Winter is Coming, whether HBO likes it or not.

Winter is Coming.jpg

This beautiful painting by a 13-year-old girl, who just happens to have some autism to deal with, was posted at the arts and crafts site, RedBubble. She called it “Winter is Coming.”

Lawyers at HBO, afraid that this image and its appurtenant title would do irreparable harm to their beloved Game of Thrones¹, sent a takedown letter, which RedBubble  – sadly – immediately complied with.

I’m not so charitable. HBO is a douchebag, and these lawyers are douchebags. They can all go sit on a cactus. Sit down hard, on a cactus, and spin.

cactus

You see, lawyers and corporations think they can patent or trademark anything to “protect shareholder value.” Well, winter is coming whether they like it or not. It will arrive on December 21st this year.

What are you going to do, boys and girls: sue the calendar?

Grow up and get a life.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ With respect to George R. R. Martin, whose work has inspired a huge following, I’ve never seen the show, and couldn’t get past Chapter 1 of the first book. It just didn’t resonate with me.

Fred Rogers, the quiet radical

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I have long loved and admired Fred Rogers. He’s so good and genuine  that he’s generated numerous memes and cultural references, the one below from Sandra and Woo:

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Today I stumbled across an informative post on reddit from user /u/MiltownKBs. There’s a lot of stuff here that I didn’t know, and I thought it deserved a wider audience.

Mr Rogers – The quiet radical. He didn’t go on marches, he was not confrontational, but nevertheless he had a ground on which he stood and he wanted to do something about it.

“a quiet but strong American prophet who, with roots in progressive spirituality, invited us to make the world into a counter-cultural neighborhood of love,” – Michael Long, author of the book, Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers.

He worked from a steely social conscience. He used his program, with its non-threatening puppets, songs and conversation, to raise provocative topics such as war, peace, race, gender and poverty with his audience of preschoolers and their parents — patiently guiding them across the minefields of political and social change.

Examples: This one is one of my favorites … The puppet King Friday XIII was posting border guards, installing barbed-wire fences and drafting passersby to keep out those fomenting social change. “Down with the changers!” he proclaimed. “Because we’re on top!” This was 1968 and was aired as part of a weeklong series on conflict, change and distrust. King Friday’s declaration of a national emergency to preserve the status quo is a political statement. It is not a plot line merely to entertain children. It’s the idea that when we resist change, it’s because we want to maintain our position. In the end, the neighborhood was saved, but only through the bold civil disobedience of King Friday’s subjects. People who want change are often labeled as troublemakers.

Rogers was an uncompromising pacifist, and when Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood debuted nationally in 1968, during the height of the Vietnam War, he used his first week of programming to share his antiwar beliefs.

Rogers opposed the nuclear arms race, and in 1983 he developed Neighborhood of Make-Believe episodes in which King Friday appears confused and downright silly for calling for an arms race with a neighboring community. When Friday orders “one million and one parts” that he imagines to be weapons — they are not — he uses funds designed to support music in the neighborhood school. The neighborhood is appalled by this crass act.

At the beginning of 1984, the Presidential Task Force on Food Assistance, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, reported that it could not find evidence of rampant hunger in the United States. Rogers did not appreciate the report, and by the end of the year, he broadcast episodes highlighting the presence of hunger and addressing the need to combat it.

In 1987, at the height of the cold war, he traveled to Moscow and appeared on a Soviet children’s television show called Spokoinoi Nochi (Good Night, Little Ones).

Rogers was committed to racial diversity, and not long after inner-city riots erupted following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rogers introduced the character of a black police officer keeping everyone safe in the Neighborhood.

In 1975, 14 years before an African American woman would become mayor of a major U.S. city, Rogers created the character of Mayor Maggie of Southwood, played by African American actor Maggie Stewart.

He wore an apron and ironed clothes on a mid-day broadcast set in a house, when most men would have been at work, modeling a revolution in gender roles. The puppet Lady Elaine Fairchilde anchored a newscast long before Barbara Walters did, and she rocketed into space a decade before Sally Ride broke the glass stratosphere.

In 1983 he arranged for Lady Aberlin, played by Betty Aberlin, to sing a quiet song (“Creation”) in which she refers to God as “She.” A fact that was not lost on the protestors of the time.

Rogers and regular cast member Francois Clemmons, an African-American, dipped their bare feet in a wading pool on a 1969 broadcast, when bitter conflicts over legally segregated swimming pools were still being discussed.

Rogers became a vegetarian in the early 1970s, saying he could not eat anything that had a mother, and in the mid-1980s he became co-owner of Vegetarian Times. In 1985, Rogers also signed his name to a statement protesting the wearing of animal furs.

When politicians in the 1980s spoke of welfare recipients as lazy and unworthy of government help, Rogers portrayed hard-working parents who still couldn’t afford all that their children wanted or needed.

Rogers broadcast public-service announcements on helping children deal with news of war and other tragedy, and he advocated for legislation that would allow at least one parent in a military family to remain with his or her children rather than be deployed.

The Old Wolf has reposted.

 

Business Loan Scam

I apologize to my readers if this blog sounds like a broken record at times, but the dangers from scammers and fraudsters is real – and the more information available, the more likely that someone doing a web search will come across it and save their money or their information.

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I’ve talked often about robocalls; here’s a good article from Consumer Affairs.

“[Scammers] have raked in millions of dollars with schemes like the business loan pitch. The recorded greeting says something like “congratulations, your business has been approved for a $250,000 loan.” If you stay on the phone long enough to talk to a live person, that person will try to get information from you that can be used to steal your identity.”

Got one of these just now. I pressed “1” to find out how the scam worked, and got someone who was virtually incomprehensible; he sounded like a Dane with his mouth full of Knödel.¹ His first question, in rapid-fire Mongolian, was “What is the annual revenue of your company?” When I asked him who was offering me this loan, he hung up.

Be careful out there. If it’s a robocall, it’s almost certainly a scam.


¹ A Dane sounds like a Norwegian with his mouth full of Knödel (which is a very heavy, thick dumpling). So this gives you an idea of what I was hearing.

Even the best cartoonists repeat now and then.

I grew up on Peanuts™. I learned how to read with the first Peanuts book that appeared in 1952, and read them voraciously as other volumes were published. Over time my collection was sold or given away (heresy!), and when I came to my senses decades later I began collecting them again.

peanuts-1952

The challenge with the original books was that Schulz was very selective about what he allowed to be anthologized, and many of his strips vanished from the public consciousness. Happily, later arrangements with Schulz and his estate allowed the entire collection to be republished either by Fantagraphics (beautiful but very expensive) or online at GoComics (colorized but free.)

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the GoComics edition, and read it faithfully and daily. But recently I came across a strip that rang a loud bell:

peanuts-bread-and-budder-sandwich-1

I remembered this strip clearly, but something about it seemed “off.” When I finally had some time to do a deep search of the internet, I was able to find the one I remembered:

peanuts-bread-and-budder-sandwich-1

Same gag, re-drawn, slightly different punchline. According to comments at the GoComics site, there may also be a strip where Linus tells Lucy that if you cut a PB&J sandwich, all the flavor runs out.

Why the re-do? Could be any number of reasons. Maybe Schulz liked this punchline better and wanted to see it published. Charles M. Schulz created a total of 17,897 Peanuts strips; maybe he just forgot he had done this one and the idea stuck in his head, so he “re-created” it. Maybe he was stuck for an idea on a given day. Whatever the case, if this is the only true duplication of a gag that he ever did, that’s a prodigious feat.

