iainpj: man's head with glasses (avatar1)
( Jun. 30th, 2011 09:36 pm)
You know, it wasn't that I thought it was a myth, exactly; I just couldn't imagine what it would be like to have baseball and/or softball sized hail. I mean, that's one hell of a lot of ice coming down from the sky, you know?

And hey! now I don't have to imagine! Because it happened here! Tonight! Right this very minute, in fact! (...OK, it's stopped now. Wonder if I can get any pictures of this...)

(taken after the hail was over, but after it had started raining, so even though this was less than five minutes after it ended, they were already melting away. Plus, of course, it was over 70 degrees F.)

Turns out that one thing you really really REALLY do not need in a major city is softball-sized hail. The auto-insurance companies will be doing a resentfully booming business starting tomorrow. As will some of the home insurance places. And, sadly, some health insurance places as well, because that stuff hurts. IT HURTS! (...OK, it was my own fault. I opened the door to see what the hell this was, because it didn't sound like anything I've ever experienced before. And I opened the door and got whacked in the foot.

I wish I'd gotten out to take a picture just a little sooner, though. The street was completely covered in about two inches of hail. And then it was just ... gone.
So I was watching these clips on Youtube of this Italian movie that I'd seen referenced on another weblog. (This NOT NECESSARILY WORKSAFE scene, as it happens) And I thought it looked familiar, and I was pretty sure that one of the video stores I go to had this in stock, so I rented it again. And the more I looked at it, the more I remembered it. I remembered being grateful that it had burned-in subtitles so that I could get through it fast, because it was just interesting enough to want to see what happened but not good enough to want to waste a whole 83 minutes of my life on it. And then I decided to see if there were any reviews out there to help prod my memory.

And what do you know? If you do the search right, it turns out that one of the reviews that comes up on the very first page of results is my very own, of "Uomini uomini uomini."

And I'll tell you what: I was way too kind in that review. It's not that anything I said was wrong; it's that I completely missed what really happens in the first few minutes, which really does tell you everything you need to know about these characters and should set the tone for the film. (It doesn't set the tone, mostly because of the film's lack of any real structure. It immediately goes gallivanting off into unrelated scenes of character exploration in a way that makes you forget how it started.)

These four middle-aged gay guys, with whom we are supposed to sympathize or empathize or whatever, effectively gang-rape a stripper. In the very first scene of the film. One of them gets the stripper into the club's bathroom, where we discover, hey! the stripper's a prostitute! What a surprise! The stripper offers to do the guy for 300,000 lire, and then suddenly the other three guys are there, pretending to be the police in a fairly believable arrest/shakedown to prevent arrest. They all shove him into a stall, saying "You're lucky! Instead of going to jail, you might even have fun!" It's not at all clear how far they go -- it cuts away before anything happens, and afterward, they aren't that specific, saying only, "You can't even have a joke any more!" whatever that means in context -- but seriously, the main characters basically gang-rape a guy to start the film. And I somehow managed not to understand what was going on. I expect that it was meant to be a sort of foreshadowing about what happens with Luca later in the film. Oh, and right after the possible gang-rape, one of them gropes a parking attendant and shoves his crotch up against the guy's butt. When the attendant objects, the guy says that you have to expect such things to happen when you're a guy working at a queer nightclub. Oh, and then the one who happens to be a doctor takes advantage of one of his patients by making him undress when it's entirely unnecessary. All of this happens in the first seven minutes of the film.

Man, I could sometimes be really clueless ten years ago.
Because at some point, you will go into a hunger induced food fugue. And you will think that you're still in control, but oh no no no no NO! You are not! And even if you manage to retain some measure of sanity, you will reach two points that will show just how out of control you have been.

The first is the cash register, at which point you will wind up saying, "Wait, I spent how much on food?" But at this point, surrounded by food and hungry, you are still in the grips of the fugue. You will not come out of it until you are at home and putting things away.

And at this point, you will be having with yourself a conversation that is somewhat like the following (specifics will vary, of course):

- Organic fruit, well, OK, I'll eat that ... Huevos rancheros sauce? Really? well, OK, I know what that really is and it's from Hatch and I know what I'm going to do with it eventually, so that's OK ... Some bread of the usual sorts, OK ... Beef that was on sale! Joy! ... Bison chuck roast, OK....

- Wait, what? Bison chuck roast? Really?

- Huh. Bison chuck roast.

- What the hell am I supposed to do with THAT?

- Well, at least it was on sale.

(OK, yes, I know what to do with a chuck roast. It's just ... bison? Really? What the hell was I thinking? [That it was food and on sale, probably.])

