Thursday, April 29, 2010

My momentary brush with identity theft.. or not.

So today, after oh say a couple of months, I decided to check my Rogers email account. This is the account I got with my internet service and I rarely use it. It's the one that goes on my resume (since my others are not real professional-like) and it's also the one I use when I sign up for something and expect to get some junk mail, but no important mail. Generally when I check it, it's just to delete the 100 or so junk emails I've accumulated since the last time I checked it, which is usually every three to six months.

Today when I checked a couple of emails caught my eye. There were three from a gentleman informing me that my tax return was ready and could I please come and pick it up. Oh, and since I'm owing some money, please drop payment in his mailbox sometime this week.

Huh? come again? To someone who has been going to H&R block for the last 5+ years, this seems odd.

The next email is from a woman who appears to be a real estate agent, and is informing me that she can't show my condo on Monday due to a previous engagement.

curiouser and curiouser.

My first instinct is that dear god, my account has been hacked! I sit there reading the emails and sweating nervously, wondering if my first call should be to my internet provider or to my bank to check for 'unusual activity' since any weirdo with the balls to use my name and email probably has my credit card info, and SIN number and all my pass words and the keys to my house and OH DEAR GOD IM SO SCREWWWWWWEDDDDDD!! FFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!1!1!!11

*okay.. breathe andie, breathe*

Instead I google the numbers on the emails. Both are from the toronto area and appear to be, for all intents and purposes, real people. I emailed the tax dude and had the following bizarre exchange:

Hi Andrea

As you have a small amount owing please pick-up your return and post no later than Apr 30/10 to avoid any interest or penalty. I will leave envelope in my mailbox for you to pop by today.

Have a good summer.

-C


Dear C,

I believe you may have the wrong email address. I do not know who you are. My return was filed at an H&R block, as they have been for the past 5 or more years.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Andrea


Dear C,

Following up, I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell me where you got this email address. I'm greatly concerned as I've also received an email regarding a condo that I'm apparently supposed to see, according to some woman I have never spoken to in my life.

Thank you.


I assume you gave it to me as I would have no other way of knowing your email. Sorry you are having trouble with it. What email address should I use?

I don't know what email address you would use, as I am not the person you are trying to reach. I'm sorry there has been a mix up. I'm just trying to find out who is using my email address (and name as well, apparently), as I have never filed a tax return with you.

Yeah it gets pretty boring from there. I called the real estate agent who assured me that there was actually another real person, with my same name, whom she had spoken to in person the other day.

So it turns out there's just some random woman in the Toronto area with the same name, same internet provider and a very similar email address that she keeps getting wrong.

Big sigh of relief.

It happens, you know? Hell, when I got my new cell phone a while back, I was giving out the wrong number for a MONTH. True story. Interesting post-script, during the time that my parents were trying to reach me at the wrong number, my dad finally got a hold of someone who explained that he had the wrong number.

The twist? This someone happened to be a friend of Dad's from high school.

SMall world, right?

On another note, this whole situation has me thinking about the culture of fear that we live in, not to mention the lack of privacy or security in the information age. Funny that my first assumption should be the worst.

In the line of work I am in, I've seen the devastation that can occur when people use the anonimity of the internet as a means to swindle others out of their cash. It's incredibly easy to use fake names, email addresses, phone numbers and create an identity then disappear from the face of the virtual world.

It's also disconcerting how freely people will do things like give a credit card number over the phone, or even in an email. Many people would rather give a credit card number over the phone than enter it into a secured, encrypted site. Bizarre, when you think about it. One may be more comfortable with an actual person on the other end of the line than a computer, but the fact is, while many people are generally honest and on-the-level, I don't think I've EVER met an ill-intentioned computer.

Think about that.

*********************************************************************

Some random questions that have popped into my head through the course of the day.

Why do crackers have holes in them?

What in the name of god is the point of saltines with unsalted tops? Doesn't that defeat the purpose??

Do all animals yawn, or is this strictly a mammalian tic?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sex and Education



So, a Facebook friend of mine posted an article regarding a new proposed sex ed curriculum for Ontario public schools that would have children young as 6 being taught sex ed.

Read the Article

It got me thinking, as sex education in schools (and in general) has been a hot-button subject (is it bad that I giggled at the term 'hot-button'?) with me since my first year in university when I did an independent study on the advent of the birth control pill.

The following is my response to her post, verbatim:

In my honest opinion, the question shouldn't focus so much on 'who' is being taught, but 'what' and how. Personally, I am a huge proponent of sex ed in schools. Although Lori makes a great point about telling based on her perception of when her girls are ready to hear what, the unfortunate thing is not nearly enough parents are that in-tune. I agree with the statement that they are going to learn it elsewhere and frankly the messages that are portrayed in the media are pretty messed up.. so I think it's a good thing that the education system can step in for damage control, because in all honesty, a lot of parents will NOT discuss things frankly and honestly with their kids, whether it be out of some kind of moral outrage or out of sheer laziness.

As far as what is being taught.. I think oral and anal sex is way too advanced for kids (hell, for a lot of adults too). I also think that some of the wording was kind of inflammatory, such as the part about 'giving kids lessons in oral sex'.

I do think masturbation should be covered, for reasons that it's had a bad rap for a long time, and frankly I think it is healthy to explore and become familiar with your own body, and hell, if a young person is okay with 'taking care of business' on their own, they may not be so quick to run out and experiment with others.

I give HUGE applause to the proposal of covering gender and sexuality identity issues in early sex ed. Sex education in schools these days is hugely heterocentric, and I can only imagine that this has helped foster a feeling of inadequacy in people who fall outside of the so-called 'norms'. Hate stems from fear which stems from ignorance.

My beef with the way sex ed is taught, and I think that the proposed curriculum STILL doesn't do enough to address are the social and emotional implications of sexual activity. This includes thinking critically about the way sex is treated in institutions such as the media, religion, government and so on.

I also think that the open-class type forum (being the 'how' it's taught) is not conducive to open and honest discussion, mainly due to children and adolescent's seemingly ingrained need to 'fit in' with their peers, which may prevent them from really touching on subjects that they are wondering about (playing into that 'taking topics as they come' area) for fear of reprisal from teachers and peers.


That was pretty much where I left off, as I figured at that point, I'm better off, as they say in forum-land blogging that shit.

I can appreciate the desire of many parents to keep what, ideally, should be a parents' responsibility, up to the parents. I found it interesting that one of the comments in the Star's article places the blame on an increase in sexual activity on sex education in schools, but neglects to mention the increasing number of (overwhelmingly dysfunctional) images of sexuality that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. As mentioned, I think in such a media-saturated age, it's of utmost importance to have some sort of 'damage control'

I have always tried (all discomfort and squeamishness aside) to maintain an open and honest diaglogue with my girls where issues of sexuality and gender are concerned, basing their readiness simply on their questions. If they ask, I answer as simply as possible and if they have follow up questions, I answer those as well. The downside of sex education at this early age is that no, it does not account for individual readiness.. but then again, neither does the media.

For the parents that are pro-active in either talking to their children or shielding them from what they feel they may not be ready for, then the issue is not such a pressing one. However, I'm also a proponent of offering alternative views and teaching young people to think critically. There are people who, out of fear or ignorance or plain bigotry would pass down archaic beliefs and while it is not my place to say what is the 'right' or 'wrong' opinion to pass down, I think it's crucial to have a second opinion. Being able to think critically also helps down the line when perhaps in a situation of peer pressure a young person may find themselves able to weigh what they've been taught by both family and school against the current situation - for example 'It's okay, I'll pull out.. hahahaha.'

I could go on for ages, but I kind of wanted to stay on topic, but I'm interested in the debate.

In a follow up, the new curriculum, under pressure from family and parent groups and in the face of a looming election, was postponed.

Follow Up Article

In reading the second article, I actually lost some of my indecision. The way the timeline is laid out in the sidebar, I really don't think their is anything particularly outrageous about the ages that the subjects are brought up. Again, much depends on the 'how' rather than the who. As I mentioned earlier, the inflammatory language of the source in the Star article refers to lessons on anal and oral sex, whereas the parentcentral article says that the grade seven curriculum may 'touch on' anal and oral sex - two entirely different approaches.

I have to mention, I like the wording of 'delaying' sexual activity as opposed to abstinence. As well, I think grade seven/eight is a good time to start bringing up gender identity. The source quoted in the Star seemed to give the impression that 6 and 7 year olds would be made to question their identity. Meanwhile, grade 7 and 8 I have found is the age where kids start using words like 'queer' and 'fag' and 'slut' and 'bitch' to hurt each other... thus the perfect age to start looking at the connotations behind such terms.

When it's broken down in steps like this, I really don't find much objectionable at all.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Strange Dreams a plenty

Had some odd dreams last night. Started off as a sort of Movie preview, only all the upcoming attractions were rehashes of old tv shows and sequels to movies that stopped being cool decades ago. A reworking of little house on the prairie, and a very unecessary threequel to Bill and Ted's excellent adventure, with an aging Keanu Reeves in a bad wig and a rather haggard looking Alex Winter. I mean, is that guy even still alive?



To make it odder, the 'sneak peek' was being acted out in my kitchen, which actually looked a lot like the Carstairs' kitchen or at least what i can remember of it.

Next I am tobogganing with Cory Emerson, in what seems like a large cave. There's a big frozen lake in the middle and I am unsure of the condition of the ice so I'm hesitant to slide across. We somehow make our way to the bottom of the hill, and tread carefully along the edge of the ice. Down the way, some drunk frat boys are sliding down the hill and across the ice. To my horror, there are holes opening in the ice and below the thick sheet, the water appears to be boiling.

Turning around to climb back up the hill, I'm faced with what is no longer a hill, but a sheer ice face. I make my way towards where the frat boys were playing, but this too has become a 90 degree climb. With a resigned sigh, I reach up, and I'm surprised to find I suddenly have the agility of Spiderman, and am able to scale the cliff without issue.



Cory follows me up and we go out the door into what appears to be a 'fitness' area in a large administrative/hospital type building.
The building is quite crowded and it resembles a cross between one of the older buildings at Georgian, and the Ontario science center. There's a pool with old ladies in an aquafit class to the left and people are milling around.

Cory tells me she's leaving and I say good bye, then realize that I don't know how to get out of the building. I run up a flight of stairs and find myself in some kind of maternity ward, with women in old fashioned nurses uniforms pushing baby carriages.

Turning tail, I go back the way I came, and with an odd sense of urgency push my way through the crowded halls until I find myself outside and in the thick of some kind of outdoor festival, with a midway and a concert stage. Again, there is people, people, people, everywhere. The dim light and faint mist leads me to believe that it's sometime in the the very early morning. I scan the parking lot and begin to panic because I can't remember where I parked my car. Wandering down a steep, dirt road, I find my car at the bottom, parked next to a ditch. With relief I run toward it. I have to climb into the ditch to reach the passenger door. In the mud next to the front wheel, is one of my poetry books from highschool. That's when I woke up.

There's seems to be a lot of themes of being stuck, or lost, and kind of an agoraphobic type mood. Hrm.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Conversations with my kid: On the subject of race

Watching 'Maude' with the girls

Bea Arthur: "In this house, there is no black, and no white. There is only people-color."

Tierney: "...which is beige."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Kicking my inner bitch in the taco with the steel-toed boot of creativity..

I was hit with a burst of creativity last night that knocked me off my feet. I think if every night was as artistically fulfilling as last night, I could easily never leave my house again, and happily live out the eccentric starving artist stereotype - you know.. the lady 'of a certain age' with her colorful but comfortable attire, her cats, her bottles of wine and her young lovers. Ohhh, wouldn't that be nice.

There's still time for all that.

It was quite lovely tho, enjoying a nice half-bottle of wine, listening to music and getting thoroughly mess and right 'into it'. Up to my neck, mentally speaking. Just focused and relaxed all at the same time.

Once I was done and satisfied - nay, enthralled with the final result, which is rare being my own worst critic - I sat with the guitar and a nice little buzz and played and felt so in tune with the music that I could instantly pick out certain chord progressions and go off on blues-scale based tangents. I can barely hold down the strings today my fingertips are so tender.

I wish I could find 'that place' more often.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I kind of miss..

...back a couple of months ago when the Rye's open mike night was relatively unknown and it was a small gathering of nervous if dedicated musicians showing up every other week to enjoy and listen to some music.

Somewhere, along the lines, it caught on.

Don't get me wrong, I think this is fabulous for the establishment itself, as I am a fan of anything endeavour that keeps our downtown thriving - or approaching thriving, or anything that gives a glimmer of hope that one day Midland's downtown may thrive, since it's pretty sad actually.

Bear with me, I'm about to get all old and crotchety on ya.

The kids have taken over. There's not a lot for a teenager to do on a weekday night, so the jam seems to have become a place to come, hang out and chit chat with friends. And it strikes me as disrespectful to the musicians and enthusiasts who come out to enjoy and play music when the performers can barely be heard over the din.

And yes, of course, there are adults who are just as guilty of chit-chatting.. but I don't know.

It just seems so typical of what happens when something becomes a 'scene'. Back when the Monteiths owned Chicago North and they were holding Sunday all ages jams, it was cool at first because people like myself who wanted to play could go despite being underage.. but then I brought a couple of friends, and they brought some friends, and it became a teen hang-out and sometimes no better than a karaoke night, as many of the kids that came out didn't play - they'd sing to the house band. Eventually, they shut down sunday jams, because the point was being missed, and frankly, it's never a good idea to have that many underagers in a bar, even on a sunday *koff*bleachers*koff*

A coffee house is a different situation than a bar, granted. But there are not many places in Midland to go and play and enjoy music. There more places to go hang out with your friends and make chitchat and be seen.

I think I may stay home next week. I could use a break.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

So a call comes into the helpdesk...

...and no, it wasn't another heavy-breather.

A gentleman calls into the helpdesk today asking for information about an Oxford X-ray Fluorometer ED 2000 Detector listed on our site. He indicates that he's not looking to buy it. He just wants to find out what it is.

You see, there's one in his garage.

It seems this guy recently moved into a new house and lo and behold, it seems that the former residents went and left their fluorometer behind. So this guy calls and basically wants to know what this thing in his garage is. I tell him, 'it's a type of detector used in liquid chromatography'.

Silence.

"... which means?"

Really, I couldn't offer more information, so being the good little CSR I am, I say "Well, we don't directly deal with any equipment. In fact, I see probably 100 of these things a day but couldn't tell you what they do. Let's see what good old wikipedia has to say on the subject"

If any one is interested, here is what good old Wikipedia has to say about High Performance Liquid Chromatography.

Confused? Yeah me too.

Here's where it gets crazy. The same unit listed on our site was being offered for 38K+ Euros, which is roughly the equivalent to $52,000 USD.

So picture this..

You're a new homeowner and upon moving in, you find a rather expensive looking piece of scientific equipment in your garage. Not knowing what it is, your first thoughts are probably along the lines of:

"Oh hell. Am I going to have the EPA invading my yard?"
"What the hell is this thing?"
"I wonder if I can sell it?"

I may mention that the gentleman on the phone indicated that the one in his garage was in good shape and carefully crated to protect from damage.

Now imagine that upon looking up this equipment you see the equivalent on sale for over fifty thousand dollars.

FIFTY. THOUSAND. DOLLARS.

Happy friggin' birthday. I bet this guy is just crapping his pants.

Like what you see?