September 2007 - Posts
Let's recap the day's highlights.
- I got a raise
- My UFE mentees finished riding their exam
- I got a Cinnabon
- My face appeared on the cover of TIME magazine.
I know what you're thinking. Wow, Cinnabon. Yes, it was as delicious aroma wafting through Union Station promises you. It's not exactly a balanced meal for dinner, but my UFE mentees finished their exam, so I figured I would celebrate with a ultra-sugary pastry.
The deliciousness was fantastically awesome.
All in all, a successful day. Does it get any better than this?
Yes - I have the day off tomorrow as well. Sweet.
I'm using a day off that I was entitled to take a few weeks ago - so I'm not even using up one of my 'regular' vacation days. Good times.
There is no relationship that I'm willing to draw between this short update and this video courtesy of greengoddess at Videosift featuring a woman who can do anything with her feet, aside from the fact that it's also awesome. Enjoy.
When you get your first digital SLR camera, two things happen:
- You end up taking more photos, because the camera is so much faster.
- Each individual photos is generally also larger, because a typical dSLR will be higher rez (more megapixels) than a plain compact digital camera.
I've been busy lately, which has cut back on the amount of time I have to delete the "b-class" photos or to just burn extra photos onto DVDs, 'just in case' I decide I want to keep more of them.
If I shoot my entire memory card full, that's another 2 GB tossed into the hard drive. At this rate, I'm going to run out of room before the end of 2008, assuming I don't increase the frequency of my photo sprees.
The nice thing, at least, is that I've been given my own personal photo storage folder on the network at work for the pictures I take that are work-related.
I should really do some quick math to compare the number of photos I take just 'for myself' versus the amount I take for the office to see where all my energy is going. I'm going to bet it's an 80-20 split. I'll have to revisit this guesstimate later.
Making my photo-deletion job a somewhat unfortunate bit easier is the fact that I've neglected to keep my lens pristine. There's a few specks on it that wrecked a few shots, particularly a series of sunset photos which'll need some love from Photoshop or a similar program. At least the fact that I'll have to do some touch-up work to those photos to make them usable makes it easier for me to hit the delete button when I have several similar shots.
An after-hours melee has sent at least one man to hospital with a stab wound from a broken beer bottle.
Shortly after midnight, Toronto police responded to calls from security on Roncesvalles Avenue, who were on site to guard equipment from the weekend street festival.
Security explained that a brawl had broken out: a lop-sided “40 versus 25" battle. The melee broke out after one man was stabbed near the corner of Roncesvalles and Fern Avenues.
The running battle stretched six blocks across the street, as observed by the spread of police arresting suspects.
Participants in the fight grabbed blunt objects, including poles, chairs and flower pots, reported a custodian of the Credit Union facing the site of the stabbing.
Police responded quickly, arriving in time to stop and handcuff at least six suspects, including one man with a backpack who was repeatedly told to “stop resisting”.
The stabbing victim was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital while the police continued their investigation by taping off their crime scene, located in storefront of an abandoned pharmacy.
While the victim was being stabilized by paramedics, police had to instruct a fire engine to leave the scene, as it had stopped on the road on top of blood presumably related to the altercation.
Polish Festival security believed that police would wrap up their investigation in time for the resumption of the second day of the street festival in the morning.
This summer saw a rash of phishing attacks on customers of TD Canada Trust.
Opportunistic crackers suckered people unfamiliar with the Internet into giving away their banking information.
The gist of the scam is like this:
- "Someone is attacking your bank account."
- "Please go to our website to confirm your information."
- "Then you'll be safe."
The scam is as brilliant as it is insidious:
- Yes, someone is trying to attack you. It's the person who just sent you that e-mail.
- The website they're sending you to will look identical to your bank's site.
- They'll take all the money out of your account as soon as they can or they'll extract all the information you give to commit identity theft, opening new credit cards accounts and other financial instruments in your name, ruining your credit card record.
There are at least three things anyone going online should know:
- Your bank will never contact you by e-mail and ask you to share information or click on something.
The website address will often have the bank's name. And that means absolutely nothing. Using very basic computer code they can hide any link to a website with 'safe' looking words. Don't assume www.live.com will take you to Microsoft Live, because I can easily make it go to Google, Altavista, or Microsoft's search pages. I'll add another note regarding this at the end of this post.
- Never ever ever ever. If you think I'm wrong, call them and ask them prove me wrong.
- Don't use a phone number from the e-mail (should a scammer ever get that resourceful!) - print it out and take it to your local branch if you don't know where to call. I'm not sure if your branch is the best place, given the fact you have a bunch of high school kids working the wickets - though I'm probably being unfair, they could likely point out it's a scam better than some folks - but the manager or someone clever there should know!
