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Thank you to wannabe scammer John Mark for providing today’s blog entry:

Good Day!

How are you doing? I just want to apologize for any inconvenience
this email may cause you. My name is John Mark  and i work for numerous farm
animal industry in Maresfield Gardens, United Kingdom as a marketing
consultant. The company i work for is a domestic and farm animal company which
deals with the treatment of all kinds of domestic and farm animals including
horses. Their is an Antidote which is highly needed here in my company and in
so many farm company’s here in United Kingdom.

This Antidote is known as CALVENZA EHV 1.M Injection. CALVENZA EHV 1.M Injection is an antidote which is used for the treatment of farm and domestic animals. CALVENZA EHV 1.M Injection relieves pain caused by swelling and inflammation associated with joint disease and absorbs shock in horses. This Antidote is sold in USA at a costly rate of
$5,750 USD per-carton. Recently,i found out that this Antidote is cheaper in
Malaysia and it is sold at the rate of $1,100 USD per-carton, which is very
cheap than what is been sold in USA and other countries.

The seller of this antidote in Malaysia is a woman known as Mrs. Maisarah J. Mohammed. Mrs Maisarah sells this antidote at the cost of $1,100usd while my company buys at
the rate of $4,950usd which is cheaper to them compared to the price in USA,
because my company don’t know the price of the antidote in Malaysia. Every
further details and contacts will be provided based on your determination in
handling the business.

I should have handled the business myself, but i am suffering from leukemia which cannot permit me to travel. All i need is your reliability in doing this business and in terms of the profit made from the business, 60% goes to you and 40% is mine. Feel free to write me via
jmark2874@gmail.com  for more details.

Take good care and have a nice day.

Regards,

John Mark

 

 

 

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because you writeNumber two son comes to me with his brand new laptop already strangled by malware. It’s the type of malware that tells you your computer is infected with malware, to click-here for the solution and to have your payment details handy. The malware has passed through the machine’s defences as a result of being invited to do so due to a lack of caution on the part of the user, and a desire to get sparkly free stuff from a download website. It takes a couple of hours to get rid of the problem.

Then a relative is excited at having received an email telling her she’s won £200,000,000 on the Mega Euro Lottery. All she has to do is “click here” and be ready with her personal details. I’m tasked with convincing her it’s a scam, and not to “click”.

“Did you enter such a lottery?”

“Not that I recall, but I might have been entered automatically, and what if it really is £200,000,000?”

Then number one son comes to me with his old and cranky laptop, infected – yes – with malware. This is of the type that tells you you have a “security” problem and to “click here” – again the result of a lack of understanding of the dangers of download websites, and the lure of free stuff. This was a tenacious little worm and took the whole afternoon to sort out.

Then my wife’s complaining her email is no longer working, and could I sort that one out as well? Said email account had been hacked and suspended by the service provider. Hacked how? Poor password security, easy to remember, easy for a robot to crack. The service provider’s systems responded promptly, extent of damage unknown. Crap cleared out, passwords reset, but I’m not allowed to make the password wholly secure because a secure password is impossible to remember (not true), and writing them down is bad security (very true). We compromise.

Monday evening and my aforementioned relative is contacted by telephone, and an officious, “foreign sounding” voice advises her of criminal activity on her “computer”. She does not have a computer as such – just an iPad. Is that what they’re refering to? Em yes. By now she’s suspicious and hangs up.

All of this breeds an atmosphere of siege, a paranoia there’s a determined army of bad people out there scaling the walls and trying to get at you, that computers are dangerous things best handled with rubber gloves. And without being too alarmist, I’m afraid it’s true.

I’ve worked with computers since 1977 and the legendary Sinclair ZX81. You couldn’t do a lot with that machine, but it was the start of a revolution, of computers moving into our homes. At first they did no harm, just annoyed you when they didn’t work. Then they all got networked and became the gateway to passing the contents of your bank account to a criminal.

I can deal with most of the things that ail domestic computers. Most people, however, can’t, and this makes them vulnerable. Most people in fact aren’t even aware of the risks, yet we are all pushed to getting ourselves online, every single one of us, using the leaky computer as our window on the whole of life – paying bills, applying for state benefits, managing life savings. But where there’s money involved, criminals will circle like flies around poop.

And therein lies the problem.

