Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Basura, lixo, trash:

I received my first phishing attempt in Spanish today.

And yes, it had the typical signs of a phish: grammatical errors, non-native phrasing, sent to a list address, etc. etc.

It was for customers of a large Spanish firm, Banco Santander, and the links all showed the .es top domain (Spain), but the actual href pointed to .im which is the Isle of Man.

Which is, credibly, a banking haven, but also one of those sought after domains like .tv (Tuvalu), and commercially available to anyone wishing to pay for the privilege of being Manx.



 Monday, August 28, 2006


The clock and electricity are two large factors in mankind's severing of Nature's umbilical cord.

The clock meant we no longer watched the sky to tell time, and electricity meant we no longer paid attention to whether it was light out or not.


 Sunday, August 06, 2006

...not the Transmilenio

Old friends 3

From second grade until I left for Canada in 1974, I went to a school in Bogotá called The English School. Like most schools in Colombia, public or private, it had a uniform, and I wore a pair of brown pants, brown shoes, and a white shirt under a light brown sweater. Even today, putting on that colour combination makes me sweat.

The school was in the middle of nowhere. Since Bogotá was laid out mostly North-South in those days, distance from civilization was measured in terms of what street you were on. The pastureland began more or less at the Calle Cien or 100th Street, a street that had been laid out to form a beltway around a city that knew no diet. The school itself was on Calle 177, at the then-distant third bridge over the main road out of Bogotá to the North of the country, the Autopista del Norte.

We rode buses to get out there - buses of legend, of the old Bogotá, before the government decreed that all buses had to be painted according to the colors of the company they belonged to. Each company had rumours attached to it, and the buses lived up to them. Bus Number One was with the Flota Macarena, and the bright orange Ford often flashed by us on the Autopista, the cheerful driver flashing an enormous smiling set of teeth at us from under his hedge of a mustache. The Flota Macarena was known for fast driving and poor brakes, but we all desperately wanted to be on Bus Number One, because they always got there first. Even of it was off the edge of a cliff.

I can't fail to mention Bus Number Seven. My bus. A dark blue relic of the 1940's, its enormous vertical radiator was a series of chrome bars perched between two blue, hulking mudguards. A set of beady headlamps were perched on top of the mudguards. I think it was leased from the Rapido Pensilvania company, but it was far, far from rapid. By the time Bus Number Seven had accelerated enough to get out over the hump at the main gate of the school, Bus Number One had already made it back to the Second Bridge. No matter how much we egged the driver on, he maintained a steady plod homewards, never varying from his spot, steadfastly blocking all traffic by persisting in travel in the fast lane. On those rare days when Bus Number One was delayed, and left after us, they would soon catch up, and usually undertake us on the shoulder, scattering dust, gravel, and occasional unfortunate pedestrians.

Once, during a trip that my parents took to Curaçao or Trinidad, I stayed with my godparents, the Biagis. This meant that I travelled on a different bus to school - I don't think it was Bus Number One, because I remember being on a green Expreso Bolivariano. The best part was that this bus would stop during its rounds for a fruit hurling fight with another bus. The buses would line up, down would come the windows, and broadsides of apples, oranges, mangoes, uchuvas and mamoncillos would be exchanged. I don't even remember whether the other bus belonged to the same school or if it was perhaps part of the American school, the Nueva Granada, or the German school, the Andino. What is certain is that the parents of both busloads were proud of their children's fruit consumption, not being aware that it was in fact ending up either on the side of a bus or squashed in the tarmac.

The school itself was in the middle of farmland, and what was left of the millenial Bogotá swamp, the humedales. I too often fell or was thrown into the chambas or ditches, got stuck in the deep ooze between the waist high tufts of wild kikuyo grass during cross country runs. I even saw several calves born in the field across from the third grade classrooms. Favorite games in those times were to take enormous chizas, or beetle larvae, and chase girls around the sandy playground, or to wage organized war with the thousands of eucalyptus acorns that fell from the trees lining the chambas.

Many years later, I drove on Calle 177 again and stopped at the gate of the English School. I stood and peered through the locked gate. It was an almost completely different place - gone were the blue and white vertically striped prefab huts that served as classrooms, replaced by a large brick and glass multi-storey structure. The school was surrounded by housing developments that reached out to Calle 200 and well beyond. The old house that had served as the administration building was only slightly visible through a whole set of suddenly-grown-up trees.

The only thing that seemed to remain was the front parking lot, full of buses of all different colours, ready to burst forth, full of children, some of whom undoubtedly had saved some fruit from their cafeteria lunches.


 Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Wisdom of the Young:

Every once in a while, someone young knocks you for a loop with what they say.

Most often, they are amusing like the following from A, my son (and which I will preserve until my toast on your wedding day...):

  • April 1999: (on the toilet) "Oh no! My bottom has a hole in it! I need a band-aid!"
  • June 1999: after I explained how hot & cold water mix to get warm water: "You know, I just don't believe it."
  • April 2000: (we had been listening to an NPR show on about Taiwan): "Why is China red? Is Taiwan blue? How about yellow? Is there a yellow China?"
  • August 2000: (on waking at night) "They were nice bears!" -- referring to nightmares. Then we understood the aversion to sleeping with a teddy bear...
  • December 2000: (referring to Christmas): "Bye, hamburger" -- it took us a while to figure out that this was 'Bah, humbug.'
  • April 2001: "Superman comes from the planet Crouton. Crouton is a food, too. Did you know that?"
  • June 2001: the dreaded "...whatever, Dad."
  • June 2001: "I'll sit across from you so you can see my shining face."

However, some are not funny at all, and are quite deep. Here are two:

1. Driving around on a very cold and cloudy day in Bogotá, the younger brother of one of my best friends, aged about five or six at the time, said: "Esas no son nubes de lluvia; son nubes de entierro." Now it doesn't come out quite as nicely in English, but what he said was: "Those aren't rainclouds; they're burial clouds." ...The whole car was silent for about five minutes.

2. Not really something someone said, but something written: I was busily raking up leaves one dreary fall day when I noticed a bright pink piece of paper blowing across the yard. I picked it up to find that it was a fluorescent Post-It with some child's writing on it:

As I grow oldder and oldder
The days grow shortter and shortter
And my parents work longger and longger.

I simply sat down in the grass and cried. I still have the piece of paper as a reminder to take care, and I often wish I read it every day.

 Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Oh dear... Sunk again:

For all their crowing in the new TV ads, the Apple Mac OSX system does have its problems. Or as Apple would rather I phrase that, the user can easily cause complex problems.

Consider this pair of messages. After a great deal of editing I tried resetting the .Mac synchronization for my Address Book data file, and got the following error:

Fair enough, but the message advises me to do exactly what I was already doing - trying to reset the remote database with the data on my machine. Not to be worried by such messages, I tried again, and I got the following warning:

"Ah, that's better," I thought, "at least this is a warning, rather than an error."

I edited away again, until ALL of the addresses disappeared in a flash. Everything. The only cards left were the default Apple card and my own card. Repeat above process (errors and warnings given again), and vwolah, time to shut down and start again.

...and indeed, all my data was back (albeit duplicated). Now this machine will synchronize, but none of my others will. Humph.

I strongly advise against using this multi-platform synchronization strategy. You will lose data, guaranteed. Middle initials. URLs. And oddly, telephone numbers.

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