How to Have a Conversation with a Random Spammer

While I am a confirmed Skypernaut, I learned that Trusty Friends Nova and Stormy don’t always have access to Skype.  They use Google Talk during these times.  I discovered that GTalk is pretty much like Skype, except not as good.  Now, to be fair, it works beautifully for IMing. It’s fast, it integrates with Gmail nicely, and it doesn’t use as much memory. However, it lacks a number of Skype features I’ve come to depend on.  For instance, it does not flash on my bar like Skype does to let me know there’s an update in one of the numerous chats I’m in there.  GTalk beeps instead.  Anyone who knows me, or has read this blog long enough, knows that I am a Geeky Mom.

This means one of 3 things.

a. I’m playing Skillet, Lacuna Coil, Kamelot, or Handel’s Messiah (depending on time of year) at outrageously loud levels while singing at the top of my lungs, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep. I may not have the same voice quality as Simone Simons or the sopranos singing the arias in the Messiah, but I make up for it in vocal enthusiasm.
b. The kids are screaming about who has to pack the last dirty coffee cup in the dishwasher, and I have stuck my fingers in my ears and have reached the LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!!!!! stage of the evening, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep.
c. I’m fragging baddies in Middle Earth, Vabbi, Firenza the Eta Eridani Sector block, or on Dantooine, and will NEVER hear the little GTalk beep.

Switching conversations in Skype is incredibly easy if you have the recent conversation tab open.  In GTalk, you have to click on the overlapping buttons on the bottom windows bar and hope you get the right one.  There’s no way I could have 9 (I’m not kidding) different conversations in GTalk like I do in Skype without that driving me crazy.  Still, I’m willing to deal with what works for others when necessary.

The other thing that Skype does much better than GTalk is handle privacy.  I can set Skype so that only people who I have exchanged contact details with can contact me.  This has saved me a lot of spam IMs from Chinese Nike shoe sellers, Russian prostitutes, and North Korean Viagra dealers.

Last night, courtesy of this blog, a spammer got through on GTalk. I answered because it was someone who had emailed me, and thus was in my contact list.  I had cheerfully ignored the email as probable spam, but GTalk decided since it was in the list of people who had emailed me, it must be OK.  It didn’t help that I wasn’t paying attention when I answered, since it was 2:30 am.  However, I am grateful for the line of thought this generated, because it gave me a perfect blog topic.

Anyway, here is the actual discussion we had. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and/or guilty.  Note that this was not one of the more brilliant things I’ve done on the internet, and you should avoid following this example.

2:30 AM jh: hi
  how r u?
 me: hello
2:31 AM jh: whr r u frm?
2:32 AM me: A Geeky town. You?
 jh: india
2:33 AM may i know about something?
2:34 AM me: It depends on the question. 🙂
 jh: ok
  wht is ur profession
2:35 AM are you busy?
2:36 AM me: Well, it’s the middle of the night by me. 🙂
 jh: ohh
2:37 AM me: I write and manage the family.
 jh: it’s your profession
 me: They keep me busy
  I take it you do tech?
 jh: ok
2:38 AM i can not understand what you want to tell exactly
2:39 AM me: you work with computers?
 jh: yes
  nad u
  sorry and u
 me: I play with computers. 😀
 jh: ok
  what is ur age
2:40 AM me: Mary Kay had a wonderful saying when someone asked her age. She said “A woman who will tell her age will tell anything.”
2:41 AM jh: ha ha
2:42 AM tell me you are man or woman
2:43 AM are you there?
2:44 AM me: My husband is calling me to bed–must go. Have a good night!
2:45 AM jh: okey
  sleep tightly
  good night

Now, let’s examine this in Geeky Mom detail.  Let’s say a random stranger meets you on the street or calls you up on the phone, and asks you where you live.  Do you look at him and say, “I live at 90033 South Moron Row, Stupidsville, 90210”?  No! Why?

Because that would be freaking IDIOTIC.

Who in their right mind is going to give a complete stranger their personal information? Apparently, lots of people on the internet, because I see this kind of stuff posted all the time on MySpace, Facebook, IMs, and forums.  For some reason, some people assume that everyone else on the internet is as nice and honest as they are.

