Joe Abbott's Weblog

Letters home to mom

  • Stuff posted on these days

    January 2019
    M T W T F S S
    « Dec    
  • Meta

  • Joe Abbott Musings

  • RSS Cat Cartoon w/o the Cartoon

    • Coda
      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
    • December 31, 2011
      Father Time is riding out his last few minutes of being the temporal keeper for 2011; he sits in an easy chair with a calendar showing “Dec 31” behind him and a grandfather clock pointing to the time of 11:53. … Continue reading →
    • December 30, 2011
      A happy young lady shares a table at a tony restaurant with her cat; they both wear festive, cone-shaped party hats. The woman gaily says to the tuxedoed server, “One martini and one glass of milk.” The cat does not … Continue reading →

Archive for the ‘Trivia’ Category

Wow …

Posted by joeabbott on January 19, 2019

OK … here’s a “spot the phishing scam” for the beginner level students. I’ve done nothing to alter the content of the layout.


Intrigued at attempts like this, where the phisher appears to be an idiot, I recalled an article I read somewhere … I actually think it was from the guys who do the Freakonomics stuff. They were actually talking about the “Nigerian prince needs your help” scam, but I think it applies here.

In that article, they addressed why a very poorly written, thinly veiled scam attempt was even tried, much less successful, and they came away with the belief that the format was intentional and acted as a filter to remove those who would never fall for the scam in the first place. Those who even answered, however, were just a little bit more naïve and stood a chance of falling for it, so the scammers could devote their time to those susceptible and completely avoid those who wouldn’t be.

It makes sense and suggests the above was either a mistake that even the scammers regretted, or their way of filtering out those who would never click the “Sign In Here” link. Ever.

Even after I get done dismissing a phishing scam, I love reading through the contents … the inept wording (“Thank you for being a our …”), the logical disconnects (we’ve limited you account access so you need to sign in … umm, why?), or the pure evilness (“We need your help securing your account to prevent unauthorized access”). I hate these guys … just making life harder for others; think of the benefits to the world if they just focused on actually writing quality software or helping folks in need.

Oh well. Have a great day and again … just toss these out immediately.


Posted in Trivia | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Simple pleasures

Posted by joeabbott on January 4, 2019

Every day I go to the Bing website and participate in clicking through the various news articles linked from the bottom of the page. Amongst the too many articles on movie stars and stories about people behaving badly, I’m often exposed to something surprising (seems a young boy was killed by fish fumes … really? How does that happen? Spoiler: food allergies), news from around the world of which I knew nothing (big storms hitting Thailand), and every week I get a Test Your News IQ post.

These I like.

The Bing News Quiz is usually seven questions long and covers topical news from across a broad spectrum. Let’s take this week’s quiz together!

What caused campground closures at Yosemite and Joshua Tree national parks?

  • Overflowing trash and toilets
  • Sasquatch sightings
  • Avalanches

I’d originally wanted to say Avalanches, noting the season, but I was surprised the partial government shutdown wasn’t an answer. Then I noted that Overflowing trash and toilets would be the result of a partial government shutdown and chose that. It’s the correct answer: Overflowing trash and toilets.

Who announced a 2020 presidential run?

  • Jay Inslee
  • Elizabeth Warren
  • Both are correct

As Jay Inslee is the current governor of Washington state, of which I’m a resident, I knew he had tossed his hat in the ring. And while I wasn’t positive, I thought I’d remembered seeing a news post featuring Elizabeth Warren and guessed the only reason I’d see her in the news is if she were a candidate, too. So I chose the correct answer and was feeling like a smartie: Both are correct.

Which airline mistakenly sold first- and business-class tickets at a steep discount?

  • Air Canada
  • Cathay Pacific Airways
  • United Airlines

This is the sort of question I wouldn’t have a clue about, except it had been featured in the news blurbs that I’d noted enjoying clicking through. So, for another easy correct answer I selected: Cathay Pacific Airways.

Breaking a years-long ban, two women in India did what?

  • Drove a car
  • Entered the Sabarimala temple
  • Wore motorcycle helmets

Another easy one as this was on the front page in today’s newspaper with a third woman breaking the ban. I wasn’t positive of the location but selected Entered the Sabarimala temple and was on my way to having a perfect quiz!

Netflix is warning against a dangerous craze inspired by which film?

  • The Polka King
  • Bird Box
  • Bandersnatch

I think there was must have been a news tidbit on this one in yesterday’s Bing stories because I was immediately familiar with the answer: Bird Box. Now I may be the only person around who hasn’t seen this movie but I had read that in the movie for some reason, people had to travel a great distance blindfolded … the motivation for young folks to do all sorts of stuff in a similar fashion. This sort of story makes me worry for today’s youth. Seriously.

At five for five I was on the way to a perfect score, something that happens about half the time, but it’s always easy to be stumped on any question … two left today!

Which country landed a lunar probe on the far side of the moon?

  • China
  • Canada
  • US

As a space junkie I knew the answer to this one and had even read a bit about that probe having driven around a bit on the far side of the moon already. Great stuff and kudos to China for their adding to our understanding of the solar system … even if it is “just” our moon.

Last question!

What is the new Girl Scout cookie flavor?

  • Umami
  • Caramel Chocolate Chip
  • Fat mint

OK, as I mentioned, there may be a question for which I’m completely stumped and it was guessing time! I didn’t even have a tiny hint on this one.

I eliminated Umami without confidence. While it’s a legitimate flavor… along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter … it’d be weird to have a cookie dedicated to one flavor. But, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was the answer.

Of the remaining two, “salted caramel” seems to have run its course as the flavor du jour, but it was plausible. In that same vein, “fat mint” seems to be a flavor that, while possible, had the potential for public fallout for including “fat” into something young girls were selling.

So, at the toss of a mental coin I chose Caramel Chocolate Chip, like more out of hope (as it sounds tasty) than anything else and I treated myself to this:


And that’s my simple pleasure: taking a quiz and getting them all correct. It’s not bad that I stood the chance of learning a little something in the process … now I just need to find a Girl Scout so I can get in an order of that new cookie flavor!

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Cousin Explainer

Posted by joeabbott on December 11, 2018

I don’t know the first thing about “once removed” and the like but I found this post on Reddit and got it from here:

Now, that doesn’t mean I’ll use the terms correctly in the future, just that I have this handy resource to help me get it wrong when I mess up!

I waste more time than I’d like to admit on Reddit, but when something like this comes along … GOLD. That time is pure gold.

And now, Amanda and Lauren, you First Cousins Once Removed … have a fine day!

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

They’re not even trying anymore

Posted by joeabbott on November 30, 2018

I’m suddenly getting flooded with phishing\trojan horse virus attempts and I’m not sure what to make of it. Some script kiddies have just bought a bunch of mailing lists with my email address on it, or I’m just getting lucky. Fortunately, it’s taking zero brain power to spot these as malware.

Based on what we’ve talked about recently, see if you can spot any red flags!!  

Winking smile


Yup, that’s it: they’re now just sending emails with no content and only an attachment.

While we haven’t talked in depth about it in this forum, many programs allow for complex document content and even run programs on your computer. In a world with no bad actors, this would be to the benefit of the end user, with the program (in the cases above, whatever program I’m using to display Adobe PDF formatted documents or Microsoft Word rendering the DOCX document) simply using this benefit to call into micro-services or make system-level checks and adjustments.

Unfortunately, there are bad actors … and they’ve figured out how to use these capabilities for their own gains. In some cases they may cause your computer to invoke an action to do damage to itself, or perhaps the ill-intent is to steal addresses from your email program so they can impersonate you to your friends and gain access to their computers, or maybe they figuring out how to steal passwords and access bank accounts or other financial information.

It’s fascinatingly creative and a shame we can’t harness that sort of out-of-the-box thinking to make cool stuff. But, we can’t because they’re looking for gratification in ways that I can’t fathom.

And so … forward the mail on to the appropriate reporting agencies (in the cases above, I’m sending them to and then delete.

Here’s hoping more interesting mail is hitting your inbox than is coming to me!

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Another scam

Posted by joeabbott on November 25, 2018

OK, only because it’s top of mind and I got another scam mail, I’ll do another little post.

Here’s a mail I just received with a few annotations by yours truly. Apologies for my poor formatting but I kinda did this in a rush … gotta get up those holiday decorations!


An important announcement


Those who are savvy and trust their anti-malware software might be tempted, but I can think of few scenarios that you’d want to open that document. Some malware investigators will have a virtual machine they can open something like this on, capturing data about where the machine is trying to link and how it is trying to infect machines, but those folks aren’t getting benefit from my post here.

Just do not open the attachment … you are guaranteed to have some small program run on your computer that downloads something you don’t want onto your machine.

What they did well

Very little was done well on this mail … it’s a childish, obvious hacking\phishing attempt with little merit. I can only imagine they’re targeting the few people in the world who “click first, think later” and are hoping folks launch that PDF.

I’m kinda stretching in that I’m suggesting item #6 is a “well done” tactic: they’ve added a few “official looking” codes and terms to give the air of something technical and official. Additionally, the very specific date and UTC-based time further gives it the air of something important.

What it doesn’t do well

Again, virtually everything. But, I added numbers so let’s go down the line.

  1. The email address this is sent from is an obvious fake. Apple Support is not running from katsnma.mau-snoreplymausiswadoklowhapple21 … and I added a space into that address to avoid having my program here auto-fill-in a real address. I don’t know what Apple Support’s real address is, but it’s not this.
  2. The email subject starts with an “Re:” reply. I can’t imagine why they thought this was appropriate, but any business trying to get in touch with you for an important matter won’t be responding from an earlier reply.
  3. The attached PDF … nothing says, “I’m trying to infect your system” more loudly than an attached file. Again … please please please please please do not open that attachment. Sorry for those who are really curious but nothing good will come from peeking inside.
  4. We talked about this one before: “Hi Customer” is not a solicitation someone I share a business relationship with will use. Pretty much, it’ll be as stiff and formal as the information you sent them; very likely including both your first and last names.
  5. This item is the overall mail wording; which, in a word, is immature. While you may see fonts change for some legit aspects (e.g., the details of the error), something like the first and second line changing font for no reason is a red flag. Additionally, the punctuation is messed up: some lines end in periods, others do not; the closing “thanks” should be followed by a comma and you don’t need a period between the closing “Apple” and “Support”. And finally, the wording appears crafted by someone with poor language skills … at least in the English language. This is likely done by someone for whom English is a second language.

What I did

I tossed this out. Immediately.

Well, I first grabbed a picture for this post and then forwarded a copy on to, and then I deleted it. But, get it off your machine as soon as you can.

And that, my friends, is another example of some bad characters on the Internet asking you to help them cause you problems. Don’t do it. Instead, delete that mail and get out there and have a fantastic day!

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

It can’t just be me … or, Scamming Scammers!

Posted by joeabbott on November 21, 2018

I’m getting weary of the scamming but that doesn’t stop them from coming at me. I keep sufficiently complex passwords and avoid taking accounts with businesses I don’t plan on doing business with, but now the scammers are mimicking my trusted partners. Previously they did it poorly … misspelled words, links that didn’t resolve, and poor attempts at disguising themselves; but now they’re getting more sophisticated.

Here is a recent issue that hit my inbox in the past few weeks. I’m share things in the hopes you won’t become a victim!


I love the convenience of PayPal: set it up, select it as a payment option for those vendors taking it, and stuff just gets to me. PayPal gets billed (which then is charged to a credit card I have on record), stuff is sent to the address I have on file with PayPal, and it all happens with a click. But I’m getting a lot of mails like this these days.

Let’s dissect this, shall we?

What it does convincingly

It uses a lot of legit links. The Transaction ID in the upper right is a bona fide link back to a PayPal account transaction. Now I don’t know what it will show me, because I’m neither bold enough nor stupid enough to actually click it. But it looks legit.

Additionally, the Dell links look proper, too.

Charges me from a well-known vendor for a reasonable thing. Dell is a known brand and the purchase of a laptop case would appear legitimate. Not something like the latest whiz-bang phone or whatnot.

It looks legit. Words are spelled correctly, the formatting is professional, and it contains a proper header and footer. It just looks good at face value.

What it doesn’t do well

It doesn’t use my name. PayPal knows me; I have a business relationship with them; they know my name and will use it on correspondences. Even though PayPal’s mail always seems stiff, using my full, given name, I’m not “Customer”.

If a business knows your name but isn’t using it, it’s a scammer pretending they know you when all they really have is your email address. “Can you please confirm your name” (or other identifying information), is a red flag.

It’s not a standard PayPal mail. I typically get mail from PayPal immediately after a purchase. It tells me what I bought, when, and who the vendor is. It’s a receipt! And it tells me to go to the PayPal site if I want to dispute the purchase. Here is what they tell me:

Issues with this transaction?
You have 180 days from the date of the transaction to open a dispute in the Resolution Center.


PayPal is helping me by not providing a “click this link here” option … what the scam mail asks me to do is not how PayPal works.

The highlighted link. The link they want me to click is highlighted to be super-helpful and ensure I can’t miss it. I’ve never seen a business call unnecessary attention to a detail like this. It’s subtle, but adds to the “something’s not right” air.

Hovering over the dispute link doesn’t show a PayPal address. Scammers don’t want you to see where they’re taking you so they use URL-shortening solutions or a masked ID. Here’s what I see when I hover over the URL in the mail


Again, I have no clue where this will take me, but it will be somewhere that immediately infects my PC with some virus or other in an attempt to steal data from me or cause some other hassle. What I do know is that this is not a PayPal link.

This is the single biggest red flag in the mail. Get used to hovering over and inspecting links in suspicious mail.

What do I do when I get a scam mail?

In this case, something involving PayPal, I forward the mail immediately to and I delete it from my inbox. That’s it … let the company who is being spoofed know about the problem and get it out of my inbox.


Being online these days requires you to be suspicious. You can treat your personal exchanges as you wish but it pays to being watchful when scammers are out there on the Internet!

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Disturb us, lord

Posted by joeabbott on June 22, 2018

I’m a sucker for a quote and while I like a pithy turn of phrase, I was recently introduced to a longer “prayerful poem” attributed to Sir Francis Drake (1577) and I thought I’d share it here:

stormy_sea_by_alexlinde-d3y6mgd.jpegDisturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;

Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

I’ll admit it’s a big challenge to live up to those words in their entirety, but they give me inspiration and help me remember to set a high bar for what I hope to accomplish.

Here’s wishing your disturbances are in measure with your capabilities, your future is full of strength and courage, and you find both hope and love along the way.

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

A little time off

Posted by joeabbott on April 21, 2018

WP_20140627_001For a guy who doesn’t mind working one bit, I do have to say the relentlessness of routine sometimes assails me and it really feels good to have a little unstructured time. This is one of those times.

I think it’s in large part due to things that have come before, what’s in front of me, and just my busy life. You see, since breaking my elbow in December (yes … I’m still going on about that), I have some abandoned projects I’d intended to tackle; that weighs on a guy. Also, with my new found resurgence for hiking and climbing, I’m out every weekend … which leads to time away, not doing other stuff, and a garage full of drying gear most days of the week. And, there won’t be an end until later in June.

Mondays are a nice break, but Tuesday I’m up at 5:15AM and have about 15 minutes after getting home that evening to grab dinner before I head to the gym for classes … and then get back at 8PM, giving me a couple hours to do what I want, clean up for bed, and then do it again. Wednesdays I’ve been trying to hike up a local peak after work and have been fortunate this goes pretty quickly … and hour up and an hour down, getting me home around 7PM. Not bad. Thursday is a mirror of Tuesday.

This means I get Friday evening to prep gear for my weekend outing and I run run run.

So, for a guy who really does like the company he works for, likes the work he does, and likes staying busy, I’m looking forward to this coming week off. What do I have planned?

Well, Suzy and I will see a couple movies, we don’t do that enough. I’ll try to get in a small woodworking project … I’ve been using a cart Suzy bought for her Master Gardener clinics (the MG season hasn’t opened just yet) to dry and arrange my gear on so I need a replacement station. I’ll blog some more and have a number of things to organize and tidy up. Of course there’ll be a couple of days of general labor around the yard, but for a desk jockey, that seems like it’ll be fun.

In short, a little this and a little that. Of course I’ll more regularly visit my blogging duties. Sounds perfect.

Here’s hoping your coming week has a little bit of perfect in it, too. Thanks for dropping by.

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

One of the greatest pics of all time? You decide

Posted by joeabbott on April 15, 2018

When I want to waste time I surf Reddit … it’s great. Because I only give myself minutes to waste, I typically stay on the “front page”, where those items that are significantly ”upvoted” show up … that is, where many people who subscribe to the site “like” it. And that’s where I see things like this … one of the greatest photos of all time:


It was submitted as part of a story entitled, In many North American areas in which wolves have been reintroduced, the resident coyotes are seeing them for the first time. I’m pretty sure those coyotes are remembering an urgent appointment across the valley’ they’d forgotten about, but look at that wolf!! Terrifying! I’m sure it’s just curious and looking on, but it appears to be 10 yards beyond the coyotes and it’s massive. The fur is bristly, the head lowered, and the eyes are almost glowing.

I believe wolves are pack hunters, but this fella looks like he could have a go at being a pack of one. Beautiful animal, beautiful picture.

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Weather on my mind

Posted by joeabbott on March 17, 2018

I seem to like to do these … these little snapshots of Seattle life. They amuse, bemuse, and sometimes confuse me … mostly it just makes me smile.

Here’s my typical impression of Seattle spring days:


Friday was sunny, the weekend had chances of showers, and the start of the week back to sunny.

Now, I’ll take a sunny spring day in Seattle any time I can get it, but this is one of those bemusing times: I get a chance to get outdoors, and the rains seem to settle in on those days. And yes, I am smiling. It’s a wry smile, but it’s there. I’ll remind myself it’s St. Patrick’s Day today, and without a little rain I wouldn’t be able to find my rainbow and its pot of gold at the end.

Here’s wishing you a fine day with your own smiles.

Posted in Trivia | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »