The Year of the Scam

Did I mention that a few months back somehow a crook got hold of my debit card information and used it to place two purchases, one to an online retailer I’ve never shopped at and the other to a utility company in the Northeast U.S.? Yeah, that happened as well. A little over $270 in charges, all reversed by my bank once caught and reported that same week. Bank representative told me it was likely that my information was collected through a gas pump skimmer scam and that I’d be better off going inside to pay for fuel purchases in the future. That’s a bummer. So I began paying for gas in cash more often than not.

Then when I was finally filing my taxes after having filed an extension to put off doing so, when using TaxAct (which is the site I normally use) I had to deal with their relentless upsell attempts throughout the process. And because I didn’t have a discount code this time around and did have a second source of income from a side job (if you can really call that income since the fuel costs involved nearly equaled my earnings — certainly wasn’t a money-maker, come to find out, at least not for us independent contractors), my taxes were complicated a bit, prompting TaxAct to claim I had to upgrade to a higher plan in order to continue filing. Before all was said and done, TaxAct was wanting to charge $87 for federal and state filing of what’s normally been a very straightforward and basic tax return. Everybody’s trying to get their cut this year it seems. Considering not filing through TaxAct next year as a result, especially considering the upgrade didn’t seem any different whatsoever from the usual plan used. Didn’t even import last year’s tax information for comparison purposes.

But my financial problems are relatively minor compared to what’s been going on out in larger society. Did you hear about how after Avast took over CCleaner this summer it then somehow was corrupted and placed malware on a bunch of private and corporate systems (2.2 million affected), using that established backdoor to deliver more malware so as to collect data? The word is that that was the handiwork of a Chinese hacker group, said to be the same ones responsible for hacking into Google’s infrastructure back in 2009. Learned about all that while researching what CCleaner was when I noticed it (or a faux application by that name) was left on my computer by the Indian tech support pretenders I dealt with last week.

Now, the cyber-security and antivirus giant Kaspersky is under fire, with the Los Angeles Times reporting today (based off of the NYT’s story that ran yesterday) that the Russia-based company was found (by Israeli government hackers) to be in possession of hacker tools coming from the United States’ N.S.A. Which then makes one wonder why it was so easy for an N.S.A. contractor to take home so much classified information in the first place. And I’m not clear on why U.S. federal agencies were utilizing a Russia-based company’s security products when so many in our government claim to be extremely skeptical of all things Russian. Just doesn’t make sense.

Then there was the curious case of the hacker group known as The Dark Overlords made infamous in its attempt to collect ransom from Netflix this summer by threatening to dump full episodes of their exclusive show Orange Is the New Black, along with other shows on the site, turning its attention recently to hacking into a suburban Iowa school district and scaring the hell out of parents and students alike. Bunch of bastards those hackers are. Their link to this crime was made known through Twitter when members of TDO themselves took responsibility for the school hack. How lovely…

And in other news, there now appears to be a vulnerability on Android phones thanks to something called the Dirty Cow bug. So make sure only to upload any apps directly from the Play Store.

Then there was the Equifax breach (which, btw, in case you weren’t aware, when you clicked the link on their site to find out if your data possibly was compromised and sign up for their credit monitoring offer you’re also agreeing, per the fine print, to forfeit the right to sue them and instead to accept arbitration if problems arise — just so you know). But fear not others like me who procrastinated and are behind the times — public outrage forced Equifax to back down on trying to enforce that arbitration clause this time around. Though it wasn’t likely their little arbitration clause would’ve held up in court anyhow. A class-action lawsuit is already underway.

Now, the Cato Institute has come out saying that Equifax isn’t a one-time security concern and that all data-collectors, including those within our own federal government, are vulnerable to being compromised in a similar fashion, as was demonstrated by the 2015 hack of the Office of Personnel Management databases (resulting in data on 21.5 million government employees, security clearance applicants, contractors and their relatives and associates being breached — the major exception being employees of the CIA, conveniently enough straight_face  — as always, those guys move in mysterious ways) as well as the 2016 hack of the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) that was made public only within the last month.

“Patreon CEO Jack Conte LIVE: Lauren Southern, IGD, and Free Speech” (plus a look at the Community Guidelines page)

From The Rubin Report:

Hmmm…  Listened to the entire interview, read a good bit in the comment section, and now am perusing Patreon’s Community Guidelines page.

Never having signed up with that site, but was thinking of doing so to support content creators I appreciate. Now definitely having second thoughts.

Their community guidelines are entirely too vague, particularly where it comes to “hate speech,” “bullying,” “harassment,” and “serious attacks on people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or serious medical condition.” A screenshot follows:

ScreenHunter_20 Aug. 05 19.58What the heck does that mean? Looks extremely subjectively determined to me. How could it not be? A “safe space for normal people”? Well, that right there counts me out. No point in signing up if that’s how this is going to be played since I have no idea what qualifies as “normal,” but I’m willing to bet whatever it is will wind up excluding someone like me if that’s to be determined by people who actually take the term “hate speech” seriously.

Can’t say mean things about a person’s religion? What if that religion in question is Islam? Again, I’m willing to bet that religion is most especially protected by the type of folks who’d create guidelines worded in this way.

Here’s another paragraph of interest:

ScreenHunter_21 Aug. 05 20.03All sounds fine there, right? Well, hold on. Weapons? What kinds of weapons specifically? It doesn’t say. Does that mean a channel that broadcasts gun ownership and shooting techniques might not be welcome on Patreon? Certainly looks that way. Which to me sounds like a company that’s not friendly toward the 2nd Amendment, and why would I willingly do business with a company like that? If that weren’t their intention, I figure they’d come across less ambiguous here.

See, I decided to actually look into Patreon’s guidelines for the first time today BECAUSE of Jack Conte’s behavior during the interview above. His answers didn’t jibe with me in numerous places. One minute they’re talking about that Canadian Southern gal and blocking a boat, the next Conte is comparing her actions to blocking an ambulance. AND THEN, later in the conversation when answering questions by the audience, Conte turned vague again in addressing Black Lives Matter protesters doing precisely what he brought up in the aforementioned example: blocking ambulances. Suddenly he’s back to shucking and jiving, acting like he’s not exactly sure what might violate his website’s terms and conditions, acting as though the guidelines are very technical and specific and must be assessed case by case in accordance. But look at that Community Guidelines page — barely a thing on there is spelled out in sufficient detail. So it can’t help but be a guessing game in figuring out what may or may not be deemed an account-terminating offense on there.

He said they’ll be implementing a new appeals process and warning system later this year. Okay. Surprised something like that wasn’t in place already.

And so much for Patreon being unfriendly to “hate” groups like antifa. Here’s a pro-antifa group still up on the website: https://www.patreon.com/intlantifadefence. Looked around on there and found a couple others too.

WOW! Look what I just found on Patreon: Cynthia (racist as hell — “white people aren’t human“) G: https://www.patreon.com/CynthiaG  How on EARTH has her content NOT violated their terms of service?? Nobody has contacted Patreon to report her nonstop bashing of white people, including defending black people approaching interracial couples to call them out on being together in public? What, what, what??! UGH.

That’s surprising. But Lauren Southern had to go. Of course. That totally makes sense, right?  rolleyes_smilie

This whole thing is starting to look like just another Left-leaning moneymaking enterprise. Not about supporting actual freedom of speech and open exchange of ideas. Yes, it’s great for people to have an alternative to Google’s Adsense since that’s controlled by advertisers, but it would also be good to have an alternative that doesn’t kick people off the platform for non-criminal offenses.

That settles it. Going to continue leaving that site alone and relying on Paypal when I feel like sending folks a few bucks.

“A Word To The Muslim Criminal Migrant – Pat Condell”

Damn, Pat. Never thought I’d agree with that man all the way through a video. interesting to take in such a direct and unambiguous European perspective for a change. Sounds similar to how I’m coming to feel in the U.S. This latest entitlement complex from foreign nationals is doing nothing for me anymore. I am so sorry that a relatively small minority among you are responsible for much of the violence and bullshit occurring, but people of that faith and ethnicity are in a better position to check those “bad apples” than the rest of us are. Lest you possibly wind up mistaken as being closely associated with one of the criminal miscreants and so too returned to your country of origin, That appears to be the situation brewing right about now. Heed the warning.

Friends don’t let friends buy electronic kitty litter boxes

litter-maid-kitty-litter-box

Doesn’t matter the make or design…

Litter-Robo

litter-maid

…they all suck. That is my opinion as someone who has to deal with these contraptions periodically. Always break down eventually, yet people spent so much that they don’t want to throw it away and so instead continue using it unplugged. But most cats react poorly to it, IME, pooing on the sides or tinkling outside of the pan. They don’t like it, and I don’t like it. Harder and messier to scoop. Impossible to thoroughly sanitize thanks to all the grooves and crevices plus the electronic components. In my experience, they never work as hoped, not beyond an initial short amount of time. And cats seem prone to rebel against them, so it looks like we’re still better off buying a simple pan and quality litter and scooping manually. No biggie. Not typically a difficult chore.

Though I have taken notice of how many cats around the 12+ year mark are coming up with renal failure. Very sad situation. And a contraption like those above only further complicates the matter, in my experience.

The Comfy Sacks lounger has arrived

In a blogging mood once again.

Received the Comfy Sacks 7.5′ lounger via FedEx today, and, of course, the cat thinks she’s in love. This is intended as a sofa replacement since my old sofa was falling apart and had to be dragged out to the dumpster, then the new one I tried ordering turned out not to fit through the front hallway. So we’re moving on to “bean bag” furniture to deck out my woman cave. Still waiting for it to fluff up a bit more, but eventually I hope to snap a photo or create a video review (since there’s a severe shortage of those available, having looked all over for info before making this purchase). My guy fell asleep in it right away while waiting for his meatloaf to finish baking, but I haven’t taken up much time yet to get cozy with it. It still has a strong, plasticky scent after being unpackaged that hopefully will fade away in a day or two.

Total cost (shipping was free, plus discount) for the Comfy Sacks lounger: $380. So a little cheaper than most new sofas I looked at.

I checked out several websites selling similar products, from Yogibo to Ultimate Sack to CordaRoy’s to Lovesac. Can’t even begin to afford that last one. Decided to also order a smaller (full sleeper) “bean bag” chair from CordaRoy’s to set beside the lounger to add a little extra seating and to give us an opportunity to compare both brands. That one should arrive in a day or so.

Fun times. Also recently replaced my mattress and box-spring with a firmer set that hopefully will prove better for my back. Nice to have a few new furnishings, having lived in this particular apartment for nearly 5 years with my same aging stuff.

Not the most exciting news, but I felt like sharing.

Update in Feb. 2014: The Comfy Sack lounger isn’t working out and I’m seriously considering getting rid of it. Unfortunately it’s very bad on my back and isn’t nearly as comfortable to sit on as we had hoped.

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Update Oct. 12th, 2014: I hate the frickin’ Comfy Sack lounger and have felt this way for many months now, as has my companion. We avoid sitting on it as much as possible, and heaven forbid I take a nap on it. Wrecks my back. Apparently this sort of contraption is more suitable for kids, so mine is currently looking for a new home. Plan on keeping the other CordaRoy bag chair since my cat has made it her bed.  damn  Hundreds of dollars wasted so far as I can tell.

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Update Mar. 2016: Still own both “bean bags.” The cat claimed the CordaRoy one so she’s the only one who sits there these days. Felt comfortable to chill in though when I did used to sit there on occasion. As for the Comfy Sack lounger…well, I still own it and actually sleep on it more nights out of the week than not. Got a very comfortable bed but tend to prefer to crash in the livingroom while watching videos. Funny thing is the lounger isn’t hurting my back as much as before. Since last spring I began exercising regularly which has really reduced the nerve pain in my lower back and hip. No more shooting pain down my leg. So the lounger apparently was only a problem when my back pain was already at its worst. Not the most comfortable place to sleep and it does require regular re-fluffing, which for a 70-lb. 7-ft. bag of fluff can be a bit of a chore, but I haven’t gotten rid of it yet and currently don’t intend to. It fit through my doorway when other sofas wouldn’t, and it can be moved rather easily when more space is needed. Visitors don’t tend to like sitting on it since it bothers their backs, but perhaps we’re all getting too old. lol I still think it’s most appropriate for kids and maybe young adults (e.g. college students). Forget trying to have sex on the darn thing.  mybad

Update Oct. 2017: Still own both sacks. And one still remains in the sole custody of my cat. The larger Comfy Sack lounger I do continue to sleep on most nights. Long since ceased attempting sex on it, so that too remains unchanged. I’ve actually come around to appreciating the Comfy Sack for its versatility and maneuverability. It’s held up well with no rips or tears and continues to look decent. The back problems I was experiencing a few years ago turned out to give me hell no matter what bed I tried sleeping on, so it wasn’t a result of owning this lounger. Regular exercise and stretching helped a great deal in managing that pain/nerve pinch. So, after 4 years of sleeping and lounging on this Comfy Sack I have to say that it’s nice to have around, despite my earlier feelings about it.