It Happened to Me

Breach of Security

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott from Star Trek.

Three months ago: The con artist

Back in August, our house was visited by a con man, and we got rooked.

I was working at home that day, Dan was recently laid off by OpenCola, and our other housemate Paul hadn’t moved in yet. Someone buzzed the front door, and over the intercom he told us that he was our neighbour from a couple of doors down and needed our help.

I answered the door and met a guy named Sean. He looked like a U of T student — in his mid-twenties, black, dressed in sweatshirt and jeans, looking rather distressed.

He explained that his car broke down and he needed money to get it towed before the parking authority towed it away. Here in Toronto, the combination of parking fine and impound fee can set you back $300.

He told us that he’d just moved in from Aurora, where if he were there, he could easily get help since everyone knew their neighbours. Now that he was in stranger in the Big City, he didn’t want to impose on a neighbour he didn’t know, but he was in a bind. He said he’d return in a couple of hours to pay us back.

Dan and I each gave him forty bucks, and he gave us his phone number and even offered to let us hang onto his Mac laptop as a guarantee that he would come back and pay. I felt a little guilty about not getting to know all my neighbours and told him it would be all right — the phone number would be sufficient. After that, he was on his way.

It was only after he left that I got the sinking feeling that we’d been had.

Dan said that he got the feeling too, but he kept mum and watched for me to make my move — when he saw me lend him the money, he did the same.

Sean never came back. Upset that he, an infosec specialist who’s read numerous papers on social engineering, got taken by a street-level con artist, went on at length about how he’d “fucking kill” Sean if he ever dared to show his face in the neighbourhood again.

I know capoeira!” he exclaimed at brunch the next day, spitting out flecks of scrambled egg. “I. Will. End. Him.”

Today: The con artist returns

Today, while I was away at work, Sean showed up at the house again.

This time, Paul answered the door. Paul moved in a month and a half after Sean’s visit, well after the con job had ceased to be a topic of conversation. I’m not sure we’d ever told Paul about him.

Sean explained to Paul that he needed a lift to Bloor and Yonge — something about car trouble. Dan came upstairs to see what was going on, and saw Sean. He explained to Paul that we’d loaned this guy some money and he never paid us back.

The story should’ve ended then and there, but it didn’t.

Paul asked Sean about this, and Sean explained that while he didn’t come back that day, he paid me back a month later when I helped him assemble his waterbed. No such event ever took place, and hey, if I’d been paid back, why wouldn’t I have also gotten Dan’s money back as well?

Paul, having no reason to doubt Sean, accepted Sean’s story and proceeded to give him a lift. Dan, beginning to feel a twinge of doubt went downstairs to phone me. Dan explained the situation, and I was livid.

“Why aren’t you stopping him?” I yelled at my phone, helpless since I was miles away.

“I told Paul, Sean explained that you got the money back when you helped with the waterbed. I’m calling to double-check. Sean didn’t call you, did he? He said he called you and got no answer.”

I got no such call.

“Didn’t you explain to Paul that this man is a lying thief?!”

I asked Dan to run out to the garage and stop Paul from giving Sean a ride in his car. I spent a couple of anxious minutes waiting for Dan to return to the phone.

“Gone,” Dan said when he returned.

I had visions of Paul either getting ripped off or worse, being led to some secluded place Sean’s partners in crime were waiting for him to bring back someone to mug.

I chewed Dan out for a little bit for being so lackadaisical about the whole matter. I think I brought up some point about being a little more participatory in the affairs of running the household, and protecting it — you live here, act like it! Dan apologized over IRC, but I was just too pissed it off and logged out.

When Paul got back home, he called me and told me that he lent Sean 80 dollars.

“You’ll never see that again,” I said.

The two phone numbers Sean left were fakes, and the “house keys from his place two doors down” that he gave to Paul as a good-faith guarantee most decidedly did not open the door of the house two doors down.

When I later talked to Paul, he told me that Dan had given him the impression that Sean was a friend who’d just defaulted on paying back some money we’d lent him. Dan did not make it clear that he was a con man who’d ripped us off once before. After all, if he’d conned Dan out of some money, wouldn’t Dan have been a little more confrontational with Sean? Wouldn’t he have made it very clear that Paul should not be doing him any favours?

I’m generally slow to anger, but right now, I’m seeing red. The cavalier way in which Dan handled Sean’s return, plus his allowing Paul to get into a potentially dangerous situation by giving him a lift is just too much.

I am trying not to blow my stack at Dan. I’ve made more than a few boneheaded moves in my time and know that excessive carping just breeds resentment. But he should have known better. We’ve already been burned once. Dan’s supposed to be an infosec guru — Mr. “Security is not a product, it’s a process.

Yet here he was, dealing with the real-world equivalent of a “script kiddie” whom we’ve met before and whose modus operandi we know. And somehow, he casually let Paul go off and give this guy a ride in his car.

He never once confronted Sean and said “Get out of here before I call the cops,” or even “What happened to the money we gave you?”. He most certainly did not use capoeira and “end” him.

The end result: This house has twice been robbed by this petty thief, all because of inaction and stool-softeningly bad judgement.

What’s done cannot be undone. Hopefully, Dan will be a little more responsible in the future. Collectively, we’ve paid a 160-dollar tuition at the school of hard knocks. I will probably be considerably less angry tomorrow. Maybe it’s best to view this as a learning experience for Paul and a refresher course for Dan.

And somewhere, out there, there’s a guy who may or may not be named Sean having a really good laugh.


Twists and Turns

Today, I was amazed at the sudden change in direction an IRC conversation took. This afternoon, on IRC, my friend George gave us a link from The Register about how AOL UK is dropping their support for Mac OS X and focusing on supporting Windows. At one point in the article, a spokesdroid for AOL UK states that localizing the software — the act of “translating” the software for another country and culture — takes “may months of effort”. I mentioned that if localization was so expensive, they could simply use the American version instead. After all, although both countries spoke different variants of English, the American software would still be comprehensible to British users.

And that’s when Adam went off. Adam often comes off as a complete and total prick who needs a good working over with a two-by-four, but he is a dear friend for whom I would take a bullet nonetheless. Adam’s a walking contradiction — the most belligerent peacenik I know, a genius at human-computer interface who generally holds most humans in at least mild contempt. He’s prone to ranting, and especially on matters of Apple-versus-Microsoft (he’s a Mac zealot, sometimes to the point of irrationality) and war. Combine the two, and you’ve got the recipe for an Excedrin headache.

Somehow the thought of making Brits use software localized for Yanks got him on a tirade about American cultural imperialism. He went on about how the Americans naturally assume that the world should adopt their values and be like them.

Steaky baby (my nickname for Adam), you’re talking about protecting the home of the once-mighty British Empire from cultural imperialism? The people who who brought us the Raj in India, the Opium War, never ever installed an ethnic Chinese as governor during their tenure in Hong Kong, caused trouble even in their own backyard and practically wrote the book on imperialism? I think they can handle a little American spelling.

I was suggesting a way to get British Mac users to still use AOL, not a way to turn the UK into the 51st state! Geez, these Limeys (Adam’s descended from ’em) are so touchy when it comes to Queen and country.

One wonders how these dentally-challenged pasty-faced anorak-wearing lightweightsmanaged to take over so much of the world in the first place.

Editor’s Note: Mr. deVilla wishes to make it clear that Adam should not take the above too seriously. Mr deVilla also suggests Adam avail himself of the many laxatives available at a finer drugstore near him. ASAP.

I blame George

It’s George’s fault. He started it. But I will forgive his little faux pas and visit him in New York City in order to celebrate his birthday with him. And embarass him in public by playing “Happy Birthday” on the accordion for him in a very crowded public place.

May I recommend…

Stuff About Things, a blog about stuff and things by my friend and co-worker, John Henson.

Also of note: pony, a blog by my friend and former co-worker, Adina. She has a keen journalistic sense. You can tell just by the way she noticed the rise in incidence of public farting and dutifully noted it in her blog. Look out, Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein!


A Sizable Update to the Rosetta Stone

I’ve been doing a fair bit of work in C#, so I decided to take advantage of that and start filling in the C# and VB.NET blanks. Since they’re based on the same interpreter (the Common Language Runtime) and class library (.NET framework), it was reasonably easy to work on both. You should be able to see my results in the string functions and math functions sections, and to a lesser degree in the new data types section.

Lots to do this afternoon, so I’ll post more later…


Taking the Day Off

One of the nice policies where I work is that they give you a day off for your birthday. The day off doesn’t have to be on your actual birthday, which means you can use the anniversary of your birth to turn a ho-hum original recipe weekend into an extra-crispy long weekend. That’s exactly what I’m doing today.


While Waiting to Compile


I was looking at my friend Xiuzan’s blog, where she says that according to the Geek Test at, she’s 31% geek. I took the test, and clocked in at 58%! I think that’s a little high for my liking — I’ll leave the extreme hardcore geek stuff to the experts (say, my housemate). For my efforts, I was rewarded with this cute little link button. The button says “I may not be cool or good-looking, but I make mad dough”. I must disagree — I am cool and good-looking, and I don’t make mad dough. Oh well. While doing some random Googling, I found the source of the “geek girl” image from the button — a fake shrine to “Bedzie Skagovichski: Most beautiful girl in all of Poznan University” on a fake personal site relying on immigrant humour. Am theenking I am funny, no?

More ways to procrastinate




I’ve been a little on the busy side for the past few days, so I’m a little behind on my blogging. They’ve been keeping me busy at my place of employment by working on a prototype app, which I’ve decided to write in C# because I need to get a UI up and running in a hurry, and there’s no better way to learn a new language than using it on a real project. I suppose I could’ve gone with VB, a language in which a have a number of years’ experience, but as VB tools guru Daniel Appleman (the guy behind Desaware) puts it in this article, “there are going to be managers and companies stupid enough to pay more for C# programmers, and in those cases VB.NET programmers have a moral obligation to take their money”. Sounds like a good enough reason to me.


Last Sunday, my nephew, Aidan William devilla-Choi was christened, and I was named his Godfather. I spent a good chunk of the day talking with a gravelly-throated Marlon Brando-esque voice. About a half-dozen babies were baptized at the same time, the most notable one being related to a family who lookeas if they’d fallen out of a bad sitcom on the WB. They wore the loudest zoot suits this side of American Pimp, but I have to give ’em mad props for representin’. Sometimes you need to say “fuck whitey” and go for the funk. Note to my sister: yes, I’ll post the pictures soon, in my online family album. Promise.

It’s late and I need to go to bed. More later.


First Post!

This is the very first posting to The Adventures of AccordionGuy in the 21st Century. I won’t report anything right now, other than that this blog is now up and running.