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Welcome!

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on September 23, 2013 in Personal with Comments closed |

Welcome, traveler. Thank you for visiting. Now take a few minutes to browse, to enjoy and show that you were here with a comment!

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Arrogant Or Misogynistic?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on April 21, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

Some people simply cannot accept that other people are entitled to their own opinion, their own interpretation of things in our modern world, without jumping up and down and trying to belittle them. I had the dubious pleasure, a few days ago, of reading and replying to a few comments here on a post which is just over a year old about terms used to describe people.

Now, I don’t mind being called nice and cute when it is in the right context, but I do draw the line at someone, who does not know the first thing about me, calling me too ignorant to understand. And, as anyone who has a little knowledge of the world will know, calling someone mademoiselle is, certainly as far as the French are concerned, an insult.

Photo Source: TriciaCreative Commons

But as with all trolls and people who try to act big on the Internet, there is nothing there; no real power, understanding or intelligence. Take a step back and reply in a similar – but not insulting – fashion, and they are completely lost. It is as if their limited level of understanding has suffered a whoosh!, and the content of the reply goes over their head. Lost for words, they might try a smart comeback but, in all likelihood, they will just withdraw defeated, especially if you turn their own argument back against them.

Sometimes, when the insults are left out, such a battle of wits can be fun, it can be a challenge. The two – or more – people involved need, however, to be on much the same level for it to work. That clearly isn’t the case here, the strain of finding a smart, relevant reply was clearly too much and, licking his wounds, the attacker withdrew.

The balloon of arrogance burst, or just an example of how a misogynist can be beaten at his own game? Who can tell. Still, if it is the same person, perhaps he can go back to Vimeo and ponder the realities of life with one of his favorite short films (NSFW).

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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The Annual Speed Test

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on April 18, 2015 in News & Opinion |

The third Germany-wide ‘blitz marathon’ provided an extremely high number of motorists with a photograph that they will prize for a long time to come, even though none of them wished for such an image. Across the entire country an army of police officers – over ten thousand according to some reports – manned the speed cameras and positioned themselves in front of schools, on streets where a certain speed limit is set but regularly ignored, and in areas with a high rate of traffic accidents. The number of over-the-limit drivers caught is something of a surprise, since the action was well publicized in advance, right down to the streets which would be covered.

Photo Source: Robert WellerCreative Commons

Following a court action several years ago, it is now allowed for the media to publish exactly where a mobile speed trap is working, and some radio stations have regular updates to warn drivers well in advance. Even so, in Lower Saxony alone over five thousand motorists were caught out, and now have the pleasure of opening their post in the next few days and either forking out a number of bills or, in some cases, forking out the bills, adding points to their record and losing their license for up to three months. From the 184,000 cars checked, 2.8% were driving too fast, a drop in numbers from last year where the total was 3.5%. Of these over ninety have the pleasure of giving up their license.

Does this ‘blitz marathon’ make any real difference, aside from emptying a few bank accounts? The police swear by it, but also note that, after a speed trap has been passed, many drivers speed up once more, the danger, as they see it, now behind them.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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If You Were Born Yesterday…

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on April 16, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

If you were born yesterday, and happen to be running a business, this might interest you. It’s a copy of the mail I received today claiming to come from the very real Maitha General Trading group in Dubai.

Good Day,

This is Ahmose from MGT Group of Companies based in Dubai-UAE,We got your company recommendation from one of your customer, And we will like to place some order, Attached is our P.O for the first order please note quality and delivery time is very essential to us, kindly reply with  following…..

1)Your proforma invoice to enable make payment asp,

2)Your estimated delivery time.

Your early reply will be highly appreciated.
Thanks & Best Regards,

THE MGT Group of Companies

P.O. Box 4191,

Dubai, UAE

Their website has better quality English than this mail – which is one of the first hints that things might not be right – including a very good Whistle Blowers policy! Sadly there is not a list of management included so that I could see if the name used is real.

The second hint that things might not be quite right, aside from the fact that very few companies send an order for goods in such a manner, is that the file attached is a .rar file. Most people are already – I would hope – aware of .zip file problems, which invariably include an .exe command file right at the start. A .rar file is much the same, a compressed document or set of commands which needs to be decompressed and is used to send a mass of data in a smaller package.

Who sends an order for anything with a compressed file? An order would be just a few pages, nothing more than that.

However, if you were born yesterday and open the file, then, as soon as you manage to clean your computer up and get rid of whatever it is they are trying to infect you with – and it is not the MGT Group – then I have a very nice, hardly used bridge you could buy from me for ready cash…

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Hacking WordPress

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on April 15, 2015 in Internet |

One of the big discussion themes at the moment – an ongoing theme, to be honest – is hacking and, in particular, the many attempts to hack into WordPress sites. It has been mentioned often, along with a whole series of resolutions to make a site safer, but still seems to be a theme simply because the hackers are out there, they are trying to get into different websites, and they are having some considerable success. One only needs to take a glance at recent news stories surrounding the hacking of television sites, government domains and similar.

Even here, on this blog, hacking attempts are part and parcel of daily life, from the Brute Force attempts – over twenty thousand so far – through to simply looking what is on a site and what can be broken into. Some sites are secure, some have older versions of software installed – despite constant reminders to update – or plug-ins which are either wanting in security measures, or simply old.

Photo Source: Micah SittigCreative Commons

There isn’t a single day that goes by without me having to empty out my logs and erase the long list of 404 reports listing who has tried to get in, and where they are trying. It makes me nervous although, when I look, I see that none of the software packages, the plug-ins are installed on my site. But it also makes me wonder how many of the packages where attempts have been made here really are secure. A few examples from today:

/wp-content/plugins/revslider/temp/update_extract/revslider/info.php
/wp-content/plugins/wp-symposium/server/php/index.php
/wp-content/uploads/wpallimport/uploads/23aa3e3baa50a6465d3319ced07bb99c/info.php
/wp-content/force-download.php?file=../wp-config.php
/wp-content/plugins/google-mp3-audio-player/direct_download.php?file=../../../wp-config.php
/wp-content/themes/dejavu/lib/scripts/dl-skin.php

 

What I see here is a (short) list of packages and plug-ins which could have programming faults or security problems which could allow a hacker access to the inside of a site, to the working end. As can be seen, it is not just the plug-ins, but also themes and specific actions which have had access attempts made.

What exactly are these attempts useful for? Seeing the list here, and the many others I have not included, gives the impression that someone – or some thing – is taking software packages at random and just trying their luck. I don’t believe this to be the case, though, since there are so many repetitions of theme names, of plug-ins, of files listed. For a site with these applications installed, and a lower level of security, or an outdated version, it is highly likely that a hacker could – and probably will – gain access.

Once they are in and can play around with the working parts of a site – with the code that makes the whole function – almost anything is possible, from inserting malicious code through to hijacking a complete site and using it to send a specific message out to all visitors. It is also possible, in some cases, that a code could be entered which starts sending out spam mails at random to millions of recipients, or forces a virus onto the computer of a visitor.

Inclusion in the list above does not mean that this software package, this application, is insecure, unless it is an older version, an outdated and less secure version where problems have surfaced in the past. What it does mean is that there may well have been problems in the past, exploitable problems. The list is by no means definitive, and it is growing every single day. It’s no wonder that a major software player like Microsoft sends out continual updates – I had an update today, for example which improved the security and general running of over twenty-five thousand different files.

But the updates are only of use when the person behind a domain, the person running it, maintains their site. If the software is out of date, if an older version of a plug-in is in use, a site is vulnerable. There are good reasons why developers update and change their packages so often: no one can see every eventuality; no one can guard against every risk.

Everyone, however, who cares about their work, their website, can update and remain on top of the problem. It’s just a shame that so many people do not.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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A Question Of Security

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on April 9, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

Ever wondered how easy it is to get money transferred from a credit card account to a bank account in Germany? I mean, the type of account which does not have a physical credit card, but where you have to request a transfer from your credit account to your bank account. It is not as easy as some people may imagine, and probably for good reason. A friend of mine rang his credit card company yesterday to perform just such a transaction, and had to search through his memory to answer some of the security questions posed.

Photo Source: frankieleon -> Creative Commons

Normally you’d think the date of birth and address, even the bank account number to which the money is to be sent would suffice. Security has, however, been enhanced in some cases. How many of the following questions can you answer easily, bearing in mind that you have had the account several decades:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Date of Birth
  • Marital status
  • Nationality
  • Marital status at the time of opening the account
  • Employer at the time of opening the account
  • Bank account number
  • Bank number (SWIFT)

Security is to be welcomed, especially when it comes to finances, but isn’t this going a little over the top, especially when you bear in mind that this particular credit card company only allows a transfer to one, already registered, account.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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GoFundMe: A Blast Of Reality

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on April 5, 2015 in Internet |

I may well have gained the wrong impression when I signed up for GoFundMe, the crowdfunding site, the other day. I had thought it was one of those crowdfunding sites where you can create your campaign and get it out there right away. Looks like I was wrong, and I may well consider deleting it completely over the next week or so.

What’s wrong with it? Well, there are things you need to know about the publicity side of GoFundMe which are not immediately obvious, and which are not explained when you sign up. You need to search for these pieces of information, and you need to know that you need to search.

You must have a Facebook profile. If you don’t have a Facebook profile your campaign will not be put into the public search area. No matter what you put in to search, your own campaign will not appear, not even be hinted at. This is explained, in a manner of speaking, when you create your campaign. I limit the level of explanation because it was not clear, as I signed on and created my campaign, that this was the case. There was merely the repeated hint that you can raise far more money, more donations, if you use Facebook to publicize. Of course, this is a no-brainer for anyone who has Facebook, they are going to link their campaign there no matter what.

Crowdfunding

Photo Source: Platform 4Creative Commons

However, it goes a stage further, and this is something you need to search for: linking to Facebook does not automatically bring your campaign into the public area. It can still not be searched for. You need to have a Tag – a subject area such as Medical, Business, Charity – which can only be put in to your campaign by a member of GoFundMe’s staff. So, someone reviews the campaign; not a bad thing. However, it goes another level deeper: you can only get a Tag when you are linked to Facebook and have at least ten friends there. And we’re still not through: you also have to have raised your first five hundred; and that means family and friends who you will no doubt already have tapped for cash and help. And, of course, it means a good profit guaranteed for GoFundMe, who take five percent of donations. Offline donations, in this case, do not count.

So, in order to go public on GoFundMe you need to link to an active Facebook profile with at least ten friends and raise your first five hundred. Information which is not given out to you at the start of your journey into crowdfunding with this site. Had it been I would not have even clicked further on GoFundMe. The world doesn’t revolve around Facebook, no matter how much of the Internet it has taken over, and the idea of hitting on family and friends just to get into the public sphere, which is something most people will already have done anyway, strikes me as being well below the belt. A big thumbs down to GoFundMe and their hidden conditions.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Publishing: And The Bad News Is…

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on April 3, 2015 in Publishing |

I thought everything was going so well and, to a certain extent it was and is. My publishing plans are still on target, nothing has changed there; we have new titles in preparation for this year; the accounts for 2013 have been cleared and approved. But every silver lining has a cloud, and my tax accountant told me exactly what this dark cloud speeding over the horizon is. I have to register my company in Germany too. That is, not a complete registration, but a partial registration as the main office is here and I need to be on the German Business Register. The tax authorities expect it and I cannot avoid it.

What does that mean? It means going to a Notary and having an official application written, sent off to a court and approved, and then receiving an official number as a registered business. Despite the fact that we are registered officially in London. It’s much the same as the requirement, since the office is in Germany, to be a member of the Industrie und Handelskammer, which is a sort of official association written into the laws of the land every business has to belong to.

What else does that mean? Aside from having to pay my accountant, which was a given anyway, I have to pay a Notary and the court for my registration. Costs that I had thought we would not have, being registered in England. We do, however, pay our taxes here in Germany and, of course, operate from a German address. That’s what makes the difference.

The cost of registration came as something of a shock to me. It’s not just a case of filling out a form and sending it off, it must be done by a Notary and it must have all the stamps and seals of an officially approved person on it.

So I am back at that stage I didn’t want to see again: having to see whether I can raise the necessary funds to make me legal here, even though I had thought we’d covered all that.

Crowdfunding has not been a massive success for me in the past, and I have few expectations this time. I can probably raise the bulk of the finances myself – I have until August at the latest, ready for the September deadline for my 2014 accounts – but the chances of my succeeding alone are small. We’ve already looked through all the possibilities, counted our pennies, checked out the little pink piggy bank gathering dust in the corner. It doesn’t look good. The money we’ve made with the publishing business so far needs to be reinvested in the business, otherwise I can’t pay my authors or buy new materials.

Perhaps it will work out this time. Perhaps I will have to crawl into the bank manager’s office and beg. Who knows. But I want to keep this small press going, and it has a good future as far as I am concerned, so we’re back with crowdfunding.

Here’s hoping…

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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New Books: The Art Of Satire?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on April 2, 2015 in Publishing |

Whilst it may be reasonably quiet on the Internet front it certainly isn’t so behind the scenes, and this is one of those times when I am relieved to be working with other people to keep my small publishing venture alive and kicking. My co-director has laid a new proposition – in the form of two new titles – before me for consideration and, I must admit, the idea appeals to me. We have, it would appear, a new writer to add to our list – admittedly a very short list at the moment, but we are still a very young company – with a few very interesting ideas.

Literature is one of the subject areas I always intended to cover with my publishing plans, although my thoughts were more along the lines of new literature, new and unpublished works. However, we also have literary criticism and literary theory on the list, and the proposition is to combine this, in a manner of speaking, with a small series of works highlighting some of the perhaps lesser known, perhaps well-known – in some circles – writers and their forgotten works. The names, of course, are likely to be familiar, but the works themselves?

Pen

Photo Source: Alan LevineCreative Commons

The first which has been presented, which is nearing completion, is on Jonathan Swift whose name, I am sure this is the first thing which comes into most minds, is forever linked with Gulliver’s Travels. The fact that he wrote many other works, including poetry, tends to be pushed into the realms of the unknown, simply because of the fame of this one title. He was, I have discovered, a very controversial writer of satire, which earned him a bad name in some circles, but of such a quality that many of the satire writers of today – and certainly those who also fit in with his publishing actions almost as if he were a modern-day troll – could take a leaf out of his book and learn.

The second work is not yet at a stage where I can mention it, aside from saying that the two writers involved are very well-known, but lived and worked many years apart.

Hopefully we will have the first drafts ready in the coming fortnight, but I’ll let you know as soon as there is anything new so that, eager as you all are, you can prepare your orders for this new title, and add to the breadth and depth of your wonderful libraries!

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Selfies: The Camera Is Dead, Long Live…

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on March 30, 2015 in Photography |

In theory everyone who takes a self-shot, a selfie, uses a smart phone. That is what the manufacturers want us to believe, and that is what we mostly see out on the streets, in front of tourist sites and near to major catastrophes, fires and traffic accidents. The figures show that camera sales are dropping, whilst smart phone sales continue to rise, but figures can be misleading.

Camera Self-Shot, Selfie

Photo Source: Unknown, via Tumblr

I suspect that the real reason so many smart phone companies are showing an increase in sales has more to do with their aggressive marketing, the number of new models which come onto the market and, in some cases, the fact that some phones tend to die one or two days after their guarantee runs out. Cameras, on the other hand, are a thing for life.

Read more…

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The Downside Of Dreaming

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on March 29, 2015 in Immoral Conversations |

There are some dreams you simply do not want to remember when waking up, some dreams which make you break out in a sweat, leave you exhausted and confused. As a child I often had nightmares, fragments of which remained – and remain – in my memory. As an adult I have almost no bad dreams, perhaps because there seems to be nothing going wrong in my life, perhaps because everything my brain wishes to work through in the still hours of the night is positive. So my nightmare last night came not only as a surprise, but as a form of wake-up call: something isn’t quite right and my brain, if not my waking self, knows it is there.

Photo Source: Emko BosCreative Commons

Thinking about the few images which remain, whether I wish to or not, I have come to a simple conclusion: it’s not exactly a nightmare, more of a warning. There is a certain amount of pressure, of stress in my life at the moment. Not in my personal life, but in the number of things that I have to do, that I wish to do, that I am doing. I am simply open on too many fronts.

Cutting down on the number of blog posts I create here relieved some of the stress that I was feeling a few months ago, even if it meant cutting down on something which gives me real pleasure. For a while that seems to have worked, but it is clearly not enough. Trying to combine all the things I wish to do – writing, publishing, blog, photography, private life – with the things that I have to do – college, tax returns, housework(!) – seems to be something of an overload for the system. What I need, I decided this morning over my first cup of coffee, is more order and less hectic. A plan for the day with a list of priorities and a list of desires. Top of the list is college, of course, closely followed by the tax returns. The college work is an ongoing matter, the tax returns just once a year – although I do have an accountant, I need to complete the books! – so the tax returns have been my thing for this weekend.

Perhaps one of the small advantages of the Easter break: time. And the downside of a bad dream doesn’t have to be a downside at all, if you remember and consider what you have dreamed. It can be a positive aspect: there is something not quite right; do something about it!

Even so, I’ll be more than content if this, or any other, nightmare wings its way elsewhere and I can get back to normal, peaceful, refreshing dreams.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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