Scams, computers, idiots with medical degrees

Yesterday I got a notice from what appeared to be a magazine subscription service. It told me that I needed to renew my subscription to, oh, let’s call it Interesting Dead People Magazine. It looked exactly like the sort of thing you might get from a magazine you subscribe to.

Except it wasn’t. I recognized it as a scam that I’ve seen before. You see, a lot of small magazines have really crappy security, and even if they don’t sell their subscription lists, it isn’t difficult for crooks to get their hands on them. The crooks then get themselves a post office box somewhere and mail off notices like the one I got. After they’ve raked in enough cash and harvested enough credit card numbers, they fold their tents and move somewhere else before the doing-the-breast-stroke-in-cold-molasses authorities can catch up with them.

All legitimate magazines have their addresses and other contact magazine somewhere inside. They will also NEVER contact you to “verify your credit card information.” This should help you tell the genuine venders from the varmints.

I went to the web page of IDPM magazine, dug around a bit, and found that they were aware of the particular band of thieves I had encountered. However, their warning about the bogus addresses did not include the place I was told to send all my worldly goods plus postage and handling.

I emailed customer service at the magazine. I promptly got an email telling me that my email had been received and they would get back to me. An automated response like that didn’t surprise me, but I thought a real person would eventually write back.

This morning I got another email from the magazine. It told me that it would take me up to six weeks to receive my first issue.

It’s obvious that some computer scanned my email, hit the word “subscription,” and generated a canned response.

Customer service flunked the Turing Test. The Turing Test? Ah, now that is a story.

Alan Turing was a brilliant, eccentric, British mathematician. He is one of several people who have a claim to being the inventor of the computer. (Just to name a couple of others, Turing re-invented ideas that Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace had kicked around a century earlier. Their work had been forgotten by the time Turing came along.)

Turing argued that if a computer could interact with a human and the human couldn’t distinguish between the machine’s behavior and a human’s, then for all practical purposes the computer was sentient. Behave like a person, you must be a person.

Turing also gets the lion’s share of the credit for breaking the German Enigma code. This gave Winston Churchill the ability to read Hitler’s fan mail and may very well have prevented Britain from becoming a German-speaking colony of the Third Reich.

Turing got no public credit whatsoever for keeping goose-stepping thugs from marching through Buckingham Palace and making everybody wear lederhosen.

A few years after the war, he was arrested for being a homosexual. Psychiatry had just gotten a shiny new toy to cure homosexuality: hormones. They thought they could cure male homosexuals by putting them through female puberty. I have failed to understand their reasoning. (In that era, psychiatrists also routinely recommended  lobotomizing women unhappy about the prospect of spending the rest of their lives trapped at home in an apron. I am sure there is nothing at all to the slander that psychiatrists are drawn from the very rock bottom of medical school classes.)

To stay out of jail, Turing was forced to take massive amounts of estrogen. Before long, he had prominent breasts, and the shape of his body changed. He bore what he regarded as a profound humiliation as long as he could. Finally, he soaked an apple in cyanide and ate it.

The clowns who did that to Turing failed the Turing Test to detect humanity,


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