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.

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.

The 4,000 mile birth certificate

My computer has been down, so I’m just posting this now.

671 miles.  According to what I can see on Google, that is the shortest distance by road from Ajax, where I live, to the Registrar-General’s office in Thunder Bay Ontario.

On the Friday before Thanksgiving last October, the Ontario government quietly announced new requirements for changing the gender on one’s birth certificate. It took about a month for me to save the $97 fee, so it was late November before I sent off my application.   671 miles.

According to information on the form it would take about three months to process and sure enough, just about three months later, an envelope arrived from Thunder Bay. Unfortunately, it was a rejection since I had not included my original “long form” birth certificate. 1,342 miles.

As I wrote in “I don’t seem to exist” of June 10, there were certain documents still in the family home, which took until mid-May to get.  One of those documents had the title “Certificate of Birth”.  Made a copy for my files and sent the application back to T Bay. 2,013 miles.

This time it took about a week to be returned. It seems “Certificate of Birth” is not the same as “Birth Certificate”.  2,684 miles.

My son has been working on a family history and through his efforts, we were able to determine that apparently my father didn’t exist. I covered all this in “Whatever is left…” and how I found some information, not through the ancestry; government or newspaper sites, but by typing his name into Google.  That didn’t give me all the information I needed for the application for the long form birth certificate, such as his place of birth. Because I was also able to find the names, birth dates and dates of death for my paternal grandparents, my son was able to contact the Government of Nova Scotia and get the information we both needed – he for the history and me for the application.  I couldn’t find the information requested from the hospital as neither the hospital nor their records exist any longer. I wrote a letter explaining this, attached it to the application and mailed the whole package back to the Registrar-General’s office on August 9.  3,355 miles.

Friday October 4, the mail finally brought my new short form birth certificate legally identifying me as “female.” 4,026 miles.

The following Monday, I received yet another envelope from the Registrar-General.  This one contained a certified copy of the long form birth certificate.  Another 671 miles.

So, from my initial application until receipt of all documents at my address, paper of various kinds travelled a total of 4,697 miles. Total time, including finding information was just over 10 months.

A friend who has seen what I’ve gone through asked a very good question: If I’ve had this much trouble finding information on my father, what about people who were adopted and need the long form birth certificate?  Are they to be denied one because they have no idea who their birth parents were?

Cat.

The name says it all

I found the following in my spam folder this morning (gmail is doing its job):

Gareth & Catherine Bull <yamaguchi-zb@m5.gyao.ne.jp>
   
22:34 (12 hours ago)
My wife and I won the Euro Millions Lottery of £41 Million British
Pounds and we have decided to donate £1.5 million British Pounds each to
4 individuals worldwide as part of our own charity project.

To verify,please see our interview by visiting the web page below:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2091124/EuroMillions-winners-Gareth-Catherine-Bull-scoop-41MILLION-lotto-jackpot.html

Your email address was among the emails which were submitted to us by
the Google, Inc as a web user; if you have received our email please,
kindly send us the below details so that we can transfer your £1,500,000.00
pounds in your name or direct our bank to effect the transfer of the funds to your operational bank account in your country, congratulations.

Full Name:
Mobile No:
Age:
Country:
Send your response to (garethbul2012@hotmail.co.uk)

Best Regards,
Gareth & Catherine Bull

Notice this one didn’t contain the usual “undisclosed recipients”, just nothing for a recipient. And I didn’t think “the Google Inc” would disclose their customer lists.  Well, “the Google Inc” might, but I doubt Google would.

Also notice that even though you are asked to reply to an email address in the UK the origin was actually Japan.  Another sign it’s a scam.

And since this is a scam and I wouldn’t see a penny anyway, I’m going to bitch a bit.  They won 41 million pounds (somewhere north of $60 million Canadian) and all they’re willing to do is give me a measly 1.5 million, or about $2,250,000 Cdn.  Cheapskates.

Do not – repeat “do not” – give them any information.  Doing so will only allow them enough access they can copy your identity. Just delete the message.

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

Cat.

“Whatever is left …”

As I have recently written in “I don’t seem to exist” of June 10 and Sunday’s “Curiouser and curiouser”, my eldest son and I have been trying to track down evidence of my father’s existence.  That is evidence other than the fact we are both here.