(For some strange reason, not only have I been cooking a lot more lately, but it's involved more and more ingredients of the "No, really, what the hell was I thinking there?" category. Which, granted, makes for more interesting meals. Sometimes much TOO interesting, if you see what I mean and I think you do.)

The one slow cooker recipe for bison that I've seen advises cooking it on low for 20 hours, which seems OK, more or less. Though I wonder if cooking it for a shorter time on high would work.

And just to complicate things, the film festival starts this week, so I won't actually be home for any meals from Sunday through the following Sunday. Hope bison freezes well.
Because, of course, this week in computrid devices was not complete enough, oh no no no. Now we're also having the BSOD Follies! Or we were. Maybe still are. Depends.

Weird thing is, the error message, such as it is, seems to trace to a fault in physical memory. But I have a memory testing suite on this device that runs in safe mode, and it indicates that physical memory is just fine. What I think may be going on is that the disk is so heavily fragmented that it's starting to interfere with function. After running the XP defragmenter twice, it still reports 40% disk fragmentation; I think the problem there is that you can't defragment a disk you're actually running the OS on at the time. Strangely enough, MS has a partial workaround for that; when you try to defragment a disk in use, Defragmenter normally asks you if you want to defragment the disk on reboot, before the OS is running in anything but a very minimal state. Stranger still, that option has so far resolutely refused to appear. It won't come up in normal mode, safe mode, or when I invoke defragmenter through the command option -- it more or less politely declines to run in command mode, because it can't do more defragmentation on a disk in use. Which, of course, I knew.

The other aggravating thing is that I'm getting sometimes extremely long screen redraw times, all of a sudden. Usually -- but not always -- mouse-related. I'll move the pointer somewhere without any problem, but then the computer takes a few seconds to notice where the pointer actually is, a few seconds after clicking to bring up a menu or appropriate options, and a few seconds to do anything once an option's been selected. Which may or may not have something to do with video RAM -- and in this computer, oddly enough, video RAM is on the separate video card/chip/whatever, and not shared system memory. But then, the screen redraw doesn't lag so much when I'm using the keyboard; response time is, for the most part, what I expect it to be. (Though even then, sometimes I have to sit and wait for the system to catch up with me.)

And another weird thing: This system has something called Quick Launch Buttons -- allowing you to do a partial boot of the system without going into the OS so that you can use it as a portable DVD player. Somehow, it gets configured inside the OS -- I guess you select your options and then it writes them to ROM or some such. I don't know; I've used it exactly once, and that was just to see how it worked. Anyway, the last three reboots -- trying to defragment, and reinstalling Spycatcher, which I briefly thought was the problem, since it kept BSODing just a few seconds after Spycatcher loaded -- Quick Launch Buttons has failed to launch. And the system also booted successfully all three times. I do wonder if QLB does something essential behind the scenes, though, that might explain the sluggishness of the video redraw. In any event, I'm guessing that QLB was the problem somehow -- perhaps it's just so badly fragmented that its drivers couldn't load. Before defrag, they BSODed; after defrag, they still can't load, because they're still fragmented, but they're enough better that they can fail gracefully instead of BSODing. That's my guess, anyway, judging from behavior.

This sort of siege has has happened once before. Then, the only way I could get it working properly was to eventually do a repair installation. Since I only just got the thing fully updated, I'd like to avoid that, if possible -- especially since getting it to happen this time was just short of a miracle. (The computer has been almost violently allergic to Microsoft Update for the past year, refusing to download, refusing to install when it does download, refusing to load the pages of the site.)

This computer is only three years old! I don't want to have to replace it! Even more, I don't want Vista or WM11 anywhere near me.

We're going out to do some post-holiday shopping for necessities. Hopefully, I'll be able to pick up a CD/DVD version of Diskeeper or some such. (I'll do Norton Utilities if I must, but I'd really rather not.)

(What I would really like to do, in my secret heart of hearts, is to get another notebook drive, and mirror this one. A notebook drive that's, you know, BIGGER. However, mirroring a drive in this state would be lunatic. Besides, I think it also requires an extra computer that I do not have -- you can't reasonably mirror a drive in use, after all.)
Yeah, so, it hasn't been a very good afternoon. Though, curiously enough, it started out just fine. I'm theoretically on vacation, so I got up late, tracked a few things from home that I'd set in motion that needed to be tracked, then went to my office to pick up my stuff to go work out. (The gym is on campus, so it's easier to just leave stuff there.)

Just before I was about to go to the gym, I remembered that I'd wanted to check my account balance and to see if a couple of things had cleared. And there, in the middle of my pending charges, was something from

byersebooks.com Byers Ebooks, Mahwah NJ 201-258-5600

But ... I have never been to New Jersey, I have never charged an ebook with anyone but Amazon or Audible. So I did a bit of checking and ran across this:

Ebook websites, fraud charges, Devbill/DigitalAge/Pluto

There is far more here than first meets the eye!. digismarket.com and mfbpsite.com card fraud, are only the tip of the iceberg. They are just a fraction of a criminal operation run by a well organized, sophisticated, multi divisional, vertical crime syndicate. That conclusion is the result of tracking and analyzing this syndicate's operations for over two years. They have been running this large criminal enterprise for at least 4 to 5 years, if not longer. Most importantly, it is driven from routine unfettered access to consumer's card account data by this Eastern European crime syndicate....

[...] They are strictly a laundering vehicle used in an elaborate scheme to convert hijacked card data into cash, and shuttle it out of the country. A criminal conspiracy that has been operating successfully for several years.

Every single charge processed through any of these sites is fraudulent, There are no valid orders that originate from there. They are a front, set up exclusively to launderd hijacked card data into cash, and facilitate the removal of these funds out of the US....

[...] Credit for contributions for some of this discovery should be shared with two other individuals. However, they requested anonymity, once the full scope and extent of this criminal enterprise was realized, and who may be behind it. It was then clear that this entire multi year operation had to be driven by unfettered access to a continuous stream of card account data. At least one division of the crime syndicate presented itself as being based in Lithuania, however, the laundered cash from the fraudulent credit card billings was tracked going to a bank account in Bulgaria. I will go into greater detail later, first lets address the current crop of card laundering fraud sites:

A sample of some of the other current sites ran by this enterprise include:

byersebooks.com Byers Ebooks 201-258-5600 ...

[...] There are also recent reports about fraud card charges listed as Crystal Clear Designs, fabri-tex and Vin Designs. Other names surfacing are The Book Cellar Boston, Aslene Reads e-books, and Homebase out of CA . Other names now expired that were associated withthese fraud charges were treedonlainsite.com, Brookshire Enterprises brookshire-ent.com, and bestdigimart.com. It took some serious digging to discover who they really are, as these criminals go to considerable lengths to obfuscate themselves. Many of the names they pick will intentionally resemble legitimate entities....

[...] This crime syndicate clearly has unfettered and continuous access to volumes of consumer's card account data at the highest levels. They had access to this data 2 years ago, last year, this year, and they have access to fresh data today. This criminal enterprise has built a sophisticated process that has enabled them to retrieve at least 1,500,000 card data accounts annually, and remove an estimated $15,000,000 a year in laundered card fraud proceeds out of the country. However, the actual amount could be any multiple of that. If they have not laundered a charge through your card already, it is only because they did not retrieve that account data yet. Your card's prior history appears to have no relevance with respect to the odds of getting hit with these specific fraud charges. Also not relevant is the card issuing bank, the charges occur across a broad spectrum of card issuers. Neither is the fact that it is a debit (check card) or credit card, both are billed as CNP transactions, however, they do not have access to the debit pin numbers. Though primarily a Visa / Mastercharge phenomena, it also hits Amex and other card holders....

The net result is apparently that my account is being used to launder money for some crime syndicate in Bulgaria or Kazakhstan. I'm so thrilled, I can't tell you.

Here's one of the entertaining bits: it turns out that the bank, the lovely Chase no-longer-Manhattan (the First Chicago that was, four mergers ago), for reasons that I don't quite understand, are extremely reluctant to process this as a fraudulent charge, rather than a disputed charge, in part because the charge is pending. For reasons I really don't understand -- apparently having to do with not wanting to verify ... something -- the bank won't halt a pending charge, fraudulent or not; they will only deal with a completed charge. (You'd think, if the charge was pending, that it would be easier to annotate the account and say "This charge will be blocked forever and ever amen." To stop the charge in mid stream, so that no money goes anywhere. But apparently not.)

Strangely enoughy, Byers ebooks has a surprisingly clean record with the Better Business Bureau in New Jersey:

Name: Byers Ebooks, Inc.
...The BBB processed a total of 7 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period. Of the total of 7 complaints closed in 36 months, 7 were closed in the last year.

Billing or Collection Issues
BBB Definition: Billing or Collection Issues - Claim alleging billing errors, unauthorized charges, or questionable collection practices.

BBB Definition: Resolved - The company resolved the complaint issues.
5 - Company addressed the complaint issues. The consumer failed to acknowledge acceptance to the BBB.

BBB Definition: Unresolved - The company failed to resolve the complaint issues.
1 - Company failed to resolve the complaint issues through the BBB voluntary and self-regulatory process.

Refund or Exchange Issues
BBB Definition: Refund or Exchange Issues - Claim of alleged failure to honor company policy or verbal commitment to provide refunds, exchanges, or credit for products or services.

BBB Definition: Resolved - The company resolved the complaint issues.
1 - Company addressed the complaint issues. The consumer failed to acknowledge acceptance to the BBB.

Only 7 complaints. My.

In Washington State, however, we have an entirely different thing:

TIP NUMBER THREE: Questionable Debit Charges Showing up on Statements from Byers eBooks of NJ

People are reporting that they are receiving unauthorized charges of $4.95 up to $6.95 on their bank statements from the number: 201-258-5600 stating they are Byers Books. People are stating that they never did business with this company before, and when they contact their merchant card or bank, the bank says that the charge must first go through before they dispute it.

When the BBB calls this number, it state that they “mailbox is full.” So, there is no way to contact the company. Byers eBooks has the following contact information: 1303 Faulkner Ct, Mahwah, NJ 07430. Consumers report that they are not getting anything they know of from these charges, so the charge is questionable and has no product or service value.

We strongly suggest that if you have this charge on your card and you have not conducted business with this group before, to be pro-active and file formal complaints with the BBB of NJ as well as with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office as well as your own Attorney General’s Office.

It truly pays to check your bank statements regularly for such erroneous charges so you can dispute them ASAP. Also, be pro-active and file additional complaints.

I don't know if I'm going to go through the New Jersey BBB or not. It seems a bit much to ask them to resolve a fraudulent charge; after all, the "dispute" isn't that they charged me for a requested but undelivered service or item -- the "dispute" is that they had information to which they weren't entitled, that they charged me without authorization of any sort, and that in time and aggravation alone, it's going to cost me MUCH more than $6.95 to clear up everything. The "dispute" is that is some guy out on the net can figure out that this appears to be a criminal enterprise laundering money, why can't the BBB? (And, yes, it's entirely possible that the "guy on the net" has an axe to grind, and that poor Mrs Evans is just a techno-savvy widow, looking to make a little bit of extra money by selling ebooks computer to computer, battered by the many cyber winds, and she doesn't know how she got that information, and she didn't mean to cause such a problem over $6.95, really! ... yeah, I'm not buying that one, either.)

My guess -- and it's only a guess -- is that the charge is so small that a lot of people just miss it on their statements, or decide that it's not worth making a fuss over. Of course, that also means that the "company" knows that it can hit that card at least once more, for a larger number, until the owner says something.

The aggravating thing is that I had to close out my card, and it'll be a week before it gets here. I've got a few month-to-month charges on that card -- like my damn server -- that are likely to bounce before I get the new card. It's only my (oddly enough) good luck that it didn't happen a month or so later, because then it would have caught my domains up in the mess as well.

I wonder how they got my information? According to that first linked page, it tends to hit people who haven't used online sites more than those who have, those who come from brick-and-mortar places, except that the information used is too complete for those stores. (That would say to me that it's coming from inside the banks or processing clearing houses, actually. Which, given that we're talking about a syndicate, makes perfectly good sense. That said, I know that my information has been incorrectly handled at least twice in the past few months; once in the big TJMaxx/Marshall's fiasco from a year or two ago, and once recently with a health insurer that I no longer use -- that said, the insurer wouldn't, or shouldn't, have had my credit card information at all, let alone attached to my record.)

I wound up doing one of the annualcreditreport.com credit reports, which I hadn't done in far too long, just to make sure that nothing hinky was going on, and according to Experian, at least, nothing is. (Seriously. Blandest credit report ever. Except for the peculiar fact that Capital One has requested information on me for every single month through the past three years. I've only once ever succumbed to the lure and applied for one of their cards, and at that time, my credit was so mindnumbingly horrible that they actually stopped asking me if I wanted a card for about six months.) I figure that in a month or two, I'll check one of the other credit reporting sites, and then in another month or two after that, I'll check the third. Probably best to have them staggered out a bit.

So, needless to say, didn't actually get around to the gym today. My trainer will not be amused.
I would like it to be known here and now that while I am, yes, a P-person, and I am of the librarian persuasion, and I will even confess to a deep, dark and abiding love of the coffee -- especially the medium roast sort ... mmmm, coffee ... wait, where was I? Oh, yes -- while all of that is true, I have never in my life had quite enough coffee to send my coworkers a message like this.

Not even on the days when I've had enough coffee to get all vibrational, even.

Although I have been tempted to send them other types of messages that would have gotten me a stern talking to.

It is true that librarians on the whole do seem to drink a lot of coffee. Mind, I don't drink all that much, for a librarian. (48 ounces per day isn't that much, is it? ... is it?)


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags