Fishing in the wrong pond.

Empty Fishbowl
No fish caught today….


Many of you know that I’ve been involved with a local con-running group for a very long time. For a number of years I’ve been the treasurer. So it isn’t uncommon for me to get emails talking about money and payments and whatnot. I got one today, ostensibly from the current President of the organization. It appeared to be from his personal email address to my personal email address.  But immediately I knew this was a fishing attempt! A good one, and a fun one too!

Here’s the text from the email.

Hi Chad,

Can we get a wire transfer sent out today? I’m expecting to receive the account information for an outgoing wire transfer shortly and I’ll need you to see to it that the payment goes out today. Kindly get back to me as soon as possible to let me know when to forward the wire instruction to you.

Best Regards,

Okay. First of all, we never wire transfer anything. Who does that these days? I think I’ve done one of these once in my life, when transferring the down payment on the house. So anything with a casual wire transfer strikes me as…. fishy. Or, more accurately, fishing. Second, the purported sender doesn’t ever sound like this. ‘Kindly’ and ‘Best Regards’ are not his usual vernacular. (Not that he isn’t a nice guy, he really is!) And isn’t the phrase ‘get back to me as soon as possible to let me know when to forward the wire instruction to you’ unusually awkward?

Anyhow, I take a peek at the headers. Definitely not from this person. From what looks to be an unsecured personal mail server that allowed for the forgery and doesn’t respect SPF headers. The reply-to: obviously can’t go back to the actual President, or to the personal mail server, that wouldn’t get back to the scammers. So they set a reply to address of ‘boardcommitee@gmail’.

At this point, I’m almost impressed. Someone (and at this level it probably was a person, not an automated bot) found our organizations’s website, found the list of board members, and set up a pretty reasonable attempt to fish. Someone had to learn enough about us and our organization to set this up. But our organization is made up of a pretty social bunch of people. All these board positions are -volunteers-, all engaged in the same hobby. And we’re a pretty technical bunch, not likely to fall in to going along.  So I jumped over to instant messaging and shot a message over to the purported sender and even further confirmed this was not a real thing. But I can see how it -might- have worked on another organization.

Final results? Fishers go home empty handed, and I get a fun story to tell.

Hey guys, knives are sharp.

So I went out in the backyard to practice some knife throwing tonight and thought I’d try putting a bit more spin on it so I could stand closer to ten feet. And for the first time had a knife come straight back at me. Did you know bleeding gets you seen faster at the ER? Fortunately it wasn’t a bad place (left forearm outside near the elbow). So 18 stitches and a tetanus shot and I’m home before bed. Stitches come out in two weeks. I’ll be out practicing again Saturday, although carefully. So, in all seriousness, please be careful out there people. Post stitches image below (below the cut if possible, har har), pre stitches photo available on request.  Continue reading Hey guys, knives are sharp.

Shoe (castle?) has dropped

When last we spoke, I mentioned that the iconic castle at Brandeis University was at risk. Well, now we have further details of the plans by the administration recently approved by the Board.  Rather than tear down the whole thing, they’re opting to keep the parts that most tie into the marketing of the school, the A and B sections that appear so frequently in imagery, and that contain the well popularized Cholomondley’s coffeehouse. The rest they intend to tear down and replace with a modern block shaped dormitory.

Alumni interested in discussing this and in organizing a response to this may wish to join the newly formed Facebook Group. Let me know if you need an invite to join, I’m not sure.

Anyhow, I do understand the pressures. Students want modern dorms with A/C and efficient working heat. ADA compliance is a beautiful thing. Safety is important. Residential students bring in more revenue. But here’s the thing: In the past decade (so, recently in college evolution terms) they knocked down the cottages and the Ridgewood dorms and rebuilt very large modern facilities in their place, so I’m not sure how much pressure there actually is for more beds. I know there’s a growing international population that drives some of the demand for residential facilities. But I do actually think that safety and energy efficiency are the bigger drivers. I think if not for these there’d be no debate. But faced with this, I do acknowledge the compromises of the current plan. It is always cheaper to knock down an old building and start from scratch than it is to rehabilitate an old structure. Building new gives lots of opportunities that just can’t be done effectively with old structures. The Castle is a study in inefficient use of space.

But it’s a castle. It’s not supposed to be an efficient use of space. And too much of the campus already was, or has recently been turned into, unappealing blocks. The Castle is a refreshingly organic (so to speak) and culturally unique object. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The administration recognizes this and is trying to preserve what they see as the parts that most embody that legacy. Sadly, the parts are very much less than the whole.  At the same time, they’ve had scaffolding and safety netting up and all over the whole thing for a year or two now, fully selling to everyone the fact or image of the building as structurally unsound and falling apart on a daily basis. A current editorial in the Justice carries the perspective of at least one student.

So, the Castle is unsafe. It’s inefficient. Fixing it while retaining the exterior and they layout is expensive, especially doing it right and not just slapping some patches up. With the new dorms in place, the school can afford to close down the Castle as a dorm while they address the issue. Now is the time. So alumni and students who want to influence the plan need to vote with their dollars, both earmarking any current donations for preserving the Castle exterior in its entirety, and reminding the administration that alumni dollars are a long term value, whereas the cost of reconstruction is a short term one. I have no idea if that’ll work at all, and I’m at least content that the administration is in fact trying to do its best given the needs and limitations it has, and isn’t just bulldozing the entire structure.




We have a castle?

Attention Brandeis Alumni (and others):

In recent news, it has come to my attention that the administration of Brandeis University is proposing to tear down Usen Castle. They say it is old, it is falling apart, it is unsafe, and it is inefficient. See for a recent article on the debate. It is well known for its bizarre architectural elements (see and

That may be. But it is also historic (National Registry as of 1979), iconic, and emblematic. It is the one thing, other than the university seal, that appears most on paraphernalia and imagery. When the Post Office issued a stamp in honor of the school’s 50th anniversary, it was the thing pictured on the stamp. Still listed as a popular dorm, you can see more and read more at .

For those of you in the SCA, it should be no surprise that there was a tradition of using the castle in various ways – meetings, inspiration for arms, the odd strawberry war with another borough, etc.

For those of you with ties to the BSCF, this was more or less where the club started, where many many meetings and movie nights were held, and where many many larps took place over the years.

For those of you curious about academic history, this building predates Brandeis and was the main building of the old Middlesex University ( an old medical college, and the only veterinary college in New England, until Tufts in 1978.

For those of you with memories of 90’s television, the coffee shop there is widely considered the inspiration for Central Perk in the TV show Friends.

Abbie Hoffman and Angela Davis spent time there engaged in political discourse.

In short, if you have a relevant connection to the place, and if you have an opinion on its future, now is the time to make your opinions known to those who are making decisions about it.