We’ve tried using various genealogical sites and could find nothing other than he seemed to have died in March of 1970.  Different government sites were equally unhelpful since most records of the kind we needed are sealed for 75 years.  As he lived in St Catharines Ontario, I thought the local paper, the St Catharines Standard, may have his obituary in their archives.  Not so.  The Standard (called by some residents “The Substandard”) has a huge hole in their online archives and don’t have copies on microfilm of any back editions.

We had exhausted just about every avenue we could think of where there might be information.  As I wrote, my doctor is also a coroner, so I thought to ask him where records from closed hospitals might be kept.  He suggested that they may have been destroyed by now, or available in the Ontario Archives.  Another government site meant we were looking at that 75 year blockage again.

As I said, we’ve tried genealogical sites as well as government and newspaper sites, all to no avail.  The one thing we hadn’t tried was the most obvious: Googling his name and location.  What makes this especially embarrassing for me is that I use Firefox as my browser.  And what do you see when you open Firefox, right in the middle of the screen?  Right.  A big Google search bar.

Typed the name and location into the search bar.  Up popped a listing, among which was one person with that name, but the dates showed this person had died at less than one year of age.  Thinking perhaps someone had made an error in dates, I clicked on the link and was taken to Victoria Lawn Cemetery in St Catharines.  Among the information on the page was the fact there were 44 graves with the same surname in that cemetery.  Unfortunately, the dates shown for the infant were correct.  I decided to check the listings for the other people.  Glad I did.  I came across my paternal grandmother’s grave, which my son needed for the family history.  Continuing to look, I found a name similar to my father’s, but with a different middle initial, although the year of death was correct.  Checked it out.  These pages have photos of the headstones with them and I noticed the initial on the stone wasn’t the same as the listing.  It was in fact the headstone of my father.

So I now have more of the information I need to complete the government form that started this whole mess.  My son will take the information I have given him and see if he can now find a place of birth, which I am still lacking.

What is the principle of Occam’s Razor – that the simplest solution is usually the correct one?  And what could be simpler than just Googling the name?

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

Cat.

When I say “no”, I mean “no”

I’ve written before of my ongoing battle with computers, which is now some 30 years old.  My first opponent was a Commodore 64 and the current combatant is a Lenovo B575 laptop.

About ten days ago, I was reading one of the news sites I frequent when the computer froze. It wouldn’t accept any input – mouse, keyboard, touchpad or foul language, so the only way out was to shut the system down.  When I rebooted the computer, Windows wouldn’t load.  Fine.  Put the computer away for a couple of days.  I wasn’t going to be home anyway, so that was no sacrifice.

The Lenovo has something called a “one key recovery” feature.  Checked it out.  Two options were presented, the first being restore to factory specs and the second being restore from a backup disk.  Naturally, I hadn’t backed up the hard drive, in fact I don’t know many people who do, so “column B” was out.  Reading the information on option 1, I saw that using it would eliminate everything not on the hard drive when it left the factory.  I had about $300 in software that I’d ordered online (Paintshop Pro Photo X5 and WordPerfect Suite X6) and taken as downloads (dumb idea).  It was a couple of days before I remembered to phone Corel, the supplier, to see if I could get backup disks for these two programmes.  For a fee, I could.  Great.  Now that I know I haven’t thrown away three hundred dollars, I decided to proceed with the restore.

It didn’t take that long to restore.  I was pleasantly surprised to note that Future Shop, where I bought the Lenovo as a demo (last one in the store), had removed a lot of things from the system before they put it on display.  These are things I don’t use or, having tried them, don’t like, such as Chrome.  The system also came with MacAfee antivirus ware.  I’ve never been impressed with MacAfee, but before I uninstalled it, I downloaded and installed my preferred programmes. I might not like it, but at least it should ensure I get  clean download.  Got all my software installed and restored my files from backups which were about a week out of date.  I frequently chat with a friend using Yahoo messenger so went to download that as well.  During the installation process, I was asked if I wanted the Yahoo toolbar.  No.  Guess what.  Despite declining the offer, I got the damn thing anyway.  Uninstalled Yahoo.  Noticed a separate line in the programme listings for this toolbar.  Uninstalled that as well.  No use.  Still stuck with this thing I don’t want and don’t use.

Checked tools and settings in Firefox.  Couldn’t find a way of deleting the toolbar.  Looked in the computer settings with the same result.  Finally had to resort to restoring to factory specs again, which meant back to February 2012 when this system was built.  Through the process again – deep six Chrome and MacAfee; download my choice of antivirusware and reinstall my own software.  I noticed that Adobe Reader was two versions out of date and decided to update that as well.  I know from experience that occasionally there are unwanted hitchhikers on Adobe updates.  In the past my system has caught key loggers and, in one download, a worm buried in these updates.  This time I ended up with something called “Yontoo”, which is adware.  It planted itself in 37 different locations on my system.  Spybot was able to remove 35 of them and I was able to track down one more and delete it, but that last one was in a registry key.  Now I might be crazy, but I’m not stupid enough to go messing with the registry.

I spoke with my son, who is also my tech despite being 3,000 miles away, and he recommended AdAware.  I’ve heard of this programme before and knew it to be good.  Downloaded it.  Again, during the installation I was asked if I wanted to replace my current search engine, Google, with the AdAware secure engine.  Again I said “no”.  And again I might as well have saved myself the effort.  During the install AdAware replaced Google with its own search engine.  Decided to deal with that later.  Ran a full scan of my system with AdAware.  After four hours it caught 13 tracking cookies in addition to the remaining Yontoo irritant.  Deleted all of them.  Decided that if AdAware wasn’t willing to listen to me when I said “no” in response to their offer, I would uninstall the programme.  With AdAware, part of the uninstall process is asking why I don’t want it.  I told them, quite bluntly, that when I say I don’t want part of the programme when asked, I mean I don’t want the f’ing thing.  I must say though that AdAware did also give me instructions on how to restore my preferred search engine.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m offered something in a download, and I decline it, I have an expectation that my wishes will be honoured.  When I say “no”, I mean “no”.

Anyway, my computer is now back up and running and free of any unwanted visitors, so I’ll be posting more rants/raves/reasoned discussions (as usual, reader’s choice).

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

Cat.

“Dear webmail subscriber”

The following email was in my gmail inbox this morning:

Dear WebMail Subscriber
    
Customer service mbigatti@pami.org.ar
    
03:48 (8 hours ago)
        
to undisclosed recipients
Account Warning

This mail is from &nbsp;Administrator; we wish to bring to your notice the Condition of your email account.
&nbsp;
We have just noticed that you have exceeded your email Database limit of 500 MB quota and your email IP is causing conflict because it is been accessed in different

server location. You need to Upgrade and expandyour webmail quota limit before you can continue to use your email.
&nbsp;
Update your email quota limit to 2.6 GB, use the below web link:
Failure to do so could result in permanent deactivation of your user account from our database so we can create more spaces for new users and also reduce spam input.Confirmation webmail account
Full name:**********
Email address:******
Email Password:*********
Failure to do this will result to email deactivation within 24hours
&nbsp;
Thank you for your understanding.
Copyright ©2012 Help Desk Technical Support Centre.

Again, the first tipoff this is not a legitimate message is the “undisclosed recipients”.

Let’s look at this a little closer.  First, as I said, this was in my gmail account so why on earth would any message related to it come from some firm in Argentina (.ar is Argentina) when Google is based in the US.  Second, I would expect any message from Google to be in decent English, not this mishmash.

Notice the information they ask for: full name; email address and email password.  First off, why would they need my email address when they contacted me?  Shouldn’t they have it already?  Giving them this information is doing nothing more than allowing them to hijack your email account..  DON’T DO IT!!  By the way, despite their comment “use the below web link”, there were no hot links in the message.

Think about it for a moment.  Chances are that we here in North America use an email provider that is based in North America, so the odds of them sending their users a message from a foreign country are pretty much non-existent.  So, please, if you see something like this and it doesn’t show the sender as Google,or Hotmail or whoever you use, just delete it.  Unless of course you’re like me and use this stuff as source material for blogs.  In that case, copy it, then delete the original.

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

Cat.

 

Nov 27.  Today I received another email from this same address purporting to be from Western Union, tellinng me they were holding a quarter million from me.