Thursday, December 26, 2013

More Complaints from Yours Truly

Hope everyone had a good Christmas.

Last week, I let everyone know my computer had been hacked. I’ve said enough words about that (except that the hacker hasn’t taken me up on the offer to teach him how to write grammatical extortion demands), so let me vent on something else that was exacerbated by that unfortunate experience.

Part of my process in mitigating the damage done by the attack on my computer was to try to notify Yahoo and to follow their directions for assuring I’d done everything correctly to protect against another such attack.

Everyone, including Yahoo, needs to understand that a certain percentage of their users do not speak computerese. The second thing Yahoo should recognize is that some of us who were not raised with computers as surrogate nannies occasionally need to speak to a living, breathing human being. And I fall into both of those categories. Squarely into both categories.

I’ve used Yahoo for years as one of my email addresses and have had relatively little trouble. Until, that is, some idiot revised their whole system. Things that were easy to find are now hidden or camouflaged to make them more difficult to locate. Even when I ran into trouble, there was a telephone number to Technicians who lived and breathed and had blood flowing through his or her veins. It might take a time or two, but they always successfully talked me through the solution to whatever problem I might be experiencing at the moment. That telephone number was 1-866-562-7219. However, I tried it one day and received an automated message saying the line was no longer supported and referring me to Yahoo’s web site for instructions.

For the past three months (possibly longer), I’ve had trouble retrieving emails from the Inbox. I "left-click" on the Inbox … nothing happens. I hit the refresh button … nothing happens. In order to receive these messages I must hit the red X (actually it’s white on a field of red) in the upper right hand corner, pull Yahoo up off the Toolbar again, click on Mail, and lo and behold, the site deigns to release my emails from hostage. My computer service support people tackled this at least three times, and got it to work properly for a maximum of one day before it reverted to form.

Two weeks ago, I decided this was Yahoo’s fault, not my computer’s, so I tried to contact them. Easier said that done. It’s simple to get help if all you need is change your password. No problem. Change it all day long, if you want. But try to report a problem such as this one…good luck. I futzed around for half a day pushing this button and that, looking for sites they directed me to check...only to be unable to find the damned things. Then one day, I received an automated message saying since they hadn’t heard from me in forty-eight hours, they assumed the problem had been corrected. Corrected! I hadn’t even heard from them and the problem not only still existed, it had never been corrected. So I sat poised over my keyboard to give them a piece of my mind, only to find this was a “non-responsive” address that only sent mindless messages without accepting replies.

With a heavy sigh, I tried to go through the process again. Haven’t generated any other sign of interest from them. Not even from a dumb address that talks but doesn’t listen.

Then came the Day of the Hacker. This was serious enough of a problem that it was imperative I reach Yahoo to make certain I’d done everything possible to keep someone from taking control of my computer again. When I finally located a line that asked about messages being sent "asking for money," I thought I’d found Salvation. Instead, I found a response that said to “change my password.”

Larry Greenly, a friend from SouthWest Writers and someone much more computer savvy than I, found a number for Yahoo in Sunnyvale, California which looked to be the company headquarters. So I dialed 408-349-3300. A pleasant (robotic) voice welcomed me to Yahoo and then gave me three options: Press 1 if I had a problem or question about any of their products. Press 2 if I knew my party’s number and press 3 for any other questions. I pressed 1 and got a message to dial 866-562-7219 for Customer Service. Does that look familiar? It’s the number that says it is no longer supported and to refers to the web site. Well, it still says exactly that!

I called California again and tried option three. That response doesn’t even bother to refer you to a non-functional telephone number, it flat out says go to the web site. I called a third time and punched “0,” which sometimes gets you to a living, pulsing operator. No such luck. The "call the 866 number" message is simply repeated. I gave up.

If anyone from Yahoo reads this lonely cry, please respond.

Thanks,

Don


Next week: Well, I got that out of my system, so we’ll see what next week brings.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I’m Pissed!

A bad day…which actually started turning sour last night. I had a recurring dream that would not go away even after brief periods of waking up. I don’t remember the dream in detail, but the Pope and I were finalists in some sort of contest – don’t ask me what kind because I don’t know. Nonetheless, I was distressed as His Holiness clearly had an overwhelming advantage.

I don’t know the resolution of that puzzling reverie because early this morning my telephone rang right in the middle of my denunciation of the unfairness of the situation before a panel of judges. You guessed it, before a court of six Cardinals…and I’m not talking about red birds with topknots and feathers.

