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Creatures Coeditor; musician, pet parent, childfree, movie buff, Halloween fan, swing dancer; Find me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/writerlen/

Learn some of the methods used by criminals to take your money — based on my first-hand email experience as a victim

A phone with the number “9–1–1” dialed into it.
Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Phishing is used to describe online messages that attempt to influence recipients with deceptive arguments that go against their best interests.

I usually consider myself an intelligent guy. Usually. Yet, no matter how street-smart we think we are, there are times when we get duped. Phishing scammers are getting more clever, and a lot of people fall for it. If we weren’t, scams wouldn’t be rampant. Unfortunately, we have to be our own IT department as the first line of defense against these jerks.

The Initial Email

Red Flag #1: The email references something you don’t recognize

Listen to the intuitive voice in your head. You’ve likely heard this before, but if you’re…


You’re not the only weirdo

Photo by Alex Lee on Unsplash

“Weird” can have many meanings. And not all are bad.

In school, I was so shy most peers wrote me off as a “weird” kid. Social awkwardness stuck to me like a sort of emotional superglue — syrupy and challenging to wash off. Being friendly wasn’t as easy for me as it was for many other kids.

One reason for my anti-social leanings: I discovered personality quirks that I didn’t think others had. I was such a serious boy. On countless days I felt like an adult in a kid’s body. …


PET OWNERSHIP | ANECDOTES | NAMES

An informal pet parent poll

Photo by Ilargian Faus from Pexels

Whenever someone tells me their pet’s unusual name, I always ask for the story behind it. What was their thought process? How long did it take? Was it easy? Over the years, I’ve met dozens of cute critters christened with names that have special meaning from various parts of their owners’ lives.

Categorized into a few “slices of life,” here’s a small sample of pet names and the reasons behind them, explained by some proud pet parents. I’ve lightly edited their replies, and I’m using their pictures with permission.

Entertainment

Belle

When we were looking to adopt her, the name they had…


And move on from missed opportunities

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

I may have seen one too many rom-com films starring Anne Hathaway or Ryan Reynolds. While I’m a straight male who enjoys a solid story, I’m also empathic as hell. This means if a film is well-made, I can immerse myself in the characters, scenes, and story, like wading into a swimming pool.

Quality filmmakers are good storytellers. They know how to pull at your heartstrings.

I don’t care if some say men aren’t supposed to show feelings. I feel, dammit!

Cool your jets — I know movies are fiction. But they always hold at least a kernel of truth…


But I know I have to

Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

In 1975, Van McCoy’s song “The Hustle” topped the Billboard charts, ushering America into the Disco era. I was still in my single-digit years. Later I learned what the word actually meant.

Now, our current gig economy has yanked the term sideways, co-opting it as part of what some might call a “hustle culture.”

Dictionary.com’s Slang Dictionary tells us that side hustle is “a means of making money alongside one’s main form of employment or income.

And even though I know scads of people use this term, it still sounds morally questionable. Probably because of its much older Disco Inferno…


Taps can touch the soul

Sounding Taps for neighbors, Image by Author

Being a musician for more than 40 years, I’ve played at various events for many different audiences. I’ve been lucky enough to perform on many grand orchestral stages, in cozy jazz clubs, and in peaceful church sanctuaries. All have a special place in my heart.

I don’t say this to brag. I say it because I’ve been able to relate to listeners, whether performing alone or with an ensemble. In ideal conditions, the music reached their ears, and on some level, spoke to their souls. It provided moments for them to cherish for their own reasons.

But as a trumpet…


Avoiding distractions gives your video an edge

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Your internet fans and visitors want the best from you. Most folks watch your video or attend your live chat to learn, discuss, or enjoy, and they want a product that’s as easy to watch as possible.

Distractions are the nemesis of quality video time. But some video content creators don’t think about their surroundings until it’s too late. I’ve encountered ringing telephones, cat butts in the camera, and speakers saying uh and um too many times.

I once had to click away from a video where the guest speaker literally said “like” at least once in every sentence. Sometimes…


How I separated the comedian from the creep

Disclaimer: The intent of this article is NOT to belittle or negate the emotional burden of anyone who has been assaulted, nor how such an attack affected the victim’s family, friends, or community. Rape is a vile, disgusting crime that deserves the harshest punishment available.

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

I’m still shaking my head. It’s a damned shame one of the best storytellers of our time chose to take such an immoral, repulsive path.

As a little boy, I listened to vinyl albums of Bill Cosby’s comedy routines so often that I internalized the words, timing, inflection, and sound effects of many stories. My…


ANECDOTE | FEAR

Sometimes our fears arise when we least expect them

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

The tiny black blob on the edge of my bathmat seemed innocent enough — I assumed it was the manufacturer’s tag. But the second time I walked by the bathroom, I realized that was no tag. I turned the light on and took one step before I saw it was a carpenter bee. Shit.

I figured it wasn’t a bumblebee because I didn’t see any yellow stripes. While female carpenter bees have stingers, males don’t, but I wasn’t about to find out which one this was! For the sake of this story, I’ll say it was a male.

Dude wasn’t moving

It was…


The world is full of mind-boggling variety

Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

Topics deemed “superficial” or “oddball” by typical societal thinking have as much right to get some limelight as any other topics. Writers are advised to “write what you know.” That’s all well and good, but what you know may not be the same topics mainstream media churns out daily.

So, you must don your brown felt fedora and trusty bullwhip and seek out those valuable gems: readers who will devour your topics.

Why bother? Two reasons.

Variety never goes out of style

There are all sorts of people in this crazy world, folks with varied interests. We may not see or hear many marginal stories in…

Len Morse

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