Mid-Week Amusements: Food & Comedy!

It’s a nice, relaxing Wednesday, and the delicious aroma of home-made beef stew is wafting through the house. Cooking is such an enjoyable thing to do, especially with fresh ingredients! I figured that I’d show a few of the vegetables which I like to use in stews, much like my previous post about the things I toss in with my chicken soup.

Onions, shallots, and garlic make up the base – I don’t think that any dinner is complete unless it has at least one of those flavourful bulbs included! Carrots may or may not be used, since the variety of root vegetables used more than makes up for their omission. These herbs and vegetables round out the meal:

Thyme

Rosemary

Oregano

Parsnip

Turnip

Rutabaga

Red potatoes

I love using fresh herbs of many different types…the picture below shows a few of my go-tos.

Baseball season is just around the corner – I’m looking forward to it, as always! When spring arrives, the “Boys of Summer” aren’t far behind…also, my comedy shows are back with new episodes, after being pre-empted by the overly long and drawn-out “March Madness.” Don’t get me wrong, I like basketball well enough. I just happen to prefer baseball, football (American, non-arena), and rugby if / when I can catch it on television!

Anyway, since I’m amusing myself with some choice comedy bits, I thought that I’d share them with you. Sometimes, a good laugh does a body good, and these clips had me in a fit of giggles!

Shining the Blacklight on American Democracy

Drumpf’s Agenda: Today, America…Tomorrow, the World!

Conan O’Brien talks about the United Airlines dress code

Conan O’Brien hits Comic-Con(R) Mad Max-Style (2015)

Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without a couple of nods to yesterday’s post about bots and the role they play in various online scams. Behind every bot, troll, sock-puppet and cat-phish is someone looking to give you the old “Rick-Roll!”

Tuesday Tidbits: Trifling, Troublesome Bots!

Scams: those have been around for as long as humans became “civilized,” it would seem! Various Saturday-morning cartoons have spoofed them from time to time, IIRC; these days, entire television shows are dedicated to them – Catfish: The TV Show being one.

When the Internet was nothing more than a conglomeration of online forums and message-boards, with only a select few knowing about it or even interacting on it regularly, online scams were few and far between. After everybody and their mother, grandmother, and great-grandfather’s dog suddenly had access to the World Wide Web, the scammers followed, and online scams became the new threat. As scams became as obvious as Doctor Stanley’s Snake-Oil Cure-All and his wife’s genuine imitation pearls, they ‘evolved’ to circumvent security programs and firewalls. Now, one has to be aware of the sophisticated means others use to scam people online, and there are many!

For example, how many people are aware of the relatively ancient, but insidious, ‘Nigerian Prince’ email phishing scam? A good number of people have fallen prey to it, even though it is such an obvious contrivance that I question how and why they were susceptible to it. It is certainly the most popular one, in that is still the go-to scam that is blamed for malware and hacking intrusions, but it isn’t the only one! For this post, I am going to be talking specifically about ‘bots’ and the ways that they are able to mimic a genuine, ‘real’ account.

For lay-people, a ‘bot’ is, essentially, a hijacked computer; one that has been programmed and coded to do specific things without the knowledge of the user. Email ‘phishing’ scams are usually the culprit, the aforementioned ‘Nigerian Prince’ being one; others involve dating or porn sites, ‘mail-order’ bride scams, or ad-scams for cheap Viagra, Cialis, or Extense from Canada and other places overseas. Funny to get scams for male ‘enhancement,’ especially when one isn’t a man, or a cruiser of dating or porn-sites. This only goes to show how careful anyone must be when giving out one’s email address, and how much caution should be used when responding to emails. Those which haven’t been expressly solicited are major tells, as are emails with questionable attachments and / or subject lines.

Digressing: the hijacked computer-bot can now do whatever it has been programmed to do. Usually, this involves sending its malware / virus / Trojan-Horse code to as many other computers as possible, generally as an attachment in an email. This attachment gets sent to people on the contact list of the infected computer, even if the user doesn’t have…oh, let’s say, an Outlook account, as an example. The recipient might think that they have a legitimate email from a friend and open it, but find out later on that the email contained malware, because it wasn’t really from a friend.

Bots are quite common in MMOs, and my online game is no different. In the halcyon days of The Elder Scrolls Online, bots were everywhere and incredibly obvious! The in-game bots were of three different types: spam-bots, ‘train’ bots, and ‘collector’ bots. The spam-bots are almost always seen at dolmens or in delves, right on the spot that the boss will spawn at, and they are always using the same ‘ultimate’ move over, and over, and over again.

Spam-bots may or may not be accompanied by the ‘train’ bots. The name is self-explanatory; you might see a ‘train’ of four or five characters running in a circle. The train runs…well, like a train! You have the ‘engine’ doing the main action, then the bots in the train do the exact same motion / action as the ‘engine’ does, only a nanosecond or three later. These types of bots farm bosses for loot, and / or nodes for materials – slower and less efficient than the other types, but still a major nuisance in their own right.

The ‘collector’ bots are the most difficult to see, as they have been programmed to do one thing: collect a certain material from a certain node. In-game, there are materials which are valuable to the crafters who make armour, weapons, and other things for their friends and / or guild-mates. The collectors basically ‘farm’ these nodes unfairly, flying through the air at hyperspeed, or sliding underground out of sight, taking the nodes and everything on them and making it impossible for the regular player to harvest these materials fairly.

During the evolution of TESO, the programmers / code-writers behind the bots have evolved as well. Now, the bots are as big an issue as they were when the game was first launched, but a bit more difficult to spot. It isn’t impossible, but it takes a bit of observation and vigilance on the part of any player who espies them. Once they’ve been identified and reported, the ban-hammer is laid down by the overseeing overlords, and the offending account(s) are terminated – permanently. I will post some in-game screen-shots of the bots that I see, in the near future – both before and after they’ve been caught!

You might be asking yourself, “What the hell does this have to do with ME?!? I don’t play online games; if I do, I’m safe on my little console because people who play games on PCs are morons! Also, I’m far too involved in my Twitter-pated Facebooking and Instagramming, so this doesn’t affect me at all!” Guess what, sunshine – this affects you, too. You know how you have your little ‘newsfeed’ on Facebook? Yep – bots can have their way with it, and you, and you are completely unaware of it. The whole “Fake News” bullshit is directly related to Facebook and Twitter-bots, and the ignorance of those who became willing patsies of same, due to their narcissistic need for a bandwagon to jump on for popularity, stat-padding, and ‘friend’ collecting. Even WordPress isn’t immune to these insidious bots! I can think of more than a few blogs which have red flags waving at me the moment I click on them and view the first page or post. The ones which allow ads are the worst culprits, and they always warn me with this:

This is why some comments get put in my WordPress trash barrel: if I click on your site and get a security warning, then I’m not going to link to it – even via my comment section. If your site is compromised, then I’m not comfortable directing others to it. It’s as simple as that. Trashing a comment isn’t putting it into the Spam folder indefinitely, either; it is simply putting it in the ‘circular file’ until you get your security issues taken care of. If you can’t be bothered with paying to keep insidious, annoying, security-breaching ads off of your site, then I can’t be bothered with reading your site and exposing my computer to potential malware. Nothing personal, I just value my privacy and security more than you value your oodles of readers and followers. Besides, if all you’re doing is collecting followers, then it begs the question: Why? To what end are you collecting the information of thousands of people? What is your objective or your agenda? These are questions which flit across my mind, from time to time, when I surf the web and read various news-sites or blogs, or watch a music video on YouTube. “Believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.” Those song lyrics perfectly convey the way that I am when I’m online, in pretty much every online activity in which I might engage. Question everything! It isn’t a bad thing to do.

New Moon on Monday Music!

There is a rare, Monday new moon today…well, it is here on the U.S. West Coast! According to my Llewellyn’s Astrological Calendar, the new moon (in Aries, no less!) is at 1957 PDT; another calendar says that it is at 0257 UT. Time is a fascinating thing, isn’t it?

Anyway, you know this means that I have to play some moon-related music – but, I tossed in a couple of songs that aren’t, just to keep things interesting! I hope these songs get your week off to a good start. Later, ‘gators!

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Sunday Screen-Shots: Jester’s Festival!

Beginning last year, seasonal festivities began in my favourite MMO, the Elder Scrolls Online. The first one, appropriately titled the Witches’ Festival, was in October. The second one, held in December, was called the New Life Festival.

With the advent of Spring, the Jester’s Festival is in full swing – perfect timing as April Fool’s Day / All Fool’s Day draws near! Here are a few screen-shots of my various characters making merry, playing pranks, and having all sorts of fun with other players. Sometimes, one has to stop and smell the sakura ( / )!

I’ll have live footage of my festival antics broadcasting shortly. I think that people know where to find the link by now, so tune in and watch the show!

Savage Smilodon

A happy merry-maker

Marketplace merriment

Dancing at dawn

Playing with fire

Kicking back

Flashy fireworks

Dazzling the crowds

A sprightly dance – see the staff?

I found the Lord of Misrule: Drumpf the Jester-King!

Some Pointed Saturday Memes…25 March 2017

I’ve been chuckling to myself off and on since yesterday before going to bed, and find myself doing so this morning as I sip my first cup of coffee. I banned a person yesterday, bringing the grand total to: * insert epic drumroll * five. That’s it…only five people have made themselves persona non grata, permanently! I’ve been blogging here on WordPress for a little over six years now, but have only seen the need to ban five people. Overall, I’d have to say that’s a pretty good average! The list consists of two men, two women, and one individual of unknown gender; two were banned on the same day, about three years ago – but that’s been it.

In recognition of this milestone, here are a few silly memes for those ignorant trolls who couldn’t follow the simple, basic rules set out in my Open Thread & Comment Policy page. I venture that they couldn’t even be bothered to read it, just as they willfully ignored my ‘About’ page and what I say about trolling antics. Perhaps they suffer from some severe mental deficiency which renders them incapable of comprehension. No matter to me; it’s their issue, not mine. So, they are free and clear to keep their issues on their own blog!

Me? I’m enjoying the Jester’s Festival events that are taking place in my online game, and am broadcasting the live, real-time game-play off and on throughout the weekend. Feel free to click the link which will take you directly to my Twitch channel, sit back with some hot tea and sunflower seeds, and enjoy the show!

Final Birthday Friday Festivities!

It isn’t the final Friday of March; that falls next week – but, today IS the final Friday celebration of my week-long birthday celebration! It’s been loads of fun: phone calls and cards from family, breakfast in bed, and a surprise sushi platter rounded things up. All food was washed down with plenty of potables, both potent and non! All in all, it has been fantastic…life is good!

Here are my five musical selections for this Friday, along with some selected gaming screen-shots of fun and frivolity. My “Five for Friday” fun facts will return next week, but I’ll give you one, here: every song that I post here on my humble blog are ones that I know by heart, and sing loudly and proudly. The key to great singing isn’t something that can be taught, at that’s all I can say. Either you feel it, or you don’t!

😄

Happy Friday, everyone…enjoy your respective weekends, whenever and wherever you are!

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Timothy Caughman: Victim of Domestic Terrorism

This is Timothy Caughman, the 66-year-old Black man who was brutally murdered in New York City on 20 March. His killer, James Harris Jackson, is a self-described “white supremacist” who harbored intense hatred for Black people in general, but Black men in particular. He turned himself in to the local authorities in the wee hours of 22 March, after stabbing Mr. Caughman multiple times with a 24-inch, double-edged sword:

On his Twitter page, 66-year-old Timothy Caughman described himself as a “can and bottle recycler” as well as an “autograph collector.” He hoped to visit California one day and expressed his deep love for this country on Election Day by standing in line and taking part in the democratic process. However, Caughman lived in a country where everyone did not love him back. Since the election of Donald Trump as president, the nation has seen a rise in hate crimes and bigotry. On Monday, Caughman became a victim of one of those hate crimes.

On March 17, Army veteran James Harris Jackson, 28, took the Bolt Bus from Baltimore to New York City with an extremely disgusting plan in mind: to kill Black men. Days later, Jackson crossed paths with Caughman as he collected bottles close to the Midtown homeless shelter where he lived. The altercation turned deadly when Jackson pulled out a sword and stabbed Caughman multiple times in the torso.

After the brutal attack, Caughman stumbled into a nearby police precinct with wounds to his back and chest, said Assistant Chief William Aubry, the commander of Manhattan South detectives, as reported by the New York Times. Caughman was then transported to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.”

A quiet man who was minding his own business became a victim of domestic terrorism, yet no buildings will dim their lights for him. Only the people who knew and cared about Mr. Caughman will be holding a candlelight vigil, or placing flowers near the place where his life was taken. The standard, ridiculous excuses of “insanity” are already being bandied about by heartless lawyers. They offer up that lame defense as if it were a valid excuse, but there is no defense or excuse for the inbred cretin who murdered Mr. Caughman in a most up-close-and-personal way.

I lit a candle for Mr. Caughman – it’s the least I can do. Doing a little bit, sometimes, is better than doing nothing at all. Many people don’t seem to understand or respect that. It’s a shame.

Thoughtful Thursday: 23 March 2017

Just a few things to keep in mind, today. I’m in the process of addressing some queries that have been directed at me during the past three weeks, so have patience, people!

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Midweek Music – Celebration, Continued!

Here’s some mid-week music as the fun and celebrations continue…I’m keeping the laughter in slaughter, LOL!

😄

Excerpt: Comeuppance

The tavern is exceptionally boisterous this night. Evesori sits at the vanity in the private room she usually shares with Lord Draven, staring at her reflection in the mirror. Her calm façade belies the anger and jealousy roiling inside. Her emotions, however, do have a detrimental effect on the glamour that she normally uses to conceal her true appearance. Dark, angry bruises mottle her cheeks and neck; her smooth-looking skin is wrinkled and hangs in loose wattles, her breasts are flat, sagging dugs drooping under her robe and her face is sallow, aged and haggard. Damn him, she thinks. He let the other, more powerful, fresh meat get away before the ceremony could be finished – now I have to suffer this insult!

Even now, she hears the tinkling laughter of his latest conquest drift up from the main room. Naviri, the young chamber-maid, had suddenly become a favoured member of the guild; even Theo was less enthralled by Evesori’s charms than he’d initially been, although Draven made it clear that Naviri was his alone. Evesori had brought Naviri to share their bed, in hopes that he would allow her to perform the ceremony, but Draven seemed unconcerned about Evesori’s need. Now she was suffering and desperate to rejuvenate her rapidly-declining looks. The blood of the girl was sorely needed, but Draven had stayed her hand. Enthralled to him, she had no choice but to acquiesce.

She yanks open a drawer and digs around, pulling out a small envelope. Only a tiny bit of the magick-infused powder remained, just enough to stave off the impending decay. She would have one week to acquire a fresh infusion – she doesn’t want to think of what will happen if she can’t.

She taps the last bit of the precious powder into a golden goblet, takes a small teakettle from a trivet-heater, and pours a bit of warm water over the powder. It hisses and bubbles momentarily, emitting a slightly sulfurous odor. When the bubbling ceases, Evesori takes up the goblet, hesitates for a moment, and downs the bitter concoction. The results are immediate: the bruises disappear, her skin becomes taut and youthful in appearance, and her cold, pale beauty is restored. That’s it, then, she thinks. If I’m unable to find a new thrall of my own, without milord’s assistance… She shakes her head, banishing the unpleasant thought. Standing, she drops her robe to the floor and moves to the tall wardrobe. She removes her usual tavern-clothes from their hangers and squeezes herself into the tight, form-fitting garments. She gives herself a final, appraising look before heading downstairs into the din.

Draven sits at his table in the corner with a giggling Naviri on his lap. He is stroking her hair and cheek in a way that enrages Evesori anew, but she forces a pleasant smile as she grabs a tankard of ale from the counter near the stairs and moves towards the table. An inebriated Theo notices her and staggers over, glad to see that she is looking like her old self again. “Evie! I wash…I wanted…hey, join the party!” He puts an arm around her shoulders, casually grabbing her right breast and squeezing firmly. He knows that Naviri is off-limits, so Evesori will have to do for the time being. At least she doesn’t smell of rancid, week-old meat like the last time, he thinks, and still wonders if that had been some unpleasant nightmare.

Evesori laughs and shrugs off his drunken groping, gently pushing him aside. “I’ll deal with you in a moment, dear Theo – I just needed to speak with our liege lord about a pressing matter. I won’t be long, if you want to wait for me?” She tilts her head engagingly, flicking her eyes upward to her room before fixing them on Theo, letting the suggestion sink into his addled brain. He grins foolishly, turning towards the stairs and reeling off of the edge of the fireplace mantel. He trips and stumbles on the steps, stifling an embarrassed chuckle as a noxious, wet-sounding fart explodes from his nether regions. A dark stain spreads across the backside of his breeches as he crawls up the steps. Draven roars with laughter, while Naviri hides a smile behind one small, delicate hand. Evesori sighs internally, even as she directs Skips-Over-Water, the lizard-man, to attend to Theo and make certain that he doesn’t get any filth on her silken sheets. Skips hurries up the stairs while Evesori turns back to Draven’s table, still wearing her inscrutable smile.

Her mouth tightens slightly as she sees the mocking look on Naviri’s elfin face. Draven is playing with her tiny horn-nubs, unconcerned with Evesori’s emotions. In her mind, she crosses the room in a flash, tearing out the girl’s throat with a vicious swipe of ragged talons, bathing in gouts of refreshing, life-giving blood. In reality, she steps forward slowly and respectfully, nodding at Naviri politely as she addresses Draven.

“Milord? There is an…urgent matter which I must speak with you about. A moment of your time, please?” She takes a calming swig of ale from the tankard as she waits for him to stand and accompany her outside. Draven looks at her for a long moment. When he finally speaks, his voice is as frigid as an ice-bolt from the staff of a cryo-mage. “Evie, please…you do see that I’m busy, do you not? I’m sure that whatever is troubling you can wait until morning. In fact, it will have to wait. I’m being entertained at the moment.” He looks upstairs, where a loud thud rattles the floor. “Besides, your…lover is waiting for you. Surely you will be busy for the rest of the evening, as will I.” He smiles at Naviri as he pulls her tighter onto his lap. He traces a long, pale finger along her jawline and narrow, pointed chin, then lightly touches the girl’s lips. Evesori is filled with rage as she sees the girl’s slight frame shudder with pleasure. Why is he doing this? Why now? Her thoughts roil in confusion; for the first time in an eternity her confidence is shaken, yet still she tries to hide it and save face. She drains the tankard and slams it on the table a bit harder than she intended, then turns to leave the tavern. Draven ignores her as she walks out of the door, busily nuzzling Naviri’s neck and lightly suckling on her right ear. Naviri doesn’t notice the tiny bite on her earlobe…

Once outside, Evesori picks up one of the chairs and smashes it into one of the stout porch-timbers, feeling slightly better as splintered wood flies. A couple walking past the tavern hasten their steps as they see the violent outburst, heading instead towards the quiet inn near the city gates. Evesori’s eyes are wild, her face twisted in hate. All semblance of calm has vanished, and her anger makes her careless. She is completely unaware of the cloaked figure shrouded in the darkest corner of the porch until it is too late. A slender but strong arm is around her throat before she knows it; a hand smothers her mouth and nose in a powerful grip. She struggles in futility as she is dragged off of the porch and into the darkness behind the tavern. There is a brief burst of flame, then silence.

A young city guard stands at ease under a nearby streetlamp, fully aware of what just took place behind him. He was there to ensure that none would interrupt. The heavy sack of coin in his pocket is comforting – he was paid well for his duty. If the sell-sword can rid his fair city of the blood-vermin, he is more than willing to turn a blind eye. “Well done, lad,” he hears a husky voice say. “Remember – when you identify more of these parasites, send the falcon to me. Otherwise, I will return at the next cycle of the new moons. Together, we shall exterminate these filthy creatures and return this city to its full glory.” A hand rests momentarily on his shoulder. “Your family will be free to sit at lakeside again…and your infant son’s murder shall be avenged.” He doesn’t turn as he whispers, “Thank you.”

The quiet presence vanishes. The young guard smiles…

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