that, they could run up my bill easily and probably very quickly.

DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT, ever click on suspicious links like this. Your bank account will thank you.

I wish all my followers and readers a very happy and safe 2019 and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Netflix phishing expedition

Received the following email in one of my accounts:

From:

NETFLIX

External images are not displayed. Display Images
Always display images sent from

We recently failed to validate your payment information we hold on record for your account,
therefore we need to ask you to complete a brief validation process in order to verify your billing and payment details.

Failure to complete the validation process will result in a suspension of your netflix membership.

We take every step needed to automatically validate our users, unfortunately in this case we were unable to verify your details.

This process will take a couple of minutes
and will allow us to maintain our high standard of account security.

Netflix Support Team

This message was mailed automatically by Netflix during routine security checks. We are not completely satisfied with your account information and required you to update your account to continue using our services uniterrupted.

I removed the email addresses to keep myself out of trouble with WordPress (again).
This is obviously an attempt to get me to provide them with personal and/or banking information. The first indicator of that is that it wasn’t addressed to me personally. If they want to verify my account information, surely they’d have my name at least. The second indicator this is a scam is quite simple really. I don’t have a Netflix account, so there is no information to be verified.

Also, the English is not what you would expect to find from a company such as Netflix. The mixture of tenses and the misspelling of “uninterrupted” are a dead giveaway this is not from their corporate account.

If you have a Netflix account and you get on of these emails, before you do anything, please, please, check it some other way before giving out any information.

Happy viewing and remember to hug an artist, we need love too.

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.