Probably less than ten percent of the population, the IT crowd, understand this fully networked world. Half of them are good guys, tending corporate and government systems, the rest are criminals out to steal your money. We have either trust blindly in this thing we don’t understand, or reject it, cut up our debit cards, do all our bank dealings in branch, face to face with a cashier we know because we went to school with them, and go back to using cheque books. But the branches are closing, those friendly cashiers are stacking shelves in supermarkets and cheques are no longer accepted. Even the basics in life now have to be applied for “online,” and advice is an anonymous voice at the end of a crackly line that could be coming from the other side of the universe.

There is no going back.

Our computer systems are insecure and always will be, and the majority of us citizens aren’t experts, nor can we ever be, nor should we need to be, because our lives, our real lives, are mostly lived outside that box. But there are things we can all do to minimise the risk of falling victim to Hackers and Cyber- Scammers, and unfortunately the first thing is to learn how not to trust the email or the telephone call from anyone you do not personally know – and especially not the communications claiming to be from your bank or your internet service provider.

Scams are so sophisticated we cannot trust anything that enters our home via the telephone wire. But even adopting this level of defensive caution, it’s not going to stop us from occasionally having to spend the whole weekend repairing damage, and advising others of the dangers of “clicking here”.

I’ll write some more on this later, but for now if your computer’s been strangled, visit the bleepingcomputer for a solution. I can’t recommend these guys enough.

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catrigg foss waterfallI chose Langcliffe for the start of the walk because the parking was free. Well, it was not exactly free; there is a donation box and I did donate, but the money I saved by not parking in Settle would pay for coffee later. This is austerity in personal terms, and rather petty I admit. Those truly struggling under austerity, and there are many now, would not have driven to the Dales in the first place because £20 worth of petrol goes a long way towards groceries.

It struck me recently we’ve been under the cosh of austerity since 2008. This tells me two things. One, it’s been a long time. And two, the ideology that’s driving it has either self evidently failed, or it’s driving us in another direction, that in fact it has not failed at all but succeeded in bringing about a state of political and social affairs that has basically reordered society into one that is less equal.

What this means in practical terms is penny pinching on a scale so grand our ears are filled daily with the sound of gears grinding as our machine runs down. There is a shrinking back to the Gradgrind-glory years of the Victorian era, an age when we sent little orphan boys up chimneys and down the mines to work the narrow seams, because they were cheap and expendable. We did not value life. We are being taught again only to value our own, that a person drowned in the Med is not a person, but something less than that.

Anyway, Langcliffe. This is a walk I’ve done before, many times: Catrigg force, the Attermire Scars and the Warrendale Knots. I wrote about it here. My return was on account of a free day and insufficient time to plan anything new. But with a familiar route, freed from the responsibility of navigation, the mind can turn to other things. The weather was promising, the morning peeling open after overnight rains to a mixture of sunshine and humidity.

Someone tried to get my email logins by phishing. I was sufficiently webwise not to succumb. Meanwhile the BBC tells me of a woman who was targeted by phone scammers, tricked into thinking her bank account was under attack and so sought to transfer funds to safety. She lost it all to the scammers. This leaves a sour taste.

This and Austerity. But are the two things not the same?

2008.

A long time.

Hitler was defeated in five.

This economic crisis is taking longer.

Unless it is not a crisis,

But a change of paradigm.

 

Some have grown fat from austerity, but most have grown lean. Then some have sought to join the ranks of the fat by foul and ingenious means, by preying on the poor and the lean and the hungry, because like in Victorian times the poor are once more cheap and expendable, and easily vilified into a thing less than human. Into perhaps a scrounger? Nobody cares about the poor.

But the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales managed to work a little of its magic on my soul. At Catrigg though, I felt unwell, my vision whiting out as I descended the shady sylvan dell, after strong sunshine on the open moor above. I don’t know what this was about but I didn’t panic. Were I to have expired alone at Catrigg, I can think of no finer setting.

He was at peace, they said.

As it was I sat only a while with a sandwich and fruit and quiet thoughts as the water roared through the narrow slit. Then, feeling better, I carried on.

It’s possible something has happened this summer. Many feel the way I do; fearful; alarmed by an ideology that seems unshakable in its grip, and which has razed the familiar ground, so there is no path now for my children to follow. Instead, they must follow the directions of the suited man with his slick coiffure and oily smile, and take their place in the minimum wage economy, regardless of whether they have a university educations or not.

