April 3rd, 2004

Yo Maniacal Tang

On Turning Into A Pumpkin

Wow... my first full week at work, more or less.

I got PAID yesterday... almost exactly three years from the last time I received a check for my labors. Of course, I'm discovering that there are whole new issues with having an income again... like being so damn tired.

But today as I picked up Macs from various places around one of the odder places to work, the window rolled down as I listed to MP3's on the car stereo, I got this feeling of contentment -- I truly believe that a geek isn't happy unless they're doing something geeky for a living.

I'm a writer at the core... and someone who can't help but be excited at the possibilities of technology. Neo-luddites be damned... I want my direct brain interface already!

I have a few concerns, some serious. For one thing, I want to be moved out of the house in Boulder Creek by May, which means hunting for a new place to live, packing, and moving. At the same time, I have personal issues independent of that, like the almost complete breakdown of communication with penguin_goddess, which is especially frustrating in light of the progress I've made with Michele (we spent most of this week hanging out during the evenings, watching TV and talking... a lot...) lavendersage and lovingstones -- so much so that I feel a lot more hopeful even in the face of so much yet to be done.

I'm hoping that people will be patient with me for awhile as I start to re-create my life.

Okay, time to go thud. G'night.
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Yo Flips Out

Scary Shit... Spam That Almost Looks Real

You know, I think if people actually paid attention in english class, they would spot things as fakes and not hand organized crime in another country the keys to their identity. Case in point, this is an actual email I received today...

Dear eBay Member,

The eBay Team from The Department of Payments and Fees Cost inform you that the data provided by you can not be processed to charge the monthly fees. Click on the link below to update your credit/debit card on your eBay account so the monthly fees can be charged directly from your credit/debit card.

[utterly convincing link to: http://dll-ebay.com/index.html]

"If your eBay Account will not be updated in 5 days with a credit/debit card your account will be suspended in conformity with eBay Terms of Agreement paragraph 9 in which is stated that we can temporary or permanently stop providing our services to you.

Thank you for understanding and using our services !

eBay Team

Department of Payments and Fees Cost

Copyright © 1995-2004 eBay Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The observant will note the glaring grammatical deficiencies almost immediately. The unwary, however, will click on the link and be taken to what LOOKS like an actual e-bay site. For the technically challenged I should point out that it's absurdly simple to duplicate the exact appearance of an e-bay site... all one needs to do is steal the code and required graphics straight from any eBay page.

"But the URL!" you might proclaim, "Isn't that an eBay server?" No, it just contains the word "ebay". If it were really ebay, it might look like "dll.ebay.com". dll-ebay is registered through a less than scrupulous (or perhaps just criminally sloppy) registrar who doesn't care that eBay is a registered trademark.

The proof of the scam is in the way the site functions. For example, the log-in screen will take ANY random input as if it was an actual user name and password. The so called validation screen will also take any input whatsoever... I made sure to enter something particularly nasty in those fields (leaving them blank generates another realistic message regarding the "required" information needing to be in specific fields... a fairly simple script built into most web pages that accepts these kinds of forms can be whipped up fairly quickly), and "submitted" it. If it was a real submission, I would have received a polite error message saying my credit card info was invalid. Here, it actually accepted the phrase "Bite my ass, shit monkeys" as a valid credit card number.

So, who is committing this massive fraud? Digging deeper into the email reveals this hidden field (at least for most users):

Received: from smtp1.iplus.ro (unknown []) by smtp1.iplus.ro (Postfix on SuSE Linux 9.0 (i586)) with SMTP id 406C63D80D for [yohannon@rotunda.com]; Sat, 3 Apr 2004 04:23:29 +0300 (EEST)

Now, most "top level" domains are three are more letters in length (.com, .net, .org, etc.). Two letter suffixes are country domains. For example, there's a .us for this country, .uk for the UK, and so forth. Russia, a notorious source for spam, is .ru. Unless my memory is completely gone ( a very real possibility at this point), .ro is Romania.

In other words, some asshole Romanian Mafioso running a Linux server is "spoofing" as eBay to trick y'all into revealing key bits of info to steal your identity. As I said, the only flaw is in the broken english, which could easily be tweaked before long to be indistinguishable to a majority of americans. I'm certain that, even in this format, a lot of people might be duped... ARE being duped... by it.

Be careful out there, folks.
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Yo Maniacal Tang

And Then...

So, one of the first casualties of returning to work is apparently the ability to sleep late on the weekends. Today, for example, I woke up at 9 AM. Since I've been waking up at 6 every morning, I guess this IS some form of sleeping in.

The plan today was to look at apartments from the inside (as opposed to doing drive by viewings to get a feel for the neighborhoods and all) and possibly find a new place to live. While looking at the listings on Craig's List I ran across one that's been popping up every day (more or less) for the last few weeks. We already had lined up some appointments and found out where the rental office of one property management company was located, yet this particular victorian flat really struck me as a sweet deal.

Roni was worried it might be a bit pricey, so I asked her what the rule of thumb was regarding the price of a rental. She said it was one third of the household income, before taxes. So, I whipped out the trusty calculator and did some crunching.

No, it wasn't fair -- she's a book-keeper, after all, so applying her own rules of accounting to us was a sneaky thing to do, even if I did it out in the open. However, even using the lowest possible numbers, it turned out this place WAS in our price range. While she grudgingly conceded the point, I assured her that this wasn't an attempt to raise the upper limit of our search across the board... this was an exception based on an almost absurd level of quality.

So, we set up an appointment for 2:30. We got out of the house and made our way to Alameda, just before 10 AM. I know, scary.

After arriving we tracked down a place to eat. While driving down one of the main drags, I caught the scent of something extremely yummy, but couldn't place exactly what it was. After stopping for gas (wherein the red head discovered that the local Arco had the perfectly adjusted crunchy ice machine... LONG story!) we back tracked in hopes of finding a deli, and I caught a whiff of that wonderful smell again... just as Roni says "Hey, look... a cheesesteak shop!"

I whipped into this parking space near a shop shooting bubbles over the front doorway on the corner, and went on to have a great lunch. Dynamite Cheesesteak is true to the name.

Afterwards, since we had an insane amount of time left on the meter, we decided to check out the shop of much bubble-age. I think it was called "Vignettes" or something, and they had the COOLEST stuff, all reasonably priced. Wait, that's not quite true... some of those prices seemed to low to be called "reasonable".

Around this time I noted that I had a voicemail -- checking it I found a message from the manager of the Apple store I had applied at for the "Mac Genius" position saying he had "good news" for me. There was much rejoicing, though it turned out he was out to lunch when I returned the call, and wouldn't be back until after 1:30.

We decided to go to that rental agency to see what they had. I wasn't surprised when Roni's credit report came back pretty spotty (thanks in large part to a very messy divorce thanks to a guy who left her to join the gay man's chorus... and that's only a slight over-simplification/exaggeration), but was frankly shocked at my own. No, it wasn't spotty... it was PRISTINE. I don't know what I really expected, but good credit?

Anyway, the first place we took a peak at was 1300, and was... well, alright, I guess. However, it was also over-priced by almost 300 bucks. It explained the agents comment that this particular place had been vacant for "quite some time",,, and probably will be for the foreseeable time to come.

The next address was only 80 bucks more, but 4 times better. However, when we found the place, it was being shown by ANOTHER rental agent who was with this cute family with one small child. Okay, so the father figure was the cute one... albeit completely straight.

We rushed back to return the keys, and trekked over to the dream flat. We got there fairly early, I tried to call the Apple manager back again. He answered the phone, and before I could identify myself, he asked if he could put me on hold. I figured he was talking to a customer, so I said "sure!" -- five minutes later I realized it would have to wait until after the showing, so I hung up.

I'm afraid to jinx this place by talking too much about it... suffice to say it was a stunning deal, and we have a good shot at it. We both fell in love with the feel of the place (as well as the appearance), and the owners seemed open to working around Roni's credit issue. We'll find out about it Monday.

After getting through that, I decided to make it "third time's the charm" and called that aforementioned Apple store yet again. This time I got the gentleman online, and he made a formal verbal offer... and then told me that it paid MORE than the NASA gig. Since I had been bracing myself for a LOWER amount, this was a pleasant surprise... to say the least. Add the whole benefits thing into that mix, and there's no contest.

He actually was starting to tell me I could be starting as soon as THIS monday or tuesday before I could tell him that I had to give NASA notice first. He asked me what the job was, and I explained I was assisting in the OS X MIgration... and the sillyass valley synchronicity effect kicked in. It turns out I'm working with one of his ex-employees... one of the guys I like, professionally speaking at least.

[cue creepy music here]

There's more, but this will have to do for the moment... not only am I toasted at 1:45 AM, in fifteen minutes it'll be 3:00 thanks to Daylight Savings springing forth.
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