Confessions of a Verbivore

March 11, 2014

Jim Marks Interview: Thoughts on the Fujifilm X-T1

Filed under: Fujifilm,Photography — jargontalk @ 8:52 am

Jim Marks Interview – Thoughts on the Fujifilm X-T1.

Commercial photographer and director Jim Marks has successfully built his career as a commercial photographer and director of over 20 years. Here he offers his impressions on the new Fujifilm X-T1, and some of this is surprising.

March 7, 2014

What’s Up With All These #SOSVenezuela Hashtags?

Filed under: Verbivore — jargontalk @ 6:14 pm

jargontalk:

FYI: Venezuela is among the most dangerous countries in the world, even more dangerous than some countries in war. In Iraq 9,472 people were killed during 2013; in Venezuela that number was +24,700. That’s more than double and it represents a murder every 20 minutes. What worsens it is the impunity; what could we expect if 92% of crimes go unsolved? Fear is the norm. More here…

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

Let me tell you how you just became an important part of an entire country’s future. Maybe you care, maybe you don’t, but if you are reading this it’s because you are at least curious. So please, keep reading… At least so you look knowledgable when someone else talks about the subject around you. What you decide to do later with what I am about to tell you is a different subject.

So, what’s going on?

Venezuela has been under the governance of Hugo Chavez’s ideology – Socialism of the XXI Century – for the last 15 years. I will try not to get into my personal beliefs and opinions about the system, but the fact is that the opposition has been constantly growing and now is, or at least seems to be, the vast majority. The country is facing an economic and social crisis, but the…

View original 1,466 more words

February 21, 2014

The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night – and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch

Filed under: Verbivore — jargontalk @ 7:51 am

jargontalk:

Venezuela’s domestic media blackout is joined by a parallel international blackout, one born not of censorship but of disinterest and inertia. It’s hard to express the sense of helplessness you get looking through these pages and finding nothing. Venezuela burns; nobody cares.

Originally posted on Caracas Chronicles:

San Cristobal ayer

San Cristobal on Tuesday night

Dear International Editor:

Listen and understand. The game changed in Venezuela last night. What had been a slow-motion unravelling that had stretched out over many years went kinetic all of a sudden.

What we have this morning is no longer the Venezuela story you thought you understood.

Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and  storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting.

People continue to be arrested merely for protesting, and a long established local Human Rights NGO makes an urgent plea for an investigation into widespread reports of torture of detainees. There are now dozens of serious human right abuses: National Guardsmen shooting tear gas canisters directly into residential buildings. We have videos of soldiers shooting civilians on the street.

And that’s…

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January 21, 2014

Bill Gates predicts there will be almost no poor countries by 2035

Filed under: Verbivore — jargontalk @ 7:40 am

jargontalk:

“We hear these myths raised at international conferences and at social gatherings. We get asked about them by politicians, reporters, students, and CEOs. All three reflect a dim view of the future, one that says the world isn’t improving but staying poor and sick, and getting overcrowded. We’re going to make the opposite case, that the world is getting better, and that in two decades it will be better still.”

Originally posted on Quartz:

In their foundation’s just-released annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates attempt to debunk three pervasive myths in development economics:

  1. “Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.”
  2. “Foreign aid is a big waste.”
  3. “Saving lives leads to overpopulation.”

From the letter’s introduction:

We hear these myths raised at international conferences and at social gatherings. We get asked about them by politicians, reporters, students, and CEOs. All three reflect a dim view of the future, one that says the world isn’t improving but staying poor and sick, and getting overcrowded.

We’re going to make the opposite case, that the world is getting better, and that in two decades it will be better still.

When it comes to poor countries’ prospects for escaping poverty, Bill Gates, who wrote the section addressing the first myth, is particularly optimistic:

By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. Almost all countries…

View original 355 more words

January 19, 2014

Spam: Don’t you love it?

Filed under: 'Net Scams — jargontalk @ 8:35 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Now that I have your attention, let me explain.

From the beginning of the Internet as we know it years ago, the transmission of junk email, what we now refer to as spam, has been expressly prohibited. There are many variations of the story about how Gary Thuerk, a marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corp., sent his first mass e-mailing to 400 customers over the Arpanet in 1978, hoping to get attention for Digital’s new T-series of VAX systems. He was scolded and told not to do it again, but it was enough to earn him the title of the ‘Father of Spam’… and as the scale of the spam problem has grown, ISPs and the public have turned to government for relief from spam, which has failed to materialize.

Spam folder Taking us a quantum leap forward to today, most of us have an email system that has a junk mail or spam folder, one in which most of the unsolicited (or potentially dangerous) messages are dumped periodically. I had occasion recently to check my spam folder when a friend sent a message complaining that I had not responded to an earlier message. Checked and retrieved it, but what I also found was an amazing array of junk email from around the globe, and the array of topics ranged from hilarious to ridiculous.

There were a number of “Your future starts here!” messages from a familiar online university, along with other online courses for a “Degree for Criminal Justice.” Nice, except that I already have degrees. There were numerous offers for “Swiss Luxury Watch Replicas,” fakes bearing such names as Rolex, Omega, Breitling and others, and from many sites. Don’t need a “Replica Omega Seamaster 007 James Bond” watch; I’ll stick to my real Seikos, thank you. And a number of offers from various sources offering a “shocking new video presentation” if I “want to sleep with 6 girls in the next 6 days” which were reminiscent of a particular scene from Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant 1987 film Full Metal Jacket.

But the best of the best were offers like these that follow, and the more interesting misspellings and grammar errors are highlighted, since that is one basic way of detecting email scams at a glance. These are just a few that I found  

FBI Foreign Fund Payment Advice (Treat as urgent) !

FBI Headquarters
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
From The Desk of James B. Comey, Director Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI).

ATTENTION:- Beneficiary,

We have series of Financial cases like (Unpaid Foreign Debts) that needs to be urgently resolve.

NOTE: The National Central Bureau of Interpol Enhanced by the United Nations and Federal Bureau of Investigation have successfully passed a mandate to the current president of Nigeria his Excellency President Good luck Jonathan to boost the exercise of clearing all foreign debts owed to individuals and organizations who have been found not to have receive their Contract Sum, Lottery/Gambling, Inheritance and the likes.

Fortunately, It is obvious that you have not receive your Contract Fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria which is to the tune of US$25,000,000.00 (Twenty Five Million United States Dollars) Therefore to effect the release of your fund, you are advice to contact the Governor Central Bank of Nigeria in person of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi for immediate transfer of your fund.

Contact the CBN Office Below to claim your fund:
Central Bank of Nigeria,
Plot 33, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Way
Central Business District,
Cadastral Zone,
Abuja, Federal Capital Territory,
Nigeria
Tel:- +2347010782314
Private Email Contact: slamido20@###.com
Contact Person:- Mr.Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (Governor) CBN.

You are advised to contact the Governor with your details as stated below:
You’re Name……………
Phone Number……………
Occupation……………Age……………
Unpaid Amount……………
Country……………
Finally, if you need more confidence/informations on this payment, don’t hesitate to call us. TELEPHONE: (908) 355-9969

Best Regard,
James B. Comey
Director Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI)
N/B: Treat The Above Notification Highly Crucial!

Then there was this brief gem from “Western Union Office®” that noted this in its entirety:

The sum of Three Hundred Thousand Dollars USD has been deposited here in WESTERN UNION OFFICE by the United Nations Organization.Kindly contact us for more informations.
Contact Email: wumt.dept@it###.ro 

Mr.Jack Brown
Customer Service
Western Union Office®

Another good one had this header: Can You Get this Done?

Dear Friend,

   My Name is Dr. Miss Melissa Ali Abdul I got you esteemed contact during my comprehensive research for a reliable and trustworthy individual in your country.  I will need your help in this situation I find myself.

Load of crapI am, really afraid and don’t know whom to confide in. I am a medical doctor working with NATO currently in Syria. I am a Citizen of Libya, and I made some money during Gaddafi’s regime.
I have kept it as secret for a little while and I need someone I can trust to work and transfer this money out of Syria as a Medical documents. Please I will need your help on this as I can forfeit 20 per cent of this money to make sure it is safely used for me, until I leave the army next year… I will be revealing the said amount immediately you give me your word of confidence to go ahead for this is a very huge amount of money.
Expecting your reply soonest for time is not on my side,
 
Best Regards
Dr. Miss Melissa Ali Abdul
dr.missmelissa_a@yah##.com

One of the best was from a Mr. Philip Palmer, which stated:

Good day,

I work with a Diplomatic Corp that holds special and valuable consignments for reputable clients that are honest and trustworthy.scammer We work in collaboration with top firms all over the world as we have earned a name as a service whose hallmarks in reliability and confidentiality are revered. International missions, Diplomats, Embassies of the world have used our services to satisfaction. A benefactor has mandated me to get someone that can assist her and her family in retrieving her package containing some amount of money from a Diplomatic Corp. The benefactor and her children have been confined only to their country home and all their calls and movements are monitored, as a result,its absolutely impossible for them to do anything as regards retrieving the money. Their only means of communication is via internet and you are being contacted because your assistance is needed in claiming the funds on their behalf. The amount was accrued from Diamond sales over a period of six years and it is USD35M (Thirty-Five Million)
These funds are fully free of any liens, or encumbrances and are clean, clear and has no criminal origin. The funds have nothing to do with any form of illegality and all documentation needed to prove the source of the funds were submitted when the funds were being deposited and these documents would prove the source of the funds and authenticate the fact that the funds are clean and has no links whatsoever with either drugs or terrorism. For your assistance in this transaction,the benefactor and her Children have agreed to give you 30% of the total amount of money which is equivalent to (Ten Million, Five  Hundrend Thousand United States Dollars) and this role simply entails retrieving the funds on their behalf from the Diplomat in USA and all the information needed to claim the funds would be sent to you as soon as you indicate your interest in assisting them as well as providing the following information to facilitate the smooth conclusion of the transaction.

1) Your Full Name and Age: ___________________________
2) Your Address and Occupation:_______________________________
3) Your Telephone Number:________________________
4) Your Fax Number: __________________________
5) Your Mobile Number:_____________________________
6) The Name of the Closest Airport to your City of Residence:______

I await your response Urgently.
With trust,
Mr. Philip Palmer.

Most of these so far have been funny or pitiful, depending on your point of view, and are based on the well-documented Advance Fee Scams, also known as 419 Scams. But finally there was this deplorable message from an parasitic individual by the name of one Bojing wang. It had a Malaysian email address which appeared in Project Honey Pot, the web based network which uses software embedded in web sites to collect information about IP addresses used when harvesting email addresses for spam or other similar purposes such as bulk mailing and e-mail fraud:

Urgent E-mail….Please Respond Immediately.

Good Day

I must first tender an apology for this unsolicited mail to you. I am conscious that this is certainly not a proper manner of approach to foster a relationship of trust but because of the circumstances and urgency surrounding this venture I decided to reach you via this medium to join me put claims on this fund before it is seized or confiscated by the authorities. A Business Magnate who lived in China for Nineteen years but died with family during the TYPHOON HAIYAN attack that happened in the PHILIPPINES On Friday the 8th of November 2013 . See links below.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24863480
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24878801

Do not be amazed by this letter, I am contacting you based on Trust and confidentiality that is attached to this transaction.
Before the catastrophe; This business man deposited the sum of $18.4M (EIGHTEEN MILLION, FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND US DOLLARS) with our bank and as the Auditor General of the Bank, the Board of Directors mandated me to present a member of the family (heir/inheritor) to make claims or the funds will be confiscated and taken to the Bureau as unclaimed. I was given an ultimatum to look for a relative to come for the claim or have the funds liquidated by the Chinese Government and made unserviceable in accordance with existing Chinese law.
 
