What is Passion Worth?

When I ask this question, I’m not asking it in the general context of something like creating art, where an answer is truly elusive. Instead I’m asking in the context of business: what is the value of passion when looking for a business partner or hiring staff? (more…)

The Back of the Plane

I started sitting at the back of the plane because the probability of survival in a crash is significantly higher. To do this, I had to overcome considerable anxiety, since as it turns out I’m waaaaay out there on the Autism spectrum. What I found was a whole bunch of people who enjoy being alive way more than the folks in the front of the plane. I’m not on the same frequency as many of them, but if you want joy de vivre, it’s back there, and the harmonics are great.

Federal Election 2015, Stephen Harper and the Conservative Dilemma

Despite a number of philosophical differences, I understand why many Canadians support the idea of a fiscally conservative government that only offers the most essential of services in exchange for costing less through taxes. I do understand the attraction; there are some policies that I support from both ends of the political spectrum, and I’ve had many a debate on these issues with family and friends.

What I don’t understand is how anyone, from any political stripe, can support Stephen Harper. The partisanship, the disrespect for both the democratic process and for the Canadian people, repeated defiance of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the outright corruption boggles my mind. When the Liberal ad scandal broke, the then (Liberal) Prime Minister ordered a public inquiry despite the obvious political cost, and yet some of my Conservative friends still hurl “corrupt” at the Liberal party while seemingly finding this crap to be acceptable. I cannot grasp how anyone with any moral values could say that.

This year, a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for Harper, and a vote for more of the same from him and his unelected PMO staff. You may counter that a Conservative vote is nothing more than a vote for your local candidate, but it is Harper who has muzzled his back-benchers, and stripped them of the ability to represent their constituents in the Commons and in committee, so this defence is invalid. A Conservative vote is a vote for Harper, and a vote for him endorses all of this corrupt, morally bankrupt activity.

I understand how your philosophical position might preclude you from voting for one of the other parties. I confess I have reservations about both and I am uneasy about my still wavering support for the NDP in this one. Since reaching voting age there have been two provincial elections where I’ve gone in and declined my ballot — I found none of the available options acceptable. But that’s not an option at the federal level. I’m pretty sure that if I was a hardcore Conservative and unable to support an alternative, this time around I’d be showing up on Election Day and spoiling my ballot in disgust.

Is Phone Fraud a Terrorist Threat?

Hand holding phone receiver.Now we have a form of phone fraud that’s specifically targeting Canadians. Unfortunately, it seems to be pretty lucrative. For the full story see CRA phone scam uses fear of tax man to swindle ‘not so smart’ Canadians.

The real problem with this is the difficulty that police forces have in combating this scam, and many others like it. In all coverage of this sort of thing, we have local police forces saying that they have difficulty solving these sorts of crimes. The difficulty arises because the criminals are often offshore and they use the Internet to place calls. The more clever ones prey on the most vulnerable by faking Caller-ID strings to make people think a neighbour is calling.

It’s beyond me why someone doesn’t ask where this money is going and what its being used for. It’s easy to say that the calls appear to be coming from India, but the few times I’ve been able to pry information from scam calls like this, they’ve been in Pakistan. Northern Pakistan. Granted, I’m about to engage in “geographic profiling”, but it seems to me that if scammers are calling from a location that’s controlled by groups we consider to be terrorist threats, it might be reasonable to conclude that the money is going to fund terrorist activity. Is that a big leap?

The scammer in the CBC article says that they take $10,000 per day from vulnerable Canadians. It also shows that they’re extracting money in small amounts. Four prepaid Visa cards to pay off a thousand dollars. That’s going to fly right under the financial monitoring systems designed to track money laundering.

But doesn’t sending $3.5 million a year to a potential terrorist organization sound like something someone should be paying attention to? Why isn’t our impressive communications surveillance infrastructure being used to trace the VOIP packets used to make these calls back to their source? Why aren’t our voice recognition systems set to flag the obvious keywords used in a scam like this? Can we at least disrupt these sorts of communications?

Local police forces are incapable of battling this kind of criminal activity, simply because they don’t have the tools or skills available. Action needs to be taken at the federal level.

Photo credit: Martin Cathrae.

How to Kill HostGator Affiliate Spam

gator-targetHonestly I thought the whole affiliate spam thing died a well deserved death a decade ago, at least for any business that considers itself reputable. Hell even Vistaprint has cleaned their act up in this area.

But no, today I got a message to one of my role accounts (role accounts are things like sales@, support@, accounting@ and so on). As regular readers can probably guess the role accounts I use aren’t particularly easy to guess, but at the same time they’re for use by actual people, so they don’t have the same random characters I use for tracking addresses. Someone could have picked this address up from a variety of places.

The bottom of the email contains this text:

You are receiving this email because you subscribed to HostGator promotional newsletters.
5005 Mitchelldale Suite #100,
Houston TX 77092 USA
+1 (866) 964-2867

This is followed by a link with the label “Unsubscribe”. Here’s when the bullshit starts: it’s not an unsubscribe link. It’s an affiliate link. Here’s the target (with the affiliate ID obscured to stop the asshole in question from getting any traffic).

http://secure.hostgator.com/~affiliat/cgi-bin/affiliates/clickthru.cgi?id=asshole%20

Now check the mail headers, and sure enough the DNS tracks back to members.linode.com, which is most certainly not HostGator. So I’ve opened a ticket with HostGator, and sent them a full copy of the message, which will give them enough information to find the asshole. It’s my hope they’ll be terminating the affiliate account without paying out a cent.

If I hear back, I’ll post an update.

Update

That was quick, about 90 minutes later I got this message:

Thank you for contacting us with your concerns. We are taking the necessary steps to remove this affiliate from our program as this is a violation of our TOS. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.