Showing posts with label Leigh Lundin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leigh Lundin. Show all posts

17 September 2023

Toby or not Toby...

If you thought we were finished with weird English, I'm back with an even more… erm… entertaining take. You can blame the usual suspects, ABA and Sharon, who pass on interesting articles.

Aaron Alon is a musicologist, composer, song writer, script writer, director, filmmaker, professor, and humorist. Shortly before the coronavirus pandemic, he assembled a video about making English consistent, a huge task. This is the result.

  © respective copyright holder


I particularly like the Hamlet reading, don't you? But wait, there's more.  Alon wasn't done.

Following comments and critiques, he came up with a supplemental video in which he, well, sings a classic. Here you go.

  © respective copyright holder


What did you think? Aaron said he might consider a video about making constants consistent. I'm still figure out, "I tot I taw a puddy-tat."

Okay, I promise no more weird English slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. For at least a week.

03 September 2023

The Digital Detective ~ Robocall Killers

Minutes ago my phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID. Usually it shows ‘Spam Likely’ and I swipe it off the screen. This time it gave a name I didn’t recognize. An unknown caller could have something to do with business, insurance, medical… who knows? I answered. Here are tips I’ve discovered to deal with telemarketers.

old-fashioned telephone receiver

Tip 1

Like everyone else, I say hello immediately. I quickly say hello again and, hearing nothing, I’ll immediately hang up: a 1, a 2, click! Type A people do that– state your business or leave. Occasionally I catch half a syllable from ‘Mary’ or ‘Hector’ or ‘James’ from Indianapolis (INDIAnapolis) just as they might have caught my second Hello, but I’ve evaporated. I identified a spammer and dealt with the problem.

How does this benefit?

Robocaller machines initiate spam calls. I’m making educated assumptions, but it takes a couple of seconds to transverse the continents to India and then another moment or two for their operative to punch the connect button. They might hear my second hello, but by that time, I’m already gone.

But what if the call was important?

Naturally, they’ll phone back. In the course of fielding zillions of these interruptions, not one has called back. I suspect they’re geared to use auto-dialers but don’t permit manually dialing out.

Opinions to the contrary abound. Hanging up confirms a real person is at your end of the line, and, the belief goes, your number is marked for endless re-dialing. But, unless a robodialer hears the three tone SIT (special information tones) indicating “not a working number” or “number not in service”, it knows it has reached a valid telephone. It will try and try again no matter what.

Tip 2

Have you received a call from a cheery voice who asks, “Hello? Can you hear me?” Or a man who says, “How are you today?”

It takes training oneself, but don’t reflexively answer yes, okay, fine, good, lovely, peachy. You do not want professional spam callers to hear those words. Why?

Your voice is recorded on a separate track from theirs. That makes it easier to race through a recording where your mention of details can be readily found and identified. But it also makes it easy to manipulate the semblance of the conversation based on affirmative answers about the audibility of the call or the state of your day. With a push of an on-screen button, a trivial program can take your answers and turn one conversation into another:

“Hello? I’m calling on a recorded line. Can you hear me?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Good. How are you today?”
“Okay, fine.”

Misusing your answers can automatically result in repurposed recordings like:

“Hello? I’m calling on a recorded line. May I have your permission to continue?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Excellent. Can I sign you up for toxic chemical carpet cleaning, a new water hardener, a vacation to exciting DoofusLand, and a subscription to Mayonnaise Monthly?”
“Okay, fine.”

I stress reports of manipulated recordings are anecdotal chatter on discussion boards, but accusations recur and cherry-picking a victim’s responses is easier than you think. The result is that recipients claim they never intended to buy or even give telemarketers permission to call them. I’m not aware lawbreaking telemarketers have attempted to mislead the FTC, but simply initiating pre-recorded calls violates FTC’s own TSRs– the rules for telemarketers.

old-fashioned desk telephone


The National Do-Not-Call Registry (888-382-1222 / would be a good idea if spammers paid attention to it. Register all the same; it might dissuade one or two.

This article doesn’t delve into some technologies such as STIR/SHAKEN, which caused a brief 4½% dip in telemarketing attacks, only to climb more than ever before. One of the more common tricks is to spoof the victim’s area code and exchange (first six digits) to hint to the recipient of a neighborhood call. Others will throw false caller IDs on the screen such as Amazon, Apple, or Google.

Visit your App Store. Following is a list of apps you might find useful. Some rely upon collected databases of known spam numbers. You might hear this in action if your phone chirp or rings once and then stops. It had experienced a delay finding the number in a database. While useful, database apps don’t stop spammers from spoofing valid numbers.

Let us know your experience and useful tips.

ActiveArmor EyeconNumbusterShould I Answer
Call BlockerFind Caller Reverse CallerTruecaller
Calls BlacklistNomoroboRoboKillerYouMail

20 August 2023

English Chaos

Sketch of Gerard Nolst Trenité aka Charivarius
Sketch of Gerard Nolst Trenité aka Charivarius

In the spirit of the ‘English, English’ article two weeks ago and recent essays about the madness of the language, I dug out a copy of ‘The Chaos’. Its author, Gerard Nolst Trenité, who went by the nom de plume of Charivarius, was a Dutch writer, traveller, law and political science student, teacher, playwright, and noted contributor to the English language. More than a century ago, he gathered some 800 trickiest English irregularities into a 274 line poem called ‘The Chaos’ as a practice suite for his students.

Subsequent versions were adopted and maintained by the Simplified Spelling Society. Abrupt lapses in style and occasional losses of mètre suggest others may have tinkered with the piece, much like a recipient ‘improves’ an email tidbit before passing it along. Trenité himself dropped and added words in subsequent versions, and popular stanzas have been restored by historians. Any way it’s viewed, the collection impresses readers a hundred years later.

Note: This rendition carries over the formatting and indentation passed down by Trenité. Originally staggered couplets hinted at senses of masculine and feminine as used in other Romance languages, and they can still be comfortably read with alternating male and female voices.

Here now is…

The Chaos
by Gerard Nolst Trenité writing as Charivarius
Dearest creature in Creation,
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you'll tear;
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer.
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word.
Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter, how it's written!)
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say-said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via;
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Cloven, oven; how and low;
Script, receipt; shoe, poem, toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid; measles, topsails, aisles;
Exiles, similes, reviles;
Wholly, holly; signal, signing;
Thames; examining, combining;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.
From 'desire': desirable– admirable from 'admire';
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier;
Chatham, brougham; renown but known,
Knowledge; done, but gone and tone,
One, anemone; Balmoral;
Kitchen, lichen; laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German; wind and mind;
Scene, Melpomene, mankind;
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
Peter, petrol and patrol?
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rhyme with 'darkly'.
Viscous, viscount; load and broad;
Toward, to forward, to reward,
Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
And your pronunciation's okay.
Rounded, wounded; grieve and sieve;
Friend and fiend; alive and live.
Is your R correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes Thalia.
Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
Buoyant, minute, but minute.
Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition.
Would it tally with my rhyme
If I mentioned paradigm?
Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?
Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
Rabies, but lullabies.
Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
You'll envelop lists, I hope,
In a linen envelope.
Would you like some more? You'll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
Does not sound like Czech but ache.
Liberty, library; heave and heaven;
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,
We say hallowed, but allowed;
People, leopard; towed, but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches; wise, precise;
Chalice but police and lice.
Camel, constable, unstable;
Principle, disciple; label;
Petal, penal, and canal;
Wait, surmise, plait, promise; pal.
Suit, suite, ruin; circuit, conduit
Rhyme with 'shirk it' and 'beyond it.'
But it is not hard to tell
Why it's pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Muscle, muscular; gaol, iron;
Timber, climber; bullion, lion,
Worm and storm; chaise, chaos, chair;
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rime with 'hammer.'
Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but desert, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
Cow, but Cowper, some, and home.
Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker,
Quoth he, 'than liqueur or liquor',
Making, it is sad but true,
In bravado, much ado.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant.
Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.
Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
Mind! Meandering but mean,
Valentine and magazine.
And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
Tier (one who ties), but tier.
Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with staring?
Prison, bison, treasure trove,
Treason, hover, cover, cove,
Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn't) with nibbled.
Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.
Don't be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.
Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
Evil, devil, mezzotint,
Mind the Z! (A gentle hint.)
Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don't mention,
Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
Rhyming with the pronoun yours;
Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
Funny rhymes to unicorn,
Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.
No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don't want to speak of Cholmondeley.
No. Yet Froude compared with proud
Is no better than McLeod.
But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.
Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
But you're not supposed to say
Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.
Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
When for Portsmouth I had booked!
Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
Episodes, antipodes,
Acquiesce, and obsequies.
Please don't monkey with the geyser,
Don't peel 'taters with my razor,
Rather say in accents pure:
Nature, stature and mature.
Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
Wan, sedan and artisan.
The TH will surely trouble you
More than R, CH or W.
Say then these phonetic gems:
Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.
Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget 'em—
Wait! I've got it: Anthony,
Lighten your anxiety.
The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight-you see it;
With and forthwith, one has voice,
One has not, you make your choice.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,
Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry fury, bury,
Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.
Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
Puisne, truism, use, to use?
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
Put, nut, granite, and unite.
Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.
Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
Bona fide, alibi,
Gyrate, dowry and awry.
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Rally with ally; yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Never guess– it is not safe,
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.
Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
Face, but preface, then grimace,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
Do not rhyme with here but heir.
Mind the O of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
With the sound of saw and sauce;
Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.
Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.
Liable, but Parliament.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.
A of valour, vapid vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
I of antichrist and grist,
Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
Polish, Polish, poll and poll.
Pronunciation– think of Psyche!–
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
Won't it make you lose your wits
Writing groats and saying 'grits'?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington, and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Don't you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough?
Hiccough has the sound of 'cup'.
My advice is: give it up!

‘Dearest Creature Susy’ is believed to reference French student Susanne Delacruix.

06 August 2023

English, English

exceedingly handsome Leigh Lundin

Romance writer friend Sharon sent me English usage questions to ponder, which sparked a discussion. I’ll share some of our notes.

  • Double negatives are a no-no.
  • In the word scent, which letter is silent, the S or the C?
  • Isn’t spelling the word queue just a Q followed by four silent letters?
  • When abbreviating refrigerator as fridge, why does a D appear?
  • If womb and tomb are pronounced ‘woom’ and ‘toom’, shouldn’t bomb be pronounced ‘boom’?
  • What is the pronunciation rule for words ending in ‘ough’? I.e, tough, through, thorough, dough, cough, bough?
  • And what about bow, row, and sow that rhyme with how; and bow, row, and sow that rhyme with low?
  • And why is read pronounced like lead and read pronounced like lead?
  • Sharon’s correspondent says the pronunciations of Kansas and Arkansas trouble her more than it should.
  • And why are all three letter ‘A’s in Australia pronounced differently? And likewise two letter ‘A’s in Stephen Ross’ New Zealand?
  • Why do bologna and bony rhyme?
  • Even if it’s spelled baloney, why doesn’t it rhyme with money?
  • In childhood, I fretted that ‘W’ should be called double-V instead of double-U. (French and Spanish pronounced ‘W’ as double-vé and doble ve respectively.)

And finally…

  • How do you console a sobbing English teacher ready to throw in the towel? “There, their, they’re.”

Wait, Wait…

Notes and jokes for those techies out there who pronounce the ‘www’ of World Wide Web as “Dub-dub-dub.”

  • The three most common languages in India are Hindi, English, and JavaScript.
  • Many people in India know 11 languages: Hindi, English, and JavaScript.

What is your favorite Engish quirk?

It’s unfair not to explain ‘in’ jokes. The punchword 11 refers to binary: In English, we count 1, 2, 3, but in binary we count 1, 10, 11.

23 July 2023

Flash Fiction– Improv

Leigh Lundin

It’s time once again for a touch of flash fiction.

It’s time once again for a touch of flash fiction.

I can’t accept full credit for the word play seeded by one of those chain emails that arrived via the internet, author unknown. I merely turned the idea into writing advice disguised as a short story. Read and enjoy.


Room for Improvement
by Leigh (and Anonymous)

During a domestic discussion, my wife said, “I can describe you in six words.” She went on to say I’m mature, I’m moral, I’m modest, I’m proper, I’m polite, and I’m perfect!

I love my wife, shes the greatest. “Anything else?” I asked.

“You also have a fundamental misunderstanding of apostrophes.”

16 July 2023

The Ice Cream Chronicles

Lock-Picking Lawyer logo

Locks, Ladies, and Lawyers

For reasons I can’t fathom, I enjoy reading and watching legal sites, one of the reasons I appreciate Mark among us. Perhaps it’s due to old black&white Perry Mason reruns. Perhaps I picked up the bug taking two years of commercial law— 101-102 and 201-202 simultaneously— taught by John Beishline, a former WW-II general.

Whatever occurred, I have the disease, and thus I follow a handful of lawyers on YouTube specializing in civil liberties and other topics. One off-topic gentleman pops up occasionally on my feed, the Lock-Picking Lawyer. I agree it sounds weird, but his following, well over four million subscribers and more than one-billion views, dwarfs everyone else including higher profile personalities such as Glenn Kirschner.

Harry, the Lock-Picking Lawyer, is a fortyish attorney in the Bethesda-Damascus, Maryland area, one child, one wife. His hobby-turned-gold-mine makes so much money from videos, consulting, and flogging lock-picking gadgets in his on-line store, he retired young.

Episodes run short, typically 2½-4½ minutes. He can open locks faster than I can fumble a key into a door– one of the reasons why I presently use an intelligent, home-built computerized security system worthy of a James Bond mad scientist. Bike locks, padlocks, car locks, door locks, even ‘boot’ locks– the gadget that clamps over a car’s wheel to prevent it driving away– gone in seconds. Viewers even send him locks to challenge him. Companies have changed manufacturing in response to his talent.

Harry has said he wished he could involve Mrs Lock-Picking Lawyer in his videos and finally he found an opportunity with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream lock. Oooooohhhhh, watch out for the Mrs. Harry the LPL is a very smart guy, but Mrs LPL is on an entirely different plane. Don’t stand between a woman and her ice cream.

  © © respective copyright holder


02 July 2023

Time Warped: How Not to Write a Historical

No excuses, this comes far too late to be an acceptable movie review, but this article has another purpose— how not to write historicals. Although I wrote this long ago, I pushed it aside as other articles took priority. It dates back to one of John Floyd’s articles, where we found ourselves among the tens of people who kinda, sorta liked the movie, Django Unchained, which I watched with my friend, Sharon. She agreed with the rest of the world that the film was, to put it gently, flawed.

3 Django Unchained cast members

Both Sharon and I were distracted by a staggering number of errors and anachronisms in the movie, especially items from the wrong century. To our disbelief, the DVD came with a Tarantino interview in which he bragged about the historical research. That was, pardon the pun, djarring.

Anachronisms leaped off the screen. They included wrong period clothing, wrong period guns (multiple), wrong period props and accessories, and very wrong period verbal expressions (mother-ƒer? Seriously?). When non-experts notice 20+ errors in a film, that celluloid is in trouble.

Except for two pieces of incidental music, I won’t address the soundtrack beyond saying the modern cuts djangled the nerves. It felt like an amateur YouTube video where contributors slip in unrelated cuts of music and images, without regard to the story. David Frost called out-of-context media the Lord Privy Seal effect.

Likewise, accidental appearances of modern devices aren’t included here. For example, some sharp-eyed viewer noticed a security camera high on the veranda of the antebellum mansion.

Time Warped

  1. The movie contained the famous bust of Nefertiti, incorrectly referred to as Cleopatra. It wasn’t discovered until 1907. (I learned of Nefertiti as a child. My mother gave my father a bust for his birthday. I mean she gave him a statuette.)
  2. Teddy Bears, associated with President Teddy Roosevelt, wouldn't appear until the 1900s.
  3. Thousand-dollar bills weren’t issued until 1861.
  4. The Confederacy had not been formed and the Civil War had not begun, so Confederate uniforms wouldn't have existed in 1858.
  5. Likewise, the Ku Klux Klan didn’t group until the end of the Civil War.
  6. The town of Lubbock didn't exist until 1890, well after the American Civil War.
  7. The word malarkey came out of the 1920-1930s.
  8. Für Elise famously wasn’t discovered until 1867, four decades after Beethoven’s death and nine years after the movie’s period.
  9. The song ‘In the Sweet By and By’ was published in 1868, a decade after the movie.
  10. Flip-top beer bottles may or may not have been a German innovation, but at least in the US, they weren’t patented until 1875.
  11. Beer pumps were first noted in the UK in 1691 and patented a century later in 1785, but this methodology of draught beer only became popular in the mid 1900s.
  12. Drinking straws made of paper were invented in 1888.
  13. While cigarette holders were introduced in the 1700s, they didn’t become popular until the flapper era through the 1970s.
  14. Dynamite was invented by Alfred Nobel in 1864 and patented in 1867.
  15. Hearing aids weren’t invented until the 1900’s and miniature aids didn’t appear until the latter half of the 20th century.
  16. Attendant to the previous, the first primitive plastics weren’t introduced until 1907 and materials suitable for hearing aids and chin straps took another half century to come about.
  17. Even some guns were out of place and time.
    1. The Remington New Model Army revolver, used by Django and Billy Crash, weren’t manufactured until 1860.
    2. The Remington double-barreled Derringer, used by Django and Dr. Shultz, weren’t manufactured until 1866.

    Bonus Points

    Sharon caught most of the following:

  18. Cool looking sunglasses and contacts weren’t available in 1858.
  19. Hats with cord locks and eyelets were a 20th century invention.
  20. Likewise, trousers with belt loops weren’t an 1850s convenience.

I can’t think of another movie that flooded the screen with historical inaccuracies. What about you? Do you have such a film in mind?

18 June 2023

Write of Way

As you may have noticed earlier this month, I’ve been paying attention to license plates and signs while idling in traffic. While negotiating neighborhood streets in south Orlando, I noticed a street sign labeled Chaucer and shortly thereafter Voltaire, two favorite classic authors.

This came as a surprise because Orlando is better known for family entertainment, not classical arts. Orchestras, opera, and ballet have died from indifference. WMFE, the local Public Broadcasting studio and station, collapsed. Hereabouts, Longfellow is thought to be the tall, floppy-eared pal of Mickey Mouse.

Upon returning home, I looked up this mysterious literary neighborhood and discovered references to nineteen authors, more precisely, sixteen names, two novels, and an epic poem. Two byways puzzled me, Jordan Avenue and Brice Street. I’m unable to think of significant writers matching the names, which indeed may be naught. You may know better.

So before our book-burning Governor DeSantis bans this defiant neighborhood, check out the names. (Click the map to expand it.) A list of authors follows.

Little known Mystery factoid: Voltaire (real name François-Marie Arouet (1694-1778)), arguably was one of the earliest writers of science fiction and detective fiction.
List of Authors
Quintilian Plato Orwell Zola (Nana) Marlowe
Linton Keats Ibsen Hawkes Galsworthy
Forester Dickens Chesterton Longfellow (Evangeline)
Browning Voltaire Chaucer Tennyson Lewis (Arrowsmith)

04 June 2023

The Week in Pictures

For friends who claim I don’t reveal much truly personal, pfffft. End of month, I’m getting a colonoscopy. So there. That’s personal.

It’s not my first and afterwards, like Poe, I bought a pallet of bricks and walled up the bathroom remains in an attempt to protect future archeologists from planetary collapse.

Those so-called flavor-packs… what are they thinking? Brake fluid would taste better. At least this doctor, a gastroenterologist, allows Gatorade in the prep. And he has a sense of humor. Note this sign in their parking lot:

But what really prompted this article was a license plate on a nearby car. As I snapped the photo, a lady came strolling up, nicely, not aggressively. I explained why I was taking pictures of her car.

Nancy didn’t mind and explained it was her husband’s. He’s a writer, a real one, not merely professionally published, but award winning. Peer closely at the license tag and notice the frame around the plate. He’s a winner of the Bram Stoker award for Best First Novel and a Stoker award for Lifetime Achievement. Pretty damn cool.

Obviously he writes in the horror genre. He goes by Owl Goingback and happens to be the only other non-romance fiction writer I’ve come across in Central Florida.

Computer programs that generate tag numbers are designed to weed out certain combinations. Obscenity is an obvious category, whether automatically generated or requested by a car owner. Florida rejects about 500 request a year, not counting those manufactured by the state in the format of XYZ•123.

But vulgarity isn’t the only filtered category. You won’t see plates with certain combinations:

  • FBI-123     CIA-123     IRS-123
  • DEA-123     ATF-123     IBM-123
  • and so on…

IBM? True. It’s among the many forbidden combinations. Thus I was surprised to pull up behind a vehicle bearing a tag certain to outrage Florida’s book-banning obscenity police.

As I returned home, a traffic light caught me at Lee Road (they misspelled my name) and I-4, I noticed a license tag.

I can’t wait til the governor discovers this affront to book burners across the state. It must be a conspiracy. Its left part is as pornographic, lascivious, lecherous, licentious, libidinous, and scabrous as the right. Our governor will clutch his wee pearls. Surely, that cannot be an accident.

Will the governor’s appointees plan a plate burning? Or bonfire the entire car? Or torch the hapless party who allowed this… this… this lewd, rude, dirty, filthy, vulgar, foul, coarse, crude, gross, vile, nasty, disgusting, offensive, shameless, immoral smut to sully America’s roads?

That’s personal.

21 May 2023

The Mound Builders

Wednesday, Rob wrote about Neolithic graves in Europe. We hear about burial mounds, bogs, and even buried boats, mostly in the British Isles, but we know less about our own prehistoric Native Indian culture that preceded what we consider First Nation.

I grew up a short distance (a brief bicycle ride or a longish walk on little-boy legs) from an Indian mound called Hogback. It’s one of the simpler prehistoric Indiana burial sites, especially compared to the Serpentine Mound many miles east. The region was known as a finder's gold mine of points (arrowheads), spear tips, and birdstones.

The latter was a throwing weapon carved into an elongated form to fit the hand. While most birdstones were simply shaped without regard for museums that might come long after, a few have been found carved into the likeness of a bird with folded wings. An ancient craftsman had taken the time and effort to indulge in aesthetics, an astonishing reach across time and space.


Indian mounds dotted the landscape through the Illinois, Indiana, Ohio belt, but also could be found in New England and New York. Some have been bulldozed, flattened for farming, or simply, disgustingly, used for easily obtained road-building material. Fortunately, others remain, some accessible by the public.

A curious question has arisen. Genetic research has shown the four major native American bloodlines descend from migrants traversing the Bering Land Bridge, a fifth strain suggests a prehistoric European migration. Not only is the DNA distinctive, but napping technology and burial practices differed. Were the mounds from this ancient group?

Classmates, Lela, Diane, and Kristi, found this fascinating documentary.

That Which Remains

One day I mounted an expedition to search the mound (no digging, just scoping the ground) and I made a find. It was a perfect, miniature axe head. I rushed home to show my parents.


My dad took one glance and said, "Not an axe head." I must have looked stricken because he handed it back and smiled. "It's much, much older. It's a brachiopod."

That was cool. And emblematic of Dad, an encyclopedic Google before Google. How many fathers could instantly identify a brachiopod by name?


Inspiration and following links are thanks to bright, beautiful, and brainy classmates Diane, Lela, and Kristi. They are an amazing resource.

Distant European ancestry isn’t unique amongst anomalies. Melanesian and Australian genes have unexpectedly popped up indigenous American populations.

07 May 2023

My husband died.

I can’t write flash fiction without thinking of Fran Rizer. She ‘complained’ those ultra-short stories upset her Sunday routine of preparing coffee and then breakfast, whereupon she’d spend a few minutes enjoying SleuthSayers.

On flash fiction days, that’s when (a) she’d find those few minutes were reduced to a few seconds, and (b) it caused her to snort coffee up her nose. Damn, I miss Fran.

Here’s a flash fiction with her in mind.




My Husband Died
by Leigh Lundin

After he died, I couldn’t even look at another man for almost twenty years.

But now that I’m out of prison, I can honestly say it was worth it.

23 April 2023

The Digital Detective, Banco and Bunco, Part 2

Resuming from last week

Money Laundering

Checks (‘cheques’ in other English-speaking countries) are becoming less common in our digital society, but they still have their uses: Investors often receive dividend checks, some companies send refund checks, and many of us write checks to our lawn guy and housekeeper. Check handling still holds a place in our economy and so does a scheme called ‘check washing’.

Crime segments on programs like Dateline and 20/20 have warned us against the practice of bad guys plucking checks out of mailboxes and ‘washing’ them in a ‘household chemical’ bath. Then with a blank check in hand with the original signature, they fill in a new payee and amount. The scheme can work with bonds, wills, and other instruments, anything with a dye-based ink written with ordinary pens. Very old inks comprised of iron compounds remain unaffected.

Wait. Are you going to share with us?

What is the household chemical? Enquiring crime writers want to know.

The answer is ink-dependent and I’m aware of two compounds. Women baddies may have an advantage: The primary go-to chemical, acetone, is the principle ingredient in fingernail polish remover. Other dye-based inks may better respond when treated with ordinary bleach.

Here’s a how-to video by Dr Uniball… (Shh. I know, I know, the poor man. I’m afraid Dr Uniball suffered an unfortunate lab accident.) That aside, here is one of his experiments:

Note: Although not mentioned in the video, fraudsters can preserve the signature by covering it with transparent tape. Ink not so protected washes away.

So how can you shield yourself against lawnmower man bleaching your check or your nifty cleaning lady rewriting the palty cheap-ass amount after an acetone bath? You can purchase speciality India ink pens costing in the hundreds of dollars. Or, as I recently learned, you can buy a less than two dollar Uniball at your local Dollar Store. This pigment-based pen is made by Mitsubishi Pencil Company, yes, a sister company of the car manufacturer. Look for Uniball 207, pictured here:

UniBall 207 pen

But wait. If you’re a fraudster and your victim banks with Chase or certain other banks, you don't have to bother erasing and filling in checks. Crooks have discovered Chase’s sloppy remote banking by smartphone looks only at the numeric dollar amount and routing number. Bad guys can add in an extra digit to the dollar amount, changing it from hundreds to thousands. Chase doesn’t trouble themselves to validate the written amount or check the written payee matches the conman’s name on the account. They even allow the same check to be deposited more than once.

BoA Signs of Fraud
Signs of Fraud from Bank of America

A casual survey suggests Chase Banks may figure in more frauds than all other banking institutions combined.Worse yet, Chase battles customer victims who try to get their money back. Lily, our Chase target in a previous article did everything right, trying to get an oblivious and lackadaisical Chase to take action. And they die– they blamed her.

No place in the world is safe from fraud, but if YouTube is to believed, Arizona suffers an outsized number of attacks. And naturally, Chase customer service isn't there when needed.

From A to Z, ATM to Zelle

Zelle is German for jail, literally, a prison cell. I’m frankly surprised it doesn’t mean Sucker!

I can’t trust Zelle. If accounts of a money app can’t be viewed and studied on the web, the customer/victim is at a disadvantage when attempting to reconcile transactions. Unfortunately banks and society at large push us in that direction.

Former business partners owed me money and had been steadily paying me through Sun Bank. Abruptly payments stopped. I notified them. It turned out Sun wanted to cease sending direct, electronic payments to my bank (and others) and insisted its ‘partners’ use Zelle. The problem was that Sun submitted payments into the black hole of Zelle, but my bank didn’t see them.

“Not our problem,” said Sun. “Call Zelle.”
“Not our problem,” said my bank. “Call Zelle.”
“Not our problem,” said Zelle. “Call your bank.”

This occurred after repeated and futile attempts to get a phone number for Zelle, who declined to help because they were ‘too far removed from the situation’, claiming they were outside the transfer rather than being the conduit. It took four months of repeated complaints to resolve the issue.


As you might imagine, Zelle is a convenient tool for fraud. In one particular scam, you receive an SMS text that your bank account has been put on hold, pending unusual activity. You phone the conveniently provided phone number, and a polite professional asks how she can help you.

She ‘checks’ your account, saying it appears nefarious forces are attempting to penetrate your security. The solution is to safely move your money into a bank-approved Zelle account. If you’ve not heard of Zelle, she provides you a web link showing your bank works with Zelle, and she’ll help you set up a new free account, which will make bill paying so much easier.

Ten minutes later, your new Zelle account is all set up and your money moved into it. “Thank you, thank you,” you say before hanging up, upon which the scammer sets to work. You receive another text message, this time from your real bank. Your accounts have been emptied.

“Not our problem,” says Zelle. “Call your bank.”
“Not our problem,” says your bank. “Call Zelle.”

16 April 2023

The Digital Detective, Banco and Bunco, Part 1

One upon a time I was scammed, or rather American Express was. In my consulting days, a pair of cancelled flights kept me hostage at Chicago Airport for ten hours, which covered a couple of mealtimes. For one of those, I plunked down in their sit-down restaurant and partook. And was partaken without my knowledge.

The end-of-month credit card statement showed a charge that could have fed a family of twelve instead of not-so-little ol’ me. AmEx explained this was called a ‘waiter’s charge,’ literally so in my case. A waiter hands you a bill in a black leather folder. The diner casually tucks a credit card in the folder and the waiter carries it away. At this juncture, the fraud happens.

If the restaurant keeps a computerized tally, the waiter adds on an additional lobster and a hell of a tip. Without an ongoing account, a waiter simply adds in a dollar figure. In olden days, waiters might run two or three blank slips through the imprinter for later use. These days thanks to skimming devices, a waiter can mint a new card before you leave the premises.

Once a card is out-of-sight, waiters can do anything they wish.

As did a waitress a waitress in Minneapolis’ beloved Pannekoeken Huis. Two things had come together to draw my attention to a minor racket. Unlike my girlfriend whose sharp eye for cash register fiddles caught one in the middle of a famous theme park, I don’t have specialized training in these things. However, a conversation with a vice president of finance at the company I consulted for raised my awareness. After meals, he carefully perused the bill and credit card slip, commenting he’d find mistakes nearly half the time and went on to prove it.

Bad Taste

And so I found myself in the very restaurant where he’d enlightened me. Frankly, the waitress did little to avert attention to herself. In a Midwestern city where everyone is friendly, she was unusually hostile. Perhaps it was the result of a bad morning, but she acted distinctly sour. Thus when the check came and bearing in mind the VP’s admonition, I looked over the register’s paper tape and there it was… or in this case wasn’t. The line items didn’t match the inflated total.

Her scam took but a moment to unravel. The register tape provided the clue– the restaurant’s logo was missing at the top of the tape. She’d rung in a false item, rolled the register’s tape forward several inches and tore it off, and then rang in the real breakfast tab.

I brought it to the attention of the front-of-house manager. That trusting soul cheerfully waved off the discrepancy as a register glitch. Fine, not my problem, but the practiced moves of the waitress announced she’d done this many times. I did not encourage her by leaving a tip.

That wasn’t why he glanced at your derrière

Does your credit card have a tap ’n’ go icon? If so, it has a built-in bit of electronics called passive NFC… near field communications, a cousin of RFID. Your cell phone may have something similar, but is active NFC because it’s battery powered. They work on the same principal as store exit scanners that sense security tags still attached to the jacket you just bought.

Besides the likelihood of your butt mashing your phone, NFC is a major reason you shouldn’t carry your phone in your hip pocket. A passerby brushes her phone past your pocket and *snap* — she’s captured your information.


Scams can happen other ways. You check out of your doctor’s office, or you pay at the window of that overpriced restaurant, or you’re enqueued at Wendy’s drive-thru window and your fuel gauge is running low as is the patience of the guy behind you who taps his horn for the third time but it’s not your fault because your salad isn’t ready and finally the server comes to the window and hands you a bag with a freckled girl’s face on it and says, “That will be $36.80,” and you realize for that kind of money you could have dined at Pannekoeken Huis with money left over but you dig through your purse and there’s your MasterCard that you hand over and a second later he hands it back followed by a receipt that you stuff in your purse and before the guy behind you can blast his horn again you pull forward and out of his way, yet when you get home you receive a text message that your credit card has hit its limit. What? How can that be? You should have at least fifty dollars to spare.

And there it is: Instead of $36.80, you were charged $96.80. Maybe the guy’s finger slipped ringing it up. But wait, there’s another $23 charge from the same place at the same time. That shouldn’t be possible. What happened?

When you handed over your card, you lost sight of it for an instant only. But it was enough time for the window guy to pass the card over a pocket skimmer or even a second NFC machine, a modern analogue of imprinting an extra credit card slip.

Contactless Cards (NFC, RFID)
Universal Contactless Cards (NFC, RFID)

ATM : Access Thy Money

You may seen recent warnings about ATMs with inoperable card slots, glued shut according to articles. Nearby, a helpful guy who’s standing a respectable, unobtrusive distance behind you offers a suggestion. “You can tap your card.”

But of course you can. You thank the guy, boink the card over the symbol, stuff $200 in your purse, and nervously flee the scene to safety. Or so you think. The helpful guy, he moves in and empties your account.

When an ATM’s mechanical reader returns your card, it automatically logs you out of the system. Likewise in store transactions, once the clerk rings you out and you see the Thank You message on the screen, you’re once again disconnected from your account.

Surveys show at ATMs, tap ’n’ go customers often don’t manually log out of their accounts. Without a mechanism holding their card and releasing it as they sign out, clients fail to realize the connection to their account remains active and vulnerable. Please, log out.

Next Week: Money Laundering