After preliminary efforts of search for a direct family member which came to no avail, I decided to contact you. My suggestion is that I will like to present you as the beneficiary to this fund, I know you may not be anyway related to my late client but there is a possibility that the fund will be released to you. I guarantee that if you are willing and interested, I will put all in place in accordance with the Law to legally present you as the Next of Kin and true beneficiary.
scam alertThis transaction is 100% risk free as I have worked all out to complete the operation effectively. Once this fund is released to you, it will be shared in the ratio of 40% for you, and 60% for me as our benefit. Each ($7.4 Million for you) and ($11.04 Million for me). Please endeavor to get back to me whether you are willing to collaborate with me or not so that I can further my search for another partner.

I wait for your prompt response.
Kindest Regards,
Bojing wang

Should note that any of these that I viewed was done with a incognito browser session, so that pages viewed won’t appear in your browser history or search history, and they won’t leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close all open incognito windows. But be aware that going incognito doesn’t affect the behavior of other people, servers, or software, and you should be wary of sites that collect or share information about you, or Internet service providers or employers that track the pages you visit. If you use Google Chrome, there is more info here.

In any case, check your spam or junk email folder occasionally. My personal Gmail settings note that messages that have been in Spam more than 30 days will be automatically deleted, and there were +250 there when last checked and then cleaned out.

Checking it was informative but also good to see Google’s classic message:  Hooray, no spam here!

January 18, 2014

HONY: Brandon Stanton’s photographic tribute to his adopted city

Filed under: Books,Photography — jargontalk @ 3:20 am
Tags: ,

New York City is many special things to different people. For some it’s museums, for others the New York Public Library. For some it’s performances at Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater or any number of Broadway plays and musicals. For others it is the world-famous landmarks: Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building or thousands of other places, too many to mention here.

But New York City is really about one other thing: people.

Photographer Brandon Stanton has captured this in Humans of New York, his debut book… it has skyrocketed on the various book charts since its publication in October 2013, and for good reason. Based on his HONY blog, which now has over two million followers and fans, this book is a visual delight of about 400 photos of the people that he has encountered in his travels across the five boroughs that make up New York City. His people images make a gorgeous, sometimes funny, truly genuine, and often moving compilation of photos that capture the spirit of the city through its diverse people in often inspiring ways.

humans-of-new-yorkBrandon Stanton did not start his career with the goal of becoming a photographer, as he explains in the introduction of this book. He noted that while working as a bond trader in Chicago, he spent his weekends with a camera that he had acquired in 2010, and that photography "felt like a treasure hunt." After losing his job as a trader, he traveled to various American cities, but his first impressions of NYC were unforgettable, as he notes in the intro:

"I remember the moment my bus emerged from the Lincoln Tunnel and I saw the city for the first time. The sidewalks were covered with people. The buildings were impressive, but what struck me most were the people. There were tons of them. And they all seemed to be in a hurry. That night, I created a photo album for my New York photos. I called it ‘People of New York.’"

From that simple beginning, the rest became photographic history; from his early attempts at a Web page, he discovered social media in the form of Facebook and Tumbler. Fans of his images reacted, and soon became regular followers. At first it was hundreds, then thousands, and zooming forwards to today, his Facebook page has over two million loyal followers, and hundreds commenting on his images daily, with many of those sharing his people photos to their own pages. Each of these is a capsule of a moment in time.

On these pages we see everyday people as encountered by many of us on the New York streets; subway images, people in Central Park, in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, by the Strand Book Store in Downtown Manhattan, at the Brooklyn Museum and at Manhattan’s iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art. We see a young well-dressed girl in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel, a well-dressed older woman at the Waldorf-Astoria, people carrying boxes of pizza as gifts for the firefighters (the owner refused payment), people at Union Square on 14th Street, and a Marine recruiter in uniform on the street in Downtown Manhattan. Some are camera shy, while others are striking a pose.

And there are some that stand out, strikingly so. We see the full-page view of the model in her black and white striped evening gown at Lincoln Center, the chess players at Washington Square Park, people with their pets, the Sikh gentleman whose gentle smile is hidden behind his iconic mustache and beard, and the two page image of two ballet students captured in a lunchtime pose, standing in front of a steam grate in Tribeca. It is this same image that has served as the iconic avatar on HONY’s Facebook page.

There are people at play, at work, sleeping on benches in parks, dancing, eating, kissing, hugging, and frolicking in the water gushing from fire hydrants. We find people of all ethnic backgrounds, and of all ages, from teenagers to folks in their nineties, to children. There are many superb images of children here, and they must captivate Stanton, as it is said that he will be publishing a children’s book, "Little Humans" in 2014.

There are captions, though they are limited and to the point. Maybe because Stanton is upbeat and not condescending, so his captions never stereotype, even when he photographs people that close-minded individuals might think of as "sketchy" or strange. His book radiates his own natural curiosity, along with diversity, appreciation and respect for the people that he photographs. For open-minded people watchers, this book is a treasure.

It’s difficult to classify this as a traditional coffee table photo book, if just by size alone. HONY-800x800a1My copy is 304-page hardcover first edition printed in the U.S. with a vellum cover, and published by St. Martin’s Press on October 15th, 2013.  It measures 9.2 x 7.3 x 1 inches, which is hardly a coffee table book like another favorite, The New York Times Magazine Photographs by Kathleen Ryan. That Aperture edition measures 12.2 x 10.5 x 1.8 inches, a good bit larger.

On a personal and highly subjective basis, I rank Brandon Stanton’s book right up there with Robert Frank’s The Americans, a powerful book in post-WWII American photography. First published in 1959, his black and white photos were remarkable for their distanced view of both high and low strata of American society of the time. In contrast to Stanton’s book, there is an element of sadness, even despair, in some of the images, but there is joy as well.

To many, New Yorkers are standoffish, cold and impersonal. For those of us who have spent time on the streets here, this is generally not so, and as a relative newcomer to the city, Brandon Stanton has proven that to be a myth. I am reminded of this quote that was written down when it was passed on by a friend:

"My favorite thing about New York is the people, because I think they’re misunderstood. I don’t think people realize how kind New York people are."
~ Bill Murray, Moviefone interview, April 27th, 2010

What makes Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York so different is that it is not about high-profile celebrities. It features people who aren’t normally documented, who one might find anywhere on the New York streets if one just looks. It’s a book that I have already gifted to some special friends, ones who also enjoy real people in everyday settings. It’s not just a personal favorite, but one that may well go down in books of NYC street photography as a landmark chronicle of this era. Only time will tell.

• Note: Portions of this review originally appeared on Amazon.com on January 2nd, 2014

January 15, 2014

Fujifilm X Magazine – Issue 2 reader images 1/3

Filed under: Fujifilm — jargontalk @ 8:32 am

Always worth viewing:

Fujifilm X Magazine – Issue 2 reader images 1/3.

November 25, 2013

Still the Sexiest Profession Alive

Filed under: Verbivore — Harvard Business Review @ 4:23 pm

Harvard Business Review:

Food for thought…

It will pay to remember that no matter what the setting, the difference between sufficient and sexy isn’t competence as much as curiosity. And what makes someone hot isn’t professionalism. It’s passion.

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

In a week when People magazine announced its annual “Sexiest Man Alive,” I can’t help recalling an HBR article Tom Davenport and I published last year that was titled along similar lines. We called it “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.”

The headline got some laughs, but no one seriously debated the point once they understood how we were defining “hot.” Data scientists are very much in demand as companies grapple with the challenge of making valuable discoveries from Big Data. They’re often exotic, coming from data-oriented scientific backgrounds rather than MBA programs. And they tend to be mavericks, moving between business and IT colleagues and challenging the perspectives of both.

But a year has now passed. Do they still, as a group, deserve the honor?

First, let’s be clear—data science is still sexy. There continues to be a huge appetite on the part of businesses…

View original 522 more words

April 1, 2012

Remembering Harry

Filed under: Authors,Obit — jargontalk @ 7:14 pm
Tags: ,

Author Harry Crews is no longer with us.

