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.

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.

For the writers among us

A few thoughts and observations on that demon that haunts us ink-stained wretches:

“… writers don’t like the actual writing bit.”

“Being literate as a writer is good craft, is knowing your job, is knowing how to use your tools properly and not to damage the tools as you use them.”

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Douglas Adams, (1952 – 2001)

The above three quotes are from Douglas Adams, best known as the author of the five books of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. (I know, but that’s how he described it.) And from personal experience I can say that first quote is spot on. As well, I have written many short stories that prove the third one as well.

As for the second, that would be for the reader to determine. I like to think I write well, and use, but not abuse, the English language properly. One piece of advice I was given is “write the way you speak.” In other words, if you don’t commonly use “ten dollar words” in your daily vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing, even if you can get them half-off. You’ll sound pretentious and will probably use them wrong. My writing always uses the vocabulary and speech patterns I use in everyday communication and people have told me that when they read my stuff, they can hear my voice reading it in their minds. I consider that a compliment. The only time I vary from that is if the character requires it.

There are several other “rules” of writing that make little sense to me at least, such as “write what you know”. That may be fine if you’re writing a technical piece, but doesn’t necessarily apply if you’re writing fiction. When it comes to my fiction, many of the stories start with me asking myself “what if …?” then answering the question. How bleak would the literary world be if authors only wrote what they know? We’d have been deprived of works like J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series as well as many books that are now considered classics.

“Write what you know.” I’m a blogger – sporadically recently because there are things going on that interfere with the writing as well as Douglas Adams’s first observation – and my blogs are usually about things or events that either interest me or incense me. And given the newly elected government in Ontario, I think there’s going to be a few things that incense me. In my more honest moments, I frequently describe my blogs as “rants, raves or reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.”

One thing I read somewhere (I think it was a writer I friended on MySpace years ago) was that in order to be a writer, you must write 600 words a day. What that writer didn’t add was that it must be six hundred words you want to keep. I don’t agree with that word count. You can only write so much and if only 10 words will come that are “keepers”, then that’s ten words you don’t have to worry about later.

Many people who don’t write and don’t understand writing will often joke about the process and sometimes point to the hoary opening “It was a dark and stormy night” as an example of writing. Actually, I used that twice in one story just to see if it was possible to use it without seeming trite. Here’s what I came up with:

It was a dark and stormy night – a real nasty one – the kind I’ve come to dread ever since that night. I was sitting quietly, enjoying my beer, when I noticed the guy staring at me. I ignored him as I do anyone who is rude enough to stare. Then I sensed him coming over.

After a bit of small talk, he stopped talking and just looked at me. I looked back. “What, you want to hear about the time traveller?”

“If you wouldn’t mind telling me,” he said, signalling for refills for both of us.

I thanked him, then said, “I don’t mind telling, if you don’t mind listening. All I ask is that you don’t interrupt too much, because I don’t really like talking about it.”

He agreed and, after a sip of the beer, I started.

“It was a dark and stormy night “ I stopped as I saw him glaring at me, then I said “I know, I know – any story that starts that way has to be pure bull, right? Hear me out, then you tell me.

In the introduction to this piece I wrote “I planted my tongue firmly in my cheek and here’s the result”. I know it’s hard to tell from this short intro, but what do you think? Did I pull it off? If you like, I’ll post the entire story later this week.

Okay, let’s try to get serious for a few minutes here. Writing is, by its nature, a solitary pursuit. When you’re working on a piece, be it fiction, a blog, essay or factual, most writers don’t want anyone around to derail their train of thought. I usually have classical music playing quietly while I work. In one short story, I destroyed an entire planet with “Ride of the Valkyries” in the background. Yes, some writers say that so-and-so is their muse, their inspiration, but that doesn’t mean that muse has to be present all the time. I’m fortunate in that respect as I live alone so there are minimal interruptions.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Very true. I can’t count the times I’ve started writing something with a plan in mind only to have the characters dictate what happens through their actions. I usually just leave it since on the occasions I’ve tried to bring the story back to my vision, it didn’t work as well.  And yes, it can happen that something you’ve written will send a story off in a new direction rather than following your roadmap. I think it works this way: You write something and your mind picks up on that and asks “what if I follow that line instead?” That is what I mean by the character dictating the ensuing actions.

It seems that many good writers are also voracious readers. Not to see what the “competition” is doing, but simply for the enjoyment of the written word. No, the excuse that it cuts into writing time won’t work. Without some kind of break or diversion, your mind goes stale and your work will suffer.

And, I think I’ve done it again – started off with one idea in mind, but ended up somewhere else. I could have probably spent much less time writing this if I’d simply said “write about what interests you; write it with passion and in cohesive sentences and the readers will come.” To finish off, a quote from Robert A Heinlein (1907 – 1988), the great science-fiction writer “You must write.”

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

Cat.

Nice try, but no cigar

I found the following in an email account I had set up for a specific purpose. This account is not used for anything other than that purpose and since I wasn’t wearing my glasses when I set it up, I misspelled my name. No matter, Dr James still sent me this message.

Attn E-mail Address Owner,
Spam
Dr Kevin James <k_james90@>

Feb 5

Attn E-mail Address Owner,

Website:
Address: Plot 1261, Adela Hopewell Street CO/B/REP, Republic Of Benin.

Email:

( 0022966850550 )

Attention: E-mail Address Owner,

Sequel to the meeting held today with Federal Bureau of Investigation, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is compensating all the scam victims and your name and email address was found in the scam victims list.

However, we have concluded to effect your own payment through Western Union® Money Transfer, $5,000 daily until the total sum of your compensation fund is transferred to you.

This is your first payment information:

MTCN#:8412393243

Sender’s First Name: Richard

Sender’s Last Name:Michel

Amount Programmed: $5.000

You are advised to get back to the contact person trough the email below for more direction on how to be receiving your payment

Contact person: . . SIR. INNOCENT JOHNSON
Email address: . .
Tell phone: . . . +22966850550
Thanks,
SIR.INNOCENT JOHNSON
Director Western Union Money Transfer,
Head Office Benin Republic.

Click here to Reply or Forward
0.12 GB (0%) of 15 GB used

I’ve removed any email addresses strictly because I’ve had an account shut down by WordPress in the past when I tried to post a similar message with too many links.
Let’s take a look at it. First, it was addressed to “E-Mail Address Owner”, despite the text saying my name had come up in their investigation. Good clue it is a phishing expedition. The poor spelling and grammar are also good indicators the sender does not have you best interests at heart.

There is no mention of just how much money has been allotted for me (although I can guess it is really zero), nor exactly how I got scammed. Since I either delete this type of message or, as in this case, use it as fodder for a blog, I doubt I’ve been scammed by a Nigerian or Benin prince.

Should you choose to actually try to contact “Sir Innocent Johnson”, I’m quite certain you would find him anything but innocent.

Something else in these always acts as a warning to me and that is the fact that so many of them mention they are working with the FBI on resolving the issues. Well, I’m not an American, and could honestly not care less what the FBI does or doesn’t do. I doubt strongly they would really do anything for the benefit of someone who wasn’t an American citizen. So, as I wrote, Dr James: nice try, but no cigar.

If you receive any message of a similar nature, just delete it. The only enrichment taking place will be to the benefit of the senders of the message, not you. It could be your identity, your information, or the contents of your bank account. In any event, just say “no”.

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.