Tearing down the walls

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I’ve just Deleted another 136 spam emails off my Yahoo! Account in-file thing.

I generally hit the little dustbin icon once the number goes over 25. You know my fascination with propitious numbers.

Twenty-five is just about the largest number of Spam emails whose headings I can scan visually to see if any of them are either genuine or interestingly relevant, before totally losing interest.

A hundred and thirty-six Spam emails is really way beyond my sphere of curiosity, and inevitably results in me deleting them in bulk, unscanned.

What I am curious about, however, is why I have recently started getting so many?

A hundred and thirty-six was the overnight total, received in just 12 hours. On Monday morning, after only 24 hours of not attending to the housework, I had to dump 216. At this rate, around 1,500 Spammers a week (of course many are duplicated) are sending me urgent messages about payday loans, herbal supplements, Russian women, IRS forgiveness programs, incontinence pads and reverse mortgage options, roughly one every four minutes, and I am not giving two shits for any of them, bruvv.

You’d think they’d have got the message by now. But deleting them only causes them to breed more. And, as I have bogld before, there does seem to be a disturbing pattern, a coincidence of themes appearing to be linked to stuff I have randomly Posted on this site a few hours earlier.

Take, for instance, the Spam email heading posted at the start of this extended rave. It appeared within an hour of my writing the words contained in the paragraph before the one before this, referring to ‘mortgage options’ – not a phrase I use very often, as I have none. It goes on to drivel randomly about mortgages. It is so obviously a Spam message (I am long past 30) that I am bewildered as to how it snuck like an illegal migrant onto the well-fenced desk of the Boglington Post?

Hmmn. I shall come back to it later…

At the same time, there lurks in the subterranean Spam section of my other, more presentable, Gmail account, only the one message. I have left it there for several days all by itself as a marker-stone, a tribute to the remarkable efficacy of Google’s filtration system; also because I’m feeling guilty that it’s not entirely Spam….

I hereby confess, being a single man, to having registered months ago as a non-paid-up member of a local dating site. I planned shortly thereafter to cancel my registration, on account of the unprepossessing images of everyone else on it; the 100 per cent shortage in Boglington of available, attractive women under 55 with university degrees, independent incomes and a desire for adventure without children, the insistence that I part with a large sum of money merely to be allowed to email anyone remotely fitting the description; but I can’t figure out how to escape.

Simply asking to be released didn’t seem to do it for the owners, they kept on telling me I had important messages, so I naughtily told Google they were sending me Spam.

The point being, that whether I am drowned in the stuff or starved of it, I do at least have the freedom to decide for myself whether to bin it, or to stupidly send off my bank details.

Here at BogPo, things start to get murkier.

According to Arkroyal, the WordPress Spammeister, I have been protected from the horrifying contents of over four and a half thousand Spam Comments since I commenced bogling you on 27 February, 2012. (Could he not just delete them, rather than cluttering up every server in Arizona with spurious vitriol?)

I have no way of knowing if many genuine Readers’ Letters have got caught up in the same gungy lump of smelly crud that has built up around the Spam filter at Word Central. I have not been allowed to choose for myself whether to accept or reject those messages. I have not seen them.

And yet, and yet… Of the perhaps two or three Comments I am allowed to see during the course of a week, 98 per cent are so obviously Spam messages that you do wonder what criteria he is using to decide whether to let them through or block them?

There is a certain style of writing these Spam comments that is redolent of computerised garbage, like a very poor Google translation into English from some obscure Ugro-Finnish dialect spoken only by retired herdsmen in Lappland.

I have sometimes out of desperation based these, my Post themes on the more outstanding examples of Spamulous gibberish I am invited to Approve; as with the textual contents of the message whose header begins this diatribe, with which I shall not trouble you further: it is the Bogler’s Burden, not yours, to bear.

One obvious clue is surely the length and complexity of the email address attributed to the sender, running sometimes to six lines and including some subroutines that could indeed be genuine addresses of people and companies unaware that their accounts are being plagiarised for the purpose.

Another clue is that they are always Commenting on the same, highly obscure Page; an article grimping and miring* about University entrance requirements that I uploaded as an archival item to the BogPo site nearly four years ago, and which has deservedly never once appeared in the Stats of most-read, or indeed read-at-all, items of the week.

