Yesterday (July 26) in the northwest of France, two Muslim terrorists attacked a Catholic church, taking nuns hostage and killing an elderly priest, before they themselves were shot dead by police. It certainly fits the pattern of ISIL violence: vile, shocking, made for media, and—something we talk about less—standing in stark opposition to the very…
I’m not a programmer so I’m just guessing that the two emails below are scams, but whatever they are, any change of pattern deserves caution.
So what are these changes of pattern?
I’ve noticed two, and they both involve the email address of the sender. Before I show you what I mean, it’s worth having a quick look at the standard parts or components of an email address. I’ll use my gmail address [this is my public email only] to illustrate:
The components are as follows:
- the username – i.e. meekasmind
- the @ symbol
- the mail server – i.e. gmail
- the top level doman or extension – i.e. .com
The @ symbol never varies but the username could be just about anything, same with the mail server, however the top level doman is usually restricted to a few familiar extensions. These include:
I’m sure there are more, but those are the main ones, off the top of my head. Outside of the US, these extensions often include the country code – e.g. .com.au for Australia.
Now have a look at the screenshots of emails I received just this week:
This is the first one I received. Note the .stream extension. Now it is possible that new extensions were approved while I wasn’t looking, but when I searched for the ‘concert-tickets‘ mail server from which the email supposedly came, I found nothing. Zip, zero, nada.
The next day I received three more emails with the hypenated mail server name and the .stream extension. Hmm..a pattern emerging here.
Then today a variation on the theme:
Instead of a .stream extension on the email address, we now have a .download. Assuming the .download and .stream extensions are legitimate, just exactly how many of these extensions are there?
Note something else as well. Under ‘Improve Your Vision’ [which is a link to another web location] there is vertical line. That line is not a truncated picture holder [given that Firefox blocked the images embedded in the body of the email*]. Nor is it an error. That line is another link.
Why is that line potentially significant?
Because even people who know to be wary of links in emails might click it just to find out what it is.
For me, another suspicious thing is the lack of ‘other’ information in any of these emails. Now it’s possible that the blocked images contain more information – i.e. text – but as a form of marketing, this doesn’t seem to be very smart. Which leads me to suspect that it’s not really marketing at all.
If anyone knows anything about these ‘new’ extensions – i.e. whether they are legitimate or not – please reply in comments. Until we know for sure, however, please treat these kinds of emails as potentially dangerous.
*The reason Firefox blocks at least some images in emails is that certain images ‘can’ contain malicious code. I’m not sure how that works, and I’m not sure how often it happens, but I know it’s a possibility.
Please don’t worry, 98% of my Reader list remains unchanged, which means that I’m still following you, still popping in whenever I can, still enjoying your content.
The 2% of blogs I have weeded out include some ‘professional’ rebloggers and an 18+ site that suddenly appeared out of the blue [excuse the pun].
I have nothing against ‘soft porn’, or even erotica. If that’s what you enjoy, great, just allow me the freedom not to be bombarded by it. This is not the first time that the WordPress Reader has gifted me with questional blogs, but I really hope it’s the last.
I have nothing against reblogs either, in fact when I find a post that really grabs me, I’ll reblog it myself. But…if I recommend something it’s because I genuinely think its good. You may disagree with me – we are different after all – but at least you’ll know that my recommendation is honest. When I find my Reader filled with recommendations that smack of professional marketing, well, I get a little annoyed.
Do I flood you with endless posts about my books?
Maybe I should. Maybe I should become a professional marketer myself. Maybe I should treat all of you like potential dollar signs…but I can’t. Most of the people I follow, I really like and to my old-fashioned way of looking at the world, when you like someone you treat them with the same respect you’d like them to show you.
So no spamming of marketing material on Meeka’s Mind. If you like my fiction, great. If you only come here for the how-to posts, that’s great as well. If you only drop in for the music or some wacky tech, you’ll always be welcome. And if you stay and chat, you’ll become part of the family. My Manifesto.
