Double Down

The Freakin NSA

The Executive Director of Google says that the NSA is going to break trust in the internet, and thereby break the very internet itself. I don’t think the government cares. The NSA will do whatever it likes, thankyouverymuch. Further, it will do what it likes in whatever country it chooses! Ed Snowden still believes that the whole thing will be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Only problem with that is that by his own admission, none of the felonies uncovered have been prosecuted. A case has to get to the Supremes before it can be heard there. Chalk it up to terror-phobia.

The Freakin Economy

This is why I like Elizabeth Warren: she knows what she’s talking about and she’s not afraid to say it loudly. In this case, she’s willing to say the system is rigged against Joe and Jane Average, in favor Wall Street — a group of institutions almost as untouchable as the freakin NSA. Gee, maybe that’s why Americans are flat-out broke. And for African-American or Hispanic-American families, median assets are worth less than a decent used car. By the way, notice that infographic doesn’t say net assets, just assets. Oversight, or does that not reflect debt owed on assets?

In Closing:  a couple of TSA items; Can we please have more cops like this guy and fewer cops that see the public as a bunch of incipient criminals, please?; “shut the whole thing down“; fight to the death and reap the profits thereof; please be sure to take this quick ebola quiz courtesy of Southern Beale — you’re much more likely to encounter Enterovirus D68; two items on diabetes; and I didn’t get the memo either.

 

What does Google know about me?

I’ve been using Google well over a decade now. That’s how I learned that someone skilled and diligent can find out a surprising amount of information about almost anybody. Google therefore has a detailed history of my searches for as long as they actually keep data. This data is potentially available to law enforcement — maybe. It worries me that they might be tailoring search results to give users what are potentially biased links. This might contribute to various ideological “echo chambers” across the nation. Web history can be turned off in Google, and I recommend you use the settings to do so.

I use Gmail. It is very good at filtering spam, I can access it from computers other than my home computer easily, and emails arrive at my phone (more on that in a bit). Just by keeping track of senders and subject lines of emails, Google knows of several places I shop, what mailing lists I am subscribed to, that I receive some emails in Japanese, what sorts of political views and charities I am likely to support, that I have a Twitter account, that I have historically had an interest in real estate, and what colleges I have attended. Remember, they only know more if they are actually reading my email and analyzing it in any way. I’m not as worried as I probably ought to be about this, because my attitude is “Don’t put anything on the internet you wouldn’t read out loud to your mother, your boss, and a judge.” Hi mom!

Thanks to Google Calendar, they also know the rough outline of my schedule and the first names of friends I routinely meet for lunch. Services like Schedulicity are very good at syncing with Google Calendar, so the mothership also knows of certain service providers, how often I see them, and what services they perform for me.

Via Google+, they know of several people with whom I have personal, familial, or professional relationships.

I also use an Android phone. Here’s another way they know oodles about me. It syncs with all those services above, which is horribly convenient since I don’t have to carry a date book or sit at my computer; my phone has my calendar and contact information for people I know, and I can update things on the spot. My phone also has a GPS in it, and can inform me of weather or even how long it will take me to get home. Is this information relayed to the mothership? I must assume it does until proven otherwise. I have a bunch of apps on my phone, of course. The easiest way to get apps onto an Android phone is of course to get them through the Android store. Therefore Google has a very, very good idea what apps I have and am likely to be using, whether they are productivity apps or little time wasters.

If I used Blogger, they would know even more about me and my views!

And this is all information I have handed over more or less willingly. Even if they are not a CIA front, a surveillance minded government would be looking at how to mine that internet gold.

 

In Closing: I have a whole bunch of health and diet links today; a few random education links too; ok, here’s some NSA and privacy news, special up-is-down edition; Putin; pro-choice and pro-actual-life; that’s kinda what I thought; at least the White House got one thing right; sure sounds like an excuse to write more prescriptions and make more money to me; gravity and evolution are both theories; keep riding your Congressmouse’s butt on this and that; trolled; on wages and poverty; science fiction; snowplow parents; I doubt the Pope gives a hoot about the views of the “liberal media.”

