Sunday, April 9, 2017

Scammed Like An Idiot By Hackers


"This is completely crazy!"  I shouted at my smartphone.  I was on the verge of a panic attack. The man at the other end, in his classic Mumbai accent, replied, "No no sir, it is not crazy.  Your computer is badly infected.  Do you see all these people who are using your private information?" 
            He pronounced Private with a "W".  Priwot.
            My mouse pointer moved while my hands rested in my lap. The Command Window opened and showed an ominous list of white notations scrolling down the black background.  Mumbai Man had control of my computer. I could see repeated iterations of the word "Trojan"
            "See there," he said.  "See, see?  See how many!".  I had been fighting him for at least an hour and he was losing his composure.  I was stubbornly refusing to capitulate.  Is this what's called Ransomware? So it seems.  I couldn't get rid of the guy. I couldn't regain control of my computer until I paid five hundred dollars.  Needless to say, I was upset.  And I brought it upon myself by doing a stupid thing.

            I had already been softened up.  A week ago when I was online a demanding white pop-up window informed me that my computer had contracted a virus.  In order to fix it I must call Microsoft at an 800 phone number. Riiight! And there are elephants on the moon. The pop up wouldn't go away.  No restart, no Task Manager, nothing. I shut down my computer by pulling the plug.  When I rebooted I got on a treadmill of Windows fix-it bubbles that went nowhere. 
            After a couple hours of futzing with various remedies, including a  non-functioning backup program, I realized that I had to reformat my computer. That was three days of work. 
            Everything was fine after the reformat, my computer worked for a week.  Then that same white pop up window appeared and I knew I was in trouble. I didn't want to reformat again! Like an idiot I called the phone number.  Thus an ordeal began that went on for hours.  Mumbai Man insisted that he represented Microsoft.  He gave me an I.D. number.  He gave me a phone number for...uh..Microsoft.  I got another phone and punched that number.  At the first ring a man with a Mumbai accent answered.  "Microsoft Customer Service" he cheerfully announced.
            The voice of Mumbai Man #1 created a bizarre feedback loop because as he spoke to me on MY phone, his voice sounded one desk removed on the phone that I had used to call...er...Microsoft..  I went through the motions, juggling two cell phones. I was assured by Mumbai Man #2 that Mumbai Man #1 was a legitimate Microsoft employee. His name was...uh... Sam Taylor. I wasn't buying it but I was losing my grip on reality.  These guys were slick!  They had an answer for everything. They talked and talked and their reasoning was insane. Slowly they dragged me into the upside-down world of internet thieves.  They could demonstrate to me how badly messed up was my computer.  They told me that even if I bought a new computer the same thing would happen because hackers lurked in my network.  They told me that every computer I ever bought from this day forward would be infected if I didn't pay five hundred dollars.
            "Sir, why are you having a broblem with this?" asked..uh.. Sam Taylor, as if this were a perfectly reasonable situation.
            "A broblem?" I shrieked.  "A broblem?  Five hundred dollars and my computer held hostage is a broblem!.  I can buy a new computer for five hundred dollars!"
            "Oh, but sir, the new computer will also have the same broblem if you do not take care of this right away."
            Listen, I love the accent of Indians, be they from Mumbai, Kalikot or Kerala.  I love the way they sound like they have three marbles just inside their lower lip.  I have adored Indian culture my entire life.  However these fellows conformed to a stereotype, this was happening in the real world and in the real world most Americans expect their tech support to speak with that lilting accent.  Weirdly, it added a gloss of credibility to what was blatantly incredible.
            "I'm sixty two years old," I told the thief.  "Does your mother know what you do for a living?  That you rob old people on Social Security?"
            "Oh, sir, you are a senior citizen?  Let me talk to my supervisor and see what I can do about getting a discount."
            Hmmm hmmm count to five.  "Oh yes sir, my supervisor tells me that we can make the rebairs for three hundred forty nine dollars and ninety five cents."
            I gave in.  I let them install their shit on my computer.  Their spyware, malware, ransomware buggy shit on my computer. I gave them my credit card number.  I still don't believe I did that.  Sam Taylor had turned me over to Steve Smith who worked in Billing, and Steve Smith had then given control of my computer to Richie Logan. I watched my screen as program after program was installed, operated, then uninstalled.  It was spooky!  I was afraid to pull the plug on the modem and shut them out.  By this time I didn't know what to believe and I had the futile hope that these guys were actually fixing my computer.
            My lovely spouse had a terrible virus experience once and contacted a reputable repair company who charged her a hundred dollars to remotely fix her computer.  I phoned them while my computer chattered away, rolling files across the monitor screen.
            "Unplug your modem right now!" This was the order from Jeffrey Everard in Austin, Texas.  He works for OneSupport.  They handle situations such as the mess I found myself in. I trust them.  I think.
            Jeffrey worked for an hour on my computer and charged me a hundred bucks.
Barclay Bank shut down my credit card and promised to mail me a new one with a new account number.  Mumbai Men had yet to run the charge and they were not going to get my money.  I called all my credit card vendors.  I called the bank.
            This was a horrible experience.  Be careful.  These crooks are skillful and incredibly persistent. They are glib, slick and ruthless. They are from India, Ukraine, Thailand, Poland, Belorus and the USA. They find your knowledge level with regard to computers and they know how to convince you that they're not lying.  They twisted my head so badly that I couldn't locate reality after spending a couple of hours in their company.  Did a little alarm go off at Microsoft Headquarters notifying them that my computer was infected? I posed this vision sarcastically and they said Yes that's exactly what happened!
            I am now afraid to do any browsing on my computer.  I'm afraid that any program I purchase to fight malware might be the vehicle bringing malware to my computer.
            I made a mistake, a dumb mistake and it could have cost me much more.  It will be a while before I can relax and use my computer normally.  If ever.
            My hands are still shaking.
             

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Ironic And The Absurd



March 9, 2017


            We were watching TV and there was a commercial for the network series The Bachelorette.  The ad featured three girls, three Bachelorettes.  Girl One said, "I love horses." (video of girl with hair blowing in wind, saddled on a gorgeous animal). Girl Two said, "I rescue animals and I rehabilitate Rottweilers." (Footage of tender treatment of big dog's wounds) Then Girl Three said, "I haven't had an orgasm in my life." (Footage of her from the waist up, simply standing there in a suburban back yard).
            Wait a minute.  Run the DVR backwards a bit.  She actually said, "I haven't had an orgasm in my life."  I could almost hear the stampede of men.  It was going in two directions: half the men were running away from this girl, they were terrified by the pressure.  And half of them (the cocky douchebag half) were running towards the girl.  Each of the latter bachelors was sure he could open the floodgates of orgasm for this attractive cherry-picked TV crash- test dummy.
            I turned to my partner and said, "I guess honesty is the New Honesty."  I considered for a moment, then amended my perception. "Or is it honesty is the new Authenticity?  Or maybe Authenticity is the new Honesty?  Something like that."
            My partner, Fox, is accustomed to my sense of the ironic and the absurd.  She knew I was reaching, perhaps over-reaching into sheer nonsense. Still, I'll let it stand..
            I am aware that there is a wide spread  hunger for experience that can be perceived as Authentic.  Why?  Do people feel that they are synthetic beings, that they're so coddled and softened by living in this affluent civilization that they've lost an essential component of human experience?  Do people feel unreal?  I think so.  That's why there's such an appetite for TV shows about people living off the grid in Alaska, or marooning themselves, naked and afraid, courting utter misery for the sake of "testing their limits".  We are the species that has come from competing with hyenas for fresh kills to the species that is sending spacecraft to other galaxies.  We've done this in a breathtakingly short span of time.  In achieving this magnificent push, upward and outward, some people have been left behind in their sense of self-worth.  They don't feel brave, tough, worthy.  They've lost their warrior spirit.  And they feel this emptiness every time they go shopping at Target or Walmart, every time they exploit the incredible ease of getting the groceries and the hair gel.
            "Girl-without-orgasm" was simply following the cultural norm as it excavates this new authentic territory, this candid self-disclosure that, to her, wasn't even embarrassing.  She was just letting the world know: she's in search of an orgasm. She needs a partner who can help her master new skills in erotic communication.  She needs a soft slow hand from a tender buddy to help her over the hump.
            I was embarrassed for her.  No doubt it will make good television for those that are into that sort of thing.  I cringed.  What naivete!  How many years will this stuff follow her around?  She'll be "no-cum" to her grandchildren.  It's out of my hands.  I won't be watching the show.

