Monday, July 31, 2006

It's meeeeeeeee!

This is me – limping back on stage left – battered, bruised and bloody, but ultimately triumphant!

So who was it I’ve been locked in combat with this last couple of weeks? A Trojan horse name of Haxdoor, that’s who. And how did I get it? Nothing obvious – I thought I was already taking so many precautions, but these things are bloody clever … and then once they’re in, they hide, mutate, disguise, block and generally do all they can to evade detection and repair.

I’ve spent endless precious hours (8+ a day wasn’t unusual) downloading different anti-virus, anti-trojan and anti-spyware software (they’re all different!) and running scans.

Of the dozen or so I ran, only AVG and Panda detected the Trojan, though they were unable to heal or move it.

The others all congratulated me on having a clean pooter! Meanwhile, the scumbag who got me was collecting all my passwords and logon info …

The lessons
• I’ll now delete any emails from anyone I don’t know. That may sound obvious, but I was concerned I might inadvertently delete a genuine attempt to contact me – which was the whole point of having a website and blog …
• I’ll run regular scans with several different systems. Time consuming but the price has to be paid …
• I’ll never again assume the playground is benign and safe. I know it never was, but …
In many ways that loss of innocence is the highest price of all …
Naivete, thy name is Debi …

The heartfelt gratitude bit
I could never have won this battle alone.
So massive thanks to:
• The mighty Ab for email links, support and encouragement
• Big Mac for phone support and suggestions
Minx for daring to stay in touch by email and others of the bloggerati who posted positive vibes
• The AVG forum – especially their advice on how to clean an infected computer. Try it out. You might think you’re safe, but I bet you’ll be in for a shock! Am I scaring you? Sorry, but if it makes you follow the steps they advise, it will be worth it.
SWI forum. This was the biggie. These guys are simply the best. If you ever have a problem, this is the first place to go. Their instructions are clear enough for even the dumbest non-techy (that’s me, folks) to follow. And the specific replies and hand-holding are the ultimate weapon. (Just be sure to read and act on their guidelines before posting.)

If there are cowardly Scum Geeks lurking in the ether, there are an equal number of Good People working tirelessly to stay one step ahead, designing new weapons all the time and, if they don’t work, taking the scum geeks on in one-to-one combat. These people are all volunteers! They give their time, energy and expertise freely and anonymously because they believe in keeping this space safe for us to work and play in.

I/we owe them a huge debt of gratitude! May the goodness these guys put out into the world come back to them a thousand-fold! And may the Scum Geeks likewise reap an appropriate reward for their actions …

So what Real Life have you missed?
• Well, there was First Born’s last days at his primary school (achey breaky heart stuff)
• A weekend on a campsite in Kent (colourful stories about aggressive fellow-campers)
• And then there was my uncle’s 95th birthday party (my 91 yr old dad heckled the speeches)

These and no doubt more would all have been separate posts. But as I said to FB, you can’t go back in this life, only forward, and I’ve already spent too much time glued to pooter.

Sorry I haven’t been able to check all your blogs. I’ve missed you all and now we’ll be going away soon, so time is still very restricted.

But at least Poots and I have had our loving relationship restored …

Monday, July 24, 2006

Normal service may - or may not - be resumed ...

Sorry, folks, but I have a b-i-g problem.

My computer's been attacked by a Trojan horse (no links as I'm dodging popups just to post). I dealt with the generic 2 version last week but now it's mutated into generic 3 and my anti-virus has spotted it but can't heal or move it. I've done the disabling system restore, run 4 different kinds of system checks, downloaded umpteen different anti-viral thingys and spent 4.5 hrs on this so far today. And still the scumbag's in there.

I'm very freaked I'm afraid. (Afraid being the appropriate word.) It's like finding this wonderful new playground with all these new mates and then having it snatched away. It also feels like a real violation - like being attacked in your own home. I'm sorry - I know this sounds melodramatic and that there are far worse things happening in the world but as Bob Marley said, 'Who feels it knows it ...'

Meanwhile, I shouldn't really be online at all. The best secnario seems to be that I have to wipe my computer clean and start all over again. I'm not a techy and I'm utterly overwhelmed. Don't think I can do this alone but can't afford to pay - especially as the scumbag is probably draining my credit card to the max as I type.

I'm really sorry - won't be able to post again 'til this is sorted somehow. Also have problems answering emails and won't be able to check out all your blogs.

This shit has snapped my lifeline ...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Shazza rocks!

I've met Sharon J. And yes, she certainly does rock ... Talk about one cool sister ...

So now that's two 5 star new blogmates who have crossed from virtuality to reality. First there was the wonderful Maxine, now Sharon ... Next stop, Minx?

What an amazing unanticipated bonus on the day MSN Spaces published their Blogging Britain report, showing that 1 in 4 internet users in Britain is doing what you're doing right now ... (though not on this blog!)

MSN hosts 3,000,000 British registered blogs, which in itself represents a mere 25% of total UK blog traffic. (By the way, I didn't see this in the Daily Mail which, you probably won't be surprised to hear, is not my usual paper. Just a quickie to link while I try to deal with yet another Trojan bleeding Horse ...)

Anyway, back to the amazing Sharon. We met in a pub in Greenwich. My boys were really taken with Lise, Sharon's daughter. Which is just as well as it left me and the mightily-cool Sharon to talk ... and talk ... and talk ...

I think given the opportunity, we'd be amazed at the number of things we agree on, but by far the most emphatic is that we hadn't had nearly enough time, having barely scratched the surface ...

Which means that we'll definitely have to meet up again. And again ... And then again ...

Right. We're off to Sandwich in Kent for the weekend to road test the camping equipment prior to the big trek west in August. Storms forecast ... Ho hum ...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Check 'em out ...

It's a Crime has a fun competition to find the worst first line. Come on, guys. Surely between us all we can dredge up some truly crap writing ...

Then go over to the distinctly non-crap John Baker blog and check out this Bush joke ...

For a change of pace, I was wondering what people thought about this post on Susan Hill's blog. I'm obviously one of her 'whingers and moaners' but don't want to say more for fear of being further dismissed ...

Petrona has given us a sample of a day in the life of Maxine that I can really relate to. Except I never found time to so much as glance at the Super Sudoku this weekend. We so need a summer break to get over the build up to ... the summer break ...

Thanks to Roger for this link to the catalogues of all UK libraries. It not only tells you what books are stocked but also how many are out on loan etc. I foresee many more hours of displacement activity just at the point my time is shrinking to infinitesimal proportions. Yeah. Thanks, Rog ...

Sharon and Bill are both grappling with how to deal with the pain of rejection.

Last but not least, I've just found The Outfit - a Chicago-based collective of crime writers with some famous names. Sara Paretsky anyone? Thanks to Sarah Weinman for this link.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Going cheap ...

I just Googled my name (you already know my infinite capacity for displacement activity). And there in the top right hand corner is one of those ads.

It reads Buy Debi Alper with free delivery over £20 at Tesco.

Talk about a bargain ...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Green(er) books?

Remember that debate about e-books and environmental concerns?

With few exceptions, we all expressed our love for Real Life books, but also shared a concern for the environmental consequences of the conventional publishing industry.

Here's an interesting article from the New York Times found on Sarah Weinman's blog about producing 'greener' books.

On the subject of reviews.

My first ever post was a response to a hideous review of Trading Tatiana.

It all came back to me today when reading this post on Murderati. It seems I'm not alone in finding negative reviews devastating. (Though the one I referred to is Queen Negative of Negativia where being positive - or just a bit nice - is a criminal offence.)

Fortunately, there are some wonderful reviewers out there (here) who take their responsibilities seriously, do proper research before drawing conclusions and don't use the review as a vehicle to show how clever they are - by definition SO much cleverer than the author of the book they've just slated ...

Crimeficreader, Maxine et al are two examples ... And I'm not just saying that cos they like my writing!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Boo hoo Yahoo?

The NUJ are advising members to boycott Yahoo as result of them passing info to the Chinese authorities that has resulted in the arrest of journalists and bloggers.

It's outrageous that the blogosphere should be abused in this way. Hands off! This medium belongs to us!

Thanks to Island Monkey for flagging this up.

Age Rage

Right. So do you remember the last post I did about dad? Well since then, he's come on by leaps and bounds - almost literally.

He's an amazing and remarkable man. It's impossible to describe how much I love and admire him. After the major heart attack in Feb and all the ensuing trauma, he's now back to cooking and shopping etc for himself and has even returned to volunteering at the hospital. He's 91, don't forget!

But let's get real and see the whole picture. His short term memory is completely shot and though he deals with this with wonderful humour, we need to take account of the potential problems it could cause. So we've arranged for a carer to pop in twice a day, just to check he's ok and (most importantly) has taken his medication.

Each time I spoke to anyone at the agency or at social services, I told them that without doubt dad, feeling fine, would phone at some point and attempt to cancel the carers' visits. We all (the professionals,the family and of course dad himself) agreed that in the event that he did so, no decisions would be made without contacting me. I knew that dad would have forgotten our agreement but once reminded would be fine with it.

So what happened this week? You guessed it. He phoned. They cancelled. Just like that. The nightmare scenario that I had predicted and done everything I could to prevent, had come to pass.

OK. Many frustrating calls later, Social Services are following it up and trying to put a new package in place. They're pissed off with the agency too, though that doesn't help us of course. The trouble is with all the contracting out that's done and all the under-resourcing. I know that, so it means I don't even get to vent my fury on anyone as I know they're also struggling their end.

I'm just hoping this can be sorted and put in place before we head off in August, when neither myself nor my brother will be around to plug any gaps.

Meanwhile, I had to deal with missing bank and credit card statements, dad having gone inadvertantly overdrawn, triplicated appointments (!), benefit claims etc etc etc ...

And the bloody Council Tax lot had sent 3 contradictory letters. When I phoned it turns out they had him down as having moved out! (I have no idea where they got that idea from.)

I tell you, I'm articulate and efficient, but I was having serious difficulties working through all the complex ramifications of the above. Poor dad just kept saying, 'I have no idea what's going on,' and I had to tell him I felt the same.
What must it be like for elderly people who don't have loving family or friends?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Is this normal?

I'm feeling all wobbly and emotional, having delivered firstborn to his new secondary school for a day of inductions and taster lessons.
It's a huge school - 1200 kids - and he's only little. Well, not physically (he's only an inch shorter than I am and has bigger feet!) but you know what I mean.
It's all new and unfamiliar and there's new rules and new culture and new ways of being and new kids and new teachers and new everything and new and new and new ...
(Getting the picture of what I mean by 'wobbly and emotional' yet...?)

I mean I've done it, right? I took him and he's there now and I've abandoned him (!) and I've bigged him up and I've bigged up the school and I've done all I know how and now I have to back off and let him get on with it.
And, you know what? He was s-o-o cool. Some kids looked nervous, a few looked surly and many looked blank. But firstborn was sitting bolt upright with his huge eyes taking in everything and an eager expression on his face, wearing a t-shirt with 'Bring it on' written on the front.

So he's fine.

What I want to know is, is it normal for me to be sitting here twitching and feeling nauseous and unable to concentrate on anything except the tears pricking behind my eyelids?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Two new reviews blast their way into the blogosphere

Maxine and Crimeficreader have both written really thoughtful reviews of Nirvana Bites on their blogs.
Amazing, isn't it? Without the blogging they would never have heard of me, let alone read my books. Now they've read, enjoyed (so they assure me, though I feel awful about inducing Cfr's nightmare!) and we all move on together.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. The reviews are icing on the cake. Making these connections and mutually supporting each other are the real McCoy.
(Pssst - anyone know who McCoy is? Assuming he's not the crisp man or the one in Star Trek ...)