Phew…I feel so much better after that rant!
hugs to all,
As someone interested in biology, I find these amazing pictures of disease causing microbes absolutely fascinating. It’s a great post and I recommend it to anyone with a curious mind!
Borrelia burgdorferi – a spirochete transmitted to Humans via ticks, produces Lyme Disease
Can we regard those things which cause pain and suffering as beautiful?
Some of the beasties represented here have been too closely associated with my family for comfort over the years but the enhanced imagery by medical illustrators makes these deadly harbingers of disease fascinating rather than frightening.
My daughter was diagnosed with the fairy floss like Borrelia burgdorferi after a trip to Germany last year and had to undergo some serious chemo to remove it after oral antibiotics didn’t work.
She did get asked to go on the science show, Catalyst, recently which was a positive experience. Luckily she is now looking so much better, but other people with Lyme-like symptoms in Australia often don’t fare so well.
The official line in Australia is that the species of spirochete (the group of bacteria) which cause Lyme disease isn’t found here so those people who…
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I hate brutalist architecture, but that doesn’t mean I hate all modern architecture. Case in point is this amazing building in Prague.
Called the Dancing House, or sometimes the Fred and Ginger house [in a nod to dancing legends, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers], this organic looking building playfully denies the engineering that must have gone into its construction. Just looking at it makes me smile.
Here are a few more views:
To learn more about the Dancing House, or to visit the sites from which the images were taken, just click on the relevant picture.
Now I’m off to do some gardening on this glorious, sunny Sunday!
I’ve just learned that there’s been a new terrorist attack in France – in the southern city of Nice. Details are still sketch, but it seems that a man driving a truck ploughed into as many people on the road as he could, shooting at the same time. The crowds were there to celebrate Bastille Day and were caught completely unawares.
I don’t know how accurate the death toll is, but even one person is too many. My thoughts are with the people of France.
Okay, all I know about chatbots is what I’ve been reading on Medium lately, and the frustrating experience of ringing my utility company and being forced to answer the STUPID questions of its chatbot.
You know how it goes. You ring and either have to wait forever for the call to be picked up, or the chatbot answers and asks for your account number when all you want is some general information. Grrrr….
So you dig out a utility bill and spit out the account number, knowing full well that if you get through to a real person they will ask you for the number again anyway.
Then the utility company bot asks you to explain the reason for your call. You grit your teeth and try to think of a one or three word description and e.n.u.n.c.i.a.t.e it as clearly as possible while growling in the back of your throat.
What happens next? The chatbot either mishears you, or simply doesn’t have a response for your particular query and asks if you want to speak to a customer service representative…
Do I want to speak to a real, live person? Oh god…
Anyway, if you look at this infographic from Medium, you will see a comparison between a chatbot ‘conversation’ and the same query via a simple Google search:
To me, there is no point in carrying on a long, inane Q&A ‘conversation’ with a chatbot when a word or two is all I need to get all the information I need from Papa Google. But am I just being an elitist nerd?
I rather suspect I am. In fact, I rather suspect that most people who regularly use computers are elitist nerds. Why? Because using a computer is actually a lot harder than learning how to use apps on a smartphone. That is why smartphone use has skyrocketed world wide. It is also the reason some pundits believe the days of the desktop [computer] are over. Why pay so much and have to go through such a steep learning curve to do things a smartphone can do so much easier?
There is a part of me that wants to scream that what a smartphone can do is just a fraction of what a ‘proper’ computer can do, but the words barely form before I get a flash of the early 80’s and the emergence of the personal computer. Back then, PCs were much less powerful than mainframes, and I’m sure a lot of old school programmers could not see why everyone couldn’t just learn FORTRAN or something…
So…smartphones may be to the future what PCs were to the past because they are:
- portable in a real sense,
- easy to use, and
- a growth market
But I hope, truly ruly hope that chatbots are just the toddler stage of a technological progression that will end [?] with real voice recognition and real AI support.
Until then, I’ll stick with old school search engines and my antiquated desktop because…I’m an elitist dinosaur with poor eyesight and a pathological hatred of chatbots.
I have been a fan of author, Chris James for some time. How could I not? He’s a very good sci-fi writer! Anyway, when I read this blog post of his, I was intrigued to say the least. Read it and see for yourselves:
I had the shock of my life a few days ago when I took the dogs for a walk in my local forest, only for a stranger to approach me and address me by name; in fact, by both my author name and my real name. Much greater shocks were to come later in our brief discussion.
Standing slightly less than average height, the Stranger wore lose-fitting black garb which hid all body contours, and the hood fitted quite tightly over the head and wrapped around it to obscure the chin, mouth and nose. Only two piercing blue eyes stared out at me. In addition, the pitch and timbre of the muffled voice gave no indication of this person’s sex; it could’ve been a female with a low voice or a male with a high voice. He/she spoke in a gender-neutral tone that would shortly become very frustrated with me.
My disorientation at being denied clues to this person’s identity was compounded by the reactions from my dogs. Normally they run and sniff everything in the forest. Crazy in particular never stops moving for a millisecond, and flies through life with a constant expression of wondrous stupidity on her ugly face (well, they say dogs take after their owners *sigh*). Now, however, I noticed that both dogs had become still, frozen…
I’ve always believed that the definition of true courage is not a lack of fear but the exact opposite – lots of fear but the courage to push ahead anyway. Sadly, I’ve been less than courageous the last six [?] months, putting off doing The Vault dungeon until I’d literally run out of anything more interesting to do.😦
Well, my Summoner, Meeka Thara, has finally done The Vault. Twas not glorious. I died at the three quarter mark of the third boss, but luckily the rest of the party finished him off while I lay ignobly dead at their feet. -sigh- I did learn a few things that may help others though. What follows is for newbies, and is only a kind of overview and tips type thing. You should still watch videos of the fight and read up on it for the complete mechanics.
So, to the overview and tips:
- Unless you’re incredibly overpowered, the trash mobs are actually quite hard. Not Limit Break type hard, but hard, and they aggro from quite a distance. Party members who run ahead of the tank are stupid, plain and simple.
- The first two bosses [Ser Adelphel and Ser Grinnaux] start out almost easy, but when you get them down to about 20% HP they morph into much harder creatures, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.
- As per usual, the 2nd boss [Ser Grinnaux] is harder than the first and uses some mechanics that can trap the unwary. One of them is the aetherial tear [or void gate]. The Boss throws these void gates around the outer edge of the circular arena. Standing near a void gate will cause some damage and stacks of vulnerability. Unfortunately, it’s not just a case of avoiding these gates. Every so often, the boss does an aoe knockback that sends everyone to the wall. If you get knocked back into a void gate it’s not good. As much as possible, try to position yourself so your back always faces an undamaged section of wall. I did read one forum post that advocated stacking the void gates all in one place to make it easier to avoid them but…I don’t know how you’re supposed to do that.
- The third and most powerful Boss [Ser Charibert] is hard right from the beginning. His mechanics include:
- Heavens Flames – these are circular fire aoes that target each, individual player – i.e. you will always have to be on the lookout for them,
- Chains – this mechanic chains two players together and keeps doing damage until the chain is snapped. If the two players are standing fairly close together when they are chained, they just have to run a short distance away from each other to snap it. If, however, the players are a long way apart when they are chained, they may not be able to put enough distance between each other to snap the chain.
- Knights – look like huge chess pieces and march in a row from the north of the arena to the south. Contact with one of these Knights causes damage AND a powerful Attack Speed Slow. This is not the kind of debuff you want when fighting a boss. The good thing, however, is that the Knights can be avoided, at least in the early part of the fight because they’re fairly slow and always keep to a straight line [think of them as moving line aoes].
