If you’re a fugitive sex offender, watching porn at McDonald’s will probably put you back in jail

But at least the wireless connection was free. Folks, I can’t make stuff like this up. http://consumerist.com/2012/05/if-youre-a-fugitive-sex-offender-watching-porn-at-mcdonalds-will-probably-put-you-back-in-jail.html

The ol’ tried-and-true Facebook worms are still around

Watch out for Facebook weirdness.

From what I get, ol’ Koobface is still around.

An anagram of a popular social media site, this multi-platform computer worm is still hanging around in all its variants and wreaking havoc after all these years.

There are plenty of hoaxes and urban legends circulating around this piece of malware (like the hoary tale that it’ll burn up your hard drive), but there’s enough truth that shows what a contentious bugger Koobface really is.

In a rare show of anger against the folks who produce malware and security threats, the Facebook folks even calling the Koobface gang out. Naming names, all that good stuff.

But Koobface is still around, as you can see by checking the comment dates in this McAfee post. Some things, like pyramid schemes and chain letters, are not going away anytime soon ’cause they’re successful, right?

This came to my attention about a week ago when a friend got word of this creature through his Facebook account. What he got was a link to the Snopes site, and when he forwarded it to me (at my request) I had a look at it and immediately recognized the M.O.

For those who forgot, you might get a provocative-looking picture on your Facebook feed. When you click on it, you’ll be asked to download a viewer for the accompanying video because the one you have is allegedly out of date.

When you click on that, the fun begins.

I experienced something like this a couple of years ago. Like an idiot I clicked on a picture that showed up in my timeline via a friend, a picture that this friend never would have put up in a zillion years. Got the opportunity to download some program called flvdirect.exe — which triggered all sorts of weirdness:

  • The video was automatically sent to many people on my friends’ list.
  • The .exe file to the viewer sat in my /home/download file. I noted the name and ran a Google search. The program in question, flvdirect.exe, is billed as something that would help download torrents but is actually spyware. It’ll do all sorts of nefarious things on your hard drive and it monitors your surfing habits.
  • For the next hour or so, I heated up my high-speed Internet line. Running Google searches on the offending software. Firing instant messages back and forth with a Facebook (actually a real) friend who also got the video — from me. Posting my findings on Facebook. I finally got to bed at 2 a.m., exhausted.
  • My conclusion: Spreading malware sure is hard work.

Myself being the impulsive type, I shut down my Facebook account and started looking for other ways to communicate. It wasn’t until a year ago that I opened another account.

I’m a lot more cautious these days, steadfastly saying no to all those app requests. Third-party applications are the fastest way to screw up your Facebook experience, so I’m keeping my account an app-free one. Every so often when the app requests get heavy I’ll put up an announcement to this fact — a rude one, but not as rude as some I’ve seen:

I stole this off a friend's Facebook timeline; hope she doesn't mind.

With that thought in mind, enjoy your social media. It’s fun, a great time waster and all that. But there’s no reason to let it take your computer over.

Watch out for bugs.







Blog comment shows how online writing went wrong

It's enough to make a writer want to quit and herd sheep instead.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have even bothered running it. Blog comments of this type are usually deleted as soon as they come to my attention, and they’re marked with a spam tag to block the sender. I don’t fool around.

This comment had all the please-delete-me earmarks to it. It had absolutely nothing to do with the blog post’s subject matter. There was no indication the commentor actually read my post. It carried a link to a site that I cannot endorse. It insulted the professional writer in me.

But I kept it because it indicates exactly what is going on in the writing world. It shows where online writing went so terribly wrong. It begged for a snarkier-than-thou response, and I was only too happy to oblige.

To a short post about technical matters, I received a comment. OK. I love comments. Please, bring ’em on (keeping in mind the caveats outlined in the second graf). I prefer dialogue to monologue, so fire at will.

In this case the commentor asked if I needed any help in producing the blog, and offered a solution. Through his website he advertised a stable of third-world writers, all willing to string words together for $1 per hour. With the SEO treatment, meaning my Web content would be structured to goose the search engines, direct more eyeballs to my sites, point fingers toward the cool advertising I have, and make me a pantload of money.

Or something.

It wasn’t too long ago that the gold standard for freelance writing was better than $1 per word, and even hire-out work started at around $20 or $30 per hour. That is and always has been an on-paper number, though. We writers — in fact artists in general — are a funny lot, cognizant that “getting your foot in the door” is the common practice.

I’m doubly blessed in the creativity department, or maybe doubly cursed. Not only am I a writer, but I’m also a musician. I’ve done both for money for at least a couple of decades. While I’m not near this so-called “big time,” I have enough of a reputation in both fields that folks know I mean business. But writing and music — and probably the other arts — a practitioner has more opportunities to work for free than any of the so-called “legitimate” professions.

Let’s say you’re a car mechanic. Sure, you may do an apprenticeship or spend time tuning brake drums at a community college, but you’re not going to work for free. You don’t work for exposure. You don’t work for love. You work for that stuff that makes your checking account giggle. If you’re a doctor, you’re not going to rip out some guy’s appendix for free. Sure, the money may come from someone else’s wallet — the taxpayers instead of the patient — but you’ll still get paid. In cash, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

OK. Part of an auto mechanic’s rates, and certainly a piece of a doctor’s fee, helps to make up for that apprenticeship/schooling time. This makes sense. But a musician spends many hours mastering his instrument, breaking guitar strings, buying CDs so he can learn some technique. A writer buys books, computer software, maybe some space in a few writer’s conferences, and if he’s an old guy like me has probably burned through many typewriter ribbons and reams of paper. The apprenticeship is done in low-paying gigs to hone the chops, some pro-bono work, and — yes, working for exposure.

That’s the background. Here’s the deal: While the buck-an-hour markets are still there, a distressing amount of work falls far below that. A well-known online phenomenon among us writers is the thing called the “content farm.” There are many of these: eHow, Demand Media Studios (which owns eHow), Break Studios, Textbroker, Examiner, and a handful of others. Some, like Demand, will pay a writer as soon as a piece is published. Others, like Examiner, do what is called “revenue share,” which is a nice way of saying they won’t pay you, but if they make money (through advertising), the writer makes money too.

Of the content farms, Demand Media Studios is probably the best I’ve seen. And I’ve written for them. There’s no great trick in burping out 400-500 words for between $15 and $18; do enough of those per week and you’ll make a decent wage. For a spell I made it my main means of support, and financially didn’t do too badly. But there’s something wrong with the equation here.

A typical $15 eHow piece, checking in at 500 words, will get you three cents a word. A 400-word piece at $18 per article in one of Demand’s better content channels, still comes down to less than a nickel a word. Which, last I looked, isn’t even close to a dollar per word.

There’s more. Check out some of the job ads in writer’s online publications and job boards, and you’ll see even more depressing rates. I’ve seen prices as low as $1 for a 500-word article, and the customer wants these articles in mass quantities. Now, there are people in third-world countries that may find these great wages, and easy to pull off if you write in your native tongue and run it through a translator. All the keywords Google recognizes may be there, so the search engines (which don’t read) love ’em. Readability, though, that’s a whole ‘nother deal.

This drives down the price of words in all forums, and it gives the customer the idea that writing is nothing more than typing real fast. Not so. There’s brain work involved, and brain work does not come cheap.

Anyway, here’s the original blog comment, with the website name altered only slightly:

John says:

Admin – could you use help with your website? Through our site you can find Outsourced Workers starting at $1/hour. They speak English, work flexible hours, and pride themselves on doing a quality job. There are Article Writers, Web Designers, Virtual Assistants, Email Response Handling, SEO Workers, & more. If interested we invite you to check out wescrewwritersgood.com . Thanks :)

And here is my response. Boy, did I have fun writing it. I felt all kinds of better after hitting the SEND button:

Eric Pulsifer says:

John — No, I’m not interested. The only reason I didn’t spam/delete your comment (or charge you for advertising space, as is my other option) was because I felt the need to reply. It is “services” like this that drive the price of freelance writing down to never-before-seen levels, and I will not be a party to that.

I guess there will be a market for wescrewwritersgood.com, though. There are plenty of folks who need cheap copy, maybe with lots of SEO to game the search engines, and really don’t care whether the copy gets read by human beings. Don’t count me among them, though.

Probably not good practice to encourage idiots like this, but it needed to be said, and it was wonderful catharsis.

Working for peanuts, or even for free is all right if you know about it beforehand. I’ll do pro-bono work in writing or music for a nonprofit that I would donate to anyway. I’d consider it for a literacy organization, animal rescue or something in mental health advocacy, for example. But don’t expect me to do free work for something like the American Civil Liberties Union. If the ACLU was crazy enough to call me up with some work I’d have to gut them. I’m talking about hourly rates that would scare a trial lawyer.

It’s true I’m working cheap when it comes to this blog. I don’t make anything off it. But I own every word I write (in contrast to the content farms where the writer signs off on all rights if he’s paid by the article). The Web domain, likewise mine, bought and paid for (thank you Mom and Dad, that Christmas gift check paid for it). I’m building a platform with this work, getting exposure on my own terms, creating an online portfolio. Any advertising revenue helps offset my miniscule expenses. Job offers have come from my blogging. And if I should choose to repackage some of my better blog entries in an ebook format to sell, all I need is the author’s permission and he’s easy.

This blog may be little more than a content farm at this juncture, but it’s my content farm. But I don’t need any dollar-an-hour help.



Crime o’the day: The butt-dial did it

Ever accidentally butt-dial someone?

You know what I mean. I’m talking about hitting a key on your cell phone when it’s in your pocket. The person on the other end usually gets a swishing sound and maybe a muffled voice. To the butt-dialee (or pocket-dialee) it sounds very much like someone’s phone is being flushed.

Before cell phones, butt-dialing didn’t exist. Now it’s, well, not a national problem, but close.

This group in Wisconsin was in the middle of a crime spree and the guys were discussing how they would sell off the loot when one of them butt-dialed (facepalm) 911. And the dispatcher listened in as they plotted their next move (double facepalm).

Easy arrest.

Check out the story, in Consumerist. http://consumerist.com/2011/12/getting-away-with-a-crime-is-harder-when-you-pocket-dial-911.html

And watch out who you butt-dial.


Turning a routine shoplifting into an adventure

A man was arrested Saturday after deputies say that he stole meat from a grocery store by stuffing it down his pants, according to an incident report.

Deputies said the manager of the Ingles at 2120 E. Main St. called police after an employee said he saw a man, later identified as Terry Campbell, walking out with meat in his pants …


But wait, there’s more, according to WYFF News:

The perp had several packages of meat stuffed down there.

The store manager himself reached in the guy’s pants to recover the meat — by then you’d better be sure a crime is being committed; ’cause I can’t think of any other reason to stage a TSA-style search.’

The perp took off, tried to start his car. The operative word here is “tried,” as he had to throw it into neutral and give it a push start.

Finally he took off on foot and was easily captured.

And complained of chest pains after he was arrested.

And you think you have those days at your job where everything goes wrong?


A cookie endorsement I’d like to see

Just how good are those Thin Mint cookies?

Good enough to fight over.
Seems a pair of roommates in Florida had a real knock-down drag-out, including chasing one another with scissors, because one apparently stole the other’s Girl Scout cookies.
Here’s the story, according to the Associated Press:

“Police say the roommate’s husband tried to separate them. The roommate said she gave the cookies to Howard’s children … Howard is charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. She was released Monday on $10,000 bail.”

OK. I like Thin Mints myself, and when I get them I tend to protect my stash. But there may be some over-the-line behavior here. Maybe.
What do you think?

‘Hey y’all, watch this’ part 3,682: Chainsaw in pants

Thief with chainsaw in his pants doesn’t get very far – NBCActionNews.com – Kansas City

I love this. According to Chickasha, Oklahoma police, the guy may have been intoxicated.

Ya think?

But here’s the story. Guy walks into a hardware store, sees an Echo chainsaw, and decides to walk off with it. He needs to hide it.

By stuffing it down the front of his pants.

It took a minute for store employee Richard Largent to catch on to what was happening. “I felt sorry for him; I thought the gentleman was crippled.” But another employee saw the bar of the chainsaw between the man’s legs, and the chase was on.

NBC affiliate KSHB reports it this way:

“Employees cornered Black in a nearby field, where he ditched the chainsaw, climbed a tree, and scrambled down into someone’s house … when the person inside kicked him out, the Ross employees chased Black to a creek where he dove in—headfirst.

I can’t make this stuff up. But just think, that chain saw was this close to causing a little unnatural selection.


You robs the joint, you takes your chances: Part II

Some folks are never satisfied at their pay after a hard day’s work:

Unhappy robber: Gunman calls restaurant to gripe | ajc.com

A man who robbed a Wendy’s at gunpoint Saturday night apparently was so upset with his haul that he twice called the restaurant to complain, Atlanta police said.

“Next time there better be more than $586,” he said during one call. He made “a similar threat” in the second call, police said.

My first thought is, why is there so much cash in the till? Most stores have a policy where employees regularly drop any extra cash in the safe.
At least the guy didn’t come by to complain, especially while the police were there.

Theft suspect arrested after running out of gas (AP)

Uhh, isn’t this part of Larceny 101?

1) Make sure your getaway vehicle has enough gas to get you away.
2) Make sure you know where the keys are.
3) If you use a getaway driver, make sure he has a license … and is sober.

Planning. Planning. Planning. Like any business endeavor.

This happened in Wenatchee, Washington, and the guy’s from Tacoma. To his credit, he did manage to go 50 feet before his car crapped out.

Now let’s see the story:

Theft suspect arrested after running out of gas
: “AP – Don’t call him Lucky.”

It’s just not this guy’s day.