Category Archives: News and Comment

A New Twist on Spam

It’s not often that I find spam entertaining, but I thought I would share the first paragraph of one I just received.  It was “from” Mr. Laird Roberts and its subject was “Honestly I am just disappointed at your behavior.”  What a slap in the face!  It’s like you open the door, and there stands Moe, fuming.

Anyway, here is what I read, before I got bored and skimmed over the rest of the text:

“Honestly I am just disappointed at your behavior because you know that I am man of God and cannot deceive you.  Just pay the $85.00 and leave me and my God because God is watching me if I am telling you lies.  I know it is because of your past experience that make you not to believe me but I told you before my God who is my witness that I cannot deceive you because my bible says what shall it profit a man to gain material things and loose your soul.  I told you earlier just drop your old experience and follow my instruction as a man of God and you will know what it means to follow somebody that fear God.”

Pretty novel approach, I must say.  This spammer is not only incoherent (as one expects) but instantly sets off on a self-righteous tirade, dressing down the very person from whom he hopes to extract money.  Really, how many rich, gullible, masochistic, religiously-guilty suckers are out there?  I guess all of them will soon find out.

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An item from The If Trump Really Wants to Fix Something Department:

I am planning to go on a photo outing with old photography friends from Canada in July.  To save money, I have been looking at flights to Toronto from nearby airports, including Charlotte (two hours to the east of me) and Knoxville (two hours to the west).

The best-priced flight I have found leaves Knoxville at 11:05 am and arrives in Toronto at 6:28 pm, with one stop.  The round-trip ticket costs $253 and the trip duration is 7 hours 23 minutes.  Add two hours for the drive to Knoxville and two hours advance-arrival at the airport for international flights, and I would have to leave the house at 7:00 am.

Alternatively, I could depart from Charlotte at 4:25 pm and arrive in Toronto at 6:28 pm on a non-stop flight.  The trip duration is only 2 hours 3 minutes but this round-trip ticket  costs $595.  With the two-hour drive and two-hour advance arrival, I would need to leave the house at aboout 12:30 pm.  I could have both breakfast and lunch at home.

Astute readers may have noticed where I am going with this.  Yes, the Knoxville trip and the Charlotte trip arrive in Toronto at the same time.  The first leg of the Knoxville flight heads to — where else — Charlotte.  There, the plane sits on the tarmac 4 hours 11 minutes as it morphs from a one-stop $253 flight into a non-stop $595 flight to Toronto.

The bottom line is that American Airlines hopes that I will pay another $342 for the sake of saving 5 hours 2o minutes in this bizarre air-flight tango that seems to have nothing to do with the cost or logic of travel but everything to do with good-old supply-and-demand.

I am considering driving the thirteen hours to Canada, not that the airlines care.  They are confident they will get somebody to pay who is willing to pay.  Just like the hokey-pokey, that’s what it’s all about.

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Flake News

Our household is in the habit of watching CBS This Morning with Norah O’Donnell, Gayle King and Charlie Rose.  Even paying my usual half-attention to it, I thought today’s show was more like BS This Morning and here is why.

The producers aired a story (you will have to trust me on this, since I cannot find a link to the video) about the action by Congress to roll back the internet privacy rules proposed by President Obama.  As a result of this act, internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon and AT&T will be able to make commercial use of your internet connection history without asking you.

After the story aired, there was the obligatory twenty-second banter among the co-hosts.  As you might expect, they traded jokes about who had something to hide, and Gayle King mentioned the importance of erasing one’s browser history, as if that point was relevant to the story.  At no time did any of the co-hosts explain (or themselves seem to understand) that (a) the data collected by your ISP is not the same as the content you see on the screen, or (b) the data collected by your ISP cannot be erased by clearing your browser history.

Your ISP collects the addresses of sites you visit, along with the addresses of any site that delivers data to you via the target site.  But your ISP does not store every byte of data sent to your computer — that is both impractical and unneccessary.  It is impractical because there is not enough memory storage in the universe to save a copy of every byte delivered to every internet user.  It is unneccessary because if the FBI (for example) has an address, physical or virtual, it is pretty easy for them to show up at the address, knock on the door and take all the pictures they want.

Your browser data is very different from what your ISP collects.  Your browser records not only site-visit history but a fair amount of web content, and it stores it on your computer — if you choose to allow this — as a convenience to you, so that your frequently-visited sites load faster.  Erasing your browser history only gets rid of the content and the cookies and the addresses that your browser stored on your computer.  It cannot connect to your ISP and erase any data that your ISP stored.

Each of these privacy concerns is insidious enough — logically, internet service should be treated the same as telephone service in terms of requiring court orders to collect data — but what is almost as bothersome is that the co-hosts of CBS This Morning did not know enough about this story to accurately report on it.  They failed to educate their viewers.  Instead, they seemed to act in accord with what their viewers’ preconceptions might be.

Internet privacy?  Too complicated for me, Charlie!  I just work here.  For CBS News.

Dear CBS This Morning:  Just because you’re a morning show doesn’t mean that your viewers are brain-dead and deserve to be served flake news.  Learn before you speak.

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