log (2002/10/11 to 2002/10/17)

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Free the Mouse
Thursday, October 17, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Safe and Free.

From gorjuss, the very excellent "TRANSCRIPT: An esoteric language that looks like interactive fiction game transcripts." Fragment of a demo program:

Sam doesn't reply.

>SAM, BALL is equal to BOOK.
Sam doesn't reply.

Sam is short and rude.

Also, the WORLD DIRECTORY OF PASTA SHAPES AND NAMES (impress your friends with your knowledge!).

Rather than reading this, you should be reading ftrain's latest. A completely realistic story featuring a giant lobster and a magic tiger.

So I think I will try to spend less time doing Computer Stuff; less of my discretionary time on metababy, less on GNE, less on Neopets. (Less time, in general, on things that can be linked to with just a hostname, and no selector.)

And therefore more time reading books, writing novels (almost November!), daydreaming, tickling children.

We'll see how much this "I think I will try" actually influences my behavior. A recent "I think I will try just having nice healthy salads for lunch" hasn't had much effect; on the other hand "I think I will try avoiding asterisks in Java 'import' statements" has been going very well.

I don't think I count this here log-entry writing stuff in the Computer Stuff that I want to spend less time on. I might spend less time mindlessly surfing the Web with my eyes glazed over and occasionally finding amusing stuff to blog; but that just means that I'll have to occupy the space with (say) actual thoughts.

Still no word from Barrister T. Adams. Shucks!

Wednesday, October 16, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Man, everybody's sick. Them GNE folks are sick, and the guy next door is sick, and some people I hang out with online are sick. And I'm still sick.

Head for the Hills!

I like that phrase (at least tonight I like that phrase). There's this settlement, it sounds like, a town or maybe even a city, that's down on the plain, or in the valley, and in the background, against the sky, there are the hills, brown or green and dark at twilight, and the hills are somewhere that you'd head to in an emergency, places of safety or comfort or refuge, but not where you normally hang out, maybe wild hills or rough hills, but still the place that you head to when the chips are down.

A reader informs us that "stock people are real! really!", and encloses a link to an amusing Slashdot story (see also an amusing Register story) about a Microsoft ad campaign that tried to mirror the "real people switching" Apple campaign, but was quickly withdrawn when it turned out that the pictures of the people were stock clip-art, and at least one of the people worked for an advertising agency hired by Microsoft. Ooopsie!

Various readers sent in scammer response suggestions. Some favored the stringing-along idea, others didn't:

Just tell them where to go and what to do with themselves when they get there.

Oh string him along. Definitely! Create a masterpiece of the stringing-along genre.

Ignore him. Baiting these kinds of scammers is old hat now.

Well, it's not old hat for me, 'cause I never done it before yet.

Some pointed out that:

It's been done, and there are several web sites with transcripts of the e-mail dialogs.

Ooh! I found a pile of links to people spamming the spammers: [link] - some are hilarious. You in the mood?

Sounds like the story of Kindly Contributor and Escober Tony Sankoh -- be sure to read through to the end to see an example of interactive spam fun in action.


Some very funny stuff there indeed; I think I blogged the three-dollars story the other month.

Other readers had specific suggestions:

Offer them some beachfront property in Arizona.

Fake bank account numbers?

Agree to converse with him, but only if he promises to buy some insurance off you first.

Critique his scam-artistry, and try to sell him a superior method.

And one had a warning:

Stay anonymous, these people are reputed to be dangerous (though I'm not sure I believe any stories about assaults committed against respondents in the U.S., but people who have followed up by eventually going to Africa are probably in real danger.)

I definitely don't plan to go to Africa. In fact I doubt I'm up for elaborate counter-scams intended to trick the scammer into hopping around on one leg in the public square in some African capitol flapping his arms like a chicken. I just want to send him some odd text, and see what sort of odd text I get back.

Anyway! In composing a trial next response to our scammer along the lines suggested by my readers, I found that I could hardly even bring myself to lie. I'm such a prude! Here is the next missive, sent off sometime yesterday:

Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2002 02:02:20 GMT

Dear Barrister T. Adams,

I have received your mail. It is always gratifying to be selected! Apologies for the delay in responding to you; I have been ill, and I was also consulting with my friends about how best to reply to you. I have heard now, most distressingly, of some certain "scams" which have been fallen for by people wishing to make fast dollars in concert with others (not so nice) from Africa, and I would like to be assured that you are not a "scammer"? I wonder if there is a Barrister in the United States that could vouch for your reputation? No offense!