A Few Words about Taxes and the IRS

Forbidden Fruit. Apple has been getting grilled for following the law in a manner that reduces their taxes. Frankly, most of us choose to do legal things to minimize our tax liability. Give a charitable donation? Buy a house with a mortgage? You could be guilty of following the law! I’m with the CEO of Google and Bill Gates on this one: Don’t like it? Change the law!

The Scandal That Wasn’t: So thanks to Karoli of Crooks and Liars for actually digging up some facts to go with our conspiracy theory witch hunt on the IRS allegedly investigating too many conservative groups. When roughly 80% of applicants are conservative groups, you should be shocked if roughly 80% of those investigated aren’t conservative groups! But hey, let’s not let reality get in the way of a good rant.

That’s it for now.

In Closing: a small example of manmade climate change; cats at sea; so that’s why; supply and demand; an interesting man; inequality; duh; they deserve better; dumb idea; about time; even handed reporting on immigration reform; family leavecrack babies; and I hardly consider it “freak” when something crashes into it.

Happy Thanksgiving

 

In Closing: That would be bad; Googlegator; Japan Crush; Rolling Jubilee gets more press; the last cooler than average month was during the Reagan Administration (maybe hell froze over when he compromised with Democrats or raised taxes?); Lost Decade, American Style; Forbes and USA Today disagree on the buyer, but agree that somebody will make your freaking Twinkies (and screw workers in the process); of course, you could just make your own freaking Twinkies; maybe if the so-called adults made it clear that we must treat others with respect, this wouldn’t be a problem; vintage pictures of Japan; Susie’s right; so is Robert.

Addressing a trend

I’ve been getting more than my fair share of comment spam recently (not quite enough that I’m ready to use one of those “prove you’re human” things). Lately, one of the topics is HCG diets.

Let me make one thing perfectly crystal clear about HCG: it is the only diet drug required by the FDA to have a black box warning saying it does not work! Really, that’s the only thing you need to know about HCG. Just say no. It’s a waste of your money and potentially dangerous.

As for the new “safer” homeopathic HCG drops, they’re still sugar water. Further, even if homeopathy did work, the “Law of Similars” — “a substance that when taken in crude form causes a set of symptoms or disease in a healthy person can cure similar symptoms occurring during an illness when treated with small, often infinitesimal, potentised doses of the same substance” — would suggest that diluting a weight loss “drug” for homeopathic use would make the user gain weight, wouldn’t it?

It is at this point that I will point out that I’m not a doctor, nor a dietician. I’m only pointing out two things: HCG is FDA proven to not work for weight loss, and mixing it with a bunch of water isn’t likely to make it more effective.

While we are on the topic, here’s some tips for not letting the holidays ruin your diet.

In Closing: tricorder; oops; The Jungle returns; doing good work; what??; free markets won’t fix health care; which reality will win, not enough money to retire or not enough health to keep working?; couples and money; the near poor; I’ve always thought it would be a great idea to have a “third party debate,” and apparently there was; and who needs MacGyver when Dolph Lundgren really exists??

Shorties Awakening

When Al Jazeera points this out, it’s a problem: School to Prison Pipeline. If you find this topic interesting (or horrifying, whatever), the ACLU is a great place to start.

Old Flowers: In this case, 32,000 years old. For those keeping track, that’s over 5 times as old as young-Earth creationists think the world is. <sarcasm> Miracle, or Satan’s lies? </sarcasm>

The Last Ninja: Is an engineer who admits that most of what he learned has no place in the modern world.

Break it down: Here’s where Google’s ad revenues come from.

Burnout: Half of doctors report some signs of it. I’m really disappointed that they didn’t even try to look at why they might feel that way.

It’s not your imagination: The middle class earned less than they did a decade ago.

Apparently Alabama law allows death threats on the job: Seriously.