It may fizzle out in a few weeks time, this thing, or it may lead on to a kind of rebellion. Not just here, but across the West and wherever the suited man sits fat. Men are appearing, dishevelled, articulate. Yesterday’s men, the suits tell us, but then they would. The dishevelled men fill assembly halls and football stadiums. They speak a language that is nostalgic to the old, yet new to the young. It will collapse of course, but not before it brings about a change in the other direction – I hope.

The walk is more up and down than I remember, more of a pull on the leg muscles, though I comfort myself this is probably on account of the stretching I did at Kung Fu the night before. In April you will find the early Purple Orchid sprouting in profusion along the base of the Attermire Scars. Today I found the delicate Hare bell, and other blooms so small one would need a glass to see them properly.

It was cold on the tops, a cold wind icifying the sweat on my back whenever I stopped, so I kept moving, munching a Kit-kat as I went. Dark chocolate and bright white limestone. The world could be going to hell in a handcart, quite possibly is so far as I can tell, but so long as I get my Kit-Kat of a morning, I can find it within me to remain magnanimous.

In the pastures by the Warrendale knots there were long haired cattle, reddish brown. Calves sat easy, nudged udders. One cow stood aside, silent and serene in expectation, as wide as she was tall, her calf still basking in the warm hinterland of the womb. A lone white bull moved among them. The path took me through the herd. I made delicate adjustments, startled none. A hundred tons of beef, but not aggressive. Had they the intelligence to be cognisant of their fate, would they have been so easy in my company? Had we been cognisant of ours in 2008, would we have been so easy too?

I return to Langcliffe, hill-achy and bone tingling tired. The church is having a sale of books and CD’s. I am searching for a copy of Belladonna. Stevie Nicks. 1981-ish. I could buy it online for about a fiver, but am holding off, thinking to discover it in a charity shop for £2.00. I have been searching for years.

Why so selective? I spend £20 on petrol for a walk in the Dales, but I won’t spend a fiver on an old CD that I tell myself I really want. Or is it that I resist the siren call of Stevie Nicks. Stevie is nostalgia.

My moods are mysterious.

I did not go into the church. I peeled my boots off, sat a while, let my feet cool, changed my shirt, then dropped the top and took the car across the moor to Malham.

There are moments of happiness. They come suddenly. Unexpected. It’s a rough old road to Malham from Lancliffe – quite a climb up the zigzags into a lonely wonderland of limestone country. The car’s done 80,000 now, still drives like new and with a punch on the climbs that delights and surprises. And then there are these moments, when we’re rattling along, I swear the tyres dissolve and we’re flying, and the land is not the land at all but clouds on which the scenery has been painted. Then the heart opens and I am smiling at the lightness of my being.

I stop for coffee at Malham, having joined some dots on the map. But it’s a strange country opening before us now. And 2008 is a very long time ago.

Anyway, let’s keep that drive

in mind.

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baywatchOkay, sorry about that. But now I’ve got your attention, here’s a sexy Schatz and Sohne torsion clock, made in West Germany, circa 1973 – and until recently, broken. I saw it on “The Bay” over Christmas, popping up of a sudden with a “buy it now” option, so, this being my sort of thing, I bought it. It cost me £15, and I’ve spent about £10 on bits and pieces to get it going. It was reluctant to run at first, but a good clean, a light oiling and a bit of tinkering seems to have released the life in it. There’s quite a lusty swing to the pendulum now and it looks just grant sitting on top of my bookcase. I wound it fully on Saturday and it shouldn’t need winding again until next February.

schatz

You can get virtually anything on Ebay of course. The upside is this helps to keep old things, like my broken clock, in circulation, things that might otherwise end up on the tip. That ugly wooden duck ornament? Those jeans that no longer fit? That hat you bought for a wedding and don’t know what to do with now? Rest assured someone, somewhere in the world wants it and will buy it from you – they just have to know it’s there, and Ebay facilitates that knowlege very well. But there is another side to Ebay that says much about human nature, and you see it when you start bidding for items.

Bidding isn’t like the “buy it now” option. Not all items are listed as “buy it now”. “Buy it now” is just online shopping, while “bidding” is more a competition in which stuff is no longer “bought” but “won”.

When bidding you decide first what’s the maximum you’re prepared to pay, then enter small bids up to that limit. Clearly, if someone is prepared to pay more than you, and puts in a higher bid than your limit, you are no longer winning; you are losing, and nobody like to lose. It’s at this point you should walk away, but instead you are tempted to forget what you think a thing is actually worth, and you switch to an ego driven mindset based upon how much you want it. And how much we want a thing increases in proportion to the degree we think we are being denied it. When that happens, there are no longer any limits.

There was another broken clock I fancied on the Bay last weekend. It had been on for about a week, with a single enticing bid of just £3. I began to bid on Sunday morning, the day the auction ended. I offered an initial £3.50, while setting my automatic maximum bid to £15, because that’s the most I thought it was worth, and I wasn’t going to budge beyond it. I was outbid immediately, my limit burned away by a bidder far more determined to have it than I was. Then I sat back as other bidders joined in the frenzy, and I watched in disbelief as the “value” of that £3.00 broken clock ran up towards £40. I hope the winner was happy with their prize, and thought it worth the money; I’m sure the seller will be even happier.

It was interesting, observing the desire to “win” flickering in my own breast. It was tempting to join in, to not be denied this thing I’d been watching for days. And as the time ticked down to the closing of the auction, I hovered on the brink of upping my bid. I could have put a maximum of £100 on it, and probably won, but that would have been to take leave of my senses. This is why auction houses are so successful. On Ebay there’s no auctioneer adding their own helium to inflate prices even further, but it’s still the perfect forum for demonstrating the power of want over need, and the relegation of a thing’s actual value to the human desire for its possession.

It’s fun, Baywatching, but when it comes to bidding, beware that ego; you really have to know when to walk away. It’s much safer to watch out for those “buy it now” items, and if the price is fair, go for it. Don’t get caught up in a bidding war, because no matter how much you might want that piece of junk, it’s probably not worth what you’ll end up paying for it.

And just when I thought it was safe to go back into the water: a new listing! A Bentima torsion clock with a lovely little Kern movement, all for a fiver and a “buy it now” button. Okay, losers, this one’s mine!

Here it is, in bits:

bentima
That should keep me quiet for a while.

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tennerSo, you run a blog, you self-publish online, but your presence is like one small star in the firmament. How do you get noticed? How do you drive traffic to your stuff? Well, I have this killer idea, and one I’m going to be foolish enough to share with you. Be warned though, my view on this topic is typically eccentric, to say nothing of ambivalent.

For a start, I’m no good at blowing my own trumpet. It just seems immodest, so I don’t do it. I have a lot of work online, including several novels that amount to decades of work, and they just sit there waiting for the occasional passer by. They do get downloaded, two or three times a day on average, and since I’m giving them away, it makes no sense to market them.

Or does it? Maybe I should think about it – I mean doing this thing I’ve thought about, and which I’m going to share with you.

For the independent author big marketing budgets are a thing of fantasy, and you really don’t want to be spending a lot of your own money. You can do it the free “gorilla” way of course, illegally plastering advertising notices and GR codes all over the place. Indeed, gorilla marketing sounds fun, but it also sounds like a cross between littering and graffiti to me, with a big arrow pointing back to whodunnit. The closest I came to Gorilla marketing was once pencilling my web address on the fly leaf of a paperback novel which I then recycled through a charity shop. Again this seemed immodest, and it’s had no noticeable effect on my fame or fortune.

Serves me right.

But that’s not my killer idea. My idea can’t fail, and it’s this:

Let’s for arguments sake say, I’ve hidden an envelope of money somewhere, maybe behind a lamp-post, or in a crack in a wall, or under a flowerpot, and that the precise grid coordinates are embedded in one of my posts – or maybe as a cryptic clue in one of my novels. I mean, you’ve only to mention “free money” in your tags and people do crazy things. I have a fancy it might even go viral, then I’d get hundreds of thousands of prospective treasure seekers scouring my every word for clues, downloading my novels like crazy, and sending my hit-rates stratospheric.

I don’t know why others haven’t thought of this. And there needn’t be a lot of money involved – perhaps even a humble tenner would do it, and that’s hardly going to break the bank, is it?

But on the downside, those treasure seekers, scouring my writing for clues would not be interested in my words – only in the money I’d hidden. Again, it seems immodest, adding to this the even bigger sin of cynicism, and of course there’d be a lot of broken flower pots. So don’t waste your time reading back through my archives – unless you really want to of course. I did think about it, briefly, as a bit of fun, after reading about this mysterious Twitter bod who’s been hiding money all over LA. But my stuff is what it is, and if you find it I’m glad, but if you don’t, I don’t mind. It puts me in the company of a lot of other writers.

Instead I spent half of that tenner on coffee, and an egg and bacon butty this afternoon.  The other half went on some more novels from the charity shop

Or maybe it didn’t.

#free money 😉

Graeme out

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because you writeAll bloggers like to get “liked” and we can’t help wondering what it is about the “liker” that caused them to “like” us. So, we click the links and see what those “likers” are up to. It’s part of the fun of blogging and I’m sure you’ve made many stimulating contacts this way – souls treading a similar path, and others who are not. But an increasing number of likers seem to be missing the point, mainly because they don’t read our blogs before “liking” them. I know this because I once posted a blank page by accident, and five people liked it within seconds. If we then follow these curious links back to their owners we discover a new breed of bloggers whose blogs have only one category, its raison d’etre being to share with us the secret of how we can all make a lucrative and easy living “online” – just by clicking a few links – and presumably by randomly liking other people’s blogs to attract “business”. You just have to send some money first. These poor souls are not bloggers of course, they are the victims of Multi-Layered-Marketing scams, whose promised millions in earnings, and retirements to the sun depend on getting others to sign up. So the victims sell out their friends and relations first, then wonder who else to target with their vacuous nonsense.

Anyone who has read my work will know how ironic I find this kind of thing. I am not a materialist. I work for a living, write for pleasure and view our consumer society with a troubled heart. So if you’ve not already fallen victim, listen to your uncle Michael – because clearly someone’s got to say this to you. There’s no such thing as easy money, and you can’t make a lucrative living by basically doing nothing.

In the pre-internet era we’d see adverts assuring us that we could do just that – “ring this number for details”. Nowadays it would be a premium hotline and the only person making money would be the one with the cynical “dog-eat dog” wit who’d set it all up. The jobs – if they existed at all – involved putting things in envelopes by the gazillion and mailing them off to people who didn’t want them – or some other bottom of the foodchain task related to marketing other dodgy, dog-eat-dog schemes.

Nowadays most of this nefarious stuff has moved online. Spamblasters try to filter it out, but it’s a relentlessly ingenious scourge that keeps finding new ways of breaking through. So dear professional “liker”, you’ll forgive me if I smile and urge you to pull out before the awful truth dawns. I’d also like to put my tongue in my cheek here and share with you the real secret to worldly success:

1) Get up in the morning. Do as well as you can at school. Go to college if you’re able, then university. Get yourself a graduate level job, preferably doing something you enjoy, because it’s less painful that way. You’ll work at least eight hours a day, possibly longer. Show the bosses you’re willing and dynamic. Smile. Maintain a positive attitude at all times, even those times you think the place sucks. Make no enemies, even those people you believe to be incompetent. Always say yes to opportunities for extra training and when a better paid job comes along, take it – same rules apply. Do all this and you’ll rise over time to a level that suits your own ambition or ability.

Or:

2) Get up in the morning, do as well as you can at school. If that doesn’t lead to college, don’t worry – we’re not all blessed with academic ability, so skip that bit and get an ordinary kind of job any way and anywhere you can – preferably something you think you’ll like doing. You’ll work at least eight hours a day, possibly longer. Show the boss(es) you’re willing and dynamic. Maintain a positive attitude at all times – even when you think the place sucks. Make no enemies,  even those people you believe to be incompetent.  Always say yes to opportunities for extra training. When a better paid job comes along, take it – same rules apply. It’ll take longer than option one – no disguising that – but you can still rise over time to a level that suits your own ambition or ability.

Or:

3) Get up in the morning etc. At some point get an idea for a service or a product or a need, and start your own business. You’ll need a bank loan. Hard route this – and you’ll certainly be working more than eight hours a day while you build it up. There’ll be sleepless nights too, and periods of self doubt, and maybe the bank will pull the plug on the whole thing, but with a bit of luck and lot of grit you’ll win through and maybe even find yourself an employer of people following routes one and two. Of the three this route has the greatest potential to transform you into a self made millionaire, but it won’t be overnight and there’ll be times you wished you chosen routes one or two.

What? Don’t fancy any of these? Want your easy money now? Then go ahead, start “liking” us bloggers – and see how far it gets you.

Of course in all of this we’re talking about “worldly” success.

Real success in life is something else.

And I’m still working on it.

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