more music scams…

last year, I wrote about some scams where people claimed to be looking for music lessons for their son or daughter.

So far, I have not had one single student for guitar come to me through email or the Internet. Every single request has been a scam.

Here is an example email I received today from andrewbarton67@yahoo.com (Andrew Barton):

Hello,

I’m Andrea Barton during my search for a Music Instrument Lessons teacher that would always take my Daughter (Gwyn) and I found your advert.Your advert looks great and it is very okay to me since you specialize in the area I am seeking for her. My daughter will be coming to your Country before the middle of July for 2 Months. She is just 15yrs Old, a beginner, I want you to help me teach her music during her stay in the Country because i will not want her to less busy, i want her to engage in something to keep her busy during her stay.

So, kindly let me know your charges cost per week in order for me to arrange for the payment before she travels down to your country.I would also like to know if there is any Text Book you will recommend for her as a beginner so that she will be reading privately at home after the lesson during her stay.

Please Advise back on;

(1) Your charges per 1 hour twice a week for 2 Months?

(2) The Day and time you will be available to teach her During the week?

(3) Tuition address?

I will be looking forward to read from you soonest.

Best Regards.

There are a few things about this which should immediately strike anyone:

  • People don’t usually mis-spell their own name. Is it Andrea (in the text) or Andrew (in the email address)?
  • There is no mention of what instrument the girl is supposed to be learning. Guitar? Piano? Didgeridoo?
  • The weird capitalisation says to me that translation software has been used, and only for some specific words. I can imagine a template that goes something like this: “I’m ________ during my search for a ________________ teacher that would always take my ________ (____) and I found your advert”. Every one of the blanked out words was inserted with capital letters.
  • There’s a lot of talk about countries – “your Country”, “the Country”, “down to your country”. This person obviously does not know what country I am in, yet knows that his/her daughter will be coming to it?
  • As for that, “My daughter will be coming to your Country before the middle of July for 2 Months.” The email arrived at 2 in the morning today. It’s the 18th of July. A real request for upcoming lessons would surely arrive weeks or months before the trip had already started?

There is a quirky little urge in me to take this as far as I can. However, I’m also not made of time, so I won’t bother.

So here’s the warning: NEVER trust an email from anyone you don’t know.

Here’s how this would pan out if I took it seriously:

  1. We agree price and dates.
  2. They send a cheque and urge me to cash it. I go to the bank and do so.
  3. I suddenly receive an urgent email saying there’s been an error and they sent me too much, and to please send back the extra money.
  4. Of course, that involves me writing and sending a cheque of my own.
  5. They then cash my cheque.
  6. Their cheque then bounces….
  7. The student never turns up.

So don’t be an idiot. Either throw these email in the spam directory (or delete it), or have fun trying to get the guy to do ridiculous things, but never take it seriously.

Btw: here’s an example of this same exact person being a bit over enthusiastic with the attempts – 9 copy/paste messages, with two separate daughters, Rita and Marsha – this guy should probably have got the kids lessons when they were younger…

ToDo

List of things off the top of my head that I want to do:

  • write a book. already had a non-fiction book published, but I’d love to have an interesting an compelling original fiction idea to write about. I’m working on a second non-fiction book at the moment.
  • master a martial art. I have a green belt in Bujinkan Taijutsu (ninja stuff, to the layman), but that’s from ten years ago – found a Genbukan teacher only a few days ago so I’ll be starting that up soon (again, ninja stuff).
  • learn maths. A lot of the stuff I do involves guessing numbers or measuring. it’d be nice to be able to come up with formulas to generate optimal solutions.
  • learn electronics. what /is/ electricity? what’s the difference between voltage and amperage? who knows… I’d like to.
  • create a robot gardener. not just a remote-control lawn-mower. one that knows what to cut, what to destroy, that can prune bushes, till the earth, basically everything that a real gardener does.
  • rejuvenate, or download to a computer, whichever is possible first. science fiction, eh? you wait and see…
  • create an instrument. I’m just finishing off a clavichord at the moment. when that’s done, I think I’ll build another one, based on all the things I learned from the first. followed by a spinet, a harpsichord, a dulcimer, and who knows what else.
  • learn to play an instrument. I’m going for grades 2 and 3 in September for piano. I can play guitar pretty well, but would love to find a classical teacher.
  • write a computer game. I have an idea, based on Dungeon Keeper, for a massively multiplayer game. maybe I’ll do it through facebook…
  • write programs to:
    • take a photo of a sudoku puzzle and solve it. already wrote the solver.
    • take a photo of some sheet music and play it.
    • show some sheet music on screen, compare to what you’re playing on a MIDI keyboard, and mark your effort.
    • input all the songs you can play on guitar/keyboard. based on the lists of thousands of people, rate all these songs by difficulty, to let you know what you should be able to learn next.
    • input a job and your location. have other people near you auction themselves to do the job for you. or vice versa: input your location, and find all jobs within walking distance to you where you can do an odd job for some extra cash (nearly there: http://oddjobs4locals.com).
    • takes a photo and recognises objects in it (partly done)
    • based on above, but can also be corrected and will learn from the corrections (also partly done)
  • stop being damned depressed all the time.

There’s probably a load of other stuff, but that’s all I’ve got at the moment!

Graham Coxon at the Barbican

Bronwyn and myself went to the Barbican, London, on Saturday to watch Graham Coxon perform.

We both enjoyed the event. Bronwyn was excited to meet friends she had only spoken to online. Well, she’s been excited for the whole of the last week, but it’s all related!

London is big.

The weather was ok for the Friday and Saturday while we were wandering around taking in sights and sounds. We visited the National Gallery, and were handed a sheet saying a candle-lit baroque concert would be happening later, but it clashed with our previous plans.

Arrived at the Barbican. Bronwyn didn’t see any of her friends. We said we’d meet up around the bar, so that’s where we went, and sat opposite it.

We were there about five minutes when I spotted a huge amazing monstrosity of a drum-machine, Felix’s Machines. You have to see the videos of that thing!

As I stood there, Simon from Resigned (also the admin of the Graham Coxon forum) noticed me and waved to get my attention – ah, that’s where they are! We joined a group of Coxon fans.

We had two hours, so we gently infused ourselves thanks to the bar, with some opting for chips and complaining that you shouldn’t need to buy fish&chips just to get some chips (as a vegetarian, I agree wholeheartedly with this, and not just through a hatred of waste).

The show was to start at 8, so we headed down and got our seats.

Simon had thoughtfully gotten us row G (haha – G for Graham. very good. ahem…), which had a walk-space directly in front of us, meaning we could stretch our legs and walk to the toilets without stepping on people’s heads.

Bronwyn decided a new piece of policy was to be created henceforth: when purchasing tickets, people should be measured for height, and really tall people should be confined to the back of the auditorium.

The band came out and the place became loud with cheers.

The sound engineers didn’t do the best job in the world. The band played brilliantly apart from a few minor hiccups, but some of the sound problems were distracting.

When Graham spoke, it was difficult to hear. I was afraid that his singing would be the same, but when he sings, he crouches close to the microphone, and when he talks, it’s like he’s unaware the mic is there.

Some of the songs were technical, involving a lot of finger-picking. An example is Sorrow’s Army. Graham started out on that one, then Robyn Hitchcock joined in a few bars later. Robyn’s guitar, though, was louder, so it drowned out Graham’s playing. This was pointed out independently to me by Simon later on, so it wasn’t just my ears playing tricks.

There was a feedback problem later on at the beginning of one tune, which was quickly and cheerfully quelled and restarted.

One of the three female singers was very loud at points. I didn’t like that – it was like she was stealing the spotlight.

On the far left of the stage, Max Eastley was playing the Arc. At most points in the concert I couldn’t hear anything of what he was doing. Only in quiet songs with only one or two other instruments.

When the songs got loud, they got very loud. Graham was unintelligible at some points as he tried to sing above the sound of the other instruments.

Apart from these gripes (and they’re minor – Bronwyn doesn’t agree with any of the above points), I enjoyed the concert.

I think the only tune I didn’t like was the ending of Caspian Sea, where the band appeared to get stuck in a rut, repeating the same bar over and over and over.

I liked how the music was not perfectly in-tune or perfectly rhythmic, but was just a little off here and there. This gave the music a more natural and “used” feel, like an old rickety piano which is played when the pianist is surrounded by friends – you feel like he’s playing personally to you and it’s not a surgical procedure.

The concert was basically Graham’s latest album, The Spinning Top, with a few extra old songs played at the end.

One of the things I like about this album is the finger-picking. Graham has recently been trying to increase his finger-picking skills, inspired by his love of old blues and folk. His interest in Nick Drake really shines through in the singing, and Bert Jansch (of Pentangle) in the playing.

In a lot of the songs, there is not just one finger-picking “voice”, but two. This could be seen obviously at the concert where Graham was playing one finger-picking riff and Robyn was playing another, yet they meshed nicely.

Overall, I enjoyed this concert and if he does it again with another album, I’m sure we’ll be going over again.

419 con attempt

I advertised recently as a guitar teacher, and nothing happened for a while afterwards, then I got this interesting email:

Hello,

Good day to you over there, I need good teacher for my son smith for 2 month Smith is 13years of age.I want you to taech him 60mint per day, 3 times in a week.

1.CHARGE FOR AN HOUR….
2.TOTAL CHARGES FOR 1MONTH THAT HE WILL BE TAUGHT 3TIMES PER WEEK…
3.YOUR PHONE NUMBER…”

Kindly get back to me if you will be available for that time and you can as well get back to me with your total cost for 2 month.

Thanks and waiting to read from you..

I thought it was interesting, and a bit weird. The guy doesn’t say where he’s from, but the usage of “you over there” suggests overseas. Then, the guy’s son is called “Smith”, which is a surname. Then he’s insisting on 3 hour-long lessons per week. An hour is a very long lesson, and three times a week is /way/ too much – when you are learning an instrument, you only need a half-hour lesson once or twice a week.

I replied anyway with my usual rate (€15 per half-hour, €25 for an hour), asking what style of guitar “Smith” would like to learn.

Here’s the reply.

Hello,

Thanks for your email,More so i am glad the way you have kept me posted on the (tutoring) and i have accepted your offer and its okay by me.

I have make contacts with my son concerning the arrangement of the tutoringwhich he told me is ok by him and i want you to know that i am going to pay for 2 month which is €600 and also my client who is in DUBLIN will be sending you a cheque of €4,000

And the rest of the money will be used to get hotel accomodation nearby your location for my son and his nanny and any other arrangement for the lesson so that the tuition can be able to conveniet for both of you,

As soon as you get the cheque cash you will deduct cost of price of the lesson and send remaing balance to my son’s NANNY so that they can ba able to arrange themself to come up for the lesson at your location.

Regarding this kindly get back to me with your full information to receive the cheque ,like your full name we be on cheque your full address where you can receive it, so that payment can be able to made out intime,

Because i want the lesson to start as soon as you received the cheque.

Thanks and waiting to read from you.

Lewis.

As soon as I read that, I laughed. This is a classic Advanced-fee fraud, but with a slightly different target than usual.

A greedy person that doesn’t think clearly may fall for that, but there are a number of things that don’t ring true about the email.

Why would a cheque be sent if a NANNY (uppercase, notice) is going to be arriving anyway. Why is the cheque so god-damned large? Why is DUBLIN written in upper-case (copy/pasted, maybe?). He has “[made] contacts with [his] son concerning the arrangement” – he’s 13 years old, man – you don’t “make contacts”, you tell him what to do! Why would someone be flying in from some place overseas to a small town like Monaghan for two months without even checking first to see if I can actually teach?

For anyone interested, the email address used was lewis_001@ymail.com – it’s been reported already.

a few improvements in the guitar thing

try it out – you need to log in to get a proper feel for it.

New items: a metronome, external tabs are shown in an iframe (makes it easier to use with the metronome and keeps the song within the context of the site), you can edit the songs you added and you can add a video of the song being played.

In the backend, I have a few architectural improvements (better class structure, etc), and the beginnings of the rating system which will eventually be able to figure out how difficult songs are in comparison with each other.

The metronome was very simple to create – I used the sound manager 2 library to manage the sound production, and a very small piece of javascript to do the timing. There are minor hiccups in the timing, but I think that’s due to the interaction between JavaScript and Flash (and JS is probably not supposed to be used for precision timing anyway).

stand-alone demo of the metronome, source files

Anyway – please try the guitar application – I know it’s a bit bare at the moment, but whenever I get the time, I add to it, and the more people use it, the more complete it will appear. feature requests and bug reports go here.

guitar project started

Couldn’t wait, so I wrote the beginnings of the project yesterday.

