Security Breaches, Or How To Panic The Game Into Breaking Cover

There are many different techniques for a hunter when they are trying to get the game to show itself – some adopt the sneak-and-creep approach that tries to blend in and give the prey a false sense of security. Others use the big-noise ploy to frighten the animals into leaping from cover. Some just throw out chum – chopped-up whitebait, packets of hot chips, or free tickets to Johnny Farnham concerts.  All three are valid propositions.

One of the best new approaches is for a hacker to tell everyone that they are in terrible danger from hackers, and to direct them to a site that will protect them by harvesting private numbers and passwords. If this sounds a little like the federal government, you have to remember that both the hackers and the politicians learned their trade in the same private schools and may well end up sharing their experiences in the same cell.

The business of computer and internet security is so complex, of course, that it defies normal understanding. Like the mysteries of religion, this creates an opportunity for a priestly caste to step in and control the confused. The fact that the saviours are also the people who invented the danger is sometimes overlooked, in both circumstances.

To some extent this priestcraft is a good thing – if you are prepared to go blindly along with the directions of the experts you will eventually get somewhere – just be careful who you follow. The same principles apply to computer expertise and turf consultancy, and in some cases it seems to be done by the same people. If you are a fan of three-card monte games played in a doorway off a side street you should be perfectly at home.

Where the idea of priestcraft can be seen to be turning to more general benefit is in the fact that there are still several major electronic religions. You need not worship at the same keyboard altar as the person in the next cubicle. The teams can be played one against the other for the benefit of the perplexed. If one discovers a vulnerability of another, they will trumpet it in the mainstream long enough for the guilty party to either slink away or invent a repair for the problem.

You cannot stand firm upon ancient belief when it comes to computers – some prophet is always coming down off a mountain with a shining face and two more tablets of silicon – in many cases the glory turns out to be residual radiation and the wild hair is the result of opening the back of the desk-top a little too early. In any case, you are going to have to adapt, adopt, and update every so often – just do so at the behest of reputable firms and not Flash Harry. As irksome as they can be at times, the major suppliers like Apple and Microsoft really do maintain their own demesnes eventually.

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The Land Of Themandus

I’ve lived in Themandus for nearly all my life. It is not as bad a place as it is sometimes made out to be but life here can sometimes be a strain. Let me explain.

As a small child I was taken to a country that adjoined my native land. I’d no knowledge of this as I was a month old at the time, but as I grew up, those around me in the new country were able to explain it to me. I found it confusing at the time – was I living in the land of Them while I was an Us, or was it the other way around?

Fortunately my father’s employment whisked me around Country No.2 so fast that I was, perforce, mostly in the company of my parents and felt that they and I were Us and nearly everyone else was Them. This satisfied me for years as I listened to the ill-temper of school teachers and students complaining about the land of my birth…just over the border…I was also fortunate that the nomad existence prevented me from being claimed by other sorts of Us people in the Them settlements that we lodged in – I was never forced to Us it on a religious basis each week, and was able to blend in with Them whenever They had Christmas or Easter. I got chocolate eggs and turkey same as They did, though not on the same plate.

Coming to Australia in the middle 1960’s let me experience being an Us amongst a different set of Thems, and as I had been trained to the sport of being an outsider in Country N0.2, Country N0.3 was easy.

I’ve even gone so far as to become a naturalised Them here and it has worked pretty well for the last 48 years. I still grit my teeth when I hear ill-mannered talk about Country No.1 from natives of Country N0.3 but I realise that it is generally just ignorance or bias that drives it – not a personal attack.

I’m also happy to say that upon becoming a Them, and then marrying another Them, and having a child, that I have now become the leader of a small family of Us. And as long as we steer away from sex, politics, and religion in our conversation, we can all be happy.

 

Formal Greetings

There are as many sorts of greeting as there are cultures  and subcultures. From the formal address of welcome delivered to a sovereign by the Lord Mayor of a city to the ” Wassup ” of the ghastly teenager…and that’s only in the Western world. The other parts of the globe add salt and bread ceremonies, sham cavalry attacks, and the beheading of criminals. Very few of them just settle for a simple handshake.

This is making a comeback, by the way, amongst older people here in Australia. We do not do high fives and the air kissing ceremony is somewhat repugnant at the best of times. Oh, we see it with ladies of a certain sort and French people, but it is the sort of thing that gives blokes the jitters. The formal European handshake is much better – as long as it does not turn into a finger-crushing contest. Note to most Australians: do not expect much when shaking hands with an Asian person. They are used to different customs and the handshake may be a bit anaemic. It’s enough that they try.

Mind you, some cultures do a very nice formal greeting – rather like a combination of being announced at a debut and sentenced in a magistrate’s court. I am amazed at the detail of titles and qualifications that some people can remember and at their ability to do the formal lists of precedence. But it tells me that I am expected to do the same and I quite frankly can’t remember if a Viscount precedes an OBE or the other way around. I do know that anyone being introduced as the King of France is likely to be an imposter.

It’s always nice to be acknowledged as you enter a group…even if that just means everyone leaves immediately. At least it lets you know that you make a difference in someone’s life. Irking people to distraction is a difference. It is even better if they smile and cheer and pat you on the back. Beware if this proceeds to a full sales pitch for time-share apartments or group shopping…

There can be awkward moments, mind. Like when you enter a group of strangers and are formally introduced by someone who gets your name wrong. You have to either correct them in a kindly fashion or accept whatever new name you have been given. I tend to do the latter, as it means that for that group I have a secure disguise – I can be as shocking as I want to be and the blame will trail off to someone else. If I find anything good or profitable, I can always correct the false impression that was made – otherwise I just continue to sail under a false flag.

And finally, the formal leave-taking. It is always polite to thank the host and hostess for their hospitality – particularly if there has been none, and they know it. Slinking off with the teaspoons in your pocket is considered rather low, but then again the price of silver is better than you might think. Whichever decision you come to, try not to clink.

The REAL Canadian Measurement System

Sometimes people in the United States look at Canada and laugh. And sometimes it is the other way around. This is commendable, as we all need more laughter in our lives, but in some cases it can be a little misplaced. Like the business of laughing at Canada for adopting metric measurement.

The Wikipedia entry on metrication in Canada is pretty comprehensive about it – and points out that it went very well, but many daily measurements are still in the older Imperial numbers – the railways, photograph sizes, football fields, etc. In fact, if you wanted to, you could cheerfully ignore the metric numbers and use the old ones in your head all the time.

But the Wiki does not tell you about the REAL Canadian measuring system and the units that it uses – a system that has been developed over time using local ingredients for local people. Canadians are not selfish, however, and are more than willing to share them with the world, eh?

The basic unit of the CMS ( Canadian Measuring System ) is the Canada Goose. One of these things:

The Canada Goose was chosen for two reasons – they are reasonably common, and they have the word Canada in the name – the basic insecurity of Canadians is thus assuaged.

The Goose, as it is known in normal speech, is used to measure any number of things:

a. Affection. The number of gooses ( not geese ) that you are prepared to administer and/or endure is a measure of your emotional attachment to another person. Those who neither goose nor are goosed have a more distant approach to life. This distance may be abridged during the Christmas and New Year festive season by the use of alcohol. Not as a rub, eh?

b. Intelligence. ” As silly as a goose. ” is instantly understood by all Canadians and is a base-line measurement of many forms of intellectual activity. ” As silly as Justin Trudeau. ” has not yet entered the national vocabulary to the same extent, but it will only be a matter of time before the voting population realise the connection, eh?

c. Honesty. ” As full of shit as a Christmas goose. ” is also well-understood. It is frequently applied to political figures from all parties  – often when they get on the television and discus economic figures. I know a local female journalist to whom this applies…

d. Acceleration. ” Goose it.” is a technical term for applying more fuel to an engine.

People have often pointed out the fact that there are probably more ducks than geese on the flightways and ponds of Canada in the appropriate seasons and have questioned why they do not figure as a unit of measurement. I’ve no idea, other than to imagine that the Walt Disney cartoon character of Donald Duck reminds them of Donald Trump, and that is politically incorrect. Or the Warner Brothers cartoon character Daffy Duck is black, and they find that they are uncomfortable with that.

But that would be drawing a long bow and sound somewhat loony…and who ever heard of naming something a loonie, eh?

 

 

 

” Fix Not That Which Doth Not Need It “

” For verily, I say unto thee, that thou wilt be sorry. That which hath not been put asunder up until now need not be fiddled with.  For lo – things will shoot out of the inside of the mechanism and roll under the fridge and thou shalt curse the heavens.”

Oh if only I had heeded the holy text. I would not have attempted to cure the floor lamp of its permanent lean and I would not have destroyed it in the process. We would still have light, if at an angle. Now we have an even and oppressive darkness in the corner…and the prospect of an equally oppressive journey to the furniture shop to get another lamp.

It was not an expensive thing…and the internal construction of it was in keeping with this. The lean was caused by the base crumbling, and really there was no cure possible…but it could have kept on leaning for months had I not commenced treatment. It was well enough and needed a dose of leaving alone.

I shall take the hint. There are a number of little things that have been niggling at me around the house and shop. I will look very closely at them now and see if they really do need human intervention, or whether they are just a natural feature of the landscape…

Postscript: The lamp was replaced by a similar item from IKEA – to my immense satisfaction. But I am still not going to attempt to retile the sofa myself…

 

” Stop Writing Your Blog “

” Just stop it. Get out and do something useful. ”

This is the orders from a well-known English advertising writer who has published a book on creativity. He is able to insist on this because we have paid $ 18 to buy the tiny little yellow book that he wrote and he is not there for us to argue with.

Mind you, the first four pages of this $ 18…errr…I mean this book…have been devoted to telling us that there are no rules. So we’d better obey. I don’t know if there is an or-else to go with it, but at $ 18 you sort of expect one.

Get this in perspective – I also bought a book the same day written by Guy de Maupassant for $ 4.95 and I suspect it might have been better written…

Okay, heavy humour aside, I think our English hack is way off the beam in his judgement of the humble online page. Call it a blog, weblog, column, essay, or what you will, it is a real thing that can do real good or real harm. It may do it for free, or it may garner a little money. It won’t get the advertising agency fee that would feed an $ 18 author but it might just provide an even more valuable thing; an opportunity for someone to write, photograph, draw, and think…and opportunity that they may never have had in the world before.

There are enough vaporous weblogs to fill a zeppelin hangar – enough poetic ones to gag a unicorn. Enough recipe columns to keep us at the stove until Doomsday. There are enough movie reviews, literary sniping matches, and commercial plugs to fill all the rest of our time. And the wonderful thing is that we need not read them all – but we can if we wish. We need not write them all – but if it is late and we’ve got a good idea…

Not all creativity has to be billed at an hourly rate – not every writer has to be the next coming genius in the agency. Some of us use the weblog column as memory, speech, connection, and release. To be frank, we know that most of what we write is only read by ourselves, but the very act of writing it – writing it well, if we can manage that – is enough to make it real.

Oddly enough, we are doing something useful…

The Machine Gun Belt Of Retirement

We often use the expression ” dodging the bullet ” to celebrate avoiding some horrid fate…and if you have been associated with as many amateur entertainments as I have, you’ll have a fair idea what a horrid fete is…

It is also a way of looking at life in retirement – the situation in which I now find myself. Two years in, and I have learned a few things:

a. You can sleep in, but only to the extent that the sun, the tradespeople, and the cat will permit. One or other of these will have you up to match their schedule.

b. You will get on your wife’s nerves. She will get on your nerves. Designate specific areas of the house where you can go to avoid each other for some portion of the day. The rest of the time will see a much better relationship.

Note: Wire, mines, and machine gun pillboxes are probably going a little overboard – just pick two rooms.

c. Your friends who are still working will be glad to see you, but on their timetable and their terms. They have busy lives to lead and may not appreciate you mooching about when they are exhausted. Be sensible.

d. If you do not need to go to the shops to buy anything, do not go to the shops to fill time. There are better things to do with it.

e. You can get a great deal of pleasure by listening to the morning and afternoon radio reports of traffic jams on the Freeway in peak hour. The best place to do this is at your kitchen table with a cup of fresh coffee.

f. Use the special seating on the trains and buses. If you are a senior, it is there for you.

g. Wear out your old clothes. Wear them out by wearing them – out. No-one is looking and  no-one cares. Just make sure they are clean.

h. Pursue that hobby. You may take it further than it has ever gone.

i. When people are polite and kind to you, be polite and kind in return. When people are not polite and kind to you, still be polite and kind to them. Repeatedly, and in public view. Until they get the message.

If necessary, help them along by explaining how to be polite and kind.

j. Expect some memory glitches. Where is my coffee? I had a cup of it started just before I sat down. No, seriously, I did…

k. As an older person, you may not sleep as well as you used to. Since you do not need to rise at 5:00AM to chop down trees, you needn’t go instantly to sleep at 9:00PM. By all means stay up late and read new books.

l. Expect former work colleagues to forget you. It is not a sign of disrespect – it is just the pressure of new demands that continues to flood into their lives. You are out of that pool and need not re-enter it.

m. ” Annual Holidays ” and ” Vacations ” might seem less valuable now – now that each day is free. This is a perceptual trap.

Certainly, the desperate relief of pressure that you used to feel when you got your annual week or two weeks is gone. But it was never an easy thing – it used up the first three days of any break you had, and there was always the nagging fear that you might be called back into work. And the feeling of impending doom when you thought of the re-start date coming closer.

No more. You cannot be doomed by former workmates and bosses. They are busy dooming each other and you are out of the blast circle. You are, quite simply, free.

Soooo…about the annual vacation business…

Why does it have to be annual? Why can’t it be every 6 months? Why can’t it be three days in the middle of the week now? No reason at all, save the monetary aspect. And does it have to be a big, annual, pressure-relieving, pressure-inducing, official escape? Can it now be a small pleasure jaunt?

Of course it can.

Give up the idea of the ” vacation “. You have nothing to vacate. You have time to spare, and time to fill. Fill it with something good – something new, if you like new, or something old, if that is your comfort.

Go see what you like and do what you like. If you don’t know what these two things are, now is the time to find out – go and do a wide variety of things and see how you feel. You might discover you’re a beach sitter who loves the nothing life. or you might hate it. You might find you are a planned tourist – or you might just like a pub chair and a book. You might find anything, if you go and look.

Be careful. You might find yourself being happy…

n. At the age of retirement, you get to mentally review a lot of things.

No, I still do not know where flies go in winter – I am just content if they stay away from me in summer. But you get to review the people you are in contact with and decide whether you wish to stay in contact with them. You really do have a choice.

I’ve made my own list of people I wish to remain in contact with. I’ve also made another list. Neither require dramatic action – I seek the company of people on one list and avoid that of people on the other. The basic result is an increase of happiness for me. That achieved, I am a better friend and companion. Of course chance may throw me in or out of contact with either lot, but I try to remain calm about it. I am a reader of P.G. Wodehouse and the character of Jeeves is a great assistance in some situations.

m. At the age of retirement, you can eat and drink less than before. Heavy consumption is unpleasant. But you can still appreciate good food and drink, and as you are taking less of it, the little you do have can be of much better quality.

It can be cooked  and served professionally, if you’ve got the money. If not, you can prepare it yourself and enjoy it in your own home. This has many advantages; you need not eat impossible melanges of modern food – you can stick to classics. You can experiment with flavours – with no scowling chef bullying you. You need fear no wait-staff with bad attitudes – you can be smarmy to yourself, and need not leave a tip.

n. The coffee. I found it. It was by the telephone. Why didn’t you tell me it was by the telephone?

o. You will get scam phone calls and computer messages all the time. Of course you will never fall for them, but you can spend some time playing with the criminals who perpetrate them. They regard you as a gullible old fool, who can be cozened and bullied into letting them have access to your financial secrets. They are vogelfrei…

I find it best to be ready – if you’ve a quick wit you can have some marvellous fun. In the past I have sung Broadway songs to one, shamed one with religious sermons, convinced one that they had been patched through to the quarterdeck of a Navy ship docked at Fremantle harbour, and demanded the delivery of white phosphorus howitzer shells from another.

I have refused life insurance upon the grounds that I was a train robber and lived too dangerous a life to get insurance, and kept another going for a half-hour on the basis of being a kindly and bumbling old fellow who was nearly succeeding in doing what they wanted on my computer, but not quite achieving it…

Of course, if I am frying bacon at the time or fresh out of the shower I am brusque. I’m pleased that a workmate was able to teach me a series of Croatian swear words, and I wish that someone could supply me with a similar list in Hindi or Arabic.

p. Speaking of computers, you may find out many new things that you did not know with these. You will also find out that the computer does not know many of the things that YOU know. And much of what you do know, you can recognise as being distorted, false, or foolish when it is spread out on Facebook, Twitter, or innumerable private websites.

The fact that you know better in some instances should give you cause for pause – if the almighty computer got it wrong in something that you know the truth of, you should also suspect that there could be many other instances where it is wrong.

You still have a public library, and you still have your native intelligence. These do not get hacked. Use them.