AOL Says No IP Numbers in URLs

AOL fights spam, sure, but they have these great arbitrary rules in what you send their subscribers. Although I run a very clean double opt-in email list with conservative bounce policies (bounces quickly turn to suspended email attempts based on a variety of simple rules), I just had a bunch of "permanent" delivery errors with my Wi-Fi Networking News list. The crime? Including a link that used an IP address (a Google cached entry, as it turns out) instead of a full domain name for a Web site.

This is a bit heavy handed, although I'm sure it stops a lot of bad phishing attempts.

The extensive list of SMTP-embedded error codes that AOL has developed is impressive.


Click the photo to see larger sizes.

Lynn took Ben up north to where the tulips grow. Tulip is one of about 15 flower names that Ben knows and identifies. (Iris, grape hyacinth, mum, and pansies are among the others. Can you tell his mom is a horticulturist?)

We Just Don't Get the Same Quality of Car Thief We Used To

A mason, Luis, signals from the porch at 7 a.m. "Is that your car in the road?" I assume I left the parking break on, but no. Someone--looked like two people--broke in, popped the ignition, ruined the steering column, and stalled the car after starting it, then seemingly ran off. Mostly likely, meth heads. Luis helped us get the car to start (a piece of the starter motor circuit was dislodged), and I called police and my auto shop. The police were out in minutes and took the cover pried off the bottom of the steering column for fingerprinting. The shop had a loaner car for me. The insurance company said, no worries.

Even with all that, I was in the office by 9.30 a.m. I managed to pick up a rental car the next day with Lynn and I juggled cars, Ben, a bike, and a return of the shop's loaner car. The adjuster from State Farm went to the shop, agreed to pay all charges, and a check arrived today, about three days after I spoke to him. I'm picking the car up tomorrow having returned the rental car today (of which State Farm paid about 70% of the overall cost).

We have had our cars rifled and pilfered in the past, and our new car has nothing valuable in it and a car alarm with a thing that disables the electronic ignition. So it's not a smart choice to steal--not a quiet choice and we're a quiet street. Most of the cars of people we know in the neighborhood have been gone through; we're in some kind of transition area with little home burglary and little violent crime. It's all car theft and petty theft (someone stole our rusty and tiny propane BBQ a couple years ago from the front lawn).

But we usually get a higher grade of car thief. A professional. And I didn't realize how much you appreciate a professional. Someone stole the car radio out of our Honda two or three years ago, and they did it so neatly that they didn't leave a mark. I was irritated at the time, partly because the radio probably would fetch $5, but now I understand that they could have done hundreds of dollars of damage quite easily; vandalism, even more.

As it stands, a few minutes of bad car thievery will cost $1,000 to fix. If they'd taken the car, I suppose we'd be in worse shape, as it's unlikely it would have been left in good condition or with parts intact. Better to get us back to status quo ante than have had a ruined car and the marginal value versus its higher current utility.

Witty Repartee with a Nigerian Book Scamster

I've written (and others, too) about how Nigerians aren't just trying to hook people with "I am the son of the former dictator" money-transfer scams, but they also defraud bookstores in the U.S. They typically place special orders, use stolen credit-card numbers or forged cashier's checks, receive shipment, and then resell to Russia and other places. Very strange scams. (Here's a good two-year old article. I wrote about it around the same time.)

I got my latest in email today; I get these because I run, a book-price comparison service. I wrote back to the scamster explaining their schemes are well known and, surprise!, got a response.

From: Tolu Adekunle <>
Subject: Mail Order Needed ASAP........

>Hello Sales,
> This is Tolu Adekunle, I am highly interested in purchasing
>order from your store to my store in Nigeria and i will like you to
>give me the cost of the order listed below and i will like to pay with my accept credit card info as method of payment. Look forward to hear
>from you with cost of the order including the EMS GLOBAL EXPRESS 3-5
>DAYS DELIVERY for the shipment cost.
>Look forward to hear from you and God bless you {Amen}.
>Happy Day .............
> Best regards
> Tolu.

I wrote back: "These scams are now well known in the United States. If you try to commit fraud, Nigerian authorities will arrest you." (This is somewhat true; Nigeria is finally enforcing some fraud laws.)

The witty response: "U ARE STUPID MAGAR."

Did he or she mean Magyar? Like a Hungarian?

I wrote back: "I'm not the one trying to rip people off. Just listen for the knock of the police at your door..."

Can you freak out these kinds of fraudsters? Probably not. And they're not sophisticated enough for me to worry about electronic reprisals.

The End of Miss Jean Brodie

Muriel Spark has died. I considered her the greatest living writer of fiction in English, although I'm sure many would disagree. (There are too many great living writers.) She has a large and interesting oeuvre. A Far Cry from Kensington is such a fine and good novel, especially when read alongside Loitering with Intent. The strength of each protagonist can take your breath away along with the lack of attempt at anything grand. Painting small, she wrote large. Could anyone else have invented--some say borrowed from her own life though she disagreed--the pisseur de copie she excoriates in Loitering with Intent?

She wasn't a magical realistic writer, but in each of her novels, something tends to happen that defies explanation. It's often one brief moment or one element, although sometimes extends to the entire book. In Memento Mori, a group of aging people keeps receiving a call from an anonymous person who says, "Remember, you must die," a literal translation of the title. Each recipient claims a different voice has made the call. In Loitering with Intent, there is a strange collision between a novel the first-person narrator is writing and the behavior of her employer.

There's no better author to take up with because of the breadth and quality of her writing.

(If you'd like to see Wikipedia in action, view the history of Spark's entry. On news of her death, several registered Wikipedia users entered citations of her death date and city, changed references to the past tense from present about her work, and provided additional details.)