Sunday, October 31, 2010

Two Excellent CCSVI Interviews

LIJV stenosis 01Click here for Dr. David Hubbard, Neurologist, San Diego, CA

Click here for Dr. Torre Andrews, Interventional Radiologist, Seattle, WA

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Was Interviewed by HealthCentral.com

The interviewer, Lisa Emrich, maintains the blogs Carnival of MS Bloggers and Brass and Ivory.  To read the interview click here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall in Maine

Here is a photo montage I threw together.  Enjoy. 

Fall in Maine 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Some Things I Miss (and a Few Things I Don’t)

Little Boy Pee
(Photo credit: nepolon)
Some Things I Miss

1. Standing up to pee
You ladies may not appreciate this, but the ability to stand up and pee five to ten times a day (depending on beer consumption rate), without dropping your pants and with at least a fair chance of hitting your target, is perhaps the greatest single advantage of being a man. If you can’t stand up, then you can’t stand up and pee. I miss that (ironically, I no longer miss though).
2. Going under the radar
It may be difficult to believe that somebody who chooses to balance on two wheels at the supermarket gives a damn about blending in. It's not that I always want to blend in, or even that I often want to blend in. It's just that I’d like to be able to go under the radar once in a while. When you're in a wheelchair, be it a traditional wheelchair or especially an iBot, you always stick out like a sore thumb. Celebrities also suffer from this dilemma. But they can work around it with a hat and a pair of sunglasses. I tried it. Doesn’t work.
3. Typing
untitled Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a wonderful program. It allows me to put words to a page and navigate around my computer hands-free. However, I really miss typing, for a few reasons. First, our house has an open layout. Therefore, when I'm dictating to my computer everybody within earshot knows what I'm saying. I like my privacy during the writing process. Also, I don't know how many times I’ve started talking to the computer and my wife or kids have responded, "What?" Second, I had a pretty decent respiratory cold last week and didn't feel like speaking to anyone, let alone my computer. Third, Dragon is only about 95% accurate. Sounds pretty good, right? Keep in mind that a typical blog post is about 1000 words. That means I have to find and repair about 50 errors in each post.
Although Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a wonderful thing, it’s just not the same as typing.
4. Breaking a sweat
I can't remember the last time I broke a sweat. It's impossible for me to move my muscles enough to cause my core temperature to rise enough to require my body to cool itself through sweating. Also, it's uncomfortable for me to be in an environment where the ambient temperature is high enough to cause my body to sweat (without exercise). It’s not that I actually miss sweating. It’s that I miss getting exercise and spending time in the heat.
5. Having a career
I was not a workaholic, and I'd be lying if I said I loved going to work each day, but having a career was at times fulfilling. I always played an important role in the companies I worked for, and people seemed to want me on their teams. I miss the feeling of usefulness that came with my career. And the money. I miss the money too.
6. Being away from Kim
LONDON - JUNE 10:  (UK TABLOID  Actress Heathe...Don't misunderstand. If you've been reading this blog you know that I love my wife dearly, and that even before my disability we spent most of our free time together. However, there were certain activities that I enjoyed which required that I be away from my wife. Some of these activities, such as going away with the guys for a hunting or sports weekend, are not practical for me anymore. I need Kim’s help just to get through the day now. Similarly, Kim used to get away for professional conferences and the occasional ladies weekend. She can still do that if we make certain arrangements, but it's definitely not as easy as it used to be.
7. Playing sports and games
When I was diagnosed at age 38, I wasn’t playing in any men’s sport’s leagues. But I was active. I could shoot a little hoops, play catch, ping pong, bean bags, billiards, Wii, foosball, etc. I was competitive, and won my share of contests. Online cribbage and Pigskin Pickem’ just don’t satisfy my need for play and competition.
A Few Things I Don’t Miss

1. Golf
MS gets the credit for finally making me a quit a game that cost me too much money, caused me to spend too much time away from my family, and left me miserable more often than not. (Don’t send me links to handicapped golfing websites.)
2. Dancing
I always hated dancing. Now I can’t. Ha ha. (Don’t send me ideas for ways that I can dance in my iBot.)
3. Swimming
I could swim enough to keep from drowning, but it’s an activity I never enjoyed. We had swimming pools in two of our houses, and they were wonderful for the kids. I may have jumped in 5 or 6 times per year. I never found that the discomfort of having water get in my eyes and up my nose, or the initial temperature shock, were enough to warrant the meager benefits. I don’t miss swimming. (Don’t send me links to handicapped swimming sites.)
4. The bullshit part of my career
Pointy-Haired BossAs I mentioned above, having a career was a partially rewarding experience, which I partially miss. However, I cannot count the times that I had to deal with absolute bullshit at work. The problem was not tyrannical bosses. Most of them were excellent mentors and all-around good eggs. But that didn't stop them from asking me to do stupid things, for stupid reasons. More often than not this was the result of upper management feeling the pressure to meet month-end, quarter-end, year-end, or even minute-end goals. Satisfying this urge usually required the temporary (and legal) suspension of good business practices. Instead, we adopted poor business practices that would arbitrarily divert revenue away from the next business period, and place it in the current business period, even if this maneuver did not make customers happier or improve the long term health of the company. By playing this game, we set ourselves up to begin each business period already in the hole. Guess how we’d get out of it. That’s right. Near the end of the business period we’d again suspend good business practices so as to steal from the next period. Once you start playing this game it becomes self-perpetuating, an endless loop of jumping through hoops. Fulfilling? Not to me.
Other times I had to deal with bullshit from unreasonable customers, unreliable suppliers, or unnecessary labor unions. Throughout my career, the bullshit factor was often high enough to leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. As a result, my jobs were just jobs, not passions. If I had it to do over again, my primary criteria for deciding upon a career path would be to minimize the bullshit, knowing that I could never completely eliminate it. (Don’t send me links on how to overcome my disability and reintegrate into the workforce.)
Things I Expect to Miss a Year from Now

1. Driving

2. Cutting my own steak at dinner (note from future Mitch: true as of 11/15/10)

3. Getting in and out of bed unassisted
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Evil is Lurking Out There- the Rest of the Story

IMG_2213Post Script: This cyber criminal is now using the name Kimberly Locke.  

In my previous post I told the story of how a cybercriminal posed as a handicapped person in an attempt to either steal money from me or commit identity theft, or both, while I was trying to sell the used wheelchair depicted on the right. Now I have the rest of the story.

The last email I told you about was this one:
Image representing PayPal as depicted in Crunc...Dear Mitchell Sturgeon,
My name is Richard Wilson. I'm a PayPal representative in charge of your transaction with Tracy Grubbs.
Kindly reply to this message if you have any question regarding this transaction and I will be happy to help you.
We thank you for being an asset to PayPal and we hope to serve you better in the nearest future.
Sincerely,
Scott Thompson
President
PayPal Inc.
Soon after I received this email:
Image representing PayPal as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
Dear Mitchell Sturgeon,
You have an Instant Payment of $2,230.00 USD from Tracy Grubbs (quitmincy001@gmail.com).
Payment Details
Purchased From:Mitchell Sturgeon
Transaction ID:8S380593UR606674N
Item #Item TitleQuantityPriceSubtotal
Not Available
Power Wheelchair- Invacare
1$1,730.00USD  $1,730.00USD

Shipping & Handling via World Wide Speed Post to 03276
(includes any seller handling fees)$500.00USD
Shipping Insurance (not offered):--
Sales Tax :$00.00 USD

Total:$2,230.00USD
Additional note:
I have made the payment, so I have forwarded your details to the Shipping Company who will pick up the item, please send the pick up cost to them as we discussed and arrange with them  the pick up date and time. Thanks.
Shipping Information

Address:Tracy Grubbs
20 Dearborn Rd. Apt. 1.
Northfield,
NH
03276.
USA

Shipping Method:The item will be picked up from the seller's Location by World Wide Speed Post Agent.
Address Status:Confirmed
If you have any question regarding the pick up, please contact the Delivery Company speeddelivery@deliveryman.com or your buyer.
Thank you for using PayPal!
The PayPal Team.
PayPal Email ID PP1268.
And then this one:

email_newUser_hdrtxt_600w161h
PayPal Safety Measures Against Online Fraud!
Dear Mitchell Sturgeon,
We have received an order from one of our customer to make an instant payment of $2,230.00USD to your PayPal account. The payment has been made successfully and the money has been credited to your PayPal account but you will not have access to it. However, since this money is meant for a purchase or a service that involve a Shipping Company.We have to receive a confirmation that you have sent the pick up cost to World Wide Speed Post before the money will be available for spending. This is due to the large increase in the rate of the online scams recorded last year (2009). We have changed some of our rules and regulation to make sure our clients, are safe from scam, PayPal in conjunction with The FBI and The IFCC has invented certain preventive measure to ensure the safety of our customers.

Such measure are:
1. Once a payment is made,A confirmation Email will be sent to the seller that the payment has been made to state the transaction details which has been sent to you. Also a confirmation is sent to the buyer that the money has been deducted from his or her account. So once you get this mail,You should take necessary action and get back to us with the confirmation that you have sent the pick up cost to the shipping company. Once we have confirmed the information provided with the shipping company, the money will be available instantly.
2. Once a payment is made and it has been approved by PayPal, such transaction is Sealed (because both seller and buyer must have come to a conclusion before payment is made by the buyer) so therefore neither the buyer or seller can cancel this transaction or ask for the returned to the buyer's account. Also, this is where we generate our income, because the more transaction made through PayPal, the more we generate our Income.
3. Failure to abide by these laid down safety measures by PayPal may leads to suspension from PayPal and further more invitation to an interrogation with the F.B.I
So can you see we are very considerate about the safety of both buyer and seller.
Note: that the pick up cost has been included in the payment.
Thank you for using PayPal
Isn’t it ironic that the cybercriminals were using fear of fraud as a tool to attempt to commit fraud.  So if you see these types of sham PayPal emails, know that they are fraud.

I also, supposedly, received direct emails from Tracy, like this one:
Hi,
I wondered why I have not heard from you regarding the pick up cost. I will like you to update me if you have sent the pick up cost to the shipping company and schedule pick up date and time? and if you have not I need to understand what is still delaying you. Get back to me ASAP. Thanks.
I was tempted to respond with either a scathing email, trying to shame them, or some email that would string them along just for fun.  However, I decided instead to just ignore their emails…they'll figure it out soon enough.

The good news is that today I sold the wheelchair to a live human being who was clearly disabled and will make great use of the chair.  She paid in cash.  End of story.

Be careful out there.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Evil is Lurking Out There

Most Evil
Image via Wikipedia
Post Script: This cyber criminal is now using the name Kimberly Locke. 

I’m predisposed to consider Life to be a wonderful thing. I can’t defend this perspective with a rational argument. It’s just how I’m wired, and I’m grateful for it. I suppose the alternative type of wiring would be depressing. It's so easy to worry all day, every day, about overpopulation, pollution, global warming, and the general decline of civility. If ignorance is bliss, then my inclination to see the good in the world must be evidence of my naïveté. I'm okay with that.

But there are definitely pockets of Evil all around us. I tend not to spend too much of each day thinking about terrorists and maniacal dictators and child molesters, but I know they are out there. And in the past few days I came to face to face, in a cyberspace/virtual manner, with true Evil.

I recently determined that I needed a backup power wheelchair- to supplement my iBot. Long story short- I bought a used one, but soon realized that it was actually too small for me. So I put it up for sale at craigslist.org (and a couple of other places).

A few of days ago I received an email inquiry about the wheelchair:
Hi,
I'm interested in buying this item, and I'd like to know if its still available for sale?can you give me more details about it?like how long you have been using it? Did you bought it new?(are you the first owner, did you get it from someone trustworthy) Is it still in good working condition? Not trying to be rude here, but there are tons of crappy items out there and don't want to be stuck with something in bad condition. Can you provide me more pictures of it? Finally what's your last price? Get back ASAP.
Thankx.
Tracy
Three things stood out to me about this e-mail. First, my advertisement included four photos of the wheelchair from various angles. How many more photos did this person need? Second, I felt like saying "You don't get to ask me what my best price is. Make me an offer and see how I respond. That's how a negotiation works." But I didn’t. Third, the typing/spelling and grammar was terrible, but not completely unusual for this type of communication. Here was my response:
Tracy,
Yes, I still have the chair.
I bought it a couple of weeks ago, not knowing that the seat was too small for me. It's like I went to the store and bought a pair of pants without trying them on :-)
The guy I bought it from said that his mother had passed away recently, and had used the chair for only 5 - 10 hours. It looks to be in great shape, and operates well, so I have no reason to doubt him.
I live in Scarborough. Where are you located?
I asked $1625 with the intention for taking an offer of $1500. Let me know if you'd like to see it. Attached is one more picture.
Mitch
So far, so good. The next day I received this response from “Tracy”:
Hi,
Thank you very much for the details. So Sad im buying this for myself(im an handicapped and I need this to make my life more better again), for this reason, I will not be able to come and see it, but I will take your word that its in good condition. Just to let you know that you will not be responsible for shipping and handling. I have made an arrangement with a shipping company who will come to your location for pick up. Kindly provide me your full address, so i can forward it to the shipping company to calculate the cost of pick up for me. Please get back to me as soon as possible.
Notice that she didn’t answer my question about where she lived. I was starting to smell a rat, so I asked Kim, via email, if my concerns were justified:

Kim,
What could be wrong with this? What are the risks of me giving my address?

And Kim replied:
Gretchen just searched your name in Scarborough online, and got our home address and home phone number. No risk in you giving it out now :-)
When we put Tracy Grubbs into the search, the closest one out of the 16 listed was in South Carolina.
I would make sure we have all $$ up front prior to letting the wheelchair go.... maybe she could use PayPal instead of a check???
This made sense to me. Proceed with caution, but continue to proceed…I emailed her my home address. Then I received this email from “Tracy:”
THank you so much. I have forwarded the address to the shipping company so they can calculate the pick up and delivery cost for me to make the payment. I'm sure they will contact you soon. I would like you to know that the payment will be made via PayPal, All you have to send me is your paypal email address so I can make the payment immediately. Also I will be including the pick up cost with the total payment so you will help me send it to the shipping company via Western union money transfer as soon as you receive the payment from paypal. I would have done it myself but I'm an handicapable, i cant walk and thats why i need this to make my life more easier again, I will appreciate your help here.
Please note that I will include additional $80 for the western union charges to send the pick up money to the shipping company.
Now things were definitely getting weird, and I began to assume this was probably fraud, but decided to proceed with care, so as not to miss out on a potential, although unlikely, sale. I was confident that I could not be scammed. That was a mistake. I replied:
Tracy,
I'm glad you are moving forward with the purchase. My PayPal email address is the one we're using right now.
I'm not clear on this shipping situation. Why can't I just hand a check to the company when they come to pick up the unit? Or why can't I pay via credit card or PayPal? I've never used Western Union.
Mitch
Her response, which did not answer my shipping questions, was:
Hi Mitchell,
I have made the payment now as promised. You will be receiving the payment confirmation message from paypal regarding the payment. The shipping company wants $500 for pick up and delivery. So I made a total payment of $2,230. $1650 for the Chair, $500 for the shipping company, and $80 for whatever Western Union will be charging you to send the money to them. Please let me knw as soon as you send them the money ASAP. thank you.
Hmmm. I read this email on my cell phone, and needed to wait until I got home to see if the money was really in my PayPal account. I was doubtful. Then, almost immediately after Tracy’s email, I received an official looking email, complete with PayPal logo, which read:
Image representing PayPal as depicted in Crunc...Dear Mitchell Sturgeon,
My name is Richard Wilson. I'm a PayPal representative in charge of your transaction with Tracy Grubbs.
Kindly reply to this message if you have any question regarding this transaction and I will be happy to help you.
We thank you for being an asset to PayPal and we hope to serve you better in the nearest future.
Sincerely,
Scott Thompson
President
PayPal Inc.

Now this is where the cybercriminals really got sloppy. He told me in his opening sentence that his name was “Richard Wilson,” but signed the e-mail “Scott Thompson.” And I really didn't think the president of PayPal would be concerned about my little transaction. I became quite certain that when I got home, there would be no $2,230 deposit in my PayPal account, and indeed there was not.

I found a PayPal email address to report fraud, sent off copies of these emails, and received this response from the real PayPal:
Hello Mitchell Sturgeon,
Thanks for forwarding that suspicious-looking email. You're right – it was a phishing attempt, and we're working on stopping the fraud. By reporting the problem, you've made a difference!
Identity thieves try to trick you into revealing your password or other personal information through phishing emails and fake websites.
To learn more about online safety, click "Security Center" on any PayPal webpage.
Every email counts. When you forward suspicious-looking emails to spoof@paypal.com, you help keep yourself and others safe from identity theft.
Your account security is very important to us, so we appreciate your extra effort.
Thanks,
PayPal
It's been about 48 hours since I last heard from the cybercriminals. I expect that since I did not respond to the official-looking PayPal e-mail, complaining about my lack of payment, they are done with me. They didn't get any money from me, but in retrospect, I’m not sure that was their only objective. They got my mailing address, which as Kim stated is public knowledge. They got my PayPal e-mail address, which shouldn't allow them to do anything. Nevertheless, if their job is to build an identity-theft portfolio for me, they just put together a couple pieces of the puzzle. I thought that I only needed to be careful enough to not lose money or my wheelchair on this transaction, but that may not have been the game. It may have been an identity theft game instead.

It's easy to see in hindsight that I should not have provided any of this information, but it was less obvious to see in real time. These identity thieves tend to work on the more expensive products advertised at places like craigslist, because they know they can string us along longer due to the potential of a significant sale.

Let’s review the red flags. No single red flag necessarily should have indicated to me that this was a fraud, but the combination certainly should have:
  1. Poor spelling and grammar- points to potential offshore criminals.
  2. No indication of the buyer’s location or address.
  3. Buyer asking to proceed ASAP.
  4. Buyer indicating that she will take care of shipping and asking for my shipping address.
  5. Buyer telling me that they will use PayPal, instead of asking me if that is the preferred method of payment.
  6. Buyer mentioning the use of Western Union.
  7. Shipping cost being a nice round number of $500.
  8. Buyer avoiding answering any of my questions.
  9. Poorly written letter from PayPal, with name change from opening to closing, and trying to get me to think that the president of PayPal was writing to me directly.
I proceeded as far as I did with these people due to my supreme confidence that I could not be scammed. But they are pros. We may have been playing different games. I was confident the wheelchair would not leave my possession without cash in my hand. In retrospect, I should've stopped this as soon as I smelled any kind of foul odor.

As a result of my folly, I decided to sign up for an identity protection service at about $15 per month. I certainly didn't need this expense, but it may be money well spent. I also changed my PayPal email and login information. I won’t be changing my home mailing address though :-).

It’s one thing to pull a scam, but to pretend to be a handicapped person, and try to steal from a wheelchair user? That is beyond reproach. How do these people sleep at night? They must be a different sort of person than you or I.

I'm so disgusted by this experience that I'm almost… angry, but not quite. My internal wiring overrides that urge. It was a learning experience for me, and I simply want to share it with you.

I’m not going to let this episode change my outlook on life. That would be a victory of sorts for the criminals. I still think the world is a wonderful place, even if that means I’m ignorant or naive.

Oh, does anyone want a nice wheelchair for $1,500? Heck, I’ll take $1,200 now. It reclines!

IMG_2212
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