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Frauds, Scumbags and Cold-call Scammers

It happened two days ago, in the early afternoon.  A friend and I were both working on separate computers in different rooms, each busy trying to get our work done.  The phone rang and I was oblivious to it, as I usually only answer my own cell phone.

I was barely aware of what was going on as I had a deadline Who is thisto meet on a product review, and continued my work.  My friend came into the room carrying her cordless phone with a puzzled look on her face.  She asked me to take the call as she couldn’t understand what the party on the other end was saying.  I asked who was on the line and she told me that the person on the phone was calling from India and had told her, “You’re in front of your computer and we’re getting error messages.”

This had baffled her and she asked who it was.  He replied with a name that she couldn’t understand, said that he “worked for Microsoft” and repeated that she was in front of her computer and that they were “getting error messages.”

When she asked him how he could see what was on her computer, he replied, “We can see all the computers in the world.”

Scumbag Cold-callerThat’s when she decided to let me deal with him.  It was unnerving in that she doesn’t have a Webcam, and then after a couple seconds of brief conversation, I took the call, and asked to whom I was speaking.  He fumbled, answered in some unintelligible fashion and finally the third time I got it: his name was “Handel Baker”… or so he claimed.  From his accent it was clear that he was not from Louisiana or from the Bronx.  He then ordered me to go to the computer and told me that the computer was getting error messages and that they were seeing them. 

I asked him who he worked for, and Handel Baker replied, stumbling with his words as if reading from a script, “I work for Microsoft.  We are a Microsoft Solution Provider.  I am a Microsoft Certified Professional.  Go look at your computer screen and I help you with your errors.  Maybe you have a virus.”

I replied, “I’m on a Mac, not on a PC.”

I didn’t tell him that my friend was on a Windows PC and that it was behind a pretty heavy firewall on a secure Phone scammernetwork, but he seemed confused.  I further stated, “I’m using a MacBook Pro, and there is nothing strange on my screen.”

Poor Handel Baker was very confused now, and was getting irritated, and his already-poor English skills were rapidly breaking down as he tried to respond.  I interrupted and again asked him who he worked for, who was his employer, and he replied something to the effect of “PC Outpour” or “PC Output”… maybe it was “PC Outhouse” for all that I could understand.  I asked where his company was located.  He replied, “We in California… California.  Look at your screen!”

He was obviously getting upset, as he was not even responding in understandable English at this point.  Repeatedly I asked him to slow down and talk so that I could understand him, and again I asked him the name of his company.  I couldn’t even begin to understand his broken response, so I asked to speak to his supervisor.  This really upset him, and I had to repeat my request four or five times… and finally I got through to him.  He said, “You wait. I get my supervisor.”

There was a pause as he put me on hold, then I waited.  After about a minute, all I heard was the dial tone.  Handel Baker had hung up.

I could have left it with that, but my security-conscious side had been roused, so I immediately checked the phone number on the phone handset, and it came up as 855-791-1191.  Did a quick Google search on that number and it came up with quite a few results, actually thousands of them, and this is just one of them.  There were many more, such as this one where the same phone number is mentioned, along with a company name in one case.  It was amazing how many others had gone through similar events with calls from this number, and not just in the U.S.

It didn’t take long perusing these messages, such as the detailed one here to discover that the phone number matched one particular company, PC Output, PC OutHouse bannerwith support starting at $169.99 per year as of this writing. Further, checking their About Us page and found that PC Output is owned by Innate Global Solutions, which is located in Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, and known to many as Calcutta, where they have other business. That’s a long way from California.

And as far as Handel Baker being a “Microsoft Certified Professional” there is no indication on their site that they have any of these on their staff.  Microsoft has issued an advisory about scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently.

The first call of defense against scammers such as this outfit is to get your phone registered on the National Do Not Call Registry. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched the National Do Not Call Registry to give Americans a choice about getting telemarketing calls at home. FTC Fines are now $16,000.00 per violation, which is enough to make some of these scammers think twice.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, India Call Centerand it’s not just confined to the US, either. In July 2012, The Guardian (UK) wrote an in-depth article about these calls from India, with the same scenario mentioned above, and there were quite a number of reader comments on this issue. A Canadian blogger wrote of a call that went, "Sir, we have reason to believe that your computer has been hacked," explaining his experience with a cold-call from India. This virus scam has grown to epidemic proportions in Canada, now accounting for over 70% of frauds reported daily to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre (CAFC), and causing them to post this alert and remedy.

In the US, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a co-sponsored by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and if you’re a victim, complaints may be filed here. Complaints filed at their website are processed and may be referred to federal, state, local or international law enforcement agencies. And sometimes there are winners in these complaints, as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does go after them, and won a judgment of more than $8 million against one of these scareware scammers that was operating under a variety of names.  In this case, 300,000 of those who were stung in this scam are getting refunds. And it looks like the FTC is cracking down hard on some of the other Indian call centers as well.

Microsoft advises that you should just hang up on phone scams such as this. SCAM AlertOne could also respond with a carefully directed (in)appropriate phrase in the Bengali or Indian languages.  It might make you feel better, but then they’re likely to respond equally in English. 

When it comes to dealing with scumbags and scammers like this, remember to put your brain in motion before putting your mouth in gear or your fingers in motion on the keyboard.  As always, good old fashioned common sense is your best defense.

Have a Splendid 2011 Holiday!