Read carefully - note the spelling and grammar in the e-mail. Although it may not necessarily prove it's a scam, I'm amused and amazed by the number of typos you'll find in these scams. It's as if the scammer is taunting you - if you fall for their scam, they can laugh at the fact that you believed your bank would send such a poorly written e-mail. I've included a very fresh example at the end of this post. Enjoy the number of letters "e" in the word "speed" and this gem of a phrase: "to combat the fraud from our community."
What? "From our community"? Sadly, it's hard to tell whether it's a case of Engrish, deliberately poor writing, or the sign of a subpar command of the English language from a native speaker.
Either way, take advantage of those mistakes to protect yourself if you forget everything else I just said.
And yes, if you already know this, good for you. I wrote this as a reference material for anyone doing the smart thing, and trying to learn the Right Thing in case they're trying to answer the question, is this a phishing attack? Is this legitimate? Is someone trying to scam me?
Yes they are. This post will be useful if it helps even one person avoid getting swindled - if I got this piece of spam, others also got it.
For the record, the most recent attack looks like this:
Bank of America <email@example.com>
Dear Bank of America client,
You have received this email because you or someone had used your account from different locations.For security purpose, we are required to open an investigation into this matter.
In order to safeguard your account, we require that you confirm your banking details.
The help speeed up to this process, please access the following link so we ca complete the verification of your Bank of America Online Banking Account registration information.
If we do no receive the appropriate account verification within 48 hours, then we will assume this Bank of America account is fraudulent and will be suspended.
The purpose of this verification is to ensure that your bank account has not been fraudulently used and to combat the fraud from our community. We appreciate your support and understanding and thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Lastly, extra information concerning point 2 above - note where www.bankofamerica.com appears above. See that there's a number in front of the address? That's a dead giveaway that the link is a fake.
Every address on the internet - even www.steeplemedia.com actually represents a series of numbers. 18.104.22.168 is but one out of billions. If there's anything appearing in as an address other than the bank's true website name in your address bar, be very wary.
Well my Guardian Angel was certainly looking out for me this morning.
I was sailing into work along King Street and was just a block away from my destination. I had deftly navigated through the thick metal morning rush.
Just a minute or two earlier I had seen one fast racer cyclist wipe out while crossing the wet streetcar tracks in front of Mountain Equipment Co-op. He immediately said, "I'm fine" to passerbys' queries.
Close call. My fat road tires made it easier for me to cross streetcar tracks - less chance of getting wedged in them - but the secret to surviving downtown streets is to take your crossing of tracks at something close to 90 degree angles. The closer you are to perpendicular cross, the safer you are.
The other main risk from downtown streets comes from drivers not paying attention to the fast moving cycling whipping by them.
Not just drivers, though. Their passengers are a source of worry too.
If I've learned anything, it's to give wide berth to cars that might be turning. I'll habitually pass on the left - carefully! - when I see a right turn signal on.
Which is exactly what I did at University. Only the guy turning right didn't make his turn, and kept going straight.
Fine, whatever - I was already in front of him. One obstacle down. So very close to my destination.
At the risk of indulging in a delicious game of second guessing, I figure that 'false alarm' from the non-turn lulled me into not approaching my next hazard as carefully as I should have.
A taxi was in the right lane, stuck in traffic, with its right turn signal on.
Well, he can't turn right because the next street is one-way and he can't move forward anyway.
Woe to the cyclist who stops their thought pattern with that logic.
I didn't peer through the back window to see if there was a passenger in there.
There was. And he didn't turn back to see if I was coming.
With a whoosh the door popped open, and I was about a second away from slamming into it.
What happened after took place so quickly, I later had to use logic to deduce what had happened - I don't think my brain was processing the experience fast enough given how quickly the encounter flashed
If I had made serious physical contact head-on with the taxi - note the careful choice of words - there would've definitely been a mark on either the car, my bike, or myself.
After all, my handle bars have ‘tusks’ mounted on them, which would easily smash the taxi’s window should they make contact. If they were to not bend back while hitting the car, they might even save my hands.
That scenario did not come to pass, though. Instead, I blared on my bike's powerful air horn - perhaps too late, but perhaps not - and immediately dodged to the right.
Before the incident, I hadn't honked my bike horn preemptively because I saw the open window in the taxi and thought that I would be a jerk for blaring the horn in the passenger's ear. I hadn’t even considered the fact that I was entering a moment of rather extreme danger.
All that child's play taking sharp turns by leaning in to them suddenly paid rich dividends - an funny term to use, I suppose, considering I was basically across the street from the Toronto Stock Exchange - and I leaped off my bike with more nimbleness than I thought myself capable of.
Realize that although I have strong brakes on my bike, but it's physically impossible to immediately come to a dead stop, so I made a running dismount, hopping along the sidewalk and somehow holding onto my bike, angling it down under the car door.
What I don't know is whether the shocked passenger managed to pull the door closed or whether the 45 degree angle of rear passenger doors afforded me enough clearance to sail under unscathed.
With the stunning realization that I survived the encounter with nary a scratch, I found myself literally whirling around to come to a stop, slowly sitting down on the hood of the taxi to catch myself and stop the bizarre morning street ballet.
It would be cool to watch a video of the incident, I'm sure.
If you were watching a video, you would likely expect a sudden explosion of “WTF was that?” or some other equally emotional outburst. I've seen a lot of road rage on the streets. I'm sure that I, as a driver, have been one to be irrationally upset by poor driving on the roads. And if anyone has an excuse to get upset, it's a person who just got a "Door Prize". Despite this fabulous stroke of success in the midst of potential misfortune, many would still feel obliged to scream and curse. Or at least be gleeful that they survived.
But I just felt calm.
I think a calm reaction shocks people as much as the Door Prize itself. The careless taxi passenger did seem surprised - or perhaps he was still in shock - when he saw me achieving what can best be described as a zen-like state of calm usually reserved for those who devote a significant amount of time to silent meditation.
I reached this mini-motorway nirvana by careening almost mystically around that open rear door.
It's funny, my friend Lawrence finds that the best place to experience dialogue with God “is in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, free of iPods and street noise.”
And he's completely correct, really. Aside from simply being right, there's a lot of logic and merit in his approach. Not the least being the fact that it is accompanied by an infinitesimally low risk of getting maimed or killed.
Of course, being the stubborn "I'll do it my way" kind of person, I have to do things differently. I have to bear witness - it was like an epiphany! - in the middle of the morning rush, fuelled by a delirious rush of adrenaline.
The complete lack of pain gave me an subconscious but immediate 'thumbs up' sign that everything was okay. It was funny. As soon as I realized that I was okay, it was the
material object - my bike - which consumed my concerns. Was it okay? My silly act of spinning my bike's front wheel in the air to see if it was bent - it wasn't - proved that everyone had to be fine. Both my body and my other material possession made it through unharmed. But getting hung up on the state of my bike immediately felt silly. With my sudden and rather unexpected feeling of calm, the obsessive need to care for material objects felt immature, childish, and totally unnecessary. I finished my little bike check-up routine quickly, in an attempt to kill that feeling of selfishness as fast as possible. But despite the unease, the act itself did have a small benefit - it helped me focus my thoughts.
Everything’s okay, I thought to myself. I didn’t damage the poor taxi driver’s car. His passenger didn’t hurt me. I got a scare and a rush, but ultimately I can at least pull an amusing story out of it - and learn a lesson for next time.
I chose not to yell at the taxi passenger. It's funny how differently I imagine the whole morning would've turned out had I become hostile. The man apologized profusely, of course, explaining that he was giving a goodbye kiss to his 'girl', before 'kicking open' the door without looking. I thanked him for his apology, recognized the fact that I had survived rather well, felt bad for giving him such a fright, politely wished that he would look check for bikes in the future before opening doors, and shook his hand, wishing him well.
I hopped on my bike, rode the last block to the office, and then did a few laps of the courtyard flipping gears up and down. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins as I did my basic diagnostic check, to see if all the gears were still functioning. Another mechanistic approach to calming down, I suppose. Meditation through bike riding? Why not.
Everything seemed to be fine. And it would be on the ride home too at the end of the day - the proof being that I'm still here and able to write about it.
And so I closed up this little saga by locking up and headed upstairs, ready to face the rest another day with, hopefully, a renewed sense of purpose to life in general. What that purpose is exactly wasn't clear at the time, but I figure I can think about that some more without weaving through traffic.
Maybe I'll take the Martin Goodman trail along the lake next time.
It's a new record - beating previous record holder December and June easily, last month saw the arrival of 2541 pieces of junk. July was 400 pieces of trash lower, making me wonder what phenomenon led to the spike in spam traffic?
I noticed that there was a big influx in phishing attacks, as well as new types of spam messages that evaded Google's vaunted spam filters almost 4 or 5 times. This is about 1000 times better than how Yahoo handles spam, but disconcerting nonetheless.
Could it be that spammers found new techniques which encouraged them to attack more? Seems like it.
I wonder what kind of person thinks that this will be a Good Idea? A Homer Simpson-esque character, no doubt - or perhaps someone like Larry from Perfect Strangers.