Click here to try it.

So far, you can create a user, login, name the chords you know (simple chords only – for now, this is for beginners), find songs with those chords, or songs with 1 2 or 3 extra chords you don’t yet know.

If you log in, you can add songs. I am hoping that people will find this useful, as I can’t begin to measure the relative difficulties of each song until I have a reasonable amount of data.

I’ve set up a project for it on my issue tracker – if you want to see ‘x’ feature, or you spot ‘y’ bug, please report them.

I hope you find this useful.

I’m debating with myself about whether to release the code for this – I want to share, but I also don’t want someone taking my code and building a huge money-printing site with it and leaving me in the cold (and Monaghan gets cold this time of year). Maybe I’ll release code for “old” versions – like if I’m on version 1.3, I’ll release 1.1 for other people to take.

guitar site project

Bronwyn is learning guitar. One headache we’ve already encountered is that there doesn’t appear to be a site which allows you to simply enter the chords you know, and have a list of matching songs returned.

So I’m thinking of writing one.

And, because I’m not really interested in chords myself, I’m going to make this into a sort of competitive site where songs and players can be ranked by difficulty/skill.

Bronwyn’s requirements will be easy to meet:

  • login
  • record the chords you know (or choose them from a list)
  • search a database of songs that match that list.
  • The songs will either show the tab/chords for the song in a page on the site, or will link to an external source if I can’t put them on the site for some reason (copyright, etc).
  • record the songs you know/are learning, so you can easily keep track of them.

For myself, and I suspect a lot of others, there’s a more complex list:

  • rank songs according to how many people know it vs are learning it (simple difficulty algorithm)
  • allow people to link to youtube/etc videos of themselves playing the song
  • allow people to optionally be ranked according to the songs they’ve mastered – this adds a bit of competition and therefore interest to the site
  • people with high ranks need to prove it. allow other high-ranked people to request a specific song that the person says they know – that person then has a week to upload a video of them playing it or they lose credibility.
  • credibility is ranked 0-100, and measures how much a person can be believed. it’s only shown in cases where a person is obviously lying.

Anything else i should try to place in the requirements list before I start writing?

damn you, guitar hero

my wrists are in pain. I’ve a lump of calloused flesh on my right thumb. my fingers are hyper-sensitive. and yet I want to do it again.

I’ve beaten Easy and Moderate and am half-way through Hard.

most of the songs in Hard are …hard… it’s kind of annoying that you have to pass every single song in the playlist to win, where in the Moderate and Easy levels, you had to pass maybe 3/4 of them. if I was playing live on stage, I think I would have a choice of what to play or not…

an annoyance in the game is that I (like a lot of players, I imagine) can actually play guitar. I keep trying to play notes that are not actually mapped on the tab, and you can’t show a bit of flair or improvise with the timing, which I like to do when playing an actual guitar.

given all that, I’ve managed to reach The Knights Of Cydonia. that is one bugger of a song. as attested by another player, the most punishing part of the song is the Amending Chorus and the Galloping Triplets – two sections of finger-destroying repetition. it’s not even that they’re particularly hard – it’s just that they sap the energy from your hands and make you swear off listening to Muse for fear of flashbacks.

a pretty cool part of the song comes near the beginning, where you get to do some incredibly fast picking. I’m not sure that Muse in reality play this song so difficultly. if so, though, Matthew Bellamy, if I had a hat, it would currently be off.

some people say that the key to getting through that section is not even to try – store up some star power and use it when you get there so the audience won’t hear all the mistakes you make. I think I’ll just keep trying. when I get to Expert level I’m sure it will be even harder…

The Strats

This post is not in any way technical – I’d just like to point people at the website of my friend Will Ludford’s band, The Strats. They’re a two-piece blues band with a sound like Dire Straits, Will on guitars, and Nigel Branigan on keyboards, who play their own music – in Will’s words, “I’ve got blues albums by people and I must have about forty versions of Hoochie Coochie Man and I just [don’t] want to do another one. I think people deserve a bit better”.

