Sunday Salon for 26th June 2011 (#51)

Sunday Salon 01.jpgThis was a fairly uneventful week as far as getting out-and-about save for a fairly awful afternoon spent in a Phuket Town internet cafe on Saturday. I spent most of the week in my apartment — packing boxes and working on this blog.

I have no idea where I'm going but the goal is to be out of this home by the end of the month. I've got a place to store my stuff and that's about it. The tentative plan is to stay in Phuket long enough to attend the U.S. Navy League's Independence Day picnic next weekend and then head down to Hat Yai. The job prospects are fairly good there — it's a big enough city to have a number of schools yet not many native English speakers are looking for work there because of the nearby Muslim insurgency. Livings costs are much less than in Phuket (well,anywhere is Thailand is less expensive than this island — even Bangkok). One thing to keep in mind when looking for a place to stay is Hat Yai does have some massive floods every once in a while. An apartment on the third floor or higher would be ideal.

As I mentioned in the "Yet Another Blog!" article on Friday, my Phuket Bookworm blog on Byethost was hacked. I believe they entered through a vulnerability in one of my plugins as I was using the latest version of WordPress. Whenever a new update of the blogging platform is released it's very important to upgrade as security patches for earlier versions stop being maintained once the security is breached. But it's also essential to make sure your themes and plugins are using the most recent stable rleases as well. There are all sorts of other methods to harden WordPress against hackers but these seem to apply more to self-hosted accounts rather than those on WordPress.com as Automattic then handles most of this themselves (including updates).

I'm suppose I was lucky because the hacker merely locked me out of the site and destroyed the databases. True, I lost a lot of material — some photos and a lot of articles but most still exist as backups which I'm slowly restoring. If I try to access the site, I just get a message to upgrade to a paid service (and this message comes from a different company than the one that actually hosted my site). A colleague of mine was hacked once and porn suddenly began appearing on her old site; aside from the embarrassment caused it also resulted in Google no longer indexing her blog even after she restored it.

My Gmail account was also hacked although I don't know if it was by the same individuals or because of the recent publication of thousands of email addresses and passwords by a hacking "syndicate." Once I got control back yesterday I found there had been numerous log-ins to my account from ISP's in Egypt and Germany as well as one using an AOL account in the United States. The American intrusion actually ordered a bunch of Google Voice international calling credit on their credit card which Google notified they were sending refunds. I matched the IP address on my security report to that in the emails so I have a name (and partial credit card number). I don't know who to give this too but it appears this person was a bit more careless than your average hacker.

All of this illustrates why it is important to change your passwords often and make sure they are difficult to decipher. I'm also learning that it's easy for internet cafes to have software that allow someone within the cafe itself or elsewhere to see whatever is on your screen and to record keyboard strokes in username and password field boxes. There are several techniques and bits of freeware designed to defeat these keystroke sniffers. I'm really taking my security seriously now and I'll put together an article in a few days with some of the tips I've come across. Of course, these methods don't need to be used on encrypted websites — these are the ones that begin with https://. All the hackers will see is a bunch of gibberish.

I going fairly slow at restoring my blog. The first step was getting back online with WordPress.com. I'll let them host the blog until I can afford a premium self-hosted option (I'd had enough of free sites even before this latest incident). Even when I get to the point that I'm on my own domain once again, I'll continue the WordPress.com version as a mirror — an online concurrent backup so that at least one is always active and accessible.

Now that Asian Meanderings by Mark Jochim is "live" I will slowly restore the archived articles. I've already reprinted a number of them on the localhost version of the blog — February 2005 is complete as are the periods of October-December 2010 and April-June 2011. I'm finding it's difficult to restore database backups from different older blogs into a new blog; I'm sure it can be done but I'm not (yet) that savvy with MySQL and PHPAdmin. I did find a nice plugin that allows me to import HTML pages into the blog but some of my earlier tests look like the results will require heavy editing. Most of my earlier posts are only saved as HTML so this plugin will be useful if I can figure out how to make it work more efficiently. All of this is being tested on my local server version and when I'm satisfied I'll export small batches to be uploaded when I'm online.

That's what I spent most of the week working on, with frequent breaks to pack another box or several. A friend has offered to store my boxes for me and he's come by most afternoons to take a few on his motorbike. I'm not sure if he has room for my furniture which includes several bookcases, a dresser, coat rack, and side table. At least my books, papers, nicknacks, and clothes will be secure until I find a new home.

I also read a fair amount each night. I finished The Silent Sea by Clive Cussler, delved a bit more into Peter Jeans'excellent Seafaring Lore and Legend, put a significant dent into Just Kids by singer/poet Patti Smith, and even returned to Huckleberry Finn (which seems much easier to read nown than it did a few months ago for some reason). While going through some boxes yesterday I found a few of my children's picture books and I thought about "cheating" a bit by re-reading these to inflate my books read total. I might still do that at some point but not now.

Many evenings were also spent watching an episode or two of the short-lived series Conviction which was a mid-season replacement produced by the creators of the Law and Order franchise, aired in 2006. Someone gave me the complete 15-episode series on DVD a few years ago but I'd never watched more than the first couple. I really got into the show this week and watched the finale on Friday night. It was really good and I'm not sure why it was cancelled.

Running water in my apartment is still hit-or-miss. It might be on just an hour or two each day (announced by the dripping coming from my bathroom ceiling) which allows me to refill my buckets if need be and I even managed a full shower under the spigot twice this week.
The rest of the time I shower by dumping the little pail in the large bucket and then pouring that over my head. It's cold, but so is the running water as we don't have one of those electrical heaters attached to the shower head. I've become so accustomed to cold-water showers that I turned off the heater when I stayed at the guesthouse in Malaysia as I couldn't stand it! However, I think having hot water to wash my clothes in would be a definite improvement so this might be one of my few requirements in my next abode (along with a Western-style toilet and, possibly, an in-house internet connection).

I've also been listening to music a lot during the days as I work on the blog, pack, and read. I now have about 1400 songs restored to my iTunes. That's a far cry from the 43,000 or so on my broken hard drive but it gives me some variety to listen to. I've had it on shuffle play throughout the entire weekend and I've just topped a thousand songs played in the month of June. A live version of Marillion's fabulous quot;Neverland" (from last year's Loreley Festival in Germany) is playing as I write this.

This coming week should be fairly busy for me. I need to get everything out of the apartment before Thursday and then clean it as best as I can without running water. Nobody's seen the owner/landlord since he collected the rent last month (generously giving a 50 baht discount on the 200-baht water bill) but I'm sure we'll see him again on the first. I didn't give him my 30 days notice but I don't think it matters too much. When I moved in I paid a 2000 baht deposit but I can no longer find the paper that reflects this — even if I found the slip I'm sure I probably wouldn't be able to collect the money as refunds are rarely given for anything in this country.

I'm going to have to try and figure out where I'll stay once I quit the apartment. I'm sure there's some el-cheapo guesthouses in Phuket Town. It's just a matter of finding one that meets my budget requirements for a temporary stay. (I'd like to pay no more than 200-250 baht per night, easy to find in the provinces but not that available in Phuket.)

I probably won't have much time to write during the week, although I do hope to maintain the "30 Day Book Challenge." I should have a lot to report in next week's "Sunday Salon," although I plan to be at Head Start School most of that afternoon attending a 4th of July Barbecue. This is sponsored by the Southern Seaboard Chapter of the United States Navy League. I attended last year and enjoyed feasting on tacos and ribs. It doesn't appear that the Mexican restaurant will have a booth this year but the available food should be good nonetheless.


Mark Jochim Daily Writing Word Counts:
This Article — 1749
Total Today — 1749

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