- One strategy I read which worked really well during the early part of the fight is illustrated in the follow graphic: The idea of stacking on the tank is that you automatically avoid the lines of Knights. You also have heaps more room to move if you get chained. It does work so long as you keep track of where the boss and tank are.
- At about 60% health, the boss disappears and returns with 2 adds – both Knights, but these ones can do line aoes. He also casts Holy Flames. There are about 6 [?] of these positioned around the outer perimeter and DPS have to kill them asap. Holy Flames are followed by a room wide aoe called Pure of Heart. Now I’ve read that Pure of Heart can be followed by Sacred Flame, which is another room wide aoe. Apparently Sacred Flame depends upon whether the Holy Flames were all extinguished prior to Pure of Heart going off. We got all the Flames so I didn’t actually see this for myself. I assume it would have been bad though.
- In all the videos and guides, they say that after the Holy Flames/Pure of Heart sequence, everything else is ‘just’ more of the same but ‘a bit faster’ until the boss dies. Hmm….
- The reality is that phase 2 of the fight is when the boss throws everything at you at top speed, again and again and again. Knights charge down, chains happen along with fire aoes, and it’s all happening at once and OVERLAPS. Dodging the Knights was easy in the beginning but now with everything hitting you at once, moving and fighting at the same time becomes problematic, at least it did for me. As you can see, a new line of Knights is forming in the top of the screen before the first lot have even passed. It’s rather chaotic and unless you’ve got your camera pulled out as far as it will go, seeing what’s happening [so you can avoid it] is difficult. This is around about where I died, probably because I was just too slow.
Given my lightning fast reflexes – chokes laughing – I should have just focused on my feet and forgotten about everything else. After all, the rest of the party managed just fine without me. Instead I tried to dodge while casting like the healer – awesome healer, by the way – and I failed.
So there you have it. Another dungeon, and a morning wasted on gated content that I hate, and no writing done, but at least I now have something more to do until the next trial in the game [Bismarck]. At this point, all I want to do is get past the gated content and reach the Dravinian Hinterlands for the crafting. After that, who knows.
p.s. if you click on the screenshots, you should be taken to the Youtube video from which they were taken.
On Saturday, July 1, 2016, Australia voted in a double dissolution election [for House of Representatives and Senate at the same time], but five days later we still don’t know which party will govern.
Nevertheless, we can safely say that Malcolm Turnbull has lost. If the Liberals remain in power, Turnbull may remain as Prime Minister, but his effectiveness will be severely compromised, as will his legacy.
So how did Malcolm Turnbull, one of the most respected and admired politicians in recent history, manage to lose his appeal in such a spectacular fashion?
The answer, I believe, is very simple, Malcolm was not allowed to be Malcolm and voters punished the party for it. To understand this, it’s important to understand the right wing, conservative, faceless, faction heavy weights of the Liberal party. They :
- loved Tony Abbott,
- hated Malcolm Turnbull [they still do]
- had to acknowledge that Tony Abbott was almost universally hated by voters,
- had to acknowledge that Malcolm Turnbull was liked and respected by voters on both sides of the Liberal/Labor divide
[confession: I liked him too and I’m a Labor voter],
Taking points 3 and 4 into consideration, it eventually became obvious that the party would suffer a landslide loss if Abbott stayed as Prime Minister. Worse still, only the hated Malcolm Turnbull would have any traction with voters. So after much gnashing of teeth, the conservatives gave in and offered Turnbull a deal: they would support his coup against Tony Abbott, but only if he [Turnbull] continued to toe the party line established by Abbott.
In hindsight, this seems rather crazy until you consider that the right wing has never had any time for Climate Change, or marriage equality or even that pesky NBN. So they were prepared to use the Turnbull popularity with the electorate but without all that small ‘l’ liberal nonsense.
What is less clear is why Malcolm Turnbull and his supporters accepted such a backhanded and hamstrung endorsement.
