The Amazon Attachment Spam Attack Gets Weirder

My javascript interpretation isn’t good enough to understand whether this is a vicious or just suspicious set of emails. I think we’re being set up. The next hits probably won’t be as docile.

This past weekend I wrote about a totally harmless, weirdly meaningless, spam attack. Thursday afternoon another began. I’ve got 80 already.

I think they’re coming from the same place except this one is a lot scarier.

The weekend spam attack was just a few words. Once it was sent it was totally out of the spammer’s control. Today’s spam delivers an html file. Strings attached? Could be.

In and of itself html isn’t a problem. The entire worldwide web is built on html. This file’s contents seem to be a duplicate of something legitimately sends. Thursday afternoon that lulled me into a sense of security. Then I got a comment from Vince Batchelor.

If you look at the source of the html file, you see some javascript in the middle of the file.

Again, like html javascript itself isn’t nefarious. Nearly every web page you visit uses javascript, even this one! The javascript in this spam is different. It’s squeezed into the middle of the Amazon message where it definitely doesn’t belong. Inside the javascript is an encoded set of commands&#185. Unlike the rest of the javascript encoding makes this part unreadable by humans!

Don’t worry it can still be decoded!

I’m a little over my head here, but the code creates a clickable link to a South African website which in turn sends you to another website which Google labels a malware carrier. I’m sure I don’t have that 100% right. Whatever it does it’s unexpected and eye raising.

This spam continues to be passed to my inbox by Gmail as if it were no problem at all! Shouldn’t they be filtering it?

My javascript interpretation isn’t good enough to understand whether this is a vicious or just suspicious set of emails, but I think we’re being set up. The next hits probably won’t be as docile.

&#185 – For those of you who’d like to examine the code I’ve placed it here.

Roxie And The Everlasting Treat

Wobble and roll around is the big deal. Roxie tosses and chases the ball, captures it and then chews away.


We all have our likes and dislikes. Roxie’s current biggest like is the “Everlasting Treat Ball.” It’s a soft rubber shell into which pre-shaped dog treats are inserted.

Made of a soft, yet durable puncture-resistant material that withstands even the toughest chewers. The unique design allows for it to wobble and roll around on its own. It’s great to use for preventing destructive boredom behaviors or to simply keep your dog happily occupied.

Wobble and roll around is the big deal. Roxie tosses and chases the ball, captures it and then chews away.

I saw from some Amazon reviews not everyone is 100% pleased. Some dogs quickly extract the treat. Roxie hasn’t figured that out yet… or maybe she just doesn’t want to.

Mothers Day

It’s Mothers Day. I thought everyone was supposed to be on-the-road visiting mom?

Doesn’t anyone love mom anymore? It’s Mothers Day. We drove to Long Island to see Stef and so we could begin taking stuff back from her soon-to-be abandoned dorm room.

In the car, we left Connecticut around 10:00 AM and with the exception of a slowdown where I-91 empties into I-95 rolled smoothly all the way to campus. We must have made exceptional time because Stef wasn’t ready.

Even our late breakfast at a normally busy diner started with immediate seating (and then lackluster service).

It’s Mothers Day. I thought everyone was supposed to be on-the-road visiting mom? Decades ago this was the day long distance phone service use to break down under immense strain! Restaurants would turn away patrons. Everyone would see mom. Where were they?

This was the day to roll out a new GPS–a Garmin nĂ¼vi 260W. I bought it ‘factory refurbished’ on Amazon. If it is less than new, it is so in a way I can’t see.

I suctioned it to the wndshield and let it lead the way even though we could do this trip in our sleep.

I know GPS units are ubiquitous, but can we step back for a second and marvel?

  • It knows where we are.
  • It knows virtually all the streets in America and has a reasonable expectation of how fast or slow travel on each of them will be.
  • It can figure out a route in a few seconds, though there are essentially an infinite number of routes to choose from.
  • It presents a map which is constantly updated while it’s doing its other jobs.
  • It does all this while tracking a constellation of satellites whose signals are so weak it only knows they are there because the noise in its receiver is no longer truly random.

Yes, its guesses at pronunciation sometimes leaves something to be desired, The Meadowbrook Parkway is called “Muh-DO-brook.” Others names are equally bollixed, but not enough to make them undecipherable. And it calls out the streets in a myriad of voices and accents. It is cleverly useful.

Look around as you drive and see how many cars have one stuck where the driver can watch it. It is no longer the exception.


Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up

My friend Howard, a show biz manager, says you should never meet the entertainers you admire. He’s probably right. I’d still like to meet Steve Martin, though I’m probably not capable of carrying it off.

Last week, after reading an article by Steve Martin in Smithsonian Magazine, I sent an email to my friend Farrell:

“I want to be Steve Martin… except for his unhappiness.”

He responded:

“He is a great writer, too. Be Geoff.”

Nice sentiment. I appreciated it. This is why you have friends.

I went on to write about Martin in the blog, leading regular reader Jim&#185 in Truckee, CA to comment:

Thanks for mentioning the Steve Martin article. I’m right in the middle of his latest book, Born Standing Up, A Comics Life. If you liked that article in the Smithsonian, you’ll enjoy the book…

Five minutes later I was on Amazon. The book came yesterday.

I can’t tell you why, but when I came home from work tonight, I sat down and read the book – the whole book. I could not stop.

My friend Howard, a show biz manager, says you should never meet the entertainers you admire. He’s probably right. I’d still like to meet Steve Martin, though I’m probably not capable of carrying it off.

We share nothing in our background. He came from a family with little warmth. My family heated our whole apartment building. He had the chutzpah to perform live. I did my comedy on the radio where I was well hidden.

We’ve learned many of the same lessons.

I find him bright and witty – a Renaissance man in a world filled with people who eschew knowledge or any historical perspective. He followed a complex route to get there. He wasn’t as smart or observant in his twenties as he is now in his (shudder) sixties.

It’s good to see age does have some payoff.

When stand-up was no longer satisfying, he stopped. He was huge. He just stopped.

At first I was not famous enough. then I was too famous, now I am just right.

Steve Martin’s “Born Standing Up is in hard cover.

&#185 – It should be noted, there are a bunch of regulars who comment on this blog from time-to-time. Jim in Truckee, for instance.

These are mostly people I don’t know.

I’m not sure why you’re here or what you find so compelling. I am flattered you find what I say interesting enough to come back on a steady basis and I’m always thrilled when you post a comment.

In real life, experience has shown the more you know me, the less scintillating I am.

Network Neutrality Revisited

I’ve been writing a lot about the concept of network neutrality – how all websites and services should move through the Internet unimpeded. Some telcos and other Internet providers see it otherwise.

I though this was a very geeky topic and there wouldn’t be much discussion. Then I picked up this morning’s New York Times. My hot topic is their lead editorial.

Would the Internet have flourished with new age companies like Yahoo!, Google, Amazon and EBay, if they had to pay-to-play?

My Shopper’s Weakness

My wife watches QVC for entertainment. I’ve actually walked in and seen her watching a presentation of crucifixes. Considering we’re Jewish, that’s probably a purchase she won’t be making. But, it gives you an idea of how dedicated she is.

From time-to-time the UPS man pulls up to our front door and drops off something that caught her fancy. Most of the time, I think she watches because she enjoys looking – even when she’s not buying.

I think I’m the same way when it comes to electronics and computer items. I go to techbargains every day and scan the list to see if anyone’s giving anything away. Sometimes they are!

Within the past few weeks I have gotten a free (after rebate) copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator and am waiting for my ‘not-for-resale’ free copy of Visual Basic net – a programming language I’d like to learn.

When I’m really bored, I go to Amazon and look for books on tech subjects I want to pursue. It is amazing how many times I’ve seen a ‘new or used’ price to the right of Amazon’s, clicked the link, and found it’s a new book that’s been remaindered. Usually the price is a tiny fraction of what Amazon is selling the item for. Of course I wouldn’t buy it otherwise.

I look and lust after things I don’t need and won’t buy. I just like looking.

Today, two catalogs came in the mail. I will pour over both, and probably not buy a thing. The first is TigerDirect. Their catalog has computers and components like motherboards and hard drives (I’d like a new hard drive for my Linux machine, if the price would come down, and if it was really cheap… even though I’m nowhere near filling the current drives). I will look at this catalog and then look again… and probably again after that. I have bought at TigerDirect, and their stuff came quickly and was what was promised. I have read their rebates are v-e-r-y slow. I’m waiting for one now.

The second catalog came from DiscMakers. This is a company that duplicates and packages CDROMs and DVDs. In the past I have done some multimedia authoring. I would like to do more. I think there’s a great market in producing multimedia material on disk. It is a very powerful and misunderstood medium, which brings many of the benefits we expect from ‘true broadband’ today.

Considering prices begin in the hundreds of dollars range and only go up from there, I won’t be shopping at DiscMakers right now. But, I could see going to them later, because I’m sure sometime in the near future, I will come up with an idea that needs to be on disk.

In the meantime, window shopping online and in catalogs is fun.

No Humans Harmed in the Mailing of this Ad!

Every time I worry that there will be nothing to write about, along comes something so stupid, so insipid, that I’m left with no choice other than to immediately put it in the blog.

Tonight it’s thank you Amazon!

As an Amazon customer, I often get follow up ads. They are the masters of database manipulation. In other words, they look at what I’ve done and try to make inferences to what others have done… and what I might be convinced to do.

Tonight I got an email touting a book. They say I got it because of a memory card I had purchased a few months ago. As is normally the case, they included a review from someone who had purchased the book. The only problem is, he totally panned the book. So, tonight Amazon has sent me an email convincing me not to buy what they’re trying to sell.

A reader, April 18, 2004

Magic Lantern Guide: Canon EOS Digital Rebel

Don’t buy this book. It has absolutely nothing to offer unless you don’t have the manuals that came with the camera. There is nothing interactive and no hands-on lessons to help you to better understand the camera. Stick with what you already have and practice rather than buy this worthless

What’s really strange is they could easily limit the recommendations they send out to those that get a certain number of ‘stars.’ This was 1 of 5!

The Book That Nearly Didn’t Make It

That photo on the left is a book I ordered a week ago and received yesterday. That’s the way it came from the Post Office (I’m guessing it was that way before Rich, our postman, got it). It was one or two bounces away from being undeliverable.

As it turns out, the book (Special Edition: Using Microsoft Office 2000) was physically OK and now goes into the ever expanding collection of computer reference material I’ve accumulated over the years.

The fact that I bought this book in the first place upsets me to my geeky core. When I was taking my Statistical Climatology course, I found using a spreadsheet was very helpful. I used OpenOffice, the free “office suite.”

Here’s the problem – OpenOffice is not the mature product that Microsoft Office is. I wanted to be able to export graphs as images, and it can’t be done in OO. More importantly, OpenOffice is poorly documented in printed literature (which is much better than on screen help while you’re using a program).

If there was a good OpenOffice book available, I would have bought it. But, I couldn’t find anything and so I settled for Microsoft – which I know is bloatware and helps promulgate Microsoft’s monopoly position. It upsets me on so many levels.

Speaking of buying computer books – here’s how I do it:

I go to Amazon, find the book I want, and then head to the “Used and New” section off on the right side. In most cases these books are new but are overstocks or for some other reason out of the normal retail market.

In the case of the book I bought, “Special Edition: Using Microsoft Office 2000,” the list price was $39.99, Amazon’s price was $27.99 and the “Used and New” prices start at $9.00.

The comment on the $9.00 book says it has a little wear and sounds used, but for $9.24 you get:

Comments: New! Cover crease, minor cover wear. CD sealed! Ships next business day!

That’s a pretty good deal, saving $18.75 from Amazon’s price.

Usually, I ship the least expensive way. That means a Postal Service employee crawls on his belly all the way from the warehouse to my house. Actually, it’s library rate which is v-e-r-y slow. So, when there’s a choice, I look for a dealer here in Connecticut or an adjacent state.

I have never been dissatisfied with the physical condition of a book I’ve gotten this way, and I’ve saved a mint.

Sunday at Foxwoods

Stefanie has been away for this entire week. So, Helaine and I have been taking it somewhat easy at home as temporary empty nester’s.

Earlier, Helaine had asked if I wanted to go to Foxwoods for their brunch. Foxwoods is a casino – the biggest in the world – and it’s about an hour’s drive away in Eastern Connecticut.

There are certain givens when going to a casino.

1) You will gamble

2) The food experience will be over the top

I had worked Saturday night (unusual), but didn’t stay up as late as usual and was out of bed by 10:30 to shower and make the drive. Our reservations at Fox Harbor were for 1:00 PM, so we’d have plenty of time.

Today was a spectacular winter’s day. The sky was blue with some high, wispy cirrus clouds. Even as we left home, before noon, the temperature was approaching 50&#176 (and got to 53&#176 at Willimantic, CT, not far from Foxwoods), well above the late December average.

I was apprehensive as we drove because normally light trafficked areas on I-95, The Connecticut Turnpike, were moderately loaded with cars. It was the last day of the Christmas holiday, and for many ‘going home’ day. As we passed the first entrance for valet parking, I realized this traffic hadn’t gone to the casino but was just passing through.

Originally there was poker at both of Connecticut’s casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. A few months ago, Mohegan Sun’s room closed (about a day before the huge new interest in poker began). Foxwoods is now busy day and night. Today was no exception.

I headed into the poker room before heading to brunch. I knew it would be smart to get on a list early, and did just that. There must have been 50 names for the half dozen tables at my limit.

While walking through the room I ran into Jimmy Christina, one of the floor bosses. Jimmy has been at Foxwoods since they opened their doors. He has the kind of gravely voice that shrieks of whiskey and cigarettes… and a ponytail that is seldom seen by people who wear suits. When I grow up, I want to be Jimmy Christina. I have no idea what his official title is, but he wields power and settles disputes and is a poker room fixture.

Brunch at Fox Harbor was no disappointment. When we eat at a buffet brunch, Helaine and I know it will be our one meal of the day. This was perfect. I started with clams and shrimp then added lamb chops (incredible). After a few trips through the line I had sampled crepes, pasta, more lamb, and baby lobster tails like I had never seen before. And then there was desert!

We waddled out of the buffet and headed toward the poker room. Poker and Fox Harbor are at the opposite ends of the casinos… but we could have been walking to Las Vegas and not walked off this brunch.

I quickly sat down at a $4-$8 fixed limit Hold’em table. I hadn’t played poker at a casino since we began playing online in earnest. The casino was going to be slower and any ‘tells’ I had (hidden while I play online in my pajamas) would be obvious to all who watched. I pulled out 5 – $20 bills and bought chips from a neighbor at the table who had obviously done well over time.

It’s true. You do play more hands per hour online. On the other, the conversation was reasonably good and I had a nice time. Before long, I slow played a well hidden straight, check bumped one of the other players, and won somewhere around $75 on one hand. This was my high water mark. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.

Before long Ashley Adams came up to the table and said hello. Ashley had been our union rep from AFTRA (The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) at the station. Though now repping teachers, I had sat alongside him during contract negotiations and knew him well. And, of course, I knew he enjoyed playing poker as much as anything else.

For years, Ashley has been an active participant in the Usenet group dedicated to poker and is recognized as an expert. Now, he pulled out a paperback book, and I realized he had also become the author of “Winning 7-Card Stud.”

Currently 62,418th on Amazon’s sales list, Ashley won’t be able to quit his day job just yet, but the online reviews are excellent. Five reviewers, and each gave it the 5-star maximum!

I’ve been skimming through it, and though 7-card stud is not my game of choice, it reads very well. If you miss losing one hand because of what he says, the book has paid for itself, even at very low limit tables.

Meanwhile, at my table the cards were not coming. In fact, during 4-5 hours of play I can’t remember being dealt a pair of face cards or Ace/King once!

My Waterloo came when I was ‘blinded in’ and flopped 2 pair, Aces and Jacks. I felt pretty good and started betting, only to have another player return and re-raise my bets. By the time all was said and done, I had invested well over $60 in my two pair, only to face 3 – Aces.

You want the odds? If I have Ace and Jack, and the flop turns up another Ace (and Jack), then there are 47 cards I don’t know about, with 2 Aces remaining. It’s 2 chances in 47 for him to have gotten an Ace on the first card and then 1 in 46 to get the second. All in all, his two Aces against my hand comes up less than 1 in 1,000 (.000925069)!

By the time the day was over, I was down $132.

I didn’t play poorly. Once, I peeked at my hole cards on a flush draw – tipping off my hand. Still, that was the exception, not the rule. I lost, mostly, because of bad cards. And, because my cards were so bad, and I looked so tight as a player, when I finally did go in, everyone knew I had a made hand and folded, reducing my win.

Helaine spent the afternoon playing blackjack, and left with some cash in her pocket.

On the way out we played some slot machines. Foxwoods seems to have less machines featuring licensed concepts, like TV shows or characters, than you see in Las Vegas. We played a Dick Clark Bandstand slot and quickly walked away. Monte Hall treated us very nicely at Let’s Make a Deal. We left the slots about even.

One more comment before I go.

Both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun cater to a large contingent of Asian client