Here’s a newsflash, folks.  People tell lies on the internet.  Lots of them.  There are sick people out there who take great joy in sitting at their computer figuring out how to separate you from your hard-earned money, and sometimes even from your home or family.  They like to gather that information in one setting if they can, but sometimes these Bad Guys will do this over multiple conversations, gleaning little tidbits of information here and there, until it adds up to one nice, big package of information.  If you’re lucky, they’ll only sell your email address and info to spammers.  If you’re not so lucky, they’ll come visit your home and rob you blind.  If you’re really unlucky, they’ll find you and you’ll disappear, with nothing left but a bad picture on a school milk carton and a mention on the America’s Most Wanted ‘Missing Children’ tab.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #1: Don’t tell people you’ve never met ANY private information like your address, your phone, or the status of your tattoos.

If you wouldn’t yell “I’ve got a a dove-and-heart tat on my left butt cheek!!!!” in the middle of a crowded New York subway during rush hour, don’t put it on the internet. Frankly, most of it’s TMI quality, anyway, and there really are some things we just don’t want to know about you.

By the way, Mr. jh really is from India, believe it or not, and with any luck thinks that “A Geeky Town” is the actual name of my home city.  I can just see him looking it up on Google maps now.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #2: Don’t use your real name on the internet.

Why do I use a screen name? I don’t want people looking me up in the phone book and figuring out where I, and hence my kids, live.  I’m rather protective that way.  I also don’t want my boss reading my status messages, and I don’t want potential future employers or complete strangers finding out about me via Facebook and other social sites, so I don’t share my screen name with my co-workers or my employers.  Besides, I don’t want to hear about how much my co-workers drank at some bar and then puked back up last Saturday night, either, so that works just fine.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #3: Don’t tell strangers what you do.
Unless it’s a work-related site or public knowledge already, strangers don’t need to know that you’re a professional daisy-picker.  It’ll also save you from a bunch of questions on daisy-picking techniques.

Since Mr. jh got info from this site, it was very easy for me to say ‘writer and family manager’ during our little chat, since as a Geeky blogging Mom, I’m obviously both by default. Of course, in the ‘painfully obvious’ vein, he answered that he ‘works’ with computers. Wow, there’s a surprise.  When he asked my job, I thought briefly about answering “professional Russian hooker”, but Trusty Friend Mishy had already said “5 bucks says he’s going to hit on you!” I didn’t want to lose the bet quite that fast.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #4: The only people who need to know your real age are your family and your doctor.
I’m permanently 29, thank you.  This is an excellent age to be, by the way.  You’re still young enough to have  great health, barring unusual circumstances, but old enough not to be insanely stupid like you are when you’re going on 21.

This reminds me of a story. Yes, I know this is completely off on a tangent, but it’s the most epic “I’m not telling my age” story, ever.  It needs to be told.

I had to ask a lady how old she was–in a professional capacity, of course.  She hadn’t put down her age or her birthdate on the form she had filled out.  She was one of those women who colored her hair and had that non-descript kind of look that said “I’m anywhere from late 40’s to early 60’s”.  I had absolutely no guess on her age.  Anyway, the conversation then went like this:

Me: “May I ask how old you are?”
Lady: “I’m 19.”

At this point, I was thinking “Oh, she jokes around about her age like I do. That’s awesome!”  I was about to laugh, when she said in a completely serious tone and with an entirely straight face:

“I’ve been resurrected.”

At that moment, I understood why she was taking a page-long list of anti-psychotic medications.  Apparently, it was OK for her to list those on her sheet but not her age, but then we’re talking about someone who, God bless her, connects regularly to the Mother Ship.  I ran my hand over my hair briefly to make sure I didn’t have a tin foil hat on and just hearing things myself from the Mother Ship.  I paused, thought hard about what to say next, and wondered how I was going to find out her true age.

This was one of those moments where the insane part of the brain kicked in and hijacked my mouth before the sensible part of the brain could say, “Wait, what? NO NO NO NO NO Don’t say that!!!”

Me, entirely seriously: “What year were you born in your former life?”
Lady, entirely seriously: “1953.”

I couldn’t believe I asked her that.  I couldn’t believe she answered with her real birth year instead of whacking me over the head.  I couldn’t believe the rest of our time together was spent as if absolutely nothing bizarre had just happened during that exchange.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #5: The only people who need to know your gender are people who actually see you, like your family and your doctor.
If someone on the internet says “tell me you are man or woman”, proudly tell them, “I’m a hermaphrodite, just like Jabba the Hutt!!” I’m not sure what part of “Geeky Mom” made “jh” think I might even be remotely male, but perhaps he was just trying to be polite and make small talk.

I was laughing at this point in the ‘conversation’, and sharing the potential hermaphrodite answer with fellow Skypernaut and Supremely Awesome Trusty Friend Sabretooth, when he cheerfully pointed out to me that “jh” was a confirmed spammer on the Stop Forum Spam site, according to this search. He also cheerfully and wisely pointed out that jh now had my email.  I said goodnight to jh, blocked him, and took the email address off my contacts list so that GTalk doesn’t still think he’s one of my best buddies in life.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #6: If you are stupid enough to continue talking with a complete stranger on the net, especially one from another country, and he professes “True Love!” after only 2 weeks and wants to get hitched, he just wants a marriage visa to your country.

This actually happened to my sister-in-law, but her idea of being ‘net-savvy’ is knowing how to use a net to scoop fish out of the pond.  She called us from Pakistan on her honeymoon after marrying the guy in London, 6 weeks after “meeting” him in a chat-room.  Why London? He couldn’t get a visa into the US to get married here.  She bubbled over in glee about marriage to Mr. True Love, and that she was staying on some family farm with a bunch of chickens running around, despite the fact that he was supposedly a banker at some unknown bank. I got off the phone with her and promptly called Homeland Security to report Mr. True Love. I thought about calling the Marines to go in and rescue her, too, but she got back to the US safely a week later, so we happily avoided an international incident.  I suspect Mr. True Love was watched rather closely for quite some time since he wasn’t able to get into the US for several years after that.

Geeky Mom Communication Rule #7: If you come in contact with a spammer, run your antivirus and malware scanners.

I’m paranoid about viruses and malware.  I ran AVG antivirus, including the rootkit scan, and Malwarebytes.  These and many other fine programs are available at one of my favorite sites,

By the way, “jh” didn’t hit on me, but Trusty Friend Mishy would argue that I cut him off before he got the chance.


CRASH! Part 1

It finally happened. My computer crashed catastrophically.

I’ve owned a computer of some sort for 11 years, and used a computer in some way or another for the last 20 or so. However, I’ve never had a crash like this before. Sure, I’ve had the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) and black screens before, and I’ve had trouble with a bad sector or two on my older laptop. Still, I never had anything that required a complete hard drive reformat.

Until yesterday.

My computer had been acting a bit odd–Skype chat wouldn’t respond when I clicked it, and OpenOffice just sort of disappeared–the shortcuts suddenly pointed nowhere. It was like the computer when “Huh?” anytime I clicked those. This happened shortly after I removed a porn post from Lucasforums. Being a. a super-moderator, b. a mom, and c. totally anti-porn, it was my responsibility to protect the young impressionable minds at LF from raunchy abject crap. Yes, I know that the kids can see all the porn they want with just a click of a couple links, but that’s not the point. I am a Mom, and in the realm where I wield the Mighty Edit Button and Ban Stick, there shall be no Naked People.

So, there I was, checking out the new posts on the forum, when I saw a post in Italian. Since LF is English-only (I use the term very loosely in view of 1337- and IM-Speak), my internal Crap Detector ™ red-lined. Unfortunately, it over-shadowed the Mom Sense (also tm) which was telling me “There must be Naked People in that thread.” I have no clue how the Mom Sense developed. It just did. Many a teen has rued the day that Trusty Friend Rogue Nine cajoled me into the super-mod position, because it now meant they could no longer post their naughty pics and comments for any length of time before the Momerator caught it.

Well, I clicked on the thread. I saw a bunch of Italian links. My Italian is limited to “Buon Giorno!”, “Ciao!”, “Lorenzo di Medici”, “Cappuccino”, and a couple swear words my Italian step-mother taught me, which I shall not repeat here. The first five or ten links did not have any of those words, and unfortunately I did not read far enough down the long list. If I had, I would have seen ‘erotici’, which, while not part of my Italian vocabulary, is nevertheless equivalent to “Naked People” in Jae-world. I clicked a link. And promptly had my eyes assaulted with things I never wanted to learn. And undoubtedly picked up the charming little trojans that infected my computer.

A few days later, things on my computer started acting funny. A virus scan caught nothing. My spyware caught nothing. I went to C|Net’s site and downloaded a more aggressive malware detector (HijackThis), suspecting some invasive spyware. Sure enough, the two trojans showed up, hiding out in my HP games. Fortunately, I don’t play either computer Parcheesi or Sudoku on my computer. Why play those when I have Kotor, Kotor: The Sith Lords, Neverwinter Nights 2, and my newest game, Guild Wars? So, the viruses had not exploded and spread everywhere, and I deleted the games to get rid of them.

All appeared well, and Skype went back to acting normally. I went to bed after shutting down the laptop for the night, thinking life was good. Silly me. When I turned on the computer the next morning, Windows cheerfully informed me that it could not load. I asked it, not so cheerfully, why not. It, of course, just blinked blankly at me and asked me if I’d like to do a scan. I informed it that I would like it to actually start, but if a scan was required to do so, then I would jump through that hoop.

I waited patiently (or not) until it beeped and said it couldn’t find the system32\winload.exe file. This is Microsoft-speak for “You’re totally screwed.” Even I could figure out that if the program that loads Windows is corrupted, it is Not Good.

Using the desktop for a Google search, I learned that yes, a missing winload.exe file really does mean I was totally screwed and that I needed to load from the recovery disk, and so I pulled out the one I’d made shortly after I got the computer. HP, in its infinite wisdom (and no doubt the desire to save shareholders a fraction of a cent in costs) decided that it would not supply recovery disks for its users. You can copy the recovery files in a special partition to your own disk (which is easier said than done–HP doesn’t like it when you play around in the recovery partition). You can also buy recovery disks from HP for $10 (plus shipping and handling), but only if you have ‘a problem’. Can you check to see if your recovery disk actually works? Only if you want to reformat your hard drive. Needless to say, this isn’t one of HP’s better ideas.

Did my recovery disk work? I’ll give you two choices, and the answer is not ‘yes’….

You Know You’ve Played Neverwinter Nights 2 a Little Too Long When….

Weird things happen when you play a computer game for awhile and then Skype with a Nemesis a little too late, like really strange dreams. This all started yesterday when I played Neverwinter Nights 2. In my current campaign, I’m playing a female Sun Elf wizard and my PC casts spells a lot–well, pretty much all the time. For those of you not familiar with the game, when you play some of the spellcasters in the game, you choose your spells from a large list to fill up slots in your ‘spellbook‘. You can change the spells in your spellbook as needed to adjust to the situation at hand. Once you fill up your slots, you then ‘rest’ to activate them. This means that you can pick a bunch of nasty fireball and lightning spells to take out all the bad guys. When they’re all dead, you trade the spell out for one to unlock all the locked treasure chests in the area if the rogue isn’t handy. Then you rest, unlock all the chests with your unlock spell (which, for some reason I can’t fathom, is called ‘Knock’ in the game instead of the more sensible ‘Unlock’), scoop up all the goodies, switch back to the killer spells, rest, and go on to the next area of monsters.

So, I spent a good while doing just that in order to get to Act 2 and meet up with Sand, who is hands-down my favorite NPC in this game. He has an acerbic wit, and the game developers gave him some of the best lines in the game. His quip when you encounter a red dragon in the fire giant mountains made the price of the game worth it alone. Anticipating more witty comments from him since I planned on keeping him in my party more this playthrough than my first, I played quite a bit yesterday to get to the point in the game where he joined my party.

Then I finally took a break from the game after dinner and Skyped with Trusty Nemesis Emperor Devon for awhile about the existence of God, debate styles (and my lack thereof), and general Lucasforums gossip, not necessarily in that order, but definitely far too late into the night. I finally went to bed and got about 6 hours’ sleep when Jimbo, husband-god that he is, brought me a cup of coffee. I was still in that twilight stage of sleep where you dream for awhile just before you wake up, and the coffee woke me up the rest of the way.

Me: Honey, you are a husband-god for bringing me coffee.
Hubby: Thank you. I like being called a god, you know. I didn’t want to wake you up too soon, though.
Me: That’s OK, I was having a really weird dream.

Hubby scooted me over on the bed a little to sit down next to me. Apparently he thought ‘weird’ meant ‘bad-dream-nigh-on-nightmare’ and was prepared to comfort me. He didn’t quite understand that in this case when I said weird, I meant ‘really, truly, it’s weird‘.

Hubby: So tell me about this dream.
Me: Really, it was weird.
Hubby (soothingly): I understand, dear.
Me: Well, I dreamed I was in the bathroom, and I had to blow my nose. I had two spells–stoneskin and ‘blow-my-nose’, and I had to use the ‘blow-my-nose’ spell to, well, blow my nose.
Hubby: You had a spell to blow your nose?
Me: Yeah–isn’t that weird?

At this point, hubby, who has played Neverwinter Nights 2 and knows about the stoneskin spell and the general workings of the game, started howling laughing. Thank goodness he had sat down, because I don’t think he would have been able to stand laughing that hard. It was like he’d turned into a giant muscle spasm.

Me: So I blew my nose, and it was really gross. If my sinuses had been that bad, I really would have needed a spell to get all that stuff out.

Hubby continued laughing so hard he could hardly breathe.

Me: So I got all the stuff out. then I changed the spell out for a new one–don’t remember which one–and rested on my knee in the bathroom to activate the new spell.

Hubby was now lying on the bed twitching, past the point where he could make much more than squeaky sounds as he laughed.

Me: I’m not quite sure why ‘blow-my-nose’ was a level 4 spell. I mean, it was ranked right up there with stoneskin, for heaven’s sake. I think at the very most it should be level 0. I was also amused that I had the foresight to change that spell out and rest. Not sure which new spell I picked.

I finally had to stop talking and drink some coffee so Jimbo could recover.

Geeky Moms and Comics

There is some unwritten rule that Moms are not allowed to buy comics, unless they’re buying them For Their Kids or are ‘Serious Collectors’. It’s OK to buy comics until you get out of college, or maybe turn 25 or something, but definitely not after after age 29 and/or birthing children. I’m not sure what it is about comics that oozes immaturity. Granted, the writing isn’t Pulitzer-prize level, but they’re fun to read. What’s not to love about an Elfquest graphic novel or a Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (aka KotOR) comic? I get more of the universes I love in a fun package.

Of course, this leads to some interesting conversations like this–on Skype chat, of course, because that’s appropriately geeky.

Me: I gotta run. The kids and I are going to Rockheads to pick up the latest KotOR comic.

Trusty Friend Rogue Nine: You are such a geek. 😀

The smiley, naturally, is very important to avoid misconstruing ‘geek’ as a pejorative. 🙂 Of course, Niner’s an admin at LucasForums and showed me how to Skype and set up my IRC in the first place. People who live online should not throw virtual stones. 😀

Anyway, I have to be one of the few moms who goes into the store to, get this, buy my own comics. I go to Rockheads about every 2 to 3 weeks or so to see if the latest issue of the KotOR comic is out yet or to browse the racks to see if there’s a new D&D adventure module or book.

There is a particular group of guys who are somewhere around late high school to college age who are usually there when I stop by. I almost wonder if they live there–the owner has a soda and snack machine, so all they need are some sleeping bags and they’re set for life. When you’re in college, you can live on banana Twinkies and Coke, you know. Real food isn’t required. They’re typically playing Warhammer or Magic, arguing over which Pokemon is better, painting miniatures, or running some wargame with said miniatures on one of the big tables set up for just that purpose.

I’ve been there often enough now that they’re starting to recognize me (although granted, I’m not exactly a forgettable character). After the kids and I leave with our purchases, I can just imagine their conversation goes like this:

1st guy: Dude! Check out that mom! She just bought a comic!

2nd guy: So? She’s got kids. They always get comics.

1st guy: No, man, the kids had their own. She’s holding a KotOR comic, you know, the newest one that just came in today. She’s getting it for herself!

2nd guy: You’re whacked. No moms read those things. It’s gotta be for the kids. Or maybe she’s a collector.

1st guy: I’m telling you, she was really checking it out while they were waiting to check out, dude. I mean, she was actually reading it.

2nd guy: Man, if she’s that geeky, her kids are doomed.

Wait til they find out that we play D&D as a family to help the kids improve their math skills.