Saturday, 26 November 2011

Gone phishing / letters from Uganda

I am writing this from somebody else's computer. Mine blew up the other night. Not with flames and all, but in an explosion of hard drive errors. I had it booted up in safe mode when the phone rang.



Hi. I'm from Microsoft support. We've been getting error messages from your computer. I will walk you through some steps to fix the problem.

(Microsoft calling me to help me with my computer? This is highly unusual ... but I have been having problems lately...) You've been getting messages from my computer?

Yes, for a long time. You computer has been infected with viruses and malware for a long time.
(Well I have had virus problems, but why did they wait so long to call if they knew I had a problem? ) I can take control of your computer and get rid of the problem, now go and turn on your computer.

My computer is on, but it's in safe mode so I doubt you can take it over; but I'm not sure I want to ...

What key is next to your left control key?

Uh .. the windows key.

Good, press the windows key and the "R" key.

What does that do?

Just hold down the windows key and press R. What do you see?

Tell me what it does first.

I'm going to help you fix your problem. Just hold down the windows key and press R. What do you see?

Geeze, okay: the 'run' command opens. (Boy is this guy ever rude...)

Good, now type e-v-e-n-t-v-w-r.. What do you see?

What does that do?

Just type e-v-e-n-t-v-w-r. What do you see in front of you?

Tell me what it does first.

Just type it sir. What do you see?

Look dude, I don't know who the hell you are. I'm not going to type it unless you tell me what it does first.

Just type the command. Okay, what do you see on your screen?

Can I have your phone number?

No, just type the command. I'll give you the phone number after you log in. Now enter e-v-e-n-t-v-w-r. What do you see in front of you?

I'm going to hang up unless you give me your phone number.

Just type the command first.

Okay goodbye. *click*

A quick search on the 'net shows that this scam has been going on for a long time. Eventvwr itself is harmless, but it produces computer logs which few people understand and may appear to indicate that your computer has a problem. The scammers use this to convince you to download a program which allows them to obtain control of your PC, and then you're fucked.

The weak link in this scam is the notion that Microsoft would actually call you to help you with your computer. The only thing that made this even remotely plausible in my case is that by coincidence my computer completely crapped out shortly before he called. I know my readers are far too sharp to fall for something like this, so I post this for your ammusement rather than as a warning necessarily.

This isn't the first time I've been scammed. My favourite was a 2-page handwritten letter in 2003 from Uganda. It had Ugandan stamps and was post-marked Uganda. The return address was a box at the Kabale Police Station, which appears to be a real place. It refered to me by name and came to my address, but it did not ask for money outright. The letter writer claimed he was a police officer who was guarding my father. He says "It is a really long time since we last met at Kabalagala Kansanga Kampala at the residence of your father... ". Wow, thats pretty bloody specifc! It's also not accurate. He goes on to mention other inaccurate details including relative's names and so on ... to the point where I almost wonder if the letter was legit and just went to the wrong person. It's impossible that they would randomly mail that to somebody who actually fit the narrative of the letter.

The letter ends with him explaining that his brother died and left him with 5 kids, and that he is struggling with money. Ah here we go, I thought. He wants money.. Still, the whole thing was so intriguing that I held on to the letter. I would scan it for you, except that my PC is toast. Maybe some day, if I ever make it to Uganda, I'll stop in at the Kabale Police Station and ask if Tumwebaze Alfred ever worked there.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Perusing the Headlines

I submitted my second ever Winnipeg Cat meme with that. I wonder if It'll make the cut? (Actually, I think I might have messed up somewhere and I'm not sure it worked.) Anyhow, just had to chuckle when I read the this:
This intervention into the collective bargaining process at Brandon University is as dangerous as it is outrageous," he said in a statement. "It confirms for us the pro-employer bias shown by this allegedly 'labour-friendly' government."
Oh my. Yeah, if you think the NDP is outrageously anti-labour, then I think your perspective on the matter needs just a little tweeking. With a sledge hammer.

Also: No. No you don't get paid extra for catching up on work that you have neglected to do because you chose to go on strike.


Federal audit finds no evidence jobs created by $1 billion in stimulus cash.
Really? You really expect to be able to measure this somehow? Look, I told you about this already:
The recession ended so quickly, not because money was spent, but because people think money is being spent. Just like golf, or the voices that tell me to strangle dogs, it's all in the head.
I am dumbfounded that people are dumbfounded that we can't directly link jobs to stimulus spending. Look, if you're going to force the government to produce a report showing that it created jobs, they will produce a report that shows it created jobs, and the report will be a pile of steaming feces. Please don't make them to that. Let's all be adults here. We all know what the situation is.


An online music magazine recently reported the demise of CDs. For fun, see if you can count the spelling and grammatical errors in that story.

Several mainstream media outlets have picked up on this story as though it has some credibility. I will acknowledge that CD popularity is decreasing, but when revenue from CD sales is still over 4x higher than from downloads, I think it may be premature to call the game.
Anecdotally , I have bought more CDs this year than in the past I-don't-know-how-many years. Mostly this is because they are so damned cheap now, no doubt due to market pressure from downloads, but still ... When CDs came out they were $15-20. Not in today's dollars, but in 19-whatever-it-was dollars. Today, CDs are still $15-20 regular price, but half the stock at HMV is on for $10 or $5. I bought an old Sound Garden CD just for the heck of it. I picked up Amy Winehouse because I like to listen to dead people. 5 bucks? Why not? Hey look, there's The Trews .. I'll get that too!

I do like having something tangible. I admit that, but I think many people do as well. So if you were thinking of putting a CD in somebody's stocking this Christmas, I just want to let you know that it's still okay to do that.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Winnipeg Police Service Strategic Plan

Edit: oops .. I forgot to give the post a title! How embarrassing! Oh well ... fixed.

A few days ago Brian Kelcey wrote an op-ed in the Free Press admonishing Chief McCaskill for his failure to produce a crime reduction strategy, and our politicians for failing to motivate the Chief of Police to do so. Now today, we finally have a plan! Apparently the planning started over two years ago. The delay was probably a result of a low toner cartridge in the printer or something.

The document starts off with a message from the Chief that includes this:

"we must not allow ourselves to get comfortable with our past successes."
Comfortable? COMFORTABLE??? We've had 35 murders and countless arsons in less than 11 months ... who the hell is getting comfortable?!? Oh and by the way: buying a helicopter is only a "success" in the sense that you have successfully spent money. Success is in results, not actions.

You might think that if a plan is serious about dealing with violent crimes, they would provide some analysis of the violent crime problem. You know: you have to recognize that you have a problem before you can fix the problem. Later on they do claim that violent crime is going down, however all we are given in this document are three bar charts for broad categories of crime that are generally flattering to the police force. There is an effort here to make it appear as though everything is proceeding very nicely, and that by even putting forth a plan they are going above and beyond what is necessary.

Edmonton, our competition for Crime Capital, doesn't gloss this over:
New challenges have emerged including a marked increase in the severity of violence that we must address.
.. and they provide 9 "immediate initiatives" to deal with the violent crime problem, and remember, their Chief has been in office for less than half a year. How does our approach compare?

Jumping to the Violent Crime Reduction Strategy on page 20 ... we are given three goals:
• Reduce incidents of sexual assaults by 3% by 2014.
• Reduce incidents of assaults by 9% by 2014.
• Reduce incidents of strong-arm robberies by 3% by 2014.

Reduce murders in the murder capital of Canada? Not a goal. Murders are too unpredictable.

The strategy:
"Adopt a philosophy of law enforcement in Winnipeg to be proactive and fluid in the approach to policing higher crime areas and the rest of the City."
Is that all? What about "thinking outside the box" and "drilling down to the root causes"? Even "leveraging synergies in the pursuit of efficiencies in law enforcement" might be a good way to go. Geeze, do I have to do everything for them?

Thankfully the proposed actions are marginally more specific:
A. Establish and Enhance New Permanent Beat Foot Patrols
B. Implement Project-based Initiatives.

C. Create High-value Target Suppression Database

D. Develop Crime Prevention Partnership Program .. notably the MLCC

E. Did we mention Beat Patrols?

There are other little things here and there, like "give apartment owners and managers the power to evict or deny residency to those residents who partake in criminal or nuisance activities" and "Recruit and train Crime Analysts", but overall I am somewhat underwhelmed. It would have been nice to see more details and creativity ... but at least we have targets, like reduce assaults by 9% in 3 years. The real target that everybody else will be keeping an eye on, however, is that pesky murder rate.

The Police can't do everything however: What we really need is greater differentiation in sentencing. A focus on rehabilitation for new offenders but progressively harsher punishment for repeat offenders. For that we need reformed legislation at the Federal level, and a reformed attitude at the Provincial level.

An aside:
The report provides an interesting summary of our urban sprawl:
"Since the 2006 Census, Winnipeg has developed, and is in the process of developing a number of new neighbourhoods. Notable new neighbourhoods include: Amber Trails, Canterbury Park, Richmond West, Royalwood, Sage Creek, Transcona West and Waverley West. Together, these neighbourhoods add 3205 hectares (7919 acres) of newly inhabited land in Winnipeg. The new developments represent an increase of 6.74% of patrollable land within Winnipeg’s boundaries."
Winnipeg's population increased by less than 5% during that same time frame, therefore population density has decreased as well over that time. Just FYI...

Related: The Crime Scene .

Monday, 14 November 2011

What's the scoop?

I'll give a plug for the new Scoop.It! website for Winnipeg Internet Pundits. This is the link.

Winnipeg Internet Pundits, if you don't know, is a Winnipeg urban-issues type talk radio show on 101.5 UMFM. It features cleaver, witty, and knowledgeable local bloggers James, Walter and Christian; and hosted by the enchanting Tessa. You can catch them once a week on your drive home Wednesdays from 5-6 pm.

Anyhow ... Scoop.It I guess is a new web publishing platform that any schmo can use to make their own 'zine or news aggregator. Isn't the web wonderful? You can jam your Scoop.It full of photos or fill it with nothing but text. Winnipeg Internet Pundits fills theirs with a mix of mainstream media articles and blog posts for a great little scan of Winnipeg news and opinions.

Check it out.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembering a Veteran

I don't remember ever talking to Pépère about the war. I didn't see him a whole lot anyhow, and I was told that he didn't like to discuss it so I never attempted to bring it up. I never even saw his medals until his funeral.

All I know is a summary of what he did and what part of Europe he fought in. Much of what he experienced over there went to the grave with him, and perhaps that's the way it should be. We can't ever forget what happened in WWII, but the individual hardships and tragedies, terror, boredom, relief, discomfort, whatever -- the personal experiences and details -- that doesn't necessarily need to be passed on, and there is really no way to properly convey it anyhow.

So while I may be curious, I know all I need to know: that Pépère went over and played his small role to help us all, and suffered lasting effects because of it. That's why I will think about him today.

Monday, 7 November 2011

How to rebuild the PC Party of Manitoba

Some 'Rods' have stepped forward with solutions: The Black Rod's solution is a secret formula that he/she/it wants to sell. The Rouge Rod is proposing a merger with the Liberals. Clearly we need more ideas.

Naturally the AWAP? Policy Team has been hard at work coming up with boffo ideas in between margarita parties and building a LEGO version of the MTS Centre. Our plan is based on the premise that people aren't stupid. This is a false premise. People are stupid. Some people. But most people are intelligent enough to recognize when somebody is being disingenuous, and they appreciate honesty.

Our plan is also based on the premise that just because people have voted for the status quo 3 years in a row does not mean that they want the status quo or are happy with it. They haven't been given an alternative. The PCs said they offered an alternative, but they did not and by saying they did they were being disingenuous and insulting the voters' intelligence.

So, here's what you do:

STEP 1: Cut a hole in the box. No, wait. That's for something else. Dang ... my notes are all mixed up. K .. Step 1: get a charismatic leader. It does not matter where they are from; only that they have good communication skills and appear trustworthy. I thought McFadyen was that guy 5 years ago, but even a well-spoken youngish lawyer cannot overcome a God-awful campaign.

STEP 2: Accumulate good policy ideas. There are plenty of ideas out there. The CTF has some. The CFIB has some. AWAP has some awesome ones. Steal from the Liberal Party or the Green Party. It doesn't matter where they come from, just collect good ideas. Remember, I'm not talking about ideas that poll well or are easy to sell -- we'll deal with that in Step 3 -- but ideas that makes sense and actually make things better.

STEP 3: Start selling the ideas well in advance of the next election -- like, 2 years. Get them out there, have discussions with the community, and start rebuilding your oh-so-damaged brand. I suggest presenting the ideas in a Problem/Solution format, such as:
Problem: Manitobans consume more electricity than any other jurisdiction on the planet.
Solution: Implement inverted rates that will keep electricity affordable for small households while increasing the benefits of reducing energy use.
See: people will be begging to be charged market rates if you present it the right way. Okay, maybe not, but they will appreciate the fresh straight-forward approach after hearing nothing but rhetoric trash for 10 years. This approach also allows the challengers to attack the government's record, but in a constructive manner.

STEP 4: Ignore the other party's attack ads. It will make the other party seem petty and void of ideas, giving more strength to your own.

If you follow these 4 easy steps you should have a chance, and I guarantee voter turnout will increase, and voter pissed-offness will decrease. Some may argue that it's time to scrap the PC Party altogether and start something new like the Wild Rose Alliance or the Saskatchewan Party which just cruised to a massive majority next door. That is an option, but I think there is still some political capital left to be exploited with the PCs in Manitoba, and starting a brand new party foregoes any chance of winning the next election.

Regardless of if it's the PCs or the Prairie Crocus Alliance or Manitoba Party, they need to drastically change what they're doing for the good of the province.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Transportation Master Plan. (How exciting!)

According to Blade Runner, filmed in 1982, we will have colonies on other planets and androids so perfect as to be "more human than human" by the year 2019 -- only 8 years from now. Think about it: that's when Hugh McFadyen was planning on balancing the Manitoba budget. In fact, in the movie the 'Nexus 6' model of replicant has already reached the end of its 4 year life span, meaning in only 4 years we will be building these 6th generation bots that are so advanced that you can have sex with them and make them breakfast without even knowing they aren't human.

People, I think, have a tendency to believe things will happen faster than they really will. Sometimes things do progress quickly ... for example: in 1918 we were flying biplanes in WWI, and less than 30 years later we had jet airplanes and nuclear weapons. In other cases the pace of progress disappoints. Which brings me to the point of this post ...

The City of Winnipeg has unveiled their $1.25 million Transportation Master Plan. There are two major components to the plan: a $2.7 billion rapid transit initiative, and $2.1 billion in road improvements. Sorry: "improvements". All of which is to come to fruition (did I really just use that word?) in a mere 20 years. (The active transportation component is mostly window dressing and can be discussed separately some other time.)


To me, road improvements would involve making existing roads better. Maybe I misunderstand the term, because the focus of the "improvements" in the Master Plan mostly involve adding miles of new roads on the periphery of the city, sucking more infrastructure money away from the populated areas of town. I personally would call this "facilitating sprawl", but what do I know?

There are plans to widen Kenaston and St.Mary's, which will help. Otherwise, the focus is on building a ring road network inside the perimeter highway and around CentrePort. This plan is a component of the overall OurWinnipeg plan. In the Our Winnipeg plan, there is a map that identifies key "Regional Mixed Use Centres" and "Major Redevelopment Sites". For giggles, I decided to plot these destinations on the map of road improvements from the Transportation Master Plan -- green circles for Mixed Use Centres and yellow rectangles for Redevelopment Sites:

Virtually all of the road improvements on the map lie outside of the key urban areas identified by the City's own visionary document. We are building a web of roads around the city while the roads in the city that people use everyday get more cluttered and dangerous. Supposing we could actually get our hands on $2.1 billion for road improvements, I propose fixing some of the poor planning of the past, rather than just saying "oh well, what's done is done .. let's build more roads!"

I'll give you an example: Fermor @ Lagimodiere is a busy intersection and a dangerous one, ranking #2 in the city with $5.9 million in bodily injuries in an eight year span. . Instead of spending $80 million building an extension of Bishop Grandin to Fermor, why not spend the money fixing Fermor @ Lag? There is plenty of room for an overpass, ramps, merge lanes or whatever. But no. Instead we will build a redundant road through a field, resulting in 3 dangerous and annoying intersections where before there were only 2.

I looked for answers at the Master Plan Open House today . The guy I was talking to explained that the purpose of the Bishop Grandin extension was to provide access to the Sage Creek and Southlands neighbourhoods, which makes no sense at all for reasons I'll explain in the comments to save room up here. I had it out with this guy over all kinds of road-related things, but generally related to poor planning and creating a sprawling network of roads. He scoffed at the idea that developers should or would pay for proper infrastructure. My response: if there is demand for another 10,000 houses or a sprawling retail development, the developers will pay what it takes. There is no need to encourage faster sprawl by cutting corners on infrastructure, and by building new roads in the middle of farm land.


A lot can happen in 20 years, but apparently not rapid transit in Winnipeg. I don't even know when the rapid transit planning started, but in the last decade all we've accomplished is a partially completely 3.2 km piece of pavement for a yet-to-be-determined mode of transportation. I was not encouraged by the sign board at the open house that said the SW Rapid Transit Corridor was expected to be completed "Before 2031". What, is Sam planning on running for mayor another 5 times?

I certainly support its development, and I have no initial complaints about the proposed routes in the plan -- except the maybe it will maybe it won't .... But it will ... jog in the SW transit corridor away from Pembina highway into the controversial proposed new development. But let's be realistic: we just came off a decade of economic growth, budget surpluses, and increasing transfer payments, and we got nothing done. We are now in a period of slow economic growth and massive budget deficits. How will we get money for this? If comes down to a choice between rapid transit and new roads, I fear new roads will win out. After all, we at least know what kind of roads we're going to build, and there's less resistance to building them given that most are in the middle of nowhere.

The bottom line is that if we really want to make rapid transit happen, we need determined and decisive leadership, both within the City of Winnipeg and the Province. Place your bets now. While we can put together glossy $1.25 million transportation plans, the sad reality is that I'm more likely to have my Nexus 6 sex bot order filled before we have anything close to efficient transportation infrastructure in this town.

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