He was an outspoken fellow former Marine, a teacher, a literary mentor to me, and yes, an occasional drinking buddy in Gainesville during my college days of the ‘70s. Harry Crews 70s 01aHe lived what he wrote about, and his verbal tales of his experiences were often far more colorful than his books. He was one of those memorable originals who lived his life to the fullest. We had been out of contact for years when I first learned of his passing through an obituary in the New York Times.

Harry Crews was a storyteller with a gift for making art of the poverty, brutality, and often bizarre settings of his native South. His raucous novels about derelict but sympathetic folks earned him a special place among the greats of Southern Gothic literature, authors such as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Erskine Caldwell, to name a few. Early in his career, novelist Norman Mailer commented: "Harry Crews has a talent all his own. He begins where James Dickey (the author of Deliverance) left off." But Harry’s characters were always his own.

He wrote plays, essays, short stories, and novels. He wrote about Georgia rattlesnake rodeos, midgets, traveling evangelists, violent alcoholics and even depicted a man who ate an entire Ford Maverick… a few ounces at a time. But all along he demonstrated a true empathy for his broken down characters, many of whom had just been trying to escape from the hardships of their bitter lives.

Just like his fictional characters, Harry Crews lived a rough life. As a youngster he was often laid up with an undiagnosed infirmity that caused paralysis and spasms, which prompting visits from faith healers. Around age six he fell into a tub of boiling water used to skin butchered hogs. Stories became his refuge amid the poverty of his youth “in the worst hookworm and rickets part of Georgia.” His mother’s second, turbulent marriage and divorce from a drunken uncle whom Crews had been led to believe was his natural father; shuttled back and forth as his mother tried to raise he and an older brother, earning a living in a factory ghetto of Jacksonville, Florida… these and other experiences would feed his desire to imagine, to create and, ultimately, to write. He served three years in the Marine Corps, and on the G.I. Bill he studied at the University of Florida with novelist Andrew Lytle, who profoundly influenced his writing. He and his wife, Sally, married and divorced twice. One of their sons, Patrick, drowned in a neighbor’s pool at age 4.

Harry Crews SnakesHarry’s first novel, The Gospel Singer, was the one that came to wide notice. Published in 1968, this book about a traveling evangelist who meets a vivid fate in a Georgia town introduced us to characters of the type that would occupy his later novels: sideshow freaks, a runaway lunatic and a sociopath or two. It was the first of his books that I had read, even before I later met him in Gainesville. And it was his book A Feast of Snakes (1976) which concerns a Georgia town’s obsessive fixation on their annual rattlesnake rodeo that is considered by many to be his finest novel, and it’s still a personal favorite.

His 1978 memoir, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, was a masterpiece in which Harry wrote about his birthplace, a sharecropper’s cabin at the end of a dirt road, paying homage to rural South Georgia, "all its loveliness and all its ugliness."

Harry Crews Childhood“I first became fascinated with the Sears catalogue because all the people in its pages were perfect. Nearly everybody I knew had something missing, a finger cut off, a toe split, an ear half-chewed away, an eye clouded with blindness from a glancing fence staple. And if they didn’t have something missing, they were carrying scars from barbed wire, or knives, or fishhooks. But the people in the catalogue had no such hurts. They were not only whole, had all their arms and legs and eyes on their unscarred bodies, but they were also beautiful.”
― Harry Crews, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place

A decade characterized by drug and alcohol abuse and creative lapses ended in 1987 with the publication of his ninth novel, All We Need of Hell. He loved drinking, which I witnessed during those days in Gainesville… and it almost killed him. He had his share of fist-fights and arrests in small-town bars; I never witnessed them, but heard of the local legends about it. He once awoke from a bender in Alaska with a tattoo of a hinge stamped in the bend of his right elbow. His writing slowed down until he got sober in the late 1980s.

Over the years, Harry also penned stories for magazines such as Playboy, and he wrote a column called "Grits" for Esquire, covering Southern rural topics as dog fighting, cockfighting contests and gator poaching.  Before retiring in the ‘90s, he had taught writing for many years at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Published abroad in the U.K. since 1972, Harry’s works have been translated into Dutch, Italian, French, Basque, Hebrew, and German. In 2002, the University of Georgia Libraries honored Harry for his literary output, inducting him into the library’s Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, and his extensive files of papers were acquired by the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library of the University of Georgia in August 2006. In 2009 the Florida Arts Council inducted him into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

Harry played a brief role in Sean Penn’s 1991 film The Indian Runner and dedicated his book Scar Lover to Penn. In 2007, a documentary was released by filmmaker Tyler Turkle: Harry Crews – Survival is Triumph Enough. The personal format is loosely based on an interview, and the themes explored include hardship, tragedy and loss throughout the Crews’ life.

Harry-Crews-mohawk 01aAfter a long illness caused in part by a couple motorcycle accidents, Harry Crews died at 76 on March 28th at his home in Gainesville, the town that had been his home for over 40 years. He is survived by his ex-wife Sally Ellis Crews; his son, Byron Jason Crews, who teaches English at Wright State University; and a grandson.  Per his wishes, there was to be no service.  At the time of his death it’s said that he was at work on a novel set in the 1940s in the Springfield Section of Jacksonville, Florida.

On March 29th, Dwight Garner said it well in the New York Times:

The literary world needs its outsiders and outlaws, now more than ever, and with Mr. Crews’s passing there are very, very few of them left.

And what did I learn from Harry during those days in Gainesville?  He said it was a writer’s duty to “get naked, to hide nothing, to look away from nothing… to not blink, to not be embarrassed by it or ashamed of it. Strip it down and let’s get to where the blood is, where the bone is.” 

It was a recurring theme that he told his students, and one time he looked me straight in the eyes, telling me to write it down and said:

“If you’re gonna write, for God in heaven’s sake, try to get naked. Try to write the truth. Try to get underneath all the sham, all the excuses, all the lies that you’ve been told.”

Harry is gone, but not forgotten. His words still ring true.

 

February 26, 2012

Cold-call Scammers… they’re at it again

Filed under: 'Net Scams,Verbivore — jargontalk @ 7:27 am

Sometimes even the best anti-virus and anti-spam solutions don’t help.

It happened a few days ago, in the early afternoon. Who is this A friend and I were both working on separate computers in different rooms, each busy trying to get our work done.  The phone rang and I was oblivious to it, as I usually only answer my own cell phone.

I was barely aware of what was going on as I had a deadline to meet on a product review, and continued my work.  My friend came into the room carrying her cordless phone with a puzzled look on her face.  She asked me to take the call as she couldn’t understand what the party on the other end was saying.  I asked who was on the line and she told me that the person on the phone was calling from India and had told her, “You’re in front of your computer and we’re getting error messages.”

Scumbag Cold-callerThis had baffled her and she asked who it was.  He replied with a name that she couldn’t understand, said that he “worked for Microsoft” and repeated that she was in front of her computer and that they were “getting error messages.”

When she asked him how he could see what was on her computer, he replied, “We can see all the computers in the world.”

That’s when she decided to let me deal with him.  It was unnerving in that she doesn’t have a Webcam, and then after a couple seconds of brief conversation, I took the call, and asked to whom I was speaking.  He fumbled, answered in some unintelligible fashion and finally the third time I got it: his name was “Handel Baker”… or so he claimed.  From his accent it was clear that he was not from Louisiana or from the Bronx.  He then ordered me to go to the computer and told me that the computer was getting error messages and that they were seeing them. 

I asked him who he worked for, and Handel Baker replied, stumbling with his words as if reading from a script, “I work for Microsoft.  We are a Microsoft Solution Provider.  I am a Microsoft Certified Professional.  Go look at your computer screen and I help you with your errors.  Maybe you have a virus.”

I replied, “I’m on a Mac, not on a PC.”

Phone scammerI didn’t tell him that my friend was on a Windows PC and that it was behind a pretty heavy firewall on a secure network, but he seemed confused.  I further stated, “I’m using a MacBook Pro, and there is nothing strange on my screen.”

Poor Handel Baker was very confused now, and was getting irritated, and his already-poor English skills were rapidly breaking down as he tried to respond.  I interrupted and again asked him who he worked for, who was his employer, and he replied something to the effect of “PC Outpour” or “PC Output”… maybe it was “PC Outhouse” for all that I could understand.  I asked where his company was located.  He replied, “We in California… California.  Look at your screen!”

SCAM AlertHe was obviously getting upset, as he was not even responding in understandable English at this point.  Repeatedly I asked him to slow down and talk so that I could understand him, and again I asked him the name of his company.  I couldn’t even begin to understand his broken response, so I asked to speak to his supervisor.  This really upset him, and I had to repeat my request four or five times… and finally I got through to him.  He said, “You wait. I get my supervisor.”

There was a pause as he put me on hold, then I waited.  After about a minute, all I heard was the dial tone.  Handel Baker had hung up.

I could have left it with that, but my security-conscious side had been roused, so I immediately checked the phone number on the phone handset, and it came up as 855-791-1191.  Did a quick Google search on that number and it came up with quite a few results, actually thousands of them, and this is just one of them.  There were many more, such as this one where the same phone number is mentioned, along with a company name in one case.  It was amazing how many others had gone through similar events with calls from this number, and not just in the U.S.

PC OutHouse bannerIt didn’t take long perusing these messages, such as the detailed one here to discover that the phone number matched one particular company, PC Output, with support starting at $169.99 per year as of this writing. Further, checking their About Us page and found that PC Output is owned by Innate Global Solutions, which is located in Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, and known to many as Calcutta, where they have other business. That’s a long way from California.

And as far as Handel Baker being a “Microsoft Certified Professional” there is no indication on their site that they have any of these on their staff.  Microsoft has issued an advisory about scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently.

The first call of defense against scammers such as this outfit is to get your phone registered on the National Do Not Call Registry. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched the National Do Not Call Registry to give Americans a choice about getting telemarketing calls at home. FTC Fines are now $16,000.00 per violation, which is enough to make some of these scammers think twice.

India Call CenterThis isn’t a new phenomenon, and it’s not just confined to the US, either. In July 2012, The Guardian (UK) wrote an in-depth article about these calls from India, with the same scenario mentioned above, and there were quite a number of reader comments on this issue. A Canadian blogger wrote of a call that went, "Sir, we have reason to believe that your computer has been hacked," explaining his experience with a cold-call from India. This virus scam has grown to epidemic proportions in Canada, now accounting for over 70% of frauds reported daily to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre (CAFC), and causing them to post this alert and remedy.

In the US, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a co-sponsored by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and if you’re a victim, complaints may be filed here. Complaints filed at their website are processed and may be referred to federal, state, local or international law enforcement agencies. And sometimes there are winners in these complaints, as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does go after them, and won a judgment of more than $8 million against one of these scareware scammers that was operating under a variety of names.  In this case, 300,000 of those who were stung in this scam are getting refunds. And it looks like the FTC is cracking down hard on some of the other Indian call centers as well.

One a related topic, it’s been reported that India has emerged as the world’s top source of junk mail as spammers make use of lax laws and absent enforcement to turn the country into a center of unsolicited email.  As it was reported, an average of 79.8 percent of email traffic in the three months to the end of September was junk, and of that, 14.8 percent originated in India, 10.6 percent came from Indonesia, and 9.7 percent from Brazil.  Some of these figures vary, as can be seen here, but India’s call centers are in the lead.  Spammers run the gamut from legitimate marketing firms and advertisers who have adapted telephone cold-calling techniques to the computer age to "phishers", who solicit personal data from naive recipients to defraud them, as previously described in my first hand experience.

So what can you do? 

load-o-crapMicrosoft advises that you should just hang up on phone scams such as this. One could also respond with a carefully directed (in)appropriate phrase in the Bengali or Indian languages.  It might make you feel better, but then they’re likely to respond equally in English. 

When it comes to dealing with scumbags and scammers like this, remember to put your brain in motion before putting your mouth in gear or your fingers in motion on the keyboard.  As always, good old fashioned common sense is your best defense.

Annoyed

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