Wishing you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  • Afrikaans - Geseende Kerfees en 'n gelukkige nuwe jaar
  • Albanian - Gëzuar Krishlindjet Vitin e Ri!
  • Aleut - Kamgan Ukudigaa
  • Alsatian - E gueti Wïnâchte & E glecklichs Nej Johr!
  • Andalusian - Felíce Pahjcua y Felí Año, or Felí Navidá y Próhjpero Año Nuevo
  • Apache (Western) - Gozhqq Keshmish
  • Arabic - I'D Miilad Said ous Sana Saida
  • Aramaic - Edo bri'cho o rish d'shato brich'to!
  • Arawak - Aba satho niw jari da'wisida bon
  • Armenian - Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Soorp Janunt
  • Bafut - Mboni Chrismen & Mboni Alooyefee
  • Bahasa/Malaysia - Selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru
  • Bandang - Mbung Mbung Krismie & Mbung Mbung Ngouh Suiie
  • Basque - Zorionak eta Urte Berri On!
  • Belorussian - Winshuyu sa Svyatkami i z Novym godam!
  • Bengali - Shuvo Baro Din - Shuvo Nabo Barsho
  • Blackfoot - I'Taamomohkatoyiiksistsikomi
  • Bohemian/Czech - Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a Stastny
    novy rok
  • Breton - Nedeleg laouen na bloav ezh mat
  • Bulgarian - Chestita Koleda i Shtastliva Nova Godina
  • Catalan - Bon Nadal i feliç any nou!
  • Cantonese - Seng Dan Fai Lok, Sang Nian Fai Lok
  • Carib - Sirito kypoton ra'a
  • Carolinian - Ameseighil ubwutiiwel Layi Luugh me raagh fee
  • Cebuano - Malipayong Pasko ug Bulahang Bag-ong Tuig!
  • Chavacano - Felices Pascua y Prospero Anyo Nuevo
  • Cherokee - Danistayohihv & Aliheli'sdi Itse Udetiyvsadisv
  • Cheyenne - Hoesenestotse & Aa'e Emona'e
  • Choctaw - Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito
  • Cornish - Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth
  • Corsican - Bon Natale e Bon capu d' annu
  • Cree - Mitho Makosi Kesikansi
  • Creek - Afvcke Nettvcakorakko
  • Creole/Seychelles - Bonn e Erez Ane
  • Croatian - Sretan Bozic
  • Danish - Glædelig Jul og godt nytår
  • Dutch - Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!
  • Egyptian - Colo sana wintom tiebeen      
  • English - Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
  • Eritrean - Rehus-Beal-Ledeat
  • Esperanto - Gajan Kristnaskon & Bonan Novjaron
  • Estonian - Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi ja Head uut aastat
  • Ethiopian - enkuan le berhane ledtu adrswo
  • Éwé - Blunya na wo
  • Ewondo - Mbemde abog abyali nti! Mbembe Mbu!
  • Faroese - gleðilig jól og eydnuríkt nýggjár!
  • Farsi - Sal-e no mubarak
  • Fijian - Me Nomuni na marau ni siga ni sucu dei na yabaki vou
  • Finnish - Hyvää Joulua or Hauskaa Joulua - 0nnellista uutta vuotta
  • Filipino - Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
  • Flemish - Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig nieuw jaar
  • French - Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!
  • Frisian - Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier!
  • Gaddang - Mangamgam Bawa a dawun sikua diaw amin
  • Galician - Bon Nadal e Bo Ani Novo
  • Georgian - Gilotsavt Krist'es Shobas & Gilosavt akhal ts'els
  • German - Fröhliche Weihnachten und ein glückliches Neues Jahr!
  • Greek - Kala Christougenna Ki'eftihismenos O Kenourios Chronos
  • Greenlandic - Juullimi Ukiortaassamilu Pilluarit
  • Guarani - Avyaitete ahi ko Tupa ray arape qyrai Yy Kapyryin rira
  • Han - Drin tsul zhit sho ahlay & Drin Cho zhit sho ahlay
  • Hausa - Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara!
  • Hawaiian - Mele Kalikimaka & Hauoli Makahiki Hou
  • Hebrew - Mo'adim Lesimkha. Shanah Tova
  • Hindi - Shubh Naya Baras
  • Hungarian - Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket és Boldog újévet!
  • Icelandic - Gleðileg Jól og Farsaelt Komandi ár!
  • Indonesian - Selamat Hari Natal & Selamat Tahun Baru
  • Iraqi - Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
  • Irish - Nollaig Shona Dhuit
  • Iroquois - Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson homungradon nagwutut & Ojenyunyat osrasay
  • Italian - Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo
  • Japanese - Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
  • Javanese - Sugeng Natal lan warsa enggal
  • Kashmiri - Christmas Id Mubarak
  • Kom - Isangle Krismen & Isangle beng i fue
  • Korean - Sung Tan Chuk Ha
  • Kurdish - Seva piroz sahibe u sersala te piroz be
  • Kwangali - Kerekemisa zongwa & Erago moMumvho gomupe
  • Ladin - Bon Nadel y Bon Ann Nuef
  • Lakota - Wanikiya tonpi wowiyuskin & Omaka teca oiyokipi
  • Latin - Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis
  • Latvian - Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus un Laimi'gu Jauno Gadu!
  • Lausitzian - Wjesole hody a strowe nowe leto
  • Lebanese - Milad Saeed wa Sanaa Mubarakah
  • Lithuanian - Linksmu Kaledu ir laimingu Nauju metu
  • Luxembourgeois - Schéi Krëschtdeeg an e Schéint Néi Joer
  • Macedonian - Srekan Bozik I Nova Godina
  • Malagasy - Arahaba tratry ny Krismasy
  • Malayan - Selamat Hari Natal
  • Maltese - Nixtieqlek Milied Tajjeb u Sena Tajba
  • Mandarin - Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
  • Manx - Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa
  • Maya/Yucateco - Utzul mank'inal
  • Mongolian - Zul saryn bolon shine ony mend devshuulye
  • Moro - Nidli pred naborete nano
  • Norweigan/Nynorsk - eg ynskjer hermed dykk alle ein god jul og godt nyttår
  • Norweigan/Bokmål -  God Jul og Godt Nyttår
  • Ojibwe (Chippewa) - Niibaa' anami'egiizhigad & Aabita Biboon
  • Pompangan - Malugud Pascu at saca Masayang Bayung Banua!
  • Pennsylvania German - En frehlicher Grischtdaag unen hallich Nei Yaahr!
  • Polish - Wesolych Swiat i Szczesliwego Nowego Roku.
  • Portuguese - Boas Festas e um feliz Ano Novo
  • Punjabi - Nave sal di mubaraka
  • Q'anjob'al - chi woche swatx'ilal hak'ul yet yalji Komami'
  • Quiche' - Dioa kkje' awuk'
  • Romani - Bachtalo krecunu Thaj Bachtalo Nevo Bers
  • Romanian - Craciun fericit si un An Nou fericit!
  • Russian - Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva i s Novim Godom
  • Samoan - Ia manuia le Kilisimasi ma le tausaga fou
  • Sardinian -  Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou
  • Scots Gaelic - Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ur!
  • Serbian -  Sretan Bozic. Vesela Nova Godine
  • Sicilian - Bon Natali e Prosperu Annu Novu!
  • Sorbian - Wjesole hody a strowe Nowe leto.
  • Slovakian - Vesele Vianoce a stastny novy rok
  • Slovene - Vesele bozicne praznike in srecno novo leto
  • Spanish - Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo
  • Sudanese - Wilujeng Natal Sareng Warsa Enggal
  • Swedish - God Jul och Gott Nytt År
  • Tahitian - Ia ora i te Noere e ia ora na i te matahiti 'api
  • Tamil - Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal
  • Thai - Suksan Wan Christmas lae Sawadee Pee Mai
  • Tlingit - Xristos Khuwdziti kax sh kaxtoolxetl
  • Tonga - Kristo abe anduwe muciindo ca Christmas
  • Turkish - Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
  • Ukrainian - Veseloho Vam Rizdva i Shchastlyvoho Novoho Roku!
  • Urdu - Naya Saal Mubarak Ho
  • Valencian - Bon Nadal i millor any nou
  • Welsh - Nadolig LLawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda
  • Xhosa - Siniqwenelela Ikrisimesi EmnandI Nonyaka Omtsha Ozele Iintsikelelo Namathamsanqa
  • Yiddish - Gute Vaynakhtn un a Gut Nay Yor
  • Yoruba - E ku odun, e ku iye' dun!
  • Zulu - Sinifesela Ukhisimusi Omuhle Nonyaka Omusha Onempumelelo

There are so many ways to say it, but the meaning is still the same. This wonderful season also celebrates other holidays, such as Hanukkah, Al Hijra, Kwanzaa and Winter Solstice.

So to everyone, regardless of your national, ethnic or religious affiliation, please accept sincere wishes that we may all experience peace and hope during this season and throughout the coming year.


No Nativity Scene in Washington this year

There will be no Nativity Scene in our nation's capitol this year!


The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be a Nativity Scene in Washington, D.C., this Christmas season.

Contrary to many news reports in the media recently regarding the display of Nativity scenes in Washington and elsewhere, this isn't for any religious reasons.

They simply have not been able to find Three Wise Men in the Nation's Capitol.

A search for a Virgin continues.

There was no problem, however, finding enough jackasses to fill the stable.

Regardless of how you celebrate this Holiday season, keep a smile on your face!

Winking smile

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It’s been one of those years, but…

The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is having a very tough year in 2011, and hopefully you can help.

ToysforTotsSanta-smlThe mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted. The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.

Call it the economy or whatever, donations have been way down this year. The Toys for Tots program in Napa County, California, is having its worst year for gift donations, according to charity coordinator Robert Stevenson. In Philadelphia, donations to the city’s Toys for Tots campaign are down nearly 80 percent, and organizers say they fear thousands of needy children will go without presents on Christmas. Last year, the operation delivered 113,000 toys, but this year it has collected 25,000. With one week to go in Atlanta, their Toys for Tots annual campaign is falling way behind in its goal to collect new toys for needy kids.

The news reports are not good all over, and these are just a few of the stories that are showing up this season.

So how can you help?

It doesn’t take very much. The national website is the starting point to find one of the 730 local Toys for Tots campaign sites.  At the top of the Home Page (www.toysfortots.org), there is a section noted Select a Local Campaign Office, and underneath a dropdown menu labeled “Select a State”.  From this menu, you can select the state, then the city/county in which you reside.  If the city/county is covered, clicking on that location will take you to a local Toys for Tots website.  At the local website, you’ll find information about local events, how to become a collection point for the local campaign, how to register for assistance, and how to donate directly to a local campaign.

If you can’t get out and buy a wrapped toy, you can donate money to the Toys for Tots Foundation from the comfort of your home or office. Their secure online donation is a simple one-step process to giving this season. And be aware that the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation enjoys one of the very best program to support ratios within the nonprofit world; 98:2.  This means that over 98% of your donation goes to their mission of providing toys, books and other gifts to less fortunate children.  The 2% spent on support principally covers fundraising expenses - not one donated dollar goes to pay for salaries or any other manpower costs.

For those who want to know more about this wonderful organization, there’s an excellent history detailing how Toys for Tots began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, USCR and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. There’s another excellent Toys for Tots history recently posted on the 'Net by Beth Crumley, with some superb photos than cannot be found elsewhere.  And this Marine can tell you that there were a number of us who put our time and muscle into refurbishing toys (bicycles, wagons, and much more) for needy kids when such things were done in the 'Nam Era… and my son and I were involved in an auction on the Web within the last decade.

Please see what you can do to make this Christmas good for a deserving child.

Merry Christmas… Semper Fi.


Tribute to a Golfer

There are golfers in this world who enjoy the game. There are others who suffer through each swing, hoping that the next will be better. Then there are some to whom golf is a true lifetime dedication, who continue to hone their skills over the years, always striving for perfection.

Golf is not, on the whole, a game for realists.  By its exactitudes of measurements it invites the attention of perfectionists
~ Heywood Hale Broun

On the first Wednesday of November, Dad played twelve holes of golf. It's an odd number, but living on a golf course in Florida, he John T. Williamson PGA 01played his customary nine holes, and then worked his way back home in a freeform fashion. Not bad for a man of 89 years, but he's always been an athlete.

Dad passed away in the morning on Thursday, November 3rd. He was not in pain nor did he suffer.

He tried to get up in the morning but was having a tough time, from what my stepmother Carol related to me when we talked that night. An emergency team came with their ambulance, but it was too late. It's probably better that way, as in his living will he didn't want to be hooked up to any devices to prolong his life.  Carol was right there by his side.

In our family tradition, he will be cremated, and his ashes will be spread both on the golf course that he loved and at sea, which was also one of his loves. He would have been 90 on his next birthday in February.

Dad was born on Long Island, New York, February 6, 1922, and raised in Brooklyn. A Lincoln High SchoolHis mother had been an opera singer, and had her own show in the early days of radio. He was an only child, and grew to be an all around athlete at Abraham Lincoln High School in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn.

Built in 1929, Lincoln graduated a number of Nobel Prize winners, famous doctors, scientists, engineers, politicians, and other celebrities, such as international financier Bernard Cornfeld, film and television actor John Forsythe, basketball player & Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr., Nobel Prize winner (Chemistry) Jerome Karle, jazz drummer and bandleader Buddy Rich, real-estate businesswoman (and "Queen of Mean") Leona Helmsley, jazz flautist Herbie Mann, author and playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, The Crucible), renowned federal district court judge Jack B. Weinstein, and author Joseph Heller (Catch-22), to name a few. During those days, Dad earned his early spending money as a guide at the 1939 Worlds Fair.

Columbia-columnsDad continued with sports while a student at Columbia University, playing football and baseball, when his education was interrupted by World War II. He had wanted to volunteer for the Marines, but his mother had objected most highly, as he was her only son and the reports that were coming in from the Pacific theater had a high number of casualties. He persisted with a number of arguments, and they settled on what she considered to be a safer military role for him; he served with distinction in the U.S. Navy as a “hardhat” salvage diver. In the course of his diver training at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, he participated in the salvage of the SS Normandie. After the war was over, he completed his education and worked as a petroleum geologist for Creole Petroleum Corporation in Venezuela.

Dad was actually my stepfather. He married my mother in the '50s, and never batted an eye when it came to accepting my two younger brothers and me as his own kids. He moved us all to Venezuela, where he was employed, and it was the adventure of a lifetime. While in Venezuela, Dad participated in the revitalization of the Quiriquire Golf Course in Estado Monagas, where we lived. This proved to be prophetic.

In 1955 we relocated back to the States, whereupon he had a chance to live a true dream: par3 daytonaDad built a golf course, carving it out of Florida pine trees in an undeveloped area west of Daytona Beach. He had foreseen that many would want to play a shorter golf course, and he was right. It was his design, and he did some of the manual labor himself to bring his dream to fruition, building the Daytona Par 3 Golf Club on US 92. Later he became a Class A golf professional, and he was a lifetime member of the PGA since 1960.

Dad taught my brothers and me to play golf, but it was probably a big disappointment to him that none of us ever shared the love of the sport to the degree that he did. Each of us pursued our own directions when it came to sports, but none of us are golfers except in a casual fashion. But Dad was a well-rounded man with a solid education, and from that we benefited. He was an avid reader of books, magazines, periodicals of many types, and of course newspapers.

NBC’s Victory At Sea | Target Suribachi, Episode 23

Television was generally a family affair, usually starting with the inevitable evening news program, often NBC's Huntley-Brinkley Report, anchored by Chet Huntley in New York City, and David Brinkley in Washington. My father would sometimes throw in his own editorial comments during the commercials. There were shows such as Dragnet, Gunsmoke, Have Gun–Will Travel, Leave It To Beaver, 77 Sunset Strip, Peter Gunn, The Twilight Zone, Shock Theater, Walter Cronkite’s The Twentieth Century and more than I can mention here. But perhaps the most memorable television experiences that I shared with Dad were when he introduced me to the reruns of Victory at Sea, the documentary television series about naval warfare during World War II that was originally broadcast by NBC in 1952–1953. Richard Rodgers composed the musical score, and it was narrated by Leonard Graves, and we watched all 26 episodes together.

He had a quiet sense of humor… and sometimes it showed itself when we least expected it.

Among his accomplishments, Dad was a recruiter for the athletic teams of Columbia University. He was also the golf coach for Daytona Beach Junior College (now Daytona State College). He was a member of the Sugar Mill Country Club in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. An avid golfer for much of his life, he was able to shoot his age or below on several of his birthdays. He had been a long time member of the Quarterback Club.

Dad loved the water. He was an active boater and fisherman, and was a member and past Commodore of the Halifax River Yacht Club in Daytona Beach. During his tenure as Commodore in 1969, he oversaw major construction projects. He was a member of the United States Power Squadron, having completed all of their instructional programs, and also served as an instructor.

There was a period of time where Dad became a car nut of sorts. He went through a phase that ranged from a Thunderbird to a Buick Riviera and then onto a Corvette Stingray. Then came a larger Mercedes and a now-classic Ferrari_330gt_2 2Ferrari 330 GT 2+2, a truly unique automobile of which only 1088 were produced. It had a metallic silver Pininfarina-designed body and a V-12 engine that delivered 300 bhp, along with Koni adjustable shock absorbers for superb handling. It could do +152 mph (245 km/h) as my brothers and I could attest to, but we never told him. That car suffered the indignity of being the victim of a rear-end collision, and that ended it all for Dad’s expensive car toys. Everything after that was more sedate.

My father loved to travel, and later in life that interest prompted him to own and run Holiday Travel in Daytona Beach, along with my mother. They had a great time with their treks to various places around the globe, but it was to be short lived, as my mother was a victim of cancer. Without getting into the details, it was bad but went into remission, allowing us all a collective sigh of relief… for awhile. When it returned is was with a vengeance, and Mom passed on in the ‘70s, leaving all of us devastated, and especially Dad, who had stuck with her through thick and thin. He seemed to pull back a bit, then buried himself into his work at the travel agency that he and my mother had founded.

A couple of years later while I was living in South Florida, he called on the phone and seemed a bit nervous, saying that there was something he needed to tell me. He seemed to be skirting the issue, but finally he blurted it out: he had “found someone” while on one of the cruises that were offered to travel agents. Little did he know then that I had already been alerted by one of my brothers, but I played along.

Dad and Carol 01A few weeks later I met Carol, the woman who was to become my stepmother, and it didn’t take long to see that they were perfectly suited for each other. They married, and all of us “kids” were there at their wedding, and it was a truly memorable celebration for all of us. Carol became family, and was a joy to be around.

Dad and Carol shared a common love of travel, and later owned and were active with Coronado Travel in New Smyrna Beach. They traveled the globe together, extensively, allowing him to visit and play golf on every continent except Antarctica. As a result, Dad was a founding member of the Cariari Country Club, in San Jose, Costa Rica. In addition, he combined these trips with his lifetime love of the sea and became a member of Club Amateur De Pesca and the Costa Rica Yacht Club in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

I have attributed my love of books and words to my mother and a bit to my maternal grandmother, but it was Dad who taught me to really explore the classics when I was in junior high. I enjoyed reading and often escaped in a book, often as not some contemporary trashy novel that I had picked up in the local library. One day he came into my room when I was reading some contemporary best-seller, such as Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place, as I recall. He looked at it, and then asked me if I was getting anything out of it. I blushed as I recall, as I had been looking for the juicy parts, and he just walked out of the room. About an hour later he came back and asked me to take a ride with him. Without saying a word, he took me down the street to the local library, a cool stucco building that I regularly frequented, and there he introduced me to a better level of writing, first with Jack London's The Sea Wolf, then with Thor Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki. From those two books my reading expanded to Jules Verne, H.H. Wells, William Faulkner and many others. One author who was destined to become a lifetime favorite was Mark Twain… and I owe my Dad so much for that simple introduction.

As much as he loved golf and visiting new places, Dad enjoyed the challenge of crossword puzzles. As a lover of words, he was a truly voracious reader, and we had opportunities to share viewpoints and recommendations on new reads… but he always seemed to be one small step ahead of me. For example, when The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy's first published novel came out in 1984, I had received a pre-publication copy, and called him after reading it to recommend it to him. He quietly listened to me, and then informed me that he had also received a pre-publication copy from the U.S. Naval Institute, and had already finished it before I had done so.

JTW with Hardhat 01

There were times that our relationship was strained, and other times that it was extremely close. That happens in any family… and he should be credited highly for never doling out advice when I was older and had left home on what I should do unless I asked him directly.  There’s one other thing that I have to give him credit for, and it’s an important one: during a conversation that we were having some years ago about work and a potential job that I was considering, he asked me if I would be truly happy in that line of work. When I told him that I wasn’t sure, he advised me to continue looking, as it was important to be happy with ones work. And he was right, as I never took a job that I didn’t like… I did it my way. There have been ups and downs at times, but his sage advice made me a happier person than so many that I’ve known in this world.

On the morning of November 3rd, 2011, Dad passed away at his home in New Smyrna Beach, at the age of 89. In his honor, a Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, November 20th, 2011. I’ll be there… wondering when he will tee off next.

The most important shot in golf is the next one.
~ Ben Hogan


I do not choose to be a common man...

It is my right to be uncommon—if I can.

I seek opportunity—not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.

I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed.

I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia.

I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat.

It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say, "This I have done."

By Dean Alfange

The man behind the words...

The Honorable Dean Alfange was an American statesman born to Greek parents on December 2, 1899, in Constanstinople, now known as Instanbul. He came here as an infant and was raised in upstate New York. After serving in the Army in World War I, he went to Hamilton College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After receiving a law degree from Columbia University, he opened a practice in Manhattan.

Mr. Alfange was a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York in 1942 as a candidate of the American Labor Party and who two years later was a leader in forming the Liberal Party. He changed his affiliations among the state's parties, holding nominations or appointments through the Democrats and Republicans, as well as the Liberals and the American Labor Party.

In 1940, after several years as a leader of the American Labor Party, he was made chairman of the Democratic foreign-language speakers' bureau in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third election campaign. In 1941 he ran for Congress on the Democratic ticket in the Silk Stocking district on the East Side of Manhattan and lost to Joseph Clark Baldwin, a Republican. The next year, when Thomas E. Dewey won his first term as governor, Mr. Alfange ran third, as the Labor Party nominee, behind the Democrat, John J. Bennett.

Mr. Alfange was active in ethnic organizations and had been national president of Ahepa, a Greek-American civic group. He was president of the La Guardia Memorial House, a settlement house in East Harlem, for more than 40 years.

Dean Alfange died of cancer on October 24, 1989 at his home in Manhattan. He was 91 years old. He is well remembered for the short piece he wrote that you see above, entitled either "An American's Creed" or simply "My Creed".

The Creed espouses the ideas of self-reliance and freedom... and these are words in which I believe.

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The Trip and the Promise

September 11th, 2001: We each have our own personal reflections of where we were and what we were doing on that particular day. For me, like so many others, those events will never be forgotten. But it was the events of the previous week and weekend that set the foundation for the date…

It was more than the typical Sunday drive in early September 2001, but since it was for the christening of some friends' young daughter, we didn't mind it. We left a bit early, but when driving anywhere around New York City, it seems like early is never enough. My son, then a five-year-old and a well-seasoned traveler, was situated comfortably in his car seat, looking forward to the trip. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and just warm enough to even turn the air conditioner on since we were more dressed up than usual for the special occasion.

Driving from Bucks County, PA to where we were headed on Long Island's South Shore should have taken less than two-and-a-half-hours. The online travel directions had pegged it at just under two hours: it took over three hours. And this was almost predictable, as the route we were taking had us crossing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

Traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike was fine, and even cruising along well in excess of the posted speed limit, every fourth car was still passing us. We took the exit indicated for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and now it seemed that every other car was passing us. That was until we hit the ramps for the bridge, when all traffic almost came to a halt. A pedestrian taking a stroll with two dogs could make progress at a far greater rate of travel, and this we actually witnessed. Still, the weather was fine, and we took the upper deck of the bridge in hopes of seeing a bit of the fabled New York City skyline.

The creeping traffic was perfect for that type of sightseeing, and my son was enjoying looking in all directions. As he looked towards The City, he observed the Statue of Liberty in the distance, and this excited him, for he had seen this in books and on television. I was concentrating on the creeping traffic, and as such was only offering token replies and comments to his observations.

Then he asked me what "those two buildings" were. I tried to be patient as I watched the on-again, off-again flashes of the brake lights in front of us, and asked to describe the buildings that he was talking about. He responded something to the effect that they were the two that were next to each other, and were the tallest ones that he could see. I already knew what they were, as I had been in that exact Manhattan location just a few days earlier for a successful meeting with some new business clients.

World Trade Center dominating the New York City skyline.

I replied to him that they were known as the World Trade Center towers, and that they were some of the tallest buildings in the work. He corrected me and told me that they were two of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. I had to laugh and agree with him. Three-syllable words will always win out over two-syllables in a growing child's vocabulary. And it made be think back in a brain-flash about the first time I could recall my parents taking me to New York City as a child younger that my son, and the indelible effect that seeing real skyscrapers had on me.

We continued our journey, going down the 360-degree loop-under off ramp that put us onto the Eastbound Belt Parkway. Nothing more was said about the skyscrapers as I focused on making up on lost time. We arrived at our destination a few minutes late, but since the christening was underway, we weren't noticed. After the service was over, everyone descended to one of the in-laws houses for the festivities, which continued into the evening.

My son was playing with some of the children his age, and suddenly I heard him state that he had seen two of "the biggest skyscrapers in the world today." Some of the other kids, a bit older, laughed and said that they had even been in some of them. One related that his parents had taken him to the top of the World Trade Center, where he could see for "millions of miles." That brought a few laughs from some of the adults, but then my son came over to me and asked if I would take him to the top of one of the biggest skyscrapers someday, and maybe to "that statue, too." I promised him that I would, and that made him happy.

He was asleep when we drove back to Pennsylvania late that night. I glimpsed quickly at the illuminated New York City skyline in the clear night air as we crossed the bridge again, remembering the promise I had made earlier that day.

That's a promise to my son that I will be unable to keep, for it was less than thirty-six hours later that terrorists slammed two commercial airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, altering the way of life as we had know it. And already my son understands why I will not be able to keep the exact promise I made to him.

(Originally written and published in October 2001)
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Personal Note: I was able to partially keep my promise to my son in the summer of 2009 when we visited the Statue of Liberty together for the first time. We discussed visiting Ground Zero (where the WTC Twin Towers once stood) and decided against it, even though we were in Manhattan a couple of days later. There are too many personal memories of people known that made this decision the right one.

Grove of Remembrance, Liberty State Park • Photo Copyright © 2009 J. Williamson

The inscription on the memorial reads:

A Living Memorial dedicated to the New Jersey residents who perished on September 11, 2001. May the trees planted here offer a peaceful place to reflect and heal.
~ New Jersey Tree Foundation

Dance Me To The End Of Love


Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour...



"Dance Me to the End of Love" is a 1984 song by Leonard Cohen.

It was first performed by Cohen on his 1984 album Various Positions. It has since been recorded by various artists, and has been described as "trembling on the brink of becoming a standard". Be sure to see the video following these lyrics, a short film by Arron Goffman in it’s complete version, and starring Quentin Tarantino and Sylvia Binsfeld.

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Although structured as a beautiful love song, it was in fact inspired by the Holocaust. In an interview, Leonard Cohen said of the song:

'Dance Me to the End Of Love' ... it's curious how songs begin because the origin of the song, every song, has a kind of grain or seed that somebody hands you or the world hands you and that's why the process is so mysterious about writing a song. But that came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt. So, that music, "Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin," meaning the beauty there of being the consummation of life, the end of this existence and of the passionate element in that consummation. But, it is the same language that we use for surrender to the beloved, so that the song — it's not important that anybody knows the genesis of it, because if the language comes from that passionate resource, it will be able to embrace all passionate activity.


Dance Me to the End Of Love

A short film by Arron Goffman

You may have to see this on YouTube


  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Sylvia Binsfeld
  • Nick Rafter
  • Laura Bradley
  • Marc Anthony Reynolds

Music by Leonard Cohen


  • Aaron Goffman


  • Rand Vossler


Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour   

Danse-moi à ta beauté avec un violon en flammes,
Danse-moi dans la panique jusqu'au repos de mon âme,
Lève-moi comme un olivier, sois ma colombe de retour,
Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour,
Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour.

Laisse-moi voir ta beauté quand les témoins sont partis,
Laisse-moi te sentir bouger comme un Babylone jadis,
Révèle-ce dont je vois les limites et le doute,
Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour,
Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour.

Danse-moi à la noce, oh danse-moi tout le temps,
Danse-moi tellement tendrement, danse-moi très longtemps,
Tous les deux, nous sommes en dessous, au dessus de notre amour,
Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour,
Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour.

Danse-moi vers les enfants demandant à naître en paix,
A travers les rideaux que nos baisers ont usés,
Lève une tente pour s'abriter, les fils déchirés toujours,
Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour,
Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour.

Danse-moi à ta beauté avec un violon en flammes,
Danse-moi dans la panique jusqu'au repos de mon âme,
Touche-moi avec ta main nue, ou gantée de velours,
Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour,
Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour.

Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour.


I made a trip early this week to London…

Sometimes it’s probably best to finish that first cup of coffee before one starts reading the e-mail messages that have come in overnight.

coffee mug01aHad gotten up shortly after 5:00 AM on Friday, fiddled around and poured that first cup of morning coffee. Poked around on Facebook for a few minutes, scanned the New York Times online for the news of the day.

Was reading my messages when a new message appeared, with a simple subject: “"Hi.” Had I not recognized the sender’s name, and let’s just call him Pat, I might have just deleted it, because is sounded like so many that end up in ones spam folder. But I read it, and here’s that it said:

Apologies for having to reach out to you like this, I made a trip early this week to London, UK and had my bag stolen from me with my passport and credit cards in it. The embassy is willing to help by letting me fly without my passport, I just have to pay for a ticket and settle Hotel bills. Unfortunately for me, I can't have access to funds without my credit card, I've made contact with my bank but they need more time to come up with a new one. I was thinking of asking you to lend me some quick funds that I can give back as soon as I get in. I really need to be on the next available flight. 

I can forward you details on how you can get the funds to me. You can reach me via email or May field hotel's desk phone, the numbers are, +447024030610 or +447024030611.
I await your response...
(name withheld)

I read the message two or three times. I didn’t respond at first, because there’s been a recent e-mail hoax going on across the ‘Net where letters such as this have been showing up in the readers’ mailbox. This is a scam, one were a message is sent to a user falsely claims to be an established legitimate enterprise or individual in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. But I had known Pat for a number of years, and knew him to be an established religious leader in a community in the southwest, and it concerned me that there just might be a problem.

So what does one do in a case like this?

I Fenton scam01bdid not reply to the message, but immediately contacted another mutual friend in the area via e-mail, asking if our friend Pat had indeed travelled to the UK. While waiting for a response from the mutual friend I further noticed that where I should have been listed as the recipient of the message, my name or e-mail address was missing. That was one of the giveaways that this was not a legitimate e-mail message from my friend.

Got a response back within a few minutes that as suspected, our mutual friend was indeed at home here in the US, and not in London. Luckily I had his alternate e-mail address, so I forwarded the original that I had received to the alternate address.

He responded a bit later that his e-mail account had indeed been hacked, and that his entire address book had been hacked as well. It later showed up that other friends had received the same e-mail message that had appeared in my inbox. There were other activities that were taking place on this throughout the day, but my friend found that those who had hacked his account had deleted all of his archived e-mails and his contact list.

And my friend Pat wasn’t alone in getting hit by this very same hoax yesterday. It was reported in the Denver Post that Sen. Josh Penry, the minority leader of the Colorado Senate, was not stuck in the United Kingdom without a passport or credit cards and in need of money to pay hotel bills and buy a ticket to fly back to the U.S. In fact, the wording in the e-mail that his friends had received was exactly the same as the one that others and I had received from my friend Pat.

And this isn’t just a Gmail issue, for the same thing has been reported by Yahoo users, those on AOL, people using Hotmail, and probably every other e-mail system out there. And yes, some people almost fall for it.

There have been other recent incidents, but for now this is enough to digest.

What is one to do?

If Nigerian Scamyou have become the victim of such a scam, the first thing to do is realize that you’re not alone, so don’t panic. You need to report it, and each e-mail provider has a method of reporting such activity so that they can dig into such issues. The one for Gmail support is here. If you have a Gmail account, this is the place to start.

If you get an e-mail like the one described above, report it, then trash it. This should be followed by running your anti-virus/security software to make sure your computer hasn’t been compromised. This is an important step that shouldn’t be neglected.

The next step is to call or contact the friend whose account sent the message, because their address book probably has been compromised. Let them know they need to change their passwords (something you should do once a month anyway).

If you’re not sure how to recognize phishing e-mails or links, then take the time to see Microsoft's clues that can help. And if you think that you know all about phishing scams and span, take the SonicWALL Phishing and Spam IQ Quiz and see just how well that you do.

Passwords are another area where the phishing scammers can easily gain access to your e-mail. Just because you’ve used the name of your pet dog Fluffy without incident for years now, and on everything you do on the ‘Net, doesn’t mean you cannot get hit by them today or tomorrow. Understanding how to create strong passwords and how to use them is the first step. And keep your password secret. If you think that you already have a strong password, then Microsoft’s interactive password checker will help you verify its strength.

Google offers an excellent interactive Gmail Security Checklist, where you can see just how secure your settings may be. There may be others out there, so check with your e-mail provider.

When it comes anti-virus applications for your computer, the first thing to check is to be sure that your definitions are up to date at all times. Most of them have a way to automatically check and update in the background while you’re working online. I don’t usually recommend anti-virus packages to people other than personal friends or clients in my IT practice, but when asked what I use personally on my own Windows 7 and XP systems, I only use one package: Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s solid, has a low memory overhead, runs smoothly in the background , and (get this) it’s free. I regularly test a number of other security apps over the course of a year, but always return to this package.
Mac-wormAs far as Mac computers go, it’s been long said that the OS X operating system is immune to a virus attacks. This may have been the case in the past, but be aware that anti-virus programs don't just provide protection against known viruses; they also include anti-phishing, anti-adware, anti-spyware, and other tools that can keep your Mac from picking up debris as you browse the web. I’m currently testing one, the Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition. It’s a freebie, and so far checks out quite well.

There's another reason to use an anti-virus application on your Mac: the recipients of your e-mails. Even though it's unlikely that a virus will successfully attack your Mac, there's a good chance that you could unwittingly forward a virus-laden e-mail to Windows-using colleagues, who may not have anti-virus software on their computers. It's better to be prepared for an attack than to try to clean up after one.

If you are a victim

If you think that you’ve been a victim of a phishing scam, or any other Internet crime, then you should contact the the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), and their mission is to serve as a vehicle to receive, develop, and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cyber crime. The IC3 gives the victims of cyber crime a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations.

The FBI also offers information on the various e-scams that are out there. You can sign up with them to get e-mail updates when new scams and warnings are posted.

In conclusion

Basic computer security starts with you. It’s not the responsibility of your computer manufacturer, the maker of your operating system or your e-mail provider to implement. It’s all up to you. If you’re confused by all of the jargon that’s thrown around about computer safety terms go, then the PC Security for Beginners page should help. If this seems to be too basic for you, then CERT offers a more detailed look with their extensive and comprehensive Home Network Security online page.

It cannot be stressed enough that you need to take reasonable security precautions as noted above. Just follow the links that apply to your particular situation and computer system. You also need to backup your contact list or address book to a secure location, and do it on a regular basis. Some download the address book to a special place on a hard drive, on a flash drive, or even a BlackBerry, iPhone or other smart phone. Be creative. You need to probably check the software documentation for whatever your situation may be, but an old adage applies quite well here: plan your work and work your plan.

Once you have a good backup strategy in place, it should only take minutes each week.

Final thought: when opening or downloading anything from the ‘Net, just use simple common sense, and look before you leap.

Note: portions of this page are a condensation of the forthcoming book When Things Go Boom, which is due to be released in spring/summer of 2011. If you’re interested in receiving more information on its release, just leave a comment on this page.

Winking smile 


Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.
~ Denis Waitley

The former Ohio Edison Mad River Power Plant’s 275-foot smoke stack in Springfield, Ohio was set for demolition on November 10th, 2010. But something went wrong… it fell the wrong way.

The plant dates to the 1920s and was last used nearly 30 years ago. The local power company, FirstEnergy, began razing it this summer as a company-wide effort to cleanup old sites. Springfield Twp. Fire Chief John Roeder had came to observe the tower demolition and had fire trucks nearby if needed.

The blasts should have sent the stack onto a cleared area directly to the east, but instead the tower crashed to the southeast. If you listen, you can hear “Oh no,” before shouts to get back as the old power plant tower toppled in the wrong direction about noon.

The electrical lines came crashing down as a crowd of about 25 media members, FirstEnergy Corp. employees, demolition crews and their family members scattered to avoid the live lines. Once he saw the tower heading the wrong direction, Fire Chief Roeder wanted to clear the area under the wires as quickly as possible, and feared it might strike a substation and start a fire.

“It was definitely a sight to see,” Roeder said.

No one was injured, but the tower knocked down two 12,500-volt power lines and smashed a building housing back-up generators. Power was knocked out for more than 8000 customers.

The explosives detonated correctly, but an undetected crack on south side of the tower pulled it backward, according to Lisa Kelly, president/owner of Advanced Explosives Demolition Inc.. FirstEnergy had worked with AED on other jobs, and a lot of preparation was said to have gone into the project. The Idaho-based, family-owned company is said to have a perfect safety record of no accidents.

Dermolition MonkeyAED the has been featured in a TLC series called The Imploders according to its website. They travel the country with their children doing demolitions.

Some have suggested that others might have been able to handle this job a bit more efficiently, but that appears to me mostly idle speculation.

The power lines nearly fell on several news crews staged in the area. At least nine intersections on the west side of the city lost power, and officers were dispatched to direct traffic, according to Sgt. Brian Radanovich, Springfield Police Division. One minor crash with no injuries was reported, and fewer intersections were disabled in past power outages.

“This is probably the most we’ve had in awhile,” he said.