Other cartoonists repeat occasionally (and not just re-runs for vacations or filler.) I’ve seen one or two examples, but most of them keep coming up with fresh ideas (or in the case of some comic strips, not-so-fresh ideas) for years or even decades. Schulz was undeniably one of the masters of the genre, and an inspiration for countless cartoonists who followed.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Protect yourself from ransomware

It’s still big business for crooks, most of whom have switched from the “Nigerian Prince” letters because it’s a far easier way of generating money.

your-money-or-your-data

An employee gets an official-looking email about an invoice or a spreadsheet. They click on the link. Boom: all your data is encrypted, and you have to pay 2 Bitcoin (about $1,500.00) to get it back (and sometimes you don’t.) You lose business, and the ultimate cost ends up being much higher.

There are two main lines of defense against ransomware: Backup and Education

1 – Backup

If you’re not backing up your files, you’re vulnerable to data loss, which can cost you big time.  Many people back up their files manually to an external drive. And that’s good, but there are problems with this system.

  • It’s hard to remember what files have been modified on any given day
  • It’s easy to forget to do your backup
  • A local disk is susceptible to theft or damage, or can fill up.
  • You can actually back up corrupted files if you’re not aware of when the infection took place. The nasty thing with many ransomware viruses is that they start to encrypt your files, and only give you the popup warning after the process is complete.

I recommend a cloud-based, dynamic backup system; I use Carbonite™ (and I’m not a paid shill for the company.) For the roughly 11¢ per day that the service costs me, I do whatever I need to on my computer and sleep well at night, knowing that if there’s a disaster of any sort – ransomware, hard drive crashes, fire, theft, you name it – I can get my critical data back. I once had a hard drive crash without backup, and it cost me over 3 grand to have a forensic data specialist retrieve my files (a ripoff, Seagate would have done it for half the price, but that’s another story.)

2 – Education

Educate yourself, and educate your friends, family, and employees. People click on things without thinking, and that’s never been good computing practice. It’s more important than ever to be careful about links contained in emails.

Have a look at this selection of emails that I received just this week:

Subject: Payment Information

Good afternoon. Thank you for sending the bill.
Unfortunately, you have forgotten to specify insurance payments.
So, we cannot accept the payment without them.
All details are in the attachment.


Subject: E-Mailed Invoices Invoice_6F839240

Please find attached your latest purchase invoice.
**************************************************
Any queries with either the quantity or price MUST
be notified immediately to the department below.
**************************************************
Yours sincerely, Sales Ledger Department
Tel: +44 (0) 4215 189 115


Subject: Urgent

Our accountant informed me that in the bill you processed, the invalid account number had been specified.
Please be guided by instructions in the attachment to fix it up.


Subject: Urgent Alert

We have detected a suspicious money ATM withdrawal from your card.
For your security, we have temporarily blocked the card.
All the details are in the attachment. Please open it when possible.


Subject: Delivery status

Dear Client! Our delivery department could not accept your operation due to a problem with your current account.
In order to avoid falling into arrears and getting charged, please fill out the document in the attachment as soon as possible and send it to us.


Subject: Invoice for 893547 21/11/2016

This email confirms that your goods have been dispatched. Please find attached your Invoice in PDF format. Please note this document will only be sent in electronic form.


Subject: Attention Required

Our HR Department told us they haven’t received the receipt you’d promised to send them.
Fines may apply from the third party. We are sending you the details in the attachment.

Please check it out when possible.


Subject: E-Mailed Invoices Invoice_CE576080

Please find attached your latest purchase invoice.
**************************************************
Any queries with either the quantity or price MUST
be notified immediately to the department below.
**************************************************
Yours sincerely, Sales Ledger Department
Tel: +44 (0) 5458 175 571


Subject: Please Pay Attention

Greetings! Informing you that the contractor requires including VAT in the service receipt.
Sending the new invoice and payment details in the attached file.
Please open and study it as soon as possible – we need your decision.


Subject: Insufficient funds

Dear info,
Your bill payment was rejected due to insufficient funds on your account.
Payment details are given in the attachment.


Subject: Important Information

Dear info, your payment was not processed due to the problem with credentials.
Payment details are in the attached document.
Please check it out as soon as possible.


Subject: Please Pay Attention
Dear info, we have received your payment but the amount was not full.
Probably, this occurred due to taxes we take from the amount.
All the details are in the attachment – please check it out.


Subject: Please note

Your tax bill debt due date is today. Please fulfill the debt.
All the information and payment instructions can be found in the attached document.


Subject: Urgent

Dear Client! We have to inform you that payments for contractors’ services were insufficient.
Thus, we are sending the report and the amount details in the attachment.


Subject: Order #9406386

Dear info, sending the receipt for the order #9406386.
You made it last week. Please check it out as soon as possible.
The receipt with all info is in the attached file.

Every single one of these came with zip file as an attachment. And every single one would have downloaded ransomware to the computer of anyone who was careless enough to open the file.

There are some red flags here:

  • My company address is “info@abc.com”, and most of these emails start out as “Dear info.”
  • The English in many of these emails is unnatural or grammatically wrong.

And yet people will still open these emails, and still click the attachments. If businesses take data security seriously, every employee will be given training on how to recognize data threats.

Please be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Don’t be fooled by work at home scams.

There are plenty of people out there who will tell you that affiliate marketing works. From what I can see, it’s possible to function in this niche in an ethical and profitable way, if you’re willing to work hard at it. Unfortunately, it’s a highly unregulated area, and where there are few regulations, there will be many willing to take advantage. Here’s an example of the worst kind.

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This ad appears almost daily, spammed as a comment by a user who changes their name daily (most likely using a spambot) at the Dilbert™ comic website. The webmaster doesn’t seem to care, so these comments hang around forever, generating a click or two from the uninformed or the unwary.

If you click, you’re taken to this page:

farticle

This is what’s known as a “farticle” (false article) or “advertorial.” Looks real, full of bunk. Wow, you think, I can make money at home like “Kelly Richards” (not a real person, not a real story. If you click on the “get started” link, this is what you get:

home-jobs

Notice the “social validation” links above. Yes, some work-from-home opportunities may have, at some point, been featured by the entities above – but it’s a sure bet that this one is not one of them. And, you’ve given the spammers your name, email address and phone number, which is gold for them – they sell this information to others.

searching

Searching for availability? Heck, you’d be qualified if you lived in Buford, Wyoming, population 1. It’s just the scarcity principle in action.

Your next page is this:

buckaroo

Act fast, there are only 9 positions in your area. This, of course, is a blatant lie – like everything else associated with this promotion. The long, long page gives you information about an exciting opportunity to make money posting links on web pages… which is the kind of thing that leads to the blog spam I included at the top. It’s really nothing more than paying $97.00 for a basic tutorial on affiliate marketing… along with the opportunity to be upsold on various expensive “training packages” and other add-ons.

I want you to look at this disclaimer that appears in tiny, gray print at the bottom of this website, things they post to try to skirt the possibility of lawsuits:

TERMS AND CONDITIONS CAREFULLY READ AND AGREE TO PURCHASE TERMS BELOW BEFORE ORDERING:

We are not affiliated in any way with any news publication ? All trademarks on this web site whether registered or not, are the property of their respective owners. The authors of this web site are not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the third-party trade mark or third-party registered trade mark owners, and make no representations about them, their owners, their products or services.
It is important to note that this site and the comments/answers depicted above is to be used as an illustrative example of what some individuals have achieved with this/these products. This website, and any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this page, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story. This page, and the results mentioned on this page, although achievable for some, are not to be construed as the results that you may achieve on the same routine. I UNDERSTAND THIS WEBSITE IS ONLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF WHAT MIGHT BE ACHIEVABLE FROM USING THIS/THESE PRODUCTS, AND THAT THE STORY/COMMENTS DEPICTED ABOVE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY. This page receives compensation for clicks on or purchase of products featured on this site.

IMPORTANT CONSUMER DISCLOSURE
The term “advertorial” is a combination of “advertisement” and “editorial” written in an editorial format as an independent news story, when in fact the advertisement may promote a particular product or interest. Advertorials take factual information and report it in an editorial format to allow the author, often a company marketing its products, to enhance or explain certain elements to maintain the reader’s interest. A familiar example is an airline’s in-flight magazines that provide an editorial reports about travel destinations to which the airline flies.

As an advertorial, I UNDERSTAND THIS WEBSITE IS ONLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF WHAT MIGHT BE ACHIEVABLE FROM USING THIS PROGRAM, AND THAT THE STORY DEPICTED ABOVE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY. This page receives compensation for clicks on or purchase of products featured on this site. This program is not a job but an educational opportunity that can help individuals learn how to earn money through their entrepreneurial efforts. Anyone who decides to buy any program about making money will not necessarily make money simply by purchasing the program. People who think “I bought these materials so I’m going to automatically make money” are wrong. As any type of education has so many variables, it is impossible to accurately state what you may expect to achieve, however, people who bought the program not only bought the program, but also undertook additional training and education, applied the principles to an area of the market that was growing, kept their commitments and continued to learn. If you do what the individuals depicted did, you may generally expect to achieve a great education in the area of your choice, but you should not expect to earn any specific amount of money. Typical users of the starter materials that don’t enroll in coaching, don’t keep their commitments and don’t implement what they learn, generally make no money. Though the success of the depicted individual is true, her picture and name have been changed to protect her identity. Consistent with the advertorial concept, the comments posted in the comment section are also representative of typical comments and experiences which have been compiled into a comment format to illustrate a dialogue, however, the comments are not actual posts to this webpage and have been compiled or generated for illustrative purposes only.

We are not affiliated in any way with CNN, WebTV, News Channel 1, ABC, NBC, CBS, U.S. News or FOX, and all such trademarks on this web site, whether registered or not, are the property of their respective owners. The authors of this web site are not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the third-party trade mark or third-party registered trade mark owners, and make no representations about them, their owners, their products or services.

In effect, you are being told: “This is not a real story. This is not a real person. We’re using the names of big media outlets fraudulently. You probably won’t make any money.” That’s a big fat red flag right there.

One of the tricks affiliate marketers use is to post multiple articles around the web that will pop up if people search for “Is Home Jobs Now a Scam?” or “Can you make money with link posting?” Invariably, two things will happen:

  1. The writer will tell you that [System X] – whatever it is – is a scam, and
  2. At the end of the article there will be a link to their affiliate marketing program. It’s a nested loop that never ends.

As I mentioned above, I’m not trashing all affiliate marketers. But be very, very careful getting sucked into paying for worthless opporunities that will cost you money rather than make money for you.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

This movie is what 3D was made for.

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As a kid in the 60s, Dr. Strange was one of my favorite characters. And it hardly needs to be said that his Grand High Excellence Mr. Cumberbatch is perfect for this rôle.

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This was the film that absolutely begged to be done in 3D, and while many films have tried with varying degrees of success to bring a new dimension to the screen, the result here was, to be blunt, breathtaking; a good summary of why is found at CinemaBlend.

I will spoil nothing, but I was desperate to see this before the 3D version left the theatres; I missed Pacific Rim that way, and I think my experience was poorer for it. Today I got my chance, and it was worth the drive to a neighboring city.

There’s a lot to love about this film; the effects, the story, the music, and a fun little fillip of anticipation at the end (oh yes, that’s the only spoiler I’ll leave here – don’t leave before the credits have rolled.)

It may not be for everyone… Strange was truly one of the stranger Marvel characters in the canonical universe. I’m powerfully pleased by what they did with this film, and look forward to more coming down the pipeline.

I’m a huge fan of Mr. Cumberbatch – I think he’s one of the most versatile and gifted actors of the present day. This film did nothing if not raise him in my estimation even farther.

If you haven’t seen Dr. Strange, see if you can find a 3D showing near you. I think you’ll find the experience was worth it.

The Old Wolf has spoken.