Bad Hair Days
It’s been a strange week. Yeah, I know, the world is in lock down, except for barber shops in Georgia. Speaking of barber shops, I haven’t been to one in a while. Let’s just say that this is pretty much how my hair rolls these days.
Cover Your Face!
Note also the buff I am wearing as a face mask. I use it whenever I am on trail or in a crowded situation. I upgrade to one of my wife’s face masks when I go to the store. I do this about once every ten days and I spend the bare minimum of time inside.
I should point out that the compliance with the recommendation that people should wear a face mask when outside their homes is very low in the suburbs and on the trails. I can’t understand why. Any covering is better than none, yet folks around here won’t wear one, not even a bandana. Go figure.
Do What I Say or Your Mom Gets the Pictures
The week began with me receiving a ransom note in an email. The email was sent to a email account I rarely use anymore and the subject line contained a password I used to use for several websites. The email said that the sender had been following my activity on the internet for 155 days and has compromising pictures of me taken on my laptop camera. These pictures, the email said, would be shared with eight of my Facebook friends, chosen at random. The emailer warned that might include my family members, including my parents. He would cease distribution and destroy the pictures if I sent him $200 in bitcoins. There were two links in the email, one supposedly to prove he had pictures and another to pay for the bitcoins.
I asked a friend who is a legal expert on all things internet and another who was subject to a rather nasty doxing (stealing all sorts of personal information) and other related unpleasantness from some evil doers. My friends gave me some sound advice, including an FBI cyber crime address to send the email to.
I re-read the email. Clearly, the thing was intended to get me to click on the links. Not gonna happen, of course. Then I thought about the specifics of the email. Eight random Facebook friends? Why not 10 or six? Why just Facebook? The stalking had been going on for 155 days. Really? My stalker must be very organized to keep track of such an odd number. Or maybe they figured that I would worry that I did something untoward a few months ago and had forgotten about it – until now.
All of these odd details and a few telling spelling errors, led me to believe that this entire thing was concocted by a room full of scammers in a far away land, as my cyber expert friend had suggested. I felt like responding to the emailer by encouraging him to send the pictures to my parents. They can be found at a cemetery in upstate New York.
Some good came from the email. First, I found one web account of mine that includes the old email address and the password. I rarely use this account or website any more. Regardless, I changed both. Second, I realized that a good way to construct a password is to include some information that indicates what account the password is used for. For example, if it’s a password for Horse and Buggy, include H and B somewhere in the password. (Or, even better, some coded version of the same.) If another similar attack were to occur, I would know immediately where the breech occurred. Third, I changed the password on this old email account a month ago, but forgot what it was. As a result, the email wouldn’t work on my cellphone. In the process of looking into this matter, I figured out the mnemonic device I used when I made the new password and changed the settings in my cell phone. Now the email works on my phone again.
Yesterday morning another weird thing happened. I was sitting in my family room man cave at around 8 or 9 o’clock when suddenly an electronic sounding alarm went off. It lasted for a second or two and then stopped. It wasn’t a smoke detector because the smoke detectors in my house have a different sounding alarm. My wife was asleep directly above me. She heard it and thought it was part of a dream. Neither of us have a clue what it was.
The alarm reminded me of a problem I once had with an electronic noise in my VW Golf. After about 90,000 miles, the car developed a loud whine that was super annoying. Strangely, it only happened when the car was moving. I took it to the dealer a number of times but they couldn’t fix the problem. A few years after I got ride of this car, I was listening to an episode of PBS’s Car Talk when a caller described the exact same problem. Click and Clack immediately diagnosed the problem. It wasn’t electrical in nature at all; it was a worn odometer/speedometer cable. The cable spins whenever the car is motion.
Bike Rides – Now with Smellovision!
Finally, one bit of good news is the fact that car traffic is way down in the DC area. As a result, the air is noticeably cleaner. You really notice this in two ways. First, if you look a long distance, say over the river, you get zero haze. Second, when riding a bike you smell things you’d never normally smell. I noticed this twice during today’s ride. I was crossing the 14th Street Bridge from DC to Virginia. The bridge is part of I-395. A car went by that was burning oil or maybe some antifreeze. In any case, it was clearly distinguishable from every other car on the road. Later, while wearing a buff over my nose, I rode past a stand of honeysuckle bushes. It smelled as if I had stuck my nose in the blossoms.
When it gets hot around here, the heat radiating off pavement can have a effect on the air near the ground. I wonder if this is the result of car emissions or ozone levels. It causes my windpipe to contract noticeably. Will it be less of a problem this summer? Time will tell.