27 July 2005

Dell Inspiron 5150

I am officially addicted to my laptop. I was warned; several friends and coworkers even encouraged me, swearing by their own portable computing devices. Now I'm hauling this thing on city busses, ferries, planes and happily plugging in where and when ever I can. I've even thought about buying a wireless router (I've seen them on sale at Future Shop for $20) when I relocate to Vic West this fall. The novelty of the Compaq laptop Jeff bought me still hadn't worn off when I changed jobs and cities in March. While I look forward to using the Compaq as a writing tool, I think I get a little too excited about playing with graphics and code on this Dell.

22 July 2005

High on Harry Potter

This morning on the bus, while reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I overheard two guys talking about "book crack". One was reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the other telling him how he couldn't wait to get his hands on a copy.

Jolted out of my own Rowling-induced trance, I listened to them go back and forth on how well-written, uniquely entertaining and hard to put down the novels were. Healthy envy aside, one of the reasons I read Harry Potter books and similar novels is to learn from them. Although none of the children's picturebooks, novels and poems I've written involve magic, I think any author in any genre can benefit from reading skillfully crafted stories. All my work - from creative non-fiction essays to electronic newsletters and web content - benefits from exposure to great writing.

Incidentally, I picked up The Half-Blood Prince last Saturday for around $22 at Costco. I had a copy in my hands little more than twelve hours after crowds mobbed Chapters and Bolen Books at midnight release parties paying up to $40. And I'll take my time enjoying the rest of The Order of the Phoenix while the next book waits patiently on my shelf. They're great stories, but I wouldn't compare them to crack.

16 July 2005

Who taught con artists HTML?

Copy of original "RBC" message (areas of concern in bold)

Dear Royal Bank customer,

We recently reviewed your account, and suspect that your Royal Bank Internet Banking account may have been accessed by an unauthorized third party. Protecting the security of your account and of the Royal Bank network is our primary concern. Therefore, as a preventative measure, we have temporarily limited access to sensitive account features (a little vague).

To restore your account access, please take the following steps to ensure that your account has not been compromised:

1. Login to your Royal Bank Internet Banking account. In case you are not enrolled for Internet Banking (If I'm not already banking online how could there have been unauthorized activity?), you will have to fill in all the required information, including your client card number or business card number and your password.

2. Review your recent account history for any unauthorized withdrawals or deposits, and check you account profile to make sure not changes have been made. If any unauthorized activity has taken place on your account! ! (tone of financial emails is never this excited), report this to Royal Bank https://www1.royalbank.com/cgi-bin/rbaccess

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and appreciate your assistance in helping us maintain the integrity of the entire Royal Bank system. Thank you for attention to this matter.

Royal Bank Team

Please do not reply to this e-mail. Mail sent to this address cannot be answered.

I received several e-mails like this from "eBay" a few months ago. In both cases, the link in the e-mail led to a page formatted to look exactly like the company it impersonated. I build web sites for a living - that doesn't impress me. Fortunately, my curiosity worked in my favour with the eBay scam. Not wanting to give out my credit card and bank account numbers, I replied asking for more information. Why did eBay need to verify my financial information when I had only ever given it to PayPal? No one answered. I sent similar replies to at least two subsequent messages before finally cluing in that I should contact eBay through their web site and ask if they had even sent the message. So I was prepared when I got the above "RBC" e-mail.

Excerpts from my e-mail to the real RBC Customer Service:

Hello RBC customer service. I just received a message in my yahoo e-mail from service@royalbank.com that I think is fraudulent. It reads...

When clicked the link re-routes to this address: http://www.meragujarkhan.com/www1.royalbank.com/index.htm.

I did not fill in any account information. Please let me know if this is indeed a genuine message I need to respond to. Thank you.

Excerpts from RBC's response:

Dear Ms. Hart:

We have become aware of multiple emails being sent to RBC Royal Bank and non-RBC Royal Bank clients. Thank you for advising us of the suspicious email you received.

The emails are titled as "Important Security Update", "Important RBC Royal Bank Notice", "Your RBC Royal Bank Account May Be Suspended", "Confirmation Required" and "Royal Bank - Important Notice" and are asking them to click on a link and input personal banking information in order to "verify their account". The e-mail claims that failure to do so, will block access to their accounts...

At RBC Royal Bank, we always tell our customers never to share online banking passwords or any personal identification number with anyone. A bank employee will never ask for password information...

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please contact us immediately at the number listed below, so that we may change your passwords immediately. We have sophisticated fraud detection systems and measures to assist us in the detection of potential fraudulent activity.

We review each situation on an individual basis. Typically, if a client is a victim of a proven fraud, through no fault of their own, we will reimburse missing funds from their account with us.

Thank you for your patience, Ms. Hart.

I knew I was smarter than a con artist.

12 July 2005


We've all watched them. Web clips of people we don't know doing stupid, usually embarrassing stuff. It's okay because we don't know who it is, didn't shoot the video or put it online. For the same reason America's Funniest Home Videos ever saw any success, web sites that collect and catalogue these clips are a huge hit. But have you ever met anyone exploited by a home video or web blooper? Understandably, people like Gary Brolsma (who videotaped himself lip-syncing to an O-Zone dance song) aren't having fun in the spotlight.

Read about Brolsma and the humiliation industry:

That's 'Humilitainment‚' Folks!
  • "http://www.thetyee.ca/Life/2005/07/07/Humilitainment"

  • 10 July 2005

    Therapeutic properties of acrylic paint

    While I'm sure that chemically, acrylic paint is suited for little more than coating surfaces, I'm starting to remember the meditative value of the painting process. I remember listening to my dad's old records as I painted in the basement as a teen. Time at my easel was just as satisfying as filling pages in my journal. As is the case with writing, music and other creative endeavors, the artist needs to let go of the need to be certain she is creating something good or even great. I have always had a problem doing this. Fortunately, my new surroundings have allowed me to write and paint more than ever without any concern for the commercial appeal or even final purpose for the work. I was always a keen student intent on getting good grades in all my classes, especially beloved English and art courses. Not that I didn't enjoy courses in writing or visual art in the past, but I know that if I ever go back to school, I would be driven solely by the opportunity to immerse myself in the creative process.

    07 July 2005

    Military mentality up for a change?

    Now that we've seen another wave of terrorism - this time in London - we need to think about how to respond without panicking. As most of us have relatively little personal political power, what can one person do but join the fight? But these days, who wants to sign up for the military?

    It's not news that military enrollment is down in developed nations. And no country is more freaked out about this than the States. Now there is growing paranoia that they'll bring back the draft.

    I don't like war or the military, but I'm pretty sure we need armed forces.
    My question to the States - and other 1st world nations - is this: Can't you consider a less angry, hard-nosed approach to military lifestyle, defense and peacekeeping? Couldn't you make joining the military a noble life's pursuit instead of a sketchy choice for weirdos and loners?

    Many western cultures have developed to the point that, guess what, nobody likes war. Nobody wants do die for their country. So joining the military has to be about making our world better - a notion that seems a little too warm and fuzzy for stereotypical macho forces.

    Make the military something people want to be a part of and they'll join. I'm sure it's not that simple, but something to consider regardless.

    Read about draft worries:

    Oh Baby, It's Drafty Out There
  • "http://alternet.org/story/23308"

  • 02 July 2005

    Join the red revolution!

    When I switched birth control from Depo Provera to Ortho Evra in December 2004, I thought I was making a positive decision. I'd get calcium back in my bones, a healthy level of estrogen in my system and, at age 26, return to a monthly period.

    Having not dealt with it since my 18th summer, I figured it would just be mess and discomfort I'd be adjusting to. But I hadn't accounted for the fact that I'd grown into the kind of woman that notices and cares about how much she adds to her local landfill. I had forgotten how wasteful a period is. My first few purchases of tampons and pads in addition to my regular pantyliners warned me that I needed a green option for my red days.

    Considering that even organic, unbleached cotton can find its way to a landfill, I was looking for another alternative. Then an issue of Bitch magazine solved my problem when I saw an ad for reusable cotton pads.

    Check out Lunapads at:
  • "http://www.lunapads.com"