The caller was an old friend asking why I’d gone to Manila so soon after the terrible hurricane hit the Philippines. That was my first clue my computer had been hacked. I thanked him and bounded out of bed to try to address the problem. Please understand, the email address hacked was for my other iteration of Don Morgan. Apparently everyone on my/his contact list received the following message:

###

Hello,

I am sorry for reaching you rather too late due to the situation of things right now. My family and I had a trip visiting Manila (Philippines), everything was going on fine until last night when we got attacked by some unknown gunmen. All our money, phones and credit cards was stolen away including some valuable items. It was a terrible experience but the good thing is they didn’t hurt anyone or made away with our passports.

We have reported the incident to the local authorities and the consulate but their response was too causal, we were ask to come back in 2weeks time for investigations to be made proper,But the truth is we can’t wait until then as we have just got our return flight booked and is leaving in few hours from now but presently sorting out our bills here and also getting a cab down to the airport. Right now we’re financially strapped due to the unexpected robbery attack, Wondering if you can help us with a quick loan to sort our bills and get back home. All we need is ($2,650.00 USD) or anything you can afford, I promise to refund you in full as soon as I return hopefully tomorrow or next. Write back now to let me know what you can do.

Thank You.

Don

###

I have reproduced the phony email above exactly as received by one of my other email accounts. What a sorry piece of writing, not to mention a criminal act. It’s not too hard to figure out someone with English with a second language is the author of this pitiful literary effort.

So all of my foreign friends and acquaintances are suspect. If it were done in poetic form, I’d have the culprit nailed.

“…sorry for reaching you rather too late…” was bad enough, but “…My family and I had a trip visiting Manila…” is terrible. And really, can you imagine me saying “$2,650.00 USD?”

Even though I’m “Oopsie prone,” I don’t use run-on sentences or commas in the place of periods. I put commas after introductory phrases and use proper spacing after the close of sentences. And everyone knows I’m a slave to the serial comma. I don’t mix tenses, and my subjects generally agree with my verbs.

I have an idea! If the perpetrator of this fraud will come forward and join our writing class, we’ll teach him/her/them to write a proper extortion note.

My heading says I’m pissed. And I am. The bastards deleted all of my contacts, so I’m starting from scratch in getting them reentered. I changed my password, ran a Norton full check, tried to contact Yahoo (that’s a subject for another post), and did everything I know to do to protect against this happening again.

Despite all of this, let me wish everyone Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.

Thanks,

Don

 

Next week: Depends on what disaster befalls me between now and then.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Judas

Had a couple of positive comments on the two flash fiction pieces, so thought I’d give it another try. Hope you like it.

###

The little dog was one of them butterfly beasts. A Papillion, or something like that. Cute little tyke. Mostly white with black markings. Long snout, perky ears, and a bark somewhere between a yip and a yap.

“Hello, guy.”

He turned and trotted off toward the woods before halting and facing me again. When I hadn’t budged, he dashed back to yip/yap in earnest. I’d have sworn the fur ball wanted me to follow him. Maybe I oughta steal the bugger. Expensive dogs from what I’d heard.

Nah, I was a bad-ass, not a dognapper. The little guy led me across the barrow ditch and disappeared into the trees. I paused a moment before following. Wasn’t any problem locating him; he kept up a constant yammer, like he wanted me to hurry.

I pushed my way through a thick clump of mulberry bushes into a small glade and found him standing beside a body. The mutt’s bug eyes seemed to plead for help.

“Whata we got here?” I knelt beside a young man lying face down, his left hand flung out. A big ruby set in yellow gold on his ring finger caught my eye. His other arm was beneath him. “You okay, fella?”

I wasn’t much interested in his answer because dead or alive, I was gonna have that ring. I poked the shoulder of his soft suede jacket. Expensive. This guy might be a treasure trove.

Catching me by surprise, he rolled over onto his side, exposing a black revolver hidden beneath him. “Just stay nice and still.”

The good-looking guy with a pleasant voice got to his feet. He shoulda been playing soccer on the other side of the big park, not waylaying suckers in the wooded section. A trickle of sweat rolled down my left side, but it was excitement … not fear. Amateurs. This guy had just made the biggest mistake of his life.
 
“Take it easy, fella. You got no trouble from me. But I ain’t got nothing worth stealing. You picked the wrong mark this time.”

The kid waggled the revolver. “It’s not a robbery, man.”

I frowned. Maybe I oughta be worried. “Damned good imitation. I like the way your dog brought me to you.”

The bastard’s smile got even bigger. “Neato, huh? Took a year to train him. He helps me get my kicks. My thrills.”

My eyebrows climbed like I was scared. “No, man. I … I got a family. Wait, let me get my wallet. I got something in it you’ll like.”

With my left hand stretched in front of me as if to ward off a bullet, I slowly reached behind me. But it wasn’t a wallet I whipped out. It was my trim little .25 semi-automatic. It barked twice, and two spots appeared in the middle of that fine suede jacket. Crap. It was ruined.

