March 2019


This Is Actually Interesting

Had a message through my email contact form this morning from someone who found one of my posts from last August, I assume on Google, and guessed that I'm interested about robocalls — which I suppose I am as much as the next easily annoyed telephone customer.

The robocall that inspired the old post was in fact a scam attempt alleging that I needed to send money or I would be "taken under custody by the local police" for unspecified tax offenses. Anyway, my more recent correspondent wanted to call my attention to an FTC study her site had linked, that found robocall complaints seem to peak consistently right around Tax Day — either on or shortly after April 15.

If you're into big, colorful graphs breaking down data about things like this, you might find their post interesting, but the most important thing to take away from this is how not to become a victim of the sorts of scams that inflate the robocall figures. Just because I was robocalled in August rather than April or late March doesn't mean much.

As I wrote last summer,

No legitimate tax agency will robocall about a tax violation. No legitimate tax agency will leave a voicemail without identifying itself and the person with whom the caller wishes to speak. And that's even assuming any legitimate tax agency would make first contact about a tax violation by phone rather than registered letter or some other, more secure means.

If you need to know what to do to try to put a stop to these scammers, the site linking that trend study has this to say:

The IRS urges consumers that if they suspect the call is a scam, hang up immediately without giving out any personal information and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

Calling the FTC with details about the call you received couldn't hurt either, if only to help them compile statistics that might help get things like STIR and/or SHAKEN implemented.

And that's my public-service announcement for this month.

©   McGehee

Fun With Headlines

4th Graders Wanted in State, National Parks

I was not aware of a tween crime spree on our nation's public lands.

©   McGehee

The Left’s Long National Nightmare Has Come to a Middle

No collusion?

No indictments?

No impeachment?

No shit.

©   McGehee

Sometimes Conventionality Is the Better Idea

When Mrs. McG and I moved to Georgia almost 20 years ago, freeway interchanges here were numbered sequentially — which meant that the exit we lived nearest, though more than 50 miles from the Alabama line, was Exit 10.

That scheme was overturned a few years later for the more conventional mile-marker numbering system, and yesterday one of the rarely considered benefits of that system came into play right here in Coweta County.

The opening of the new Exit 44, on Interstate 85 at Poplar Road, was celebrated Wednesday morning in a conference room of Piedmont Hospital.

New interchanges are a rare thing, and the one at Poplar is the first new one since I-85 was built through Coweta County.

The new interchange came about at least in part due to the new Piedmont Newnan Hospital having been built on Poplar Road near its crossing of the the freeway. No previous hospital in Newnan had had freeway access, but only one of those previous had been built since the age of the automobile fully emerged. It was also much more accessible to the local population while the new hospital is on what had been a rural two-lane road before (and for some time after) its opening. The powers that be at the local and state levels may not admit it, but this location made a new interchange inevitable.

And under the old exit numbering scheme, this new interchange would have had to be Exit 8½ — at least until all of the downstream exits had been renumbered to accommodate it.

©   McGehee

Look at Where You Are

Today I watched a Youtube video on a channel I subscribe to called Taofledermaus. In the course of explaining why he posted the video, Jeff mentioned that Youtube had been imposing new restrictions on gun-related channels like his.

At first, I got angry that Youtube is imposing viewpoint discrimination on its users — but then I remembered, Youtube's parent corporation, Google, does business all over the world, and has to try to satisfy the delicate sensibilities of everyone from effete European Union bureaucrats to vicious Iranian theocrats.

And it's occurred to me that much of the free-wheeling dynamism of the internet we used to know and love has vanished precisely because of this globalization of authority. Unfortunately it has meant a trend toward forcing content generators in the world's freest societies to be accountable to repressive police states despite never having come under their jurisdiction, nor ever planning to.

Well, this site is on a .us domain. Its owner, and the sole author of its content, is a citizen of, and resides in, the United States of America. The servers hosting this site are likewise located in the United States of America. The content of this site is intended for a U.S. audience.

If you're in a country that imposes limits on the content you're permitted to see, and you visit this site and see content that your government deems inappropriate for your eyes, it is you who have violated your country's laws. I'm way over here in America, and under my country's laws I haven't done a damn thing wrong.

If it bothers you that I can post things on an American website hosted in America and meant for Americans, that your government wouldn't allow you to post on a website in your country for your fellow citizens there, I submit that your problem isn't with me, nor with my government, and not even with my hosting provider.

You know what? If you're okay having your thoughts policed by your government, just go away and don't come back. And don't ever again visit a site whose domain URL ends in .us because that's kind of a giveaway that you're venturing into waters your government does not, and never will, control.

©   McGehee

Got It in One

A couple of months ago I wrote of a certain Texas blunderkind:

O'Rourke was being compared to John F. Kennedy even before he lost — which JFK would have done had he chosen to run for the Senate in Texas rather than Massachusetts — so it seems likely he would occupy that same role in the 2020 campaign if he joined it. But he lacks something previous JFK wannabes seeking the presidency had: a Senate seat.

Comparing him to other Democratic presidential hopefuls who'd evoked JFK to the lovelorn news media, I added:

John Edwards was, like O'Rourke, benefiting from the JFK comparisons long before he got into presidential politics, and he served in the Senate and as John Kerry's 2004 running mate without any more hint of scandal than any other Democrat officeholder of the era — bearing in mind that Hillary Clinton was also in the Senate at that time. Still, Edwards' 2008 presidential hopes were sunk at least in part by news of an extramarital affair of his own.

It's still early, so the prospect of O'Rourke being undone by an infidelity scandal is still somewhat remote. However...

And then came Beto, who has already stirred up a minor scandal when, during his Senate campaign, it became known he had previously gotten in a drunk-driving accident and had to be prevented from leaving the scene. It almost certainly didn't affect his election chances, due to his being a Democrat seeking a statewide elective office in Texas. Personally, I'm skeptical that's as deep as his risk runs.

Now, if you scoffed back in January that JFK comparisons could still be made in 2019, you may be right. However it appears Beto is being compared instead to a more recent JFK compar-ee.

Why do Annie Leibovitz and Joe Hagan (who wrote the breathless prose accompanying Leibovitz's photography in both pieces) hate Beto O'Rourke so much?

©   McGehee

They’re Just on the Other Side

Every so often you hear people griping about how we need to "get money out of politics."

What they really mean is that they want to get the other side's money out of politics.

And they ain't on your side. They're never on your side.

©   McGehee


I think I may have gotten carried away with the clock-adjusting last night. Please stand by.

©   McGehee

Stop Tracking Those Cookies All Over My Floor!

The Tally Book still doesn't use a hit counter, and doesn't set cookies. (I can't speak for my domain host — they may routinely watch you on your webcam while you're reading this site, but I doubt it.)

This has been your entirely unnecessary privacy notice for 2019.

©   McGehee

Why Didn’t I Think of It Before?

I eliminated nearly all of my spam inflow by blocking all email addresses ending in .icu

In the past 24 hours the only spam I've gotten has been from email addresses ending in .xyz — so I've blocked that now too. And I'm prepared to block more as they come. (Anyone using a legitimate email address with either of those TLDs can use the contact form; their messages will get through that way.)

At this rate, Korean (or Russian, or Vietnamese) hackmail scammers may be the only spam I ever get anymore.

Update, four days later: in the last 24 hours I have received not one single piece of spam email. Zero, zip, zilch, nada.

'Nother update, two days after the previous update: In FastMail, when a message appears in the Spam folder, its spam score is prominently displayed. Most of the genuine spam I have been getting, when I've been getting spam, has had scores in the 30s. False positives have become exceedingly rare, and always with much lower scores.

So although I've preferred not to use the spamhammer as aggressively as I've used other tools, I've decided that it's now time to have the spammiest spams disappear from the server before they're ever assigned a folder, Spam or otherwise. I'll be watching the spam scores of what gets through, in case I need to do any fine-tuning later.

©   McGehee

Criminal Mastermind Alert, 5

The scammer claims he sent his email using my own account, as if everybody on earth hasn't already received, at one time or another, a message with the From field faked.

He also claims he can't be found, but I know he sent his message from elim.net in Korea — not from ak4mc.us in America (if he really had sent it from my own account, it would have been in my Sent folder instead of Spam). And what email source can be identified, can be blocked.

I guess now we know what Kim Jong-un is doing for hard currency these days.

©   McGehee

Now with Even Less Google

Not unlike traveling at the speed of light, disengaging from Google in 2019 is all but impossible — but with persistence, creativity, and a lot of antacid, one can keep reducing one's Google footprint bit by bit.

Of course, one sure way to unGoogle is to go back to an iPhone, but that's not funny.

My main Google business in the last couple of years has been calendars and contacts. Also Android, Android apps, ebooks, and my domain registration, but... baby steps. Recently I found that eM Client offers all the mail-handling capabilities that had kept me using Thunderbird all these years, with the added ability to manage calendars and contacts from non-Google providers — making the Pro license well worth the money. Since my domain host and email provider, FastMail, includes these services, I've been exploring ways to get my contacts and calendars off Google (as much as possible).

To do this, I need to also be able to use and manage these services on my phone — but Android doesn't offer native support for CalDAV and CardDAV. By installing BlueMail on my phone and setting up my Microsoft Exchange account on it (I'm paying for Office 365 Personal, so the distinction is legitimate), I can at least get Outlook calendars and contacts on my phone, but I don't want to trade one Big Tech corporation for another as custodian of my personal information.

I downloaded and tried DAVx5, but I found that my FastMail calendar never could sync, and it couldn't detect FastMail's CardDAV service at all, even though eM managed it without even blinking. I'd paid for DAVx based on its claim to work with FastMail, so this was a serious disappointment.

So I bit the bullet and tried moving my contacts to Exchange. It went ... poorly. Let's face it: For contact management, Exchange sucks. You'd think somebody out there would figure out a way to at least come close to matching Google Contacts not only for ease of setup and use, but for the sheer volume of information you can store in a single record.

The simple truth is, if Google weren't so damn evil, and if its current population of app designers weren't so tunnel-visioned about features and user-experience (not to mention freedom of thought), they could make Skynet throw up its mechanical hands and give up on taking over the world. Even now, fully a decade into their slide into the Ninth Circle, their contact management service is still better than all of the competitors put together. As long as I can't sync my FastMail contacts on my phone, Google remains inescapable if I want to know who's calling me before I answer.

Calendars are in better shape. I still have to use some calendars on Google, since Mrs. McG uses Google exclusively and we need to be able to share certain calendars — but I don't have to use Google's calendar app on my phone, nor even, really, sync my Google calendars on the phone in the Android system. FastMail's app includes a calendar, and I can set up FastMail to display my Google calendars through their servers, bypassing Android altogether. Since the app now opens to whatever view was open the last time it was closed, I now leave that app on the calendar view and have every calendar Google's app could show me, plus my own calendars, at my fingertips.

If only the FastMail app's contact manager could let my phone show me who it is that whoever's calling me is claiming to be, I could use it for that too. Those Aussies are missing a beautiful opportunity.

Update, an hour or so later: As is my wont, I kept tinkering and poking and prodding at the problem until I discovered its actual cause — I was using an app-specific password for DAVx5 that I had generated for calendar access only. So I generated a new one for contacts access, and now I have my FastMail contacts on my phone.

I'll be losing some of the wow-bang flexibility I've been accustomed to in Google Contacts, but as the price of extracting myself from yet another Google service, I'll live with it.

©   McGehee

A New...

Yeah, yeah, yadda yadda.

Lenn Wood [was] officially sworn in as Sheriff Friday by Probate Judge Mary Cranford as colleagues, friends and supporters filled the Historic Coweta County Courthouse for the ceremony.

Sheriff Wood thanked former Sheriff Mike Yeager for his leadership and appointing Wood as Chief Deputy prior to Yeager leaving office.

I'd been under the impression he would be acting sheriff until the winner of the upcoming (as yet uncalled) special election was sworn in. Wood, of course, intends to be the winner of that special election.

We've lived in Coweta County almost 20 years now, and Mike Yeager was already well into his second term as sheriff when we arrived. Throughout his tenure the county's population has grown spectacularly, and there really haven't been the kind of problems associated with that population growth that you'd expect from a law enforcement community unprepared for it. I, and I'm fairly confident most Cowetans, give a big share of the credit for that to Sheriff Mike Yeager.

As Wood quite naturally emphasized, he is in his present position because Yeager wanted him there. Given Yeager's leadership as sheriff, if his preference is to be overruled there would have to be a good reason for it. I don't know of any such reason.

Lenn Wood will have my vote.

©   McGehee



March 2019


Original content and design © 2019 Kevin McGehee. Images and excerpts are © their respective owners.