My personal guess is that Turnbull et al., must have seen the writing on the wall and grabbed what they could, believing [probably accurately] that he would never have a better chance of becoming Prime Minister.
So Malcolm and the conservatives struck a deal and for a while, the strategy appeared to work. Liberal popularity in the polls went up as Malcolm rode a wave of public hope.
We believed in Malcolm. Wasn’t he the man who lost the leadership of the Liberal party because he stuck to his principles on climate change? What greater sacrifice could a politician make? And wasn’t he also the man who openly supported gay marriage? And in a way, despite selling out on the full glory of the NBN, he at least managed to stop Abbott from scuttling it completely.
So Malcolm was our hero, and we believed that finally we would get a government that most of the country could swing behind. He might be a Liberal, but he was a good Liberal. Maybe even another Menzies [arguably the ‘best’ Prime Minister in Australia’s political history].
But then the winds of change began to blow a little cold. Week followed week and nothing we’d hoped for eventuated. Nothing on Climate Change. Nothing on marriage equality. Nothing on Refugees. Nothing on anything that any of us plebs actually cared about. What was going on?
In time, some of us began to think that Malcolm was playing a long game. Yes, he was under the conservative thumb now, but after the next election he’d be so successful that the conservatives would have to crawl back into their holes and finally, finally Malcolm could be himself.
I truly believe this was a part of the PM’s strategy when he called a double dissolution on an issue that no one seemed to care about, including him.
The trouble with this strategy was that Malcolm’s popularity declined in direct proportion to the release of policy after policy that favoured the big end of town while asking us to accept all the sacrifices required to balance the budget [at some point in the future].
Australians pride themselves on giving everyone a ‘fair go’, and we’ll happily dig deep to help those laid low by disaster [witness the 30 plus million dollars raised by public donations after the Black Saturday bushfires here in Victoria]. But Australians also have a history of distrusting the super rich and the big end of town. If the Liberals had offered genuine support to small business, we might well have tightened our belts and got on with it, but they offered incentives to companies and corporations that did not need the help. And they were going to pay for it by making us do without.
That major miscalculation was rooted in the conservative concept of the ‘trickle down’ effect. In essence, it means that if government supports big business, big business will generate growth which will lead to jobs which will lead to greater prosperity for all.
Sadly, most people in the Western world have now had first hand experience of the trickle down effect and they know it doesn’t work. So when Malcolm and the rest of the Liberals bleated about jobs and growth, we weren’t listening. Added to this disinterest was a great disappointment – we’d had such high hopes for Malcolm and he hadn’t lived up to our expectations. Malcolm wasn’t Malcolm. Had he changed his mind about all the things we thought he cared about? Or had he sold us out just to be PM?
I think we might still have voted for Malcolm if not for the brilliant campaign run by Bill Shorten. I personally dislike the man and can’t see myself trusting someone who stabbed two Labor Prime Ministers in the back in order to be given the job of opposition leader. Nevertheless, despite all expectations to the contrary, Bill Shorten ran an inspired campaign. He picked up on all the disenchantment of ordinary voters – including their fears for Medicare – and hammered them home.
In the final analysis, however, Shorten’s campaign would not have been as effective if the right wing conservatives had allowed Malcolm to be Malcolm. Instead, they muzzled the goose that might have laid their golden egg, and now they’re spinning all sorts of ‘reasons’ to explain its failure to deliver.
I feel sorry for Malcolm Turnbull because I can understand his desperation to finally wear the mantle of PM. But the truth is, when he sold out to the conservative right, he lost the perceived integrity that made him popular in the first place, and with that, he lost the very thing he wanted most – validation.
In my last post I talked about the disaffection of Western voters, and how this might lead to a change in how we ‘do’ democracy but in the meantime, we are protesting about the lack of integrity of our politicians in the only way we can – by kicking them out. This, too, is democracy.