Posts Tagged weird

Episode 42: In Which Best Practices Prevent Identity Theft

A crazy thing just happened to me!

I got a letter from Capital One saying that they’d received a credit card application from a different address, so they wanted me to verify whether it was me. That’s alarming, and even more worrisome was its age: I’m bad about reading low-priority mail, so this letter had been sitting around for at least a week before I got to it.

As a cautious citizen, I followed the instructions and called the number to tell them the application was fraudulent. They asked for my social security number so they could refer to the application. I didn’t want to give it out, and I said so, so they asked for a 17-digit code on the letter, but there wasn’t one. Though I should have been worried that they wanted my SSN, I wasn’t. Fortunately, best practices said I must not give them my SSN, so I told them I’d call back on a verified-good phone number from the Capital One web site.

The Capital One website doesn’t list the number 866-927-7875. A search for that number only turns up a few pages about how 866-927-7875 is a scam number … or real phone number. I almost gave scammers my personal information … or not!

In the end, I dodged a bullet not by trusting my instincts (which said this was probably fine), but by relying on best practices and requiring verification even of the phone number on the official-looking letter.

[Edit at 4:32p.m.] Never mind, it turns out that the letter really was from Capital One, and when I called the number listed on their website, they confirmed it. I don’t know why their 866 number isn’t listed on the internet anywhere, and their practice of asking people for their SSNs immediately is highly suspicious, but it seems to be real. I find it confusing.


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I’m in San Francisco! You can tell by the ballot.

I have a chance to vote for “Starchild” who lists his/her profession as “Erotic Service Provider.” He/she is running for the Board of Education. His/her qualifications include “Former government school student (K-8th grade).” Somehow, I don’t find that terribly compelling, though I don’t know why that made the cut, given that there’s also a “BA in journalism from San Francisco State University” listed. But, he/she is endorsed by the Libertarian party, so that’s worth something, right? He/she promotes libertarian values, and my reading of this promotion makes me really want to argue with a libertarian right now.


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Not all Leon Barretts are well-behaved

Here’s a Leon Barrett who got arrested for sending threatening letters to celebrities.


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J.K. Rowling is a woman. Are you?

Harry Potter was obviously written by a woman. I’ve been reading/listening to book 5, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” and I’ve just passed the point where Harry goes on a date with Cho. They go to a coffeeshop and sit surrounded by couples holding hands and kissing, and Harry’s thought is, “she’ll expect me to do that too–how terrifying!”

What. The. Fuck.

Have you ever had a chance to hold the hand of someone you had a crush on? Did you lack the desire to do so? If so, you weren’t a young man, because I can assure you, the desire to touch and kiss is extraordinary, matched only by the enormous fear of the consequences if you do so and she’s unhappy about it. I can’t imagine anyone missing that drive; it’s so visceral and all-consuming.

However, I’m told that women often engage in sexual behavior that makes them uncomfortable because they feel societal expectation, and so I theorize that this is the reaction a woman might have–indifference mixed with expectation and fear. How else could you explain such a bizarre set of emotions? It’s just such an alien reaction to me, though, that I can’t understand how it made it into the book. Wouldn’t most anyone who read the book immediately wonder, “Why didn’t Harry want to kiss her?”

So, my question to you: when you were young, say, 16, and had the chance to kiss someone, were you excited about it or just expected to do so?

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The black helicopters

Well, they were green, but it was strange anyway.

I was on campus for Lindy on Sproul early on Saturday afternoon, when all of a sudden there was a loud propeller noise. I looked up and saw two giant green military transport helicopters, the two-rotor (one front, one rear) sort. I stopped dancing and pointed them out to my partner. They circled above us, more or less around Sproul Plaza, once, then circled elsewhere over campus, and then left. The whole event lasted less than a minute, but at some points they were really loud. Everyone stopped dancing to watch, and I think someone even turned off the music.

I don’t know why they were there, but I was pretty excited about it.


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The wildest factory ever

This is a picture of one of the weirdest factories I’ve ever seen. We saw it from the car as we were driving in Israel, and it looks like the future, or maybe a pair of alien spaceships. It took me a while to parse it as an industrial plant, from this distance at least.

I apologize for the quality of the image–it was taken at maximum zoom from a moving car on a smoggy day with power lines in the foreground. But it looks too bizarre not to share. Yes, the picture is most of a year old by now, but I suddenly recalled it and wanted to share it.

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Overseen events

Yesterday, walking through Berkeley, I overheard a black kid tell a white kid, “I won’t gyp you, nigga.” Racism’s classic words are still around, but I’m not sure they mean the same things to people in the 21st century.

Then, today, I saw a guy with a fancy classic car double-park it illegally (motor still running, dog in the passenger seat) to run in and pay his parking tickets. Oh, and this was about half a block from the police station. Truly classic.

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Driving again

Well, I got my car back. The California Highway Patrol (CHiPs!) called me on Saturday evening, and I picked it up on Sunday morning. The thieves took everything of value: my stereo, my roof rack (the most valuable thing), my hang-gliding helmet, and even my license plates. They even scratched off my parking permit, those bastards. And I had to pay $300 to get my car back from the towing company, making the entire expense approximately $1000 and a lot of hassle.

But, there is a lighter side to the story. For one thing, they installed a stereo in my car. See, when I got a new stereo, I just left the old one in the trunk because I’m lazy. And when I got the car back, it was installed! But, it had some anti-theft feature, so it won’t work, which is presumably why they didn’t take it. Maybe they were just testing it? In any case, it’s weird to have thieves install a stereo for you.

The thieves also left a bunch of crap in my car. There were some clothes, a soft guitar case, a shovel, a hammer, some screw drivers and chisels, a swiss army knife… and a digital camera. I turned the digital camera in to the police, and a detective called me to say that it contained pictures of people smoking meth. This led him to believe it was not a stolen camera, but rather the thieves’ camera. I’m actually rather hopeful that this will lead to some arrests. It’s not that I’ll get any of my stuff back, but I’d like to see wrongdoers punished, especially when they stole from me! Besides, I always loved stupid crook stories, and it’s hilarious to find myself in the middle of one, in real life. I have never had a better use for the user icon used on this post.

On the other hand, that glee was somewhat offset by the fact that it took 40 minutes for them to take the camera, once I reached the police station. It wasn’t clear what I was waiting for–I just sat there, alone in the lobby. Perhaps there was a good reason a cop couldn’t just, say, come out and take it, but I don’t know that reason.

On the gripping hand, at least the cops were on-the-ball enough to pull me over for driving without plates. And they were also understanding enough to see that I wasn’t a criminal and that my “my car was just stolen and recovered” story was pretty plausible. And now I’ve got new plates, a parking permit, and registration, so I should be driving legally again. (I keep proof of insurance in my wallet, in addition to the car.) I hadn’t realized how nice it is to be able to drive around!

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Grand Theft Auto

No, GTA isn’t just a computer game. Sometimes, someone actually steals your car. Just for the record, that sucks. I guess I’m less inconvenienced by it than some people–it’s an old car, and I don’t need it to get to work. I’m not even sure if I’d replace it. But that doesn’t stop it from sucking. It had hundreds of dollars of extras (new stereo, roof rack, and my hang gliding helmet in the trunk). And, getting to the hang gliding hangar will be noticeably less convenient without a car.

The good news is that the police officer said they have a 90% recovery rate. Apparently a lot of people steal old Hondas, ride them around, and abandon them. It might not still have my stereo, of course, but so it goes. It might be weeks before they find it, but odds are good that they didn’t steal it for parts. I mean, old Hondas aren’t exactly that valuable. So–eh. We’ll see.

The odd news is that I don’t seem to be so distraught about this. It’s mostly entertaining, and it hasn’t been much hassle yet. If I end up buying another car, that will suck–there’s little that’s more hassle than that. But for now, I haven’t suffered much, and it’s actually been kind of exciting.

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Dumb animal, moving vehicle

As I was jogging this morning, I saw a small dog without a leash running around up ahead. I figured its owner was around, but I didn’t see them. As I got close to the dog, it suddenly ran off into the street, its owner yelling after it to stay. Of course, it was at that moment that a minivan came driving down the street. The dog ran right in front of the van, and then ran away from the van–in the same direction the van was going.

The image that I have in my head is this: The owner was yelling, then van’s driver was stopping, but not perhaps as fast as they should have been, and the dog was fleeing from the van. The dog was right in front of the van’s front left wheel, scampering away, and it got maybe 2 inches from being run over–I think it was crouching a bit to avoid the wheel as it ran away. But in the end, the van stopped and the dog barely escaped with its life. It would have been truly crushed had it been caught by the wheel.

But it all ended up okay, and maybe the owner will learn to either (a) train the dog or (b) keep it on a leash. Some people might blame the driver (they should have been going as slowly as molasses in a residential neighborhood!), but they were reasonably slow, and drivers aren’t responsible for psychically intuiting what might run into the street in front of them. I grew up on busy streets, and you simply stay off the road, and keep your pets off the road.

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