So far, so good!

Well after a week of absence from the Dark Side my head has not exploded and the world continues to go to hell in a hand basket as Donald Trump intensifies his ongoing war on decency, morality, sanity and common sense.

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While I miss the daily connection with cherished friends from all over the globe I’m happy with my decision to bail when I did. This is especially true as Facebook execs announced that it may take as long as THREE YEARS to institute measures to prevent further breaches of this type.

Then there are the news headlines from the past week about the fiasco that Facebook has become :

We’re Keeping Track of All of Facebook’s Scandals So You Don’t Have To

Facebook backs off its creepy plans to secretly access private medical records and match the data to user profiles

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Says There Were Likely Other Breaches Like Cambridge Analytica

Facebook secretly deleted messages Mark Zuckerberg sent on Messenger

Ah, well………..at least we ‘re all going to get paid as a result of Zuckerberg’s devious ways …… or are we? I’m told his story is going viral on Facebook so it has to be true, right?

Can Facebook Users Receive $17,500 Each Over a ‘Data Breach’?

What have I been doing with the time that I used to spend scrolling through my FB feed? Well, during the past week I have:

  • Got my lazy butt back out into nature with my camera although I didn’t get many shots. I really do need to get back into the habit of checking the local weather report BEFORE venturing out. Birds are scarce when the wind is blowing hard and I nearly froze my butt off on the beach with a stiff north wind blowing directly off the Chesapeake Bay into my face.
  • Made some money doing crowd sourced computing HITS on Amazon Mechanical. That’s right; I’m making money online. Not a lot but enough to cover the car payment, insurance and gas for a month and that ain’t bad!
  • Read 2 James Patterson novels on my Kindle Fire. I’ve downloaded over 2,000 ebooks over the past year and a half but never spent a lot of time reading any of them because I was always busy reading ……… something else.
  • Binged the entire latest season of “Better Call Saul” on Netflix and “Strike Back” on the DVR. Oddly enough I just realized that since I pay for satellite TV, a DVR and Netflix it might be worth my time to watch some of it every once in a while instead of just using it for background noise while scrolling through the stupid cat photos on FB.
  • Actually had a couple of conversations with my wife. It’s amazing how much social media impacted our day-to-day interactions even though we’re both retired, live in a 500 square foot beach cottage and spend most of each day well within 20 feet of each other!

All of that while continuing my ongoing Twitter tirade against the Trump administration and the morass that is American politics as a proud member of #veteransresistancesquadron, #votevets and #theresistance.  If I had realized what I was missing I might have given up Facebook long ago!

Dear Leader Donnie in Action

Trump says US will withdraw from Syria ‘very soon’

4 April 2018

US troops to stay in Syria for now despite Donald Trump’s withdrawal calls

 

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In the meantime the clueless idiot in the Oval Office is bragging that he’s setting set up a meeting with the planet’s other most delusional overgrown child to discuss nuclear weapons. He’s dead set on bullying Kim Jong Un into giving up and doing as he’s told because Donnie is the boss of the world! Just ask him…….or don’t. He’ll tell you anyway……probably in a series of toilet tweets.

5th Grade Debate

Meanwhile, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have declared that we’re closer to the end of mankind as we know it than we’ve ever been!  It is now two minutes to midnight  But they’re just scientists so what do they know?  They didn’t graduate at the top of their class from Wharton like Donnie.

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Lately I’ve been longing for the safety of a nice, hardened Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Complex like the ones I pulled combat alerts in back in the mid 70s’. Yes, I was one of those men in the silos waiting for World War III to break out and I’m nervous. You should be too!

Farewell to the Dark Side

It’s done……

Years ago I got interested in blogging as a way to share my newfound passion for digital photography. My search for a blogging platform led me to Windows Live Spaces where I soon found myself immersed in a globe spanning family of interesting, caring and sometimes zany people from all walks of life. I was happy!

Then the powers that be at Windows Live decided that blogging was a dead art and people were more interested in the quick fix they got from social media so they announced the end of Spaces. We were told that the Spaces team would help us switch over to WordPress and many of us did but the learning curve at the time was a little steep and many of us were already involved in Facebook (the Dark Side in our world). It just seemed an easier way to stay in touch and most of us let our WordPress blogs go fallow. Bloggers didn’t kill blogging and bloggers didn’t kill Live Spaces. Windows Live did and many of us were sad.

Now the worm has turned. Recent news reports of Facebook catering to Russian bots during the last presidential election cycles had my anger on a low simmer. Then last week the story broke that Facebook has been logging our mobile phone calls and texts and the private information of as many as 50 million users has been compromised! What legitimate use Facebook has for my personal communications is beyond me but I WILL NOT TOLERATE IT!

Faced with worldwide condemnation and looming congressional investigations Facebook first tried to say that users gave permission for this sort of behavior when they created their accounts. Now they claim to be rolling out new privacy settings to correct the problem but to me it’s just a case of closing the barn door after the horses have escaped, There is no undoing what has been done and my trust in Facebook has been forever lost. Fool me once, shame on me…………

So, a week ago I posted notice on my Facebook wall that I would be permanently removing my account and presence from that platform. Today is the day. As much as I hate the thought of losing contacts with the many friends I have made online over the years I simply will not willingly leave myself open to what amounts to theft of my personal data. If we don’t take measures to protect ourselves we’re just as much to blame as those who steal it from us.

If you’re still following me from Facebook thank you. If not, I guess you won’t see this but thank you just the same for the friendship you’ve given me over the years.

Now, onward and upward. Time to dust off the cameras and get some pictures to post and dust off what little is left of my mind and get back to writing again.

This ought to be a trip!

At least I didn’t get arrested

Today I closed the deal and sold my beloved Ford Expedition. Farewell, Godzilla, and thank you for over 10 years of faithful service and adventures. May your bones rise from the ashes…..or the smelter…..in the form of many little Godzillas.

Since I needed to return the license plates to the Department of Motor Vehicles today in order to get a refund for 11 months rather than a 10 month refund if I wait until Monday I put on my shoes, climbed in the car and headed for Norfolk. I hate going to the DMV due to long lines and surly employees but the lines in the Norfolk DMV offices are generally shorter than those in the Virginia Beach offices so off to the “Mermaid City” I went.

The first indication, besides the intermittent rain showers, that this was going to be one of those days was the 3 idiots parked in 5 slots in the handicapped parking area. I ended up parking behind the building and hiking over to the handicapped accessible entrance. Stepping through the doors I was not happy to see that the joint was packed! However, a friendly police officer saw the tags in my hand, asked if i was there to surrender them and directed me to the “Express Lane”.

After standing in line in the “Express Lane” for over an hour it was finally my turn. I stepped up to the counter where the clerk scowled at me and said “I did not call you forward. It’s time for my break. I’ll be back in 30 minutes.” This is when the aforementioned police officer stepped forward with a worried look on his face and his hand on his baton. I was livid!

Another clerk saw what was going on and called me over to her window, not the “Express Lane” but one for the common rabble, and asked if she could help. I explained what I needed to do, she took my tags, scribbled something on them and told me I would get a refund check in the mail within the next 30 days. This took about a minute total.

I was still mad when I got home but decided not to vent at my darling bride of 30 years, aka THE BOSS because her trusty cast iron skillet was in plain sight on the stove top and i can’t take too much additional cranial damage.

Did I mention how much  I HATE GOING TO THE DMV?

Oh, Man It Just Keeps Getting Better!

DOH!

Yesterday the friendly letter carrier brought me a water-logged US Postal Service Priority Mail envelope. He apologized for the condition it was in and said he didn’t know how it got the way. No real harm was done because the address label and contents were still intact but the contents were a genuine mystery.

The envelope contained a check! Not just any check but a cashiers check for $1980.00. I was gob struck! Then I remembered that I had posted my truck for sale on Craigslist………for $750.00. Hmmmmmm……….

Being the suspicious sort I called the bank the check was drawn on. The nice part about this call was that the bank is located in a small Appalachian Mountain town and I was soon speaking with the branch manager. I explained that I was trying to verify the legitimacy of the check and, after describing it to her and reading off all of the numbers on it she said that it was in fact one of their checks but there were two major problems with it. First, while the routing number was correct, the check number did not match their numbering system. Secondly, the signature on the check was HERS and she had not issued or signed any cashiers checks since being promoted to branch manager over a year ago.

She said I should immediately take the check to the police. As I pulled out of the driveway to go to the local precinct a patrol cruiser pulled into a restaurant parking lot just down the block so I pulled in beside it and asked the officer if he had a minute.

After explaining the situation he got very interested. We realized that the name of the person listed on the bottom of the check did not match the name of the person on the return address label. I had never heard of wither of those people. Not only that, the return label listed a business in New York City.

Then came the icing on the cake.

While the officer was writing out his report my phone buzzed and I discovered a text from a different person advising me of the tracking number for the mailer. It also instructed me to deposit the check in my account, keep an extra $50 for my trouble and pay the tow truck driver the remaining $1180.00 for transport fees when he arrived to pick up my truck.

Hmmmmm………….nothing fishy there.

The officer had me email a screen shot of the text to him to be included in the crime report. He said the detectives and possible the FBI should be in touch with me as soon as the report is processed.

In the meantime, another buyer is supposed to be here this afternoon with cash.

The moral of my story:

STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM CRAIGSLIST!!

 

The Vultures Are Gathering

Godzilla is moving on

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After 10+ years of faithful service Godzilla, my big green road monster, has bit the big one and is up for sale. The engine started acting up so I put it in the shop and on the way home the next day the transmission started going out. Considering the age of the truck and our limited income it was cheaper for us to buy a new car (well a 2013 but new for us) and put Godzilla up for sale.

Trade in value on a 20 year old gas hog SUV, especially one that has to be towed into the dealership, being what it is it made more sense to put up a cash down payment on the new car and post Godzilla for sale online. This is where the fun begins.

The first day the truck was posted on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist I got over 150 views and 18 inquiries. Four of the latter were from junk dealers offering less that half what I was asking. I ignored those. A couple more were from teenagers looking for their first car. I can’t, in good conscience, stick some young kid with a truck that will eat up all of their savings and that they really can’t afford to fix. I also don’t want to bless their parents with a huge lawn ornament.

Then there were the two offers from the same area code in New York City. Both offered to immediately mail me a cashiers check for the full asking price plus $50 to hold the truck until it can be picked up and another additional sum to pay the tow truck operator when he arrives. Oddly enough, they ask no questions about the condition of the vehicle or try to negotiate on the price.

Just out of curiosity I called the number included in the emailed offers, each of which were oddly worded almost exactly alike. Both numbers went to answering services and i didn’t bother leaving a message.

When I replied to the emails that I would take the cashiers check to my bank and have the validity of the check verified before cashing I got the same response: “Please deposit the check in your checking account rather than cashing it. If you would prefer a direct transfer please send your banking details and the money will be deposited in your account instantly.”

Yeah, I’m gonna do that! Nothing fishy there.

Anyone want to buy a project truck……….or a huge lawn ornament?

Well, it’s up………

I’M BACK!

After several years away from blogging I don’t know if that’s a good thing but we shall see.

Back in the days of Windows Live Spaces we called Facebook the dark side. Then the powers that be at Spaces decided that nobody blogged any more so they shut down and cast us to the wind. Most of my friends on Spaces ended up going to the dark side in order to continue the friendships we had forged. All went fairly well for me until this morning.

Today the web was awash with news that Facebook not only logs everything you post, they also log your private messages, mobile phone calls and texts. Now they say that allowing the logging is an option for the user but I never heard about any of this until this morning.

After downloading my Facebook data file, un-zipping it and reading through it I found over 385 Mb of data files they had collected on me without my knowledge or consent! Enough is enough. I posted a notice to let my friends know that a week from today my Facebook profile will be permanently removed.

Not wanting to lose any more friends I let everyone know that they could find my political rants on Twitter @vbexpat and that I was going to return to blogging. This is the first step in that return.

If you’re reading this please feel free to subscribe and follow my adventures as I wander the wilds of Hampton Roads, Virginia in search of wildlife to photograph, rant about anything that crosses what little is left of my mind (especially if it’s anti-Trump) and generally do my best to keep the voices in my head from talking me into something for which I cannot afford a bail bondsman and legal representation.