As for investments, I have been looking at the Real Estate market here and there in the USA, and there are particularly good deals to be had on the World Wide Web sites, particularly in for example ocean-front property in the states of Arizona and Chicago. It is supposed to be very good for the health.

I must ask as well: are you a Zoroastrian?

Thank you for your correspondance!

No reply received so far. Perhaps I stepped a bit over the line somewhere in there; maybe 419 scammers drop you if you mention that you've heard of 419 scams. Or perhaps the Barrister is just busy, and will reply soon. We'll see!

Tuesday, October 15, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

If only for the sake of the eagles, I will note that certain infections, while having really no symptoms that could be called at all serious, still leave the victim with no energy at all, where "no energy" (at least in this case) doesn't really mean no energy; I went to work and edited a document, and defended an invention, and went up and down the stairs (although a couple of times I did, after going up the stairs, have to sort of hold myself up on Ian's doorframe and catch my breath before proceeding with the activities of the day), and so on, but I don't have any energy, which is to say (something like) although I can do all these things, I don't have any energy.

You know?

Monday, October 14, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

Today's Random Images from Klez (scaled and compressed for the log):


two  three


Really! I am Not Making This Up.

There was also a copy of the readme file for "Microsoft(r) Visual FoxPro(tm) ODBC Driver Version 6.0a". Just to round things out. And also a bunch of html files and things that I didn't look at.

Speaking of randomly delivered digital images, genehack comments on how the random images fetched by the WebCollage module of XScreensaver seem to have changed over the last three or four years (more pr0n). Continued evidence of the immanence of the eschaton.

Also from genehack, the Bush Family Values Photo Album. Heartwarming images from the First Family.

Inneresting article by Jessamyn about being a Google Answers guru, and a followup about how she stopped being one shortly after the article was published.

Keep those 419 suggestions coming. Various people have also sent URLs of previous (more or less successful) efforts to taunt or otherwise play with the scammers; I'll summarize those eventually too.

Random Interesting Person Met on GNE of the Week: Alex Massie. And no it's not just because she's so photogenic. *8)

She apparently inspired metababy (which, oh my god, seems to be back; must resist the temptation to dive in with both feet again), and also built AfterDinner, a nice looking site about reading and writing which deserves to have more traffic than it probably will / apparently has.

I've put a story of mine up there as a "workshop", which means just that people can send me comments on it without actually knowing who I am. A neat idea. When I have that quiet study with the fireplace and the windows overlooking the meadow and the woods, I'll spend years writing stories and doing online workshops. That'll be nice.

Friday, October 11, 2002  permanent URL for this entry

From a recent NTK, an interesting article with one of the daffier statements I've read recently:

The eight-game contest comes five years after IBM computer Deep Blue beat then- world champion Garry Kasparov -- the first time since the invention of a chess program in 1958 that a machine had beaten a human.

Also from NTK, this.

So I got a typical piece of Nigerian scam-spam the other day:



(That's just the start; full text here.)

Unusually curious for some reason, I sent a reply:

To: tomadamson39@rediffmail.com
Subject: Odd letter
Date: Tue, 8 Oct 2002 17:49:02 GMT

I received an odd piece of email today, from someone claiming to be the widow of Mobutu Sese-Seko of Zaire, proposing a certain business transaction, and giving your email address as a reference. Is this proposal legitimate? The letter did not appear very professional, being all "upper case" and oddly worded, but I would not want to pass up a genuine opportunity.

Apologies if you know nothing about this matter!

I didn't really expect to hear anything back, but in fact I struck gold:


Dear Sir,
Sequel to your urgent response to the mail from my client, I must first of all thank you and at the same time congratulate you that you were the one picked to complete this laudable transaction that has been carefully monitored by the family of the late President of my Country for quite a while. Also I will want to use this oppurtunity to re:introduce my self, I am Barrister THOMAS ADAMS(esq) with the chambers of Barrister OWEN MAPELE who is a senior advocate of C0NGO and has represented serveral families of various presidents including the Mobutu family now who are depending on his experience and competence to help them conclude this transaction.

(That's just the first little bit; the complete text is here.)

Pretty cool, eh? I especially like that l33t zero in "C0NGO". The horrible diction, awful spelling, hopeless grammar, and random capitalization make both letters lovely examples of the genre.

So now what? I'm not going to call him, of course, but it might be fun to send some more email. (I've been using a random username at theogeny.com, which provides a trivial amount of anonymity.) Should I try to string him along? Taunt him? Send back a detailed critique of his spelling and grammar? Try to convert him to Zoroastrianism?

I couldn't decide, so I thought I'd ask my readers for suggestions:



I don't promise I'll actually send anything in particular, but at least we can toss some ideas around for next time.


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