I must admit, I listened to their album once, and thought “it’s okay”, but after listening to it a few times, some bits just started sticking in my head, in that annoying “damnit, this is catchy!” way. In fact, I think I’ll turn off the Pachelbel I’m listening to, and play their album just one more time, to try exorcise Keeping My Eyes On You from my head.

I talked Will into placing a few of the songs online, so you can hear stuff from his album by using the MP3 player on the top left of the website (if you have flash installed). He’s also allowing those tunes to be downloaded freely, but I haven’t put those links up yet (they’re here).

Also, I talked him into lowering the price for a while on the album, for sales made through his site. Usually, the album sells for €15, but he’s selling them for €10 through his website. Seriously – listen to the stuff, then buy the album – what’s a tenner??

The Strats are primarily a gigging band, so if you like what you hear on the album, you’ll love seeing them live. If you want to know if they’re playing any time soon in your area, use the contact form on the website and ask them! They’re nice guys, and will answer directly.

If you like your guitar (and Will loves his Strats!), try this album out. Will worries that he doesn’t sing enough on the album – so? The guitar works, and that’s what matters!

this year so far

I’ve started teaching guitar. I think I have a pretty good method. My student is off work for about six weeks due to some back surgery, so I’ve made the assumption that he will have time to learn some theory, so I started off by explaining “power chords” (or “fifths” – made from the root note and the fifth note), and explaining how major and minor chords are made from the respective 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the major scale (ionian mode) and minor scale (aeolian mode) from whichever root you want.

Instead of showing twenty open-string versions of chords and expecting to have to remind him of them all again the next week, I demonstrated only four chord shapes, A Am E and Em, and showed how barre chords can be used with those shapes to make any major or minor chord at all.

Hopefully, he has not run screaming for the hills already… I at least only show him songs he actually names himself. Last week, I showed him The Jam’s That’s Entertainment, and this week, I’ll be showing him Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (which will be a handy introduction to open string chords G C and D, as well as hammer-ons and pull-offs).

On the work front, I’m currently working on some pretty significant improvements to our WebME engine‘s AJAX shopping cart. In the admin area, I’m working on allowing products to be created and dragged around categories as if they were files in a file manager. To manage this, I’ve ported my KFM project into WebME and converted the appropriate areas.

Robots… my mini-itx bot has served its purpose – I built it to see if I could, and I could, so it’s time to strip it down and reuse its parts for something else (files server, maybe). I’ll be building a few robots this year, using the Gumstix platform for the brain. This should allow for a much better battery life, as well as a much smaller body size.

We (Bronwyn and I) will be moving house this year. When we moved into our present house, we told the landlords that it would only be for a year or two while we looked for a permanent house to buy and live in. Bronwyn’s parents have given us an enormous boost in this – they found a two storey building with a converted attic, which is about the same size as our current cottage stacked on top of itself three times, and bought it for us. Of course, we’ll still need to pay off the mortgage, etc, but the gesture is definitely not unnoticed! Thanks, guys! More on that later, when details are more concrete.

My son is still a genius. Yesterday, at age 3.3, he wrote his name without prompting. He forgot the “T” in “JARETH”, but still – can your 3.3 year old son write his name? Of course, still not a word out of him yet, but he’s making progress in that as well – every night, he mumbles himself to sleep, trying out various sounds.

update: got a phone call earlier on to say that Bronwyn passed him while he was playing in the house, and she noticed he had written his name in total, not forgetting the “T”.

Boann is calming down a little – instead of screaming all day and night, she now only screams for a while, and I only spend an hour or so every night (usually some time between 1am and 3am) walking up and down wondering why she’s so wide awake at that unholy hour.

Life is getting slowly better.

I have a doctor’s appointment on Friday – I have a lump in a certain area since December, which may or may not be cancerous. We’ll see.

I emailed an old friend, who we had had a falling out with about seven years ago, over some stupid event that may or may not have happened when I was blind drunk after two bottles of vodka. He’s the piercer for a shop in Canada, and is apparently doing quite well for himself! Hi Andy! Bygones have become bygones, and hopefully, we’ll be able to sit down over a few jars at some point and laugh at ourselves.

Anyway… gotta get to work. It’s just past 9am, and I am officially into work-time now, so I’d better stop nattering.