             

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I won Honorable Mention! Here's Writer's Digest Review of my novel, CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN


I paid $99 to enter my e-book into the Writer's Digest Self Published Book Competition. I would say that I got my money's worth.  I received Honorable Mention.  It wasn't the DREAM PRIZE, $5,000 and an agency contract, plus a lot of major attention.  The review tells me that the reviewer understood the book's basic theme.  The only thing he missed is how often the book is very funny. So.. Here it is.


Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5



Judge’s Commentary*: 

 Confessions Of An Honest Man by Arthur Rosch brings the reader a story of conflict, abuse of different sorts, family dysfunction and eventual triumph over obstacles. This novel is skillfully written to give insight into some dark places of life without overwhelming the reader. The protagonist, Aaron Kantro, carries an awesome burden on his shoulders from first page to last.  As we follow his story and his commitment to his musical calling we are given glimpses of others who are part of Aaron's life. The story spans several decades from Aaron's boyhood to becoming a parent.A highly dysfunctional family sets the tone for all of Aaron's woes.  An abusive mother who suffers mental illness takes a toll on the lives of her children and spouse. As Aaron discovers the call of his muse to music, his mother thwarts his every effort to success.  Despite her obstruction, Aaron climbs his way to success in the face of his own and others' abuse of drugs.  The author gives an excellent insight to the effects of parental abuse on the other members of Aaron's familly.  This book is  an excellent read if more than a bit dark at times.  The ultimate triumph is worth the agonizing stops along the way with Aaron, Zoot and the rest.  Rosch has carefully constructed good characterizations, good dialogue and good descriptive passages.  This is likely a book I would not have picked up on my own but I am better for having read it.  It is one that I will carry with me for a long time.  Confessions Of An Honest Man should achieve wide readership and success.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Two Americas

            I hate this sense of polarization in the United States, this propaganda-driven idea that it’s US Versus THEM.  I thought I might take a look at the groups, the US and the THEM and see if I can’t analyze the difference.
            First of all, let me state that I am firmly one of the US.  I wouldn’t let a THEM in my house nor allow my sister to marry  one of THEM.
            There are many lifestyles in this country and I think the US/THEM divide flows along lifestyle differences.
            There are two kinds of people in this country.  Hostess Twinkie People and Progresso Soup People.
            I heard a snippet of a Sarah Palin speech yesterday and she is a Hostess Twinkie person.  Her speech began with the question, “Dontcha wanna get back to the good ol’ America that we grew up with?”
            This is the archetypal Hostess Twinkie question. It’s the soft white piece of cake on the outside.  It has no meaning, no nutritive value and is uttered to appeal to the most childish type of person.  Then Ms Palin said, “Doncha want to return to the America that respected values, like honest hard work?  Values like believing in God and the family?” This is the payoff, the creamy center, made from shortening, corn syrup, fructose, sodium glycol and unspecified binding agents.  It does not require teeth to be eaten.  It does not require a mind to give pleasure to childish people.  It just needs to be sweet and gooey.
            The Progresso Soup people are looking for an honest lunch in a can.  The packaging of Progresso Soup conveys a return to old-country quality and nutrition.  If it was called “Progress Soup” it would sound cold and industrialized.  The addition of the “O” transforms it to grandma’s home made blend of split peas, onions, celery, noodles and chunks of chicken.  It became so successful that it forced Campbells to make better soups.  You know, the soups that NFL players’ moms force them to eat.
            I’m not saying that a Progresso Person won’t eat a Twinky or that a Twinky person won’t eat Progresso Soup.
            The point I’m making is that there are a lot of people in this country with empty minds.  They have no curiosity, and are too lazy to figure things out for themselves.  They are content to be fed the intellectual equivalent of cake and candy.  Due to their lazy childishness, these people are easy to manipulate.  That’s what scares me.  Twinkie people are being lied to.  They are being told that Progresso Soup people are not real Americans, that they’re trying to undermine the constitution and destroy the values imbued in this country by the Founding Fathers.
            They believe these lies because they want to, because it’s easier to believe a comforting lie than to search out a truth that might not go koochy koochy koo.
            Twinkie People are slowly being turned into mobs who will chase Progresso Soup people down the street, force them to hide in attics, and, sooner or later, put them on trains going nowhere.
            We will look a little odd when they make us wear Progresso Soup labels on our jackets.  However, we will be squirting little doses of Ecstasy into the creamy centers of their Twinkies, so I expect the results to be worth the struggle.