That can’t be good: For all the news coverage of Romney talking about his energy plan, he specifically refused to go into details where the press might hear it (If this is true, shame on the press for not pointing out that they have an incomplete story). So, does he plan on making up details to suit his audience, or is his plan so out there that he doesn’t dare risk the general public learning the details? Either way, do we want him in charge? What is already known is attracting criticism from many places.

Organizational Tools

Today’s Life Well Lived question is this:

What are your favorite resources (Products, Apps, Books, Websites, etc.) to help you get organized?

Join the discussion here, and don’t forget to enter the current sweepstakes!

I’m simple when it comes to resources to get organized. I’ve tried lots of things over the years. I’ve got at least two unused reminder and to-do list apps on my phone. Outlook remains unlaunched. I’ve tried iCal, Google Calendar, all the org tools bundled into any of the half dozen email apps I’ve tried to use over the years. When it comes right down to it, my favorite resources are simple ones that were available 30 years ago.

Folders: Accounts payable goes into a folder. Paid bills, receipts, and other important stuff goes into a folder marked with the month and year. I put tax related stuff into a folder so I can find it in February when I sit down to do taxes. I use bright yellow pocket folders for my clients so they can keep track of all the documents I give them (not only is it an eye catching color, it’s easy to remember the folder is from me because my car is also bright yellow). I keep my presentations in binders.

Calendar: Back when I had a traditional job, I used to write notes for myself on the big desk calendar on the appropriate date: birthday reminders, reports due, notices need to go out, court dates, staff vacations, paydays, etc.. Now I use a weekly view pocket calendar to write down appointments, vacations, school holidays, and the like. I keep track of the correct page with a simple paper clip. Some of my colleagues have the big 8 x 11 calendar books or Day-Timers. I keep it simple.

Sticky Notes: Oh what on earth did I ever do before sticky notes?? I’d like to kiss the guy at 3M that came up with these things. I can use them as bookmarks that never fall out. I can stick an important message to somebody’s desk (or computer screen if I’m in a bad mood). I can point out where to sign an important document. I can write down phone numbers or addresses and stick them where I will next need them. I can remind myself of a goal or a deviation from schedule, or whatever. I can write down the 3-6 Most Important Tasks I have to do that day — and stick it directly to the correct page in my date book! Or my desk. Or my phone…. You get the picture.

So yes. I use tools to stay organized. Really low-tech tools. Even the sticky note thing I could do with a simple pad of paper, but the sticky part is really handy. No apps to buy, no websites that may or may not be sharing information, no batteries required.

In Closing: censorship; we noticed; and VAGINA.

Getting Organized

Like many people, I’ve got stuff that must be done: bills to pay, people to see, floors to clean, you know the drill. And like many people, I find it’s easy to let things slip away if I don’t stay organized. I’m a big believer in “to do lists,” because it’s easy to see what you’ve done and what needs to be done. However, it’s easy to let the chaos of your everyday life spill over into your list.

I’ve got two main methods for keeping a to do list. The first is the “4 boxes” method. I take a piece of notebook paper and divide it into quarters. The first box is labeled Personal, and here’s where I write stuff I have to do for myself:

  • Take vitamins
  • Make hair appointment
  • Finish reading “Diary of a Mad Fat Girl”
  • Call Jane to set up lunch for next week

Box two is for things I do for my family:

  • Defrost meat for dinner
  • Pay bills
  • Clean floors
  • Confirm weekend plans

Box 3 and 4 are flexible, and you can do with them what you like. Perhaps yours are Work and School or Charity. If your job is pretty much the same thing every day,  you probably won’t need a box for it. I’m my own business, so I need two! My third box is Client Service, things I do for my existing clients:

  • Schedule home inspection on Crescent Canyon
  • Get purchase offer to Johnstons
  • Where are signed docs on La Palma Pkwy?
  • Update automated search for Williams

That leaves box 4 for Lead Generation/Follow-Up:

  • Get mailer out
  • Call Goldbergs
  • First meeting w Hendersons at 11
  • Floor duty 12-2

Go ahead and write it all down, but pay particular attention to stuff you don’t do everyday — unless you’re trying to build a new good habit or it’s something you tