Friday Fotos: Moku’aikaua Church and more

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Quaint Kona is home to some beautiful landmarks, one of them being Moku’aikaua Church. The church is the oldest Christian church in the Hawaiian Islands. The congregation was started by Asa and Lucy Goodale Thurston, who arrived in Hawaii after a five-month trip from Boston on the Thaddeus.

Old photos used in this slide show are from Wikimedia Commons and are in the public domain.

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The 12 Scams of Christmas at Authors on the Air

 

On November 19 at 8:00 pm, EST (5:00 pm, PST), I’ll be talking about the 12 Scams of Christmas with Authors on the Air host Pam Stack. This promises to be a fun time and you can even phone in with questions. There are so many scams that really ramp up during the holidays that this is a perfect time to brush up on what’s hot in the scam department this year.

If you can’t make the live broadcast, the session will be available on a podcast. So, get ready. We’ll have 12 snarky tips for you to help avoid the scammers and don’t be surprised if you even hear me mention Jolly Old St. Nick himself. Don’t worry, he’s not the scam!

Get more info at the Authors on the Air website here.

Daughter of the God King—history, mystery, and romance in one package

Daugher of the God KingIt’s the Napoleonic era and Hattie Blackhouse has led an isolated life in the Cornish countryside while her famous parents have spent their time in Egypt excavating ancient tombs. Hattie visits her parents’ townhouse in Paris intent on convincing Robbie, her childhood friend and neighbor, to marry her. Hattie and her companion, Miss Bing, are surprised to learn Robbie is engaged and soon to marry another whom he recently met in Egypt.

Hattie and Miss Bing become worried when several unusual events take place. An intruder gains entrance to the townhouse, Hattie’s reticule is stolen, and Hattie is approached by Monsieur Berry who warns her to trust no one, not even Robbie. When Hattie is told her parents have not been heard from and are presumed dead, she and Miss Bing make secret preparations to escape Paris and travel to Egypt to find the truth.

The journey takes Hattie to Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, where danger seems to lurk everywhere. Soon, familiar faces from Paris are showing up, references are made to her parents’ involvement with Napoleon, and ancient secrets surrounding Seti I are all linked to the mysterious disappearance of her parents. Hattie finds herself irresistibly drawn to Monsieur Berry who has sworn to protect her but who may not be who he says he is.

From the Prussian embassy in Paris, to Cairo, to Egypt and the Valley of the Kings this is a journey that will keep you guessing till the end. There are many interesting characters in this book, perhaps too many. Sometimes, it can be difficult to keep track of who’s who and the motives. In addition to a large cast of characters, there are also many plot twists. The banter between Hattie and Miss Bing is snappy and interesting.

FTC Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by its publisher.

Android vs. iOS: Which Is More Secure?

Businesswoman sending message with smartphone sitting in the officeWith the proliferation of smartphone technology, cybercriminals have retooled their method of attack to target these now ubiquitous platforms. In fact, a recent report by Securelist found 143,211 new malware modifications that target mobile devices in 2013. Therefore, when choosing a smartphone, security should be one of your primary concerns. Here is a comparison of where Android and iOS smartphones stand in terms of security concerns.

Android

  • Malicious adware and malware are two of the greatest risks that Android operating systems must contend with. Malware has been found in apps on both the Google Play store and third-party application stores. According to Symantec, more than 23 percent of apps on Google Play contain “madware,” or malicious adware. These madware apps use aggressive ad libraries. The categories that contain the most madware are typically personalization, libraries and demos, reports Symantec.
  • Android’s worldwide popularity has made it a primary topic for cybercriminals. Android runs on a lot of different hardware platforms, and some manufacturers are better than others in implementing Android’s security measures. Despite these threats, one of the best defenses for Android users is simply to update their smartphone operating system, especially because past versions of the Android operating system have had inconsistent security measures. This means that Android users cannot be passive in waiting for patches and updates, and instead they need to be proactive in updating their software.
  • Despite this, downloading unknown applications riddled with malware will certainly circumvent any security measures you may have in place.

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iOS

Apple circumvents many of the issues Android has regarding inconsistent software. System updates for iOS quickly reach all users across multiple platforms of Apple devices, whether it is an iPhone 6 or an iPad. There are also far less malware applications targeting Apple devices. According to the National Vulnerability Database, there were only 185 confirmed vulnerabilities on iOS in 2010 compared to the 325 on Android.

At a glance, iOS is the less vulnerable of the two systems. However, Apple does not maintain an open-source environment like Android does. This means that one well-crafted iOS virus could sweep across many devices. Apple’s grip over its software is tight whereas Android offers developers the opportunity to develop third-party solutions to these sorts of problems. For casual users, Apple handles everything.

Verdict

Although iOS is a powerful and carefully developed operating system, Android’s open-source status makes it far more adaptable to new threats created by cybercriminals. While there are less active threats to the iOS currently, users are completely reliant on first-party solutions from Apple to any threats that may occur. Apple’s control of its software could be its very downfall when a clever cybercriminal discovers an exploit.

Staying safe on Android requires more input from the user because the software must be updated regularly. Additionally, Android users must be much more wary of unknown applications. If you are savvy and maintain vigilance concerning your antivirus software and system updates, Android is the superior operating system when it comes to security against malware.

Seller, beware—the Craig’s List scam

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One of the things about covering the subject of scams and cons is that everyone has at least one story of how they were almost taken. Immediately after last week’s newsletter, The Snitch, went out, my friend Michael Varma contacted me with this description of how he almost got taken on Craig’s List.

 

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“I recently was a potential victim and happy I didn’t follow through. I don’t recall if you’ve already posted one about Craig’s List scams, but I’ll share an abbreviated story.

“My wife wants to redecorate and decided to discard our one-year old, perfectly fine, nothing wrong with leather couch and love seat. I save the man-cave relaxation tools and post an advertisement on Craig’s List. At least I’ll get some beer and pizza money, right?

“Within three hours of my post, I receive a text from someone willing to buy the couch unseen at my full asking price. Score! The text conversation seemed fair upfront. They’d mail me a check, wait for it to clear, then contact me for pickup. Two days later the check arrived, but it’s for $2,000 more than my selling price. The texter said, just deposit the money and give the excess to the delivery man. What? Shipping costs should be handled by the buyer and not a good deed doer like me.

“I called Texter who answered in a heavily Dominican accent and said, “I’m at work. Can’t talk. Text me.” I was unable to clarify why a delivery from the OC to LA would cost $2,000. Heck, I’d put the couches in my truck and pocket the two grand for myself. Score!

“You’ve obviously guessed it, twas a scam. Check from a reputable bank was fraudulent.”

Luckily, Michael didn’t lose his couch and $2,000, but the lesson is something that anyone trying to sell in a marketplace such as Craig’s List should consider. There’s nothing wrong with using Craig’s List, just beware that scammers prey on unsuspecting sellers regularly in online marketplaces, turning the experience into one of, “Seller, beware.”

Do you have a scam you’ve narrowly avoided? Why not leave a comment to share?

Friday Fotos – Hulihe’e Palace in Kona

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On our recent trip to the Big Island, we had one day to reorient ourselves to downtown Kona. Because I have a scene that takes place near Hulihe’e Palace, we spent some time wandering around and taking photos. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to take a tour, but the outside is stunning.

The palace was built out of lava rock. It’s was the home of Hawaiian royalty off and on for nearly 100 years, but was restored and turned into a museum by the Daughters of Hawai’i in 1927, a group dedicated to preserving the cultural legacy of Hawai’i. In 1973, the palace was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If you’d like to see the inside, check out the palace website at huliheepalace.net.

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Bluffing is Murder is the second Lauren Rousseau puzzler

Bluffing is MurderQuaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau is out for a run along the Ashford, MA sea bluffs when she stumbles across a dead body. The dead man turns out to be Charles Heard, one of the Trustees for an old land trust. He’s also the insurance agent Lauren had a very heated argument with just recently. With no clues as to who killed Charles Heard, the police consider Lauren one of their suspects.

Lauren knows she didn’t kill Charles Heard, but she’s not sure the police will come to that same conclusion, so she begins her own investigation. What she discovers is that Charles Heard and the other Trustees are very unpopular in town because residents believe the land trust is being mismanaged.

When Lauren indulges herself and goes clamming with her karate teacher, she discovers another attack victim. This time, the victim is the caretaker of the home where she used the phone to report the first murder. This victim, however, isn’t dead, but in a coma.

As Lauren digs deeper into the death of Charles Heard, she is nearly hit by a speeding car while she’s on a run. Later, she discovers there may be a link to her own father’s disappearance from more than ten years earlier. With the facts in the case not making sense, Lauren begins to wonder if she’ll solve the case before she becomes the next victim.

“Bluffing is Murder,” the second Lauren Rousseau Mystery, offers insight into the life and customs of a Quaker as well as a traditional murder mystery puzzle. Fans of small-town murder mysteries can add a new location to their lists of most-dangerous towns to live in.

FTC Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by its publisher.

Review of Deadly Ruse, second Mac McClellan Mystery

Deadly ruseMac McClellan is a retired Marine enjoying an uncomplicated lifestyle with girlfriend Kate Bell in the Florida panhandle. While on a date with Mac, Kate sees Wes Harrison, a former boyfriend who’s been dead twelve years. Mac wants to be supportive but is not sure how to help her.

When Kate introduces Mac to long-time family friend, Frank Hightower of Hightower Investigations, Mac receives a proposition to work for Frank while taking courses to earn his PI license. Frank offers to be Mac’s sponsor and pay for his courses in exchange for work on the Harrison case. It doesn’t take Mac long to decide this might be a good deal for him.

As Mac’s investigation delves into Harrison’s background, Kate finds a cache of diamonds among some old items of Harrison’s and suspects that he might be trying to find her. The stakes rise when Kate’s car is tampered with and someone takes a shot at Mac on a dark night in front of his trailer. The trail of clues lead Mac from uncovering diamond smuggling to drug dealers to murder before leading to the Palmetto Royale Casino & Resort. Not realizing that his cover has been blown, Mac books a room at the resort, thus putting his life on the line as he attempts to solve the case before someone else dies.

Deadly Ruse is the second book in the Mac McClellan Mystery series. Characters are believable and very likable. Even the bad guys have complicated pasts, which adds to the interest level in the book and helps to counterbalance the somewhat predictable ending. While a bit slow in parts, the action overall is moves quickly.

FTC Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by its publisher.

Bonnie ZoBell discusses ‘What Happened Here’

Final Cover What Happened Here 1-10-14Sometimes, writers must go in search of events to incorporate into their work. For San Diego author Bonnie ZoBell, however, fate sought her out and shaped her writing. For this interview, ZoBell, who lived in San Diego during the 1978 crash of PSA Flight 182, discussed how that event influenced her life.

ZoBell lived in San Diego’s North Park at the time of the crash. She said, “I was an SDSU student living in an apartment on Texas Street, on the other side of the neighborhood from where the crash occurred. As I left my apartment that Monday morning heavy Santa Ana winds were blowing through the streets. I looked up and was stopped by the huge black plumes of smoke that had taken over the skies. The neighborhood was too dark and smoky for it to just be a house on fire.”

One hundred and forty-four people died in that disaster, including some that had been on the ground. ZoBell said she heard about the crash on the radio. “That part of North Park was cordoned off from people driving by to look. There were even reports of people stealing jewelry off the bodies that lay on the ground. It was all over the news, and most people knew someone who lived in North Park. I now live in a cottage only feet from the crash site, so that influenced my writing of the book, too.”

As a result of that tragedy, ZoBell has incorporated a recurring theme of perseverance into her stories. She said, “You can fight and make your existence what you want it to be without letting the bastards get you. You can’t let your ghosts dictate your whole life.”

In addition to that theme, ZoBell also draws on her feelings for San Diego. “I love San Diego and have lived here most of my life,” she said. “My grandfather was one of the original oceanographers who helped start Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Tourists come here for the beaches and good weather. People leave because of the congestion and conservatism. But San Diego is so much more than all that. It’s full of all kinds of nooks and pockets of beautiful and varied landscapes and kinds of people.”

ZoBell, in fact, is a wealth of information about San Diego. “Wyatt Earp owned an oyster bar downtown in the late 1800s,” she said. “The Spanish priests left mustard seeds behind so they could find their way back from walking Southern California establishing missions. These mustard flowers now thrive and bloom all over. In my childhood we still found arrowheads made out of obsidian. Jewel resided here as a teen and lived out of her car while singing in area coffee shops and making a name for herself.”

ZoBell also said, “My focus on the PSA crash has to do with my love of the history of the place and wanting to understand how that kind of catastrophe affects regular people. I did a lot of research for ‘What Happened Here.’ The interesting thing is that if you look up the crash online, you find some articles and blogs that have hundreds of responses from readers from then and now that are enormously moving and telling about how various people reacted.”

Both ZoBell and her friend Melanie Peters were so moved by the event that they created a mini-documentary, interviewing neighbors about North Park and how they were affected by the crash. That video is available on YouTube and is called North Park Eclectic.

Above all, ZoBell is interested by people. She said, “I find human beings fascinating, their many strengths and flaws, which especially surface during conflict. I want to see what they’ll do under duress, and often even I am surprised. People are so utterly complicated, and as much as I can, I get them into scenes to see what they’ll do in the world, the better to see what we’re really made up of.”

One of the things ZoBell did to research “What Happened Here” was to learn more about San Diego surfers. She said, “Researching hardcore surfers and surf lingo offered a lot more humor. I had no idea! And then my brother and my brother-in-law, both surfers, got into it and really helped out. Who knew that if a newbie makes some horrible faux pas out in those waves and then a seasoned surfer paddles over to him and says, ‘Chicken or beef?’ what he’s saying is, do you want to run away scared or fight each other?”

More information and events

For more information about Bonnie ZoBell, visit her website at bonniezobell.com.

On November 12th at 6:30 pm, ZoBell will read from, discuss and sign “What Happened Here” at the North Park Library, located at 3795 31st Street. There will also be a showing of “North Park Eclectic.”

On November 20th from 5-7 pm, ZoBell will lead the discussion following a showing of “Return to Dwight & Nile: The Crash of PSA Flight 182.” This event will take place in the San Diego Central Library auditorium at 330 Park Blvd., San Diego.

You can fool some of the people all the time

“You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Supposedly, this time-tested quote came from none other than Abraham Lincoln. The truth is, that attribution may not be correct. Honest Abe may never have even said those words. Welcome to the world of “marketing spin.”

Today, it has become increasingly common for product marketers and influencers to spin the facts to something more to their liking. For instance, my post Focus on Vision Scams has been popular because people receive an email touting a product capable of eliminating the need for glasses in just two weeks. Go to the website for the product and you’ll see a slick video along with references from such reputable sources as Dr. Oz, Medical Daily, Vanderbilt University, and WebMD. With personal testimonials galore, industry references, a convincing video, and many other websites promoting the product, all but the most skeptical would wonder how this could possibly not be legitimate.

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Let’s break this down to its most basic parts. First, let’s deal with the most easily controlled elements, the video. I admit, it is very convincing. However, if a prospective customer just saw the video, they might still be skeptical. After all, videos can easily be faked.

So, what about all those testimonials. I’d be surprised if you could ever find the real source of a testimonial. The guy who said his name was “Bobby D. in Toledo” probably lives in LA and works out of his loft spinning marketing stories all day long.

And all those websites promoting the product? Believe me, they’re probably affiliates being paid for each referral or are owned by person behind this little venture.

That leaves us with those industry sources. If you’re really bored, try reading one sometime. You’ll discover the study was either inconclusive or may not even mention the product in question. The problem is, not many people actually read those references. Most see the sheer volume and decide they couldn’t all be bogus.

Let’s just call this combination of elements “spin magic.” By combining detailed industry references, personal testimonials, and affiliate websites touting the benefits of a product, we have instant credibility.

Do you know of other ways scammers spin the truth? Why not leave a comment so others can benefit, too?