A third clue is that they never refer directly to the content of the Page, other than effusing that I should write more of the same (sometimes with maximised h-tags, whatever they are).

I surmise therefore that there is some subterranean mechanical goings-on going-on here, in which no human agency is involved: machine-reading, machine-writing, machine-Spamming in the spidery dark undergrowth of the web, possibly for obscure purposes. Why would anyone commission this stuff, which never receives a reply? Is all as it seems?

One such message managed to get past Arkwright yesterday. It ran to over a thousand words in English, yet ultimately non-linguistic, nonsense. As I gazed at it blankly, I noticed that a black box bearing some alternative text was flashing behind it every few seconds, at subliminal speed. I immediately killed it. Has the damage been done? Am I going to develop a subconscious craving for ice-cream?

I have no idea what that was about, or why. All I know is that, from time to time, a rare Spam Comment slips between the cracks and ends up on my desk in the offices of the Boglington Post, where it shouldn’t.

In the meantime, how much meaningful communication is being lost, caught in the filter?

I recently corresponded briefly with the lovely ‘Ella’, for instance, who wrote in to commiserate and to offer some well-meaning advice in connection with a lengthy enquiry I had made into why no-one considers me employable anymore.

She attempted to reassure me that the BogPo is indeed read and admired widely in the community. Yet I have almost no evidence that it is: other than anything your Uncle Bogler has Posted on the unrelated themes of a) stately homes and how to live in one, and b) the ill-fated Comex expedition of 1967, both of which attract droves.

It now occurs to me that it is possible there is a huge chorus of readers out there, silently mouthing their praises, encouragement, delight, scorn, defiance, withering criticism and strident legalistic demands for retraction, that I am simply not hearing through the thickly padded walls of the asylum. You must think us awfully rude not replying.

Tear down these walls, Mr WordPress.

Let us breathe the air of well-optimised freedom!

 

*Hundreds of you have asked me politely what the phrase ‘grimping and miring’ means? It is my own invention!

Allow me to explain.

Today’s word is: Onomatopoeia, which as you know means a word that sounds like what it means (unlike ‘Onomatopoeia’…). Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will recall that The Hound of the Baskervilles haunts a particularly bleak and boggy part of the Dartmoor National Park in Devon. Known as ‘The Great Grimpen Mire’, it sounds just like the kind of dispiriting place you’d moan about a lot, if you were stuck there for any length of time.

Like the Labour Party’s Smith Square headquarters, possibly.

Job done.

Postscriptum

Another obviously Spamulous email is presented to me for Approval this morning, falling between the cracks at Word Central, suggesting I include more h-tags in my Posts in order to better my Googly rankings.  Mind your own business, is what I say. Crapulous baboon.

Accosting a bored teenager, I have now bothered to learn that an h-tag is the # symbol that you use to attract attention to whatever tiresome little comment it is that you have made on the Twitter channel, prattling in 140 characters or less about some pointless and probably misunderstood thing somebody almost famous has said, which you have taken completely out of context. (I agree, 140 characters doesn’t allow for a lot of context.)

Be it known to these persons present, I have no truck with Twitter, Bookface or any other ‘social media’ requiring the use of tags.  I plead whichever Amendment it is that says I don’t have to incriminate myself. I don’t like them, they are of monumental disinterest and I won’t have one in the house.

So there.

 

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Sex, at a pinch

OMG, that’s the end.

I just got back after five days when I haven’t had any internet, thanks to a doofus from British Telecom who accidentally disconnected my line on Wednesday evening and went off-shift, leaving me to report a fault to Orange EE, my shit service provider, to whom, believe me, you do not want to report a fault on your line unless you have all day and a screwdriver.

There were three new Comments in my inbox, that Arkwright the WordPress Spammeister had let slip through the net, as they were so clearly genuine messages of support, helpful advice and Birthday good wishes.

Epecially the one from a five-line email address that began: Vaginal Tightening Creams@… who are Following me… Oh. My. God!

Luckily, no-one has fallen into bed with me even by mistake for several years now.

But if they do, I shall be careful to ask.

– Uncle Bogler, back with a bang!!!

Dear idiot, you are illegible for a refund!

HM Revenue & Customs You are eligible to recieve a tax refund…

So, did you spot the deliberate mistake in this promising email, that turned up in my spam folder this morning? That’s right, ‘receive’ is spelt ‘ei’, not ‘ie’.

The old rule about ‘i before e except after c’ is so compromised by genuine inconsistencies as to be virtually worthless. But in the case of ‘receive’ it holds good, unfortunately for the idiot who wasted his time concocting this risible phishing expedition.

Worse, the ‘official letter’ goes on to address me as ‘Dear applicant’, as if I had somehow ‘applied’ for – what? A tax refund? You must be joking, I don’t earn enough to pay tax! But if I had ‘applied’, do you seriously imagine I wouldn’t know I had? And that HM Revenue & Customs would then not know my name? Or that they would send me their decision by email?

The other day, I placed an ad on a national sales web. It was for my house, which I have been hoping in vain to sell now for the past 16 months. Using the interthing was really just a long-shot, a desperate gamble. The house is with an agent, who has it advertised on proper agent-type sites, and in his window on the high street. Plus, I have advertised it myself in the local paper and on other web places, where it has had hundreds and hundreds of viewings  but no contacts. No-one has even come to look at it since last October. The Bank of England has no need to fear a new housing bubble while yet stands Railway View unsold.

Almost immediately, I had a reply. Every fisherman knows not to trust the first disappearance of the float below the water, so I was equally mistrustful of this email. First, it began ‘My name is Matthew’. Now, in my very long experience, anyone who suffers from low self-esteem will attempt to reify themselves in this way, but someone who is proposing to buy something as large and expensive as a house will reserve the introductions until last. They will also tend, I think, to rely on their surname to introduce a note of formal credibility. ‘Matthew’ appears not to have one. They might also propose a visit, or ask for further details, before making me an offer I could only refuse.

‘Matthew’ then goes on to explain with utter lack of conviction that he lives in the same town as me, that he has just sold his own house, and that he can therefore happily offer me a sum of money in cash for mine, which he hopes I will accept. Unfortunately for ‘Matthew’, I am not the sort of giving human being who would make anyone a present of the £25,000 by which his offer came up short of the finishing line. I reply, using few words, telling him so.

I am not sure what ‘Matthew’ was hoping to gain by contacting me in this way. Granted, his spelling was a hundred-per-cent, the grammar unobjectionable. There was nothing overtly dishonest about his message. It was admirably concise. I could not see how he might obtain by it, any useful information about, for instance, my bank account, or other personal details. Perhaps he had genuinely dreamed in the night that I would sell him my house for £23,000 less than I paid for it three years ago, and he would go on to make his fortune in property?

Yet it was the too-earnest desire to give me those encouraging details of his situation, that made the message seem so obviously spurious. Nothing about it rang true. Ultimately, I decided, he must merely be one of that sad legion of spammers who just like wasting people’s time.

And that was when I had the brainwave.

As it happens, I have enjoyed a forty-year career as a writer and editor of English texts. It began with radio and TV news bulletins, progressed through freelance journalism and commercial copywriting, including several years in the junk mail business, and ended with editing many serious hardback books.

Who then better to offer valuable advice to those hoping to glean a modest living from conning gullible pensioners out of their savings and bank details?

Dear (tick nationality: Estonian, Nigerian, Russian, etc.) Scam Artist. Your application to recieve (sic) expat tuition on how to write more convincing phishing emails has been SUCESSFULL! Please send $49.95 for a copy of my best-selling book, How to Avoid the Ten Common Mistakes in e-English That Will Expose You as a Total Fraud!

Just one thing prevents me from carrying-out this lucrative scheme.

A couple of years ago, while broke and hallucinating through a bout of flu, I so desperately wanted to believe I had a tax rebate coming that I actually replied to Mr HM Revenue & Customs (Dniepropetrovsk branch), completing his highly convincing application form, bank details and all. It was only after keying Send that I thought, hang on, they’ve forgotten to ask for my Social Security number…

Ultimately, I suspect, the only defence against email fraud is not to have any money in your account to begin with.

 

Postscriptum

Not long after writing this Post, I heard a discussion about email fraud on the wireless, and was immediately discouraged from my little wheeze of offering proofreading services to illiterate Chinese hopefuls by the guest, from whom we learned that scammers DELIBERATELY introduce errors, so as to weed-out literate respondents who have immediately seen-through their disguise, who might otherwise waste their time, and strike directly at the gullible dimwits who are going to send them money and bank details, because they are too poorly educated to defend themslves.

Hey-ho, back to the drawering board.

 

Reach for the Gutter

if you essential achieve pertaining to online shopping, approximate certain you train it in a join of artist, go-with-anything items are timing out with.

Well, okay, I complained just the other day that I don’t even get Spam anymore, and now this.

It goes on in a similar vein for several more lines.

I have Posted in the past about Spam that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but this purports to be from someone in Canada trying to sell me a handbag. It reads more like a Google translation from Hungarian. Surely even French-Canadians can manage a bit of English? If not, I speak passable French.

Talk about misdirected sales pitches! Why, I have a wardrobe full of handbags already, but nothing relevant to put in them. I don’t use lipstick or am allowed credit cards, my phone is on-charge somewhere I can’t remember where, and my emergency condom has probably dried out by now.

So it’s back to the drawing-board with you. These eyeballs are not for driving.

– Uncle Bogler

Hey, I finally bought a ladder today! One of those 10-way folding ones. Now I can do all those jobs I couldn’t be bothered to do when I didn’t have a ladder, with the excuse that I really needed a man with a ladder to do them for me.

No excuses now. Let’s hope the new ladder will inspire me to go up it. Clear the gutter that’s been dripping all winter. Paint the wall that’s stained with algae from the dripping gutter. Shine those windows! Mow that hedge.

If I can figure out how it works. At the moment, it’s only two feet high and has lots of clever hinges that twist and lock and grab your fingers and give you blood-blisters. I’m looking at the packaging for clues, but the instructions make about as much sense as the Spam quote above.

There’s a page of diagrams, a bit like The Joy of Sex books you used to snarf at before you discovered sex is more of a burden than a joy, best left to college girls and Ukrainian truck drivers. It’s hard to figure out how you get to position number eight from number five, for instance. That’s the Hedge-trimmer position, and the Gutter-clearer-outer. But which way up? They should rename this instruction set the Clima-Sutra.

Maybe I need a man with a ladder after all? I’d have a drink-and-a-think, but I’ve given up wine for Lent. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

A bit like buying a ladder: the only way is up.

Dr Who? Oh, sorry – wrong number!

A propos the possible problems of mistaken identity, referred to in an earlier Post…

I mentioned in passing that when I Googled myself once, I discovered I was a black Baptist minister in Georgia, USA, desperately hoping on his website to overturn a criminal conviction for playing not-nice with the little choirboys and girls.

In reality I am an underemployed white atheist with no convictions whatsoever, living in Wales. My fellow choir members are all well over 50 and, like me, have given up sex as an embarrassing, messy and pointless activity. Although we do sing Georgian three-part harmony – the other Georgia, that is. The one on the Black Sea. So there’s a connection. Sort-of.)

The minister and I share very similar names. Not the same name, but close enough to come top in the Google ranking.

Now, I don’t suppose a prospective employer is seriously going to confuse me with my near-namesake in America. But I noticed soon after mentioning it on my bogl, that I had begun to receive at least six communications a day in my e-mail Spam filter, from dating sites in the USA, specialising in matching-up black singles: one of whom I am quite obviously not. (Nor do I live in the USA.)

How does that happen, then?

Also, the number of marketing messages I get, inviting me to take out a Payday loan, seems to fluctuate quite accurately according to the state of my current account imbalance. Decidedly fishy? Or is it just the time of the month? Do you get more offers, the nearer they assume your payday must be? Only, I don’t have a payday. I’m unemployed. So no cigar, Mr Loan-shark.

Do you maybe notice these connections more when they relate to something that has immediate relevance to you, however tenuous? Or is my bogl leaking into the flogosphere*?

I think we should be told.

*Flogosphere (n): the increasing volume of internet traffic devoted to selling you totally misdirected goods and services**.

**For instance, my son once demanded that I order for him online, as a Christmas present, a deeply self-incriminating training manual for snipers (he is obsessed with military things). For months after, Amazing.uk imagined I was some kind of Special Forces operative, and tried to sell me all kinds of instructional literature for more efficient killing…

Postscriptum

Hey, my first “two Likes” Post! Progress.

Help, I’m LinkedIn

What do social networks hope to gain by keeping people trapped in them?

The other night I watched a moving documentary on TV, that spoke to my personal experience. The only way I could find to contact the director involved going through LinkedIn, and to email them via LinkedIn required me to register my name and address.

So far, so perfectly understandable. But the mere act of registering meant that I had to accept terms and conditions. I found myself immediately registered as a LinkedIn account-holder, with no possibility of opting-out.

That was when the nightmare began.

What seems to happen is that LinkedIn kidnaps your email Contacts and if they are in the network it sends them nice Hello, I’m here! messages pretending to come from you, and sends you welcoming messages pretending to come from them, as if you are all delighted to hear from one another, it’s a party! and then it puts you on lists to receive service messages sent by Contacts who have not emailed you, and by their Contacts too, mostly people and companies you have never heard of.

Thus, I have found myself welcomed into a virtual network I never asked to join with all kinds of people, some of whom I already know, some I don’t, who do not particularly want to hear from me, just as I don’t need to hear from them.

Some are people with whom I have had bad experiences and I had hoped never to have anything to do with them again, or let them know where they can find me. They have been sent messages that I have not sent, asking for professional references and introductions. I am mostly retired now and have no need of professional references. And I have had genuine messages from friends, pleading with me to stop sending these emails. It’s not me! I can’t stop LinkedIn from sending them.

Far from bringing us closer together in a network, LinkedIn is pissing-off people with whom I have tenuous relationships at best. I am not a very nice or sociable person, and not a natural networker. I am finding this process personally embarrassing. Yesterday I got a message from someone I have never heard of, regarding my professional credentials. I don’t have any; none that are relevant to the modern world. The photograph was of someone who is the spitting image of a good friend who committed suicide 20 years ago. That was pretty distressing too.

The service messages have a link to Unsubscribe, but you can’t really Unsubscribe because when it asks if you really want to Unsubscribe there appears to be no way to say yes. The Help link on the main web site does eventually lead you to the instructions for how to De-activate your account, but again, at the end of the process of De-activation you find you still have an active account. Closing it down automatically Re-activates it. It is like being trapped in some awful club with a third-rate comedian, whose only exit leads directly back to the stage.

I have no intention of ever paying any money to LinkedIn. I never respond to online advertising. I don’t network. There is no useful service they can provide to me. There is nothing I can usefully do for them. I don’t want to have an account with them. I never asked for one. I don’t care to hear from anyone unless the communication is requested by one of us.

Why do they want to keep me locked-in?

Presumably, because they are busily selling my details on to third-party organisations that like to send spam to ‘professional’ people who appear to fit the profile of LinkedIn account holders.

I have news for you, third-party organisations: you are buying a bunch of crap. Don’t waste your money. Don’t waste my time.

I am not someone you want to get to know.

Postscriptum

My son returns to do his laundry every Friday. At least if I have a stroke, I know I will eventually be found. Grasping the problem instantly, with a pass of his magic, no-longer-quite-a-teenager’s hand, he makes my LinkedIn nightmare all go away.

If you do not have one of these, rush out and buy one now.

How to Live in a Stately Home, Part Two

WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching
for kostenlos automaten spielen

Someone calling himself Porfirio Beamont, who has the longest and most complicated email address I have yet seen, has very kindly messaged me via the WordPress Spam service to say my Page entitled How to Live in a Stately Home (Older Stuff) is just what they were searching for.

Porfirio, be warned, I am an expert at irony. I don’t know what ‘kostenlos’ means, I suspect it means ‘cheap’, or ‘low-cost’, and ‘automaten spielen’ is of course ‘computer games’. This suggests to me that you are not really interested in living in a stately home: you would rather have space aliens blow one up. I’m with you there.

I did as it happens try to get a software developer to create a simple game for the website of the stately home where I lived, as a promotional exercise. The house was reputed to have been the home of the Holy Grail, and lots of delicious ghosts had been seen by visitors over the years, so I thought it would be fun to have a Grail Hunt on the website.

It never happened. None of my best ideas ever see the light of day; no-one who can afford to pay for them ever understands the point of them.

I wrote the piece several years ago, originally for submission to an old-established magazine for gentlewomen, entitled The Lady; having disentangled their address from a list of less salubrious websites proposed to me by Mr Google. It was, inevitably, rejected; I suspect, less because of its lack of literary merit and interest, than because it was written apparently by someone of the servant class.

Not only that, but it ended with the writer enjoying a glass (it was probably more like a couple of bottles) of well-chilled Chardonnay on the terrace, overlooking a misty Welsh valley at sunset, while playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy at full volume on the house PA: not at all the sort of thing the servants ought to be getting up to while their masters are away.

In my defence, I did pay for the wine, it was my own. The house had no wine cellar, only a dank and low-ceilinged basement growing strangely hairy fungus over the walls and floor. The principal interest of this gloomy undercroft was its architectural back-story. It had formerly been the ground-floor entrance hall of the manor house that stood on the site in the C17th before the present, grandiose mid-Georgian box was erected on top as a symbolic act of rape between two great Welsh families. The original front door and windows were still in situ, but now ten feet underground. There were two unlit cells at the front, under the car park, where I was told slaves were punished (a headstone among tributes to the estate’s former pack of hunting dogs in the pets’ cemetery bears the ominous legend “to poor Jack the Coon, and his wife Mary”).

Quite unsuitable for the storing of fine vintages, the basement boasted only a half-dozen plastic crates of ginger-ale mixers with rusted caps, a bottle of Martini that had gone off, and some worm-eaten items of furniture my masters had bought at auction on one of their rare flying visits (home for them being an infinite series of airport lounges), imagining them to be valuable antiques for which they had cleverly paid only a few pounds.

I was another among their cheaper acquisitions. Originally hired as the gardener/handyman, I  rapidly rose through the ranks (I was the only staff) to become the cook, the waiter, the receptionist, the cleaner, the laundrymaid and the barman – and, indeed, the administrator and marketing guru – of probably the most appalling guesthouse since Fawlty Towers. The owners resolutely refused to invest a penny in home comforts, informing me loftily that the house would have to start making a profit before they could sanction improvements which they considered frivolous and unnecessary.

As a result, neither of the two showers worked, owing to there being insufficient water-pressure; the pipes froze in winter; the TVs in the rooms could receive only a Welsh-language channel; while any pioneering B&B guest investigating the beds to see what they were getting for their £100 a night would have discovered under the sanitary covers, by the light of cheap Woolworths bedside lamps, lumpy mattresses stained with ancient piss, blood and semen. A high point was when the RAC hotel inspector showed me the bedbug bites on his arms.

In the hot, dry summer of 2006, the house – whose open drains had been laid down in the C18th and led to no disposal system anyone could discover – began to reek of sewage, as wedding guests noticed. This naturally attracted rats, that ate the poisoned bait the rat-man put down. As he explained it, Warfarin thins the blood, so the rats feel cold. They seek out the hot water pipes under the floors, where they eventually perish. This explained the even more pungent stench lingering for months in the Ballroom.

When the owners did finally come to understand that their beautiful country home was, in the words of the local fire chief, a ‘deathtrap’, and that the legal ramifications of the Health & Safety acts were in fact as hair-raising as I had been trying to warn them they were, I was summarily fired and forced to reapply for a lesser role as the old caretaker; although the job description seemed suspiciously familiar.

There I remained for another three years while millions of gold sovereigns were squandered on home improvements dictated by an oddly favoured  ‘consultant’ with no discernible knowledge or special intelligence that I could detect, designed to turn the house into a fantasy five-star establishment. It came complete with obsequious waiters, eyewatering prices and a man-armed-with-an-umbrella hanging about the foyer, waiting in vain to greet the rush of prospective guests, among whom actual market research had told me there was almost zero demand for a return to the dreary provincial snobberies of the early 1960s.

At least in my day, when the guests couldn’t get enough hot water for a bath, the kitchen had run out of food, the fire alarm had gone off at five a.m. and they found bat droppings on the hospitality tray in their room, they could chuckle sympathetically without being charged extra for it.

Ignorance and colossal, self-regarding, obtuse stupidity are not, I know, the sole preserve of the rich; but they are qualities with which our masters have come to be closely associated. I suppose it is this faintly contemptuous attitude which marks me out as a member of the servant class, despite my minor-aristocratic family background.

So, Porfirio, if you find any of those low-cost computer games, I’m not doing anything tonight.