The kid’s mouth gaped. His eyes went round like he couldn’t believe it. Then they went as dead as the rest of him. I went over to slip that ruby off his finger and check my marksmanship. Two heart shots. Had to be with a little .25, else he’d be able to yank the trigger on that big cannon.

A whine drew my attention to the dog at my feet. Maybe I oughta take him along to lure suckers for me. I examined the tag on his collar. JUDAS. A hell of a name for the little guy.

I heard a strangled gasp and whirled. The kid stood with two cups of coffee in  one hand and a big six-shooter in the other. No, that wasn’t right. The yokel lay sprawled on the ground, still dead. But there he was, standing wild-eyed and pointing a revolver at me.

“You killed my brother to steal his dog?”

I raised my .25 … but I didn’t manage to get off a shot.

###

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. Please take time to check out some of the other pages on this site and let me know how my flash fiction hits you.

Thanks,

Don

 
Next week: Depends on how industrious I feel.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nothingness

I'm sitting here staring at a blue-gray screen without a thought in my head. That shows you the perversity of life. Last night, when I desperately wanted sleep, a whole host of thoughts kept crowding the Sandman out of my head. Today, when I need a few ideas to do this blessed post … nothing. Can you do an entire blog post about “nothing?” Doubtful. At least for me. There are probably authors who can write an entire tome on nothingness, but I’m not one of them. Well, according to a few critics, that might not be entirely true.

So maybe it’s time to take a second crack at some flash fiction.

###

      He sprawled on a big, striped towel spread over the warm sand . Cool sea breezes, lightly perfumed with the scent of hydrangeas, fought the heat of the sun to a standstill, making the atmosphere just about right. The wind dried the light sheen of sweat on his brow as soon as it popped out. But he stared out over the calm expanse of blue-green water, listened to the lap of wavelets against the shore, and felt … nothing. Despite the clean, clear air he found it hard to breathe, drawing oxygen through his mouth like a fish out of water.

     Thirty-five and washed up. He was just a piece of flotsam an errant wave had deposited on the beach. Driftwood abraded bone white and brittle by salty sea water, devoid of blood and nerves.

     Great job. Gone in a flash. “Sorry, Cal, we’re having to cut back. This depression’s hit us hard. You’re young and a great programmer. I’m sure you’ll find something fast.”

     Yeah, right. He nearly sobbed at the recollections.

     “Sorry, Cal, you’re over-qualified for this little job we’ve got. But your resume’s solid. I’m sure you’ll latch onto something more appropriate pretty soon.”

     Translation: You’re too old. Won’t fit into our corporate culture.

     Fantastic marriage sunk in a sea of debt. “I can’t take it anymore, Cal. An old friend of mine in Iowa has offered me a job. It’s not much, but at least I can pay my bills.”

     Yeah. Her bills. What about the ones she’d run up while times were good? And that old friend was a recently divorced old boyfriend. How could she? They'd been so involved, so wrapped up in one another ... until his job disappeared.

     At least Cal still had a twenty-five hundred square foot brick with pool and exercise room. In nine months, that was gone, too. Sold to cover an underwater mortgage. Car hadn’t lasted much longer than the house. And the banker had once been a good poker and golfing buddy, too.

     His entire world in ruins, he’d cashed in what few assets Marilee, the bank, and the mortgage house had left him and headed south. South to Florida, but that wasn’t south enough. So he caught a ride on a trawler probably engaged in smuggling drugs into ... and whatever was in short supply out of ... the US. Somehow he’d found himself deposited on a small, nearly deserted island somewhere short of South America billed as a “tropical paradise.”

     He shook his head. Where the hell was he? Nowhere. With nothing but a few dollars in his pocket. Maybe if he sat in the sun long enough he'd die and end up a withered, forgotten, unloved mummy. A Nothing gone to Nowhere in No Time at all.

     He was about to close his eyes and sink farther inside himself to maybe commence the dying process when he caught something at the edge of his vision. Someone walking. Someone with an inadequate bra and a sarong-like scrap tucked around her waist. Someone with a long, graceful stride.

     She subtly altered her steps so she’d pass a little nearer. He took inventory as she approached. Dark skin. Mexican? Certainly Latin. Narrow waist. Broad hips. Barefoot. Long dark hair falling below her shoulders and bouncing as she walked. Big gold hoops in tiny earlobes. Green eyes. He couldn’t see them yet, but he was willing to bet on it.

     Then she was close enough to discern features. Broad nose, wide mouth, smooth brow. She caught his eyes. And smiled.

     Cal sat up straighter. He hesitated only a moment before scrambling to his feet and starting after her. He’d do that mummification thing later.

###

Happy holidays to you all. Please take time to check out some of the other pages on this site.

Don


Next week: Haven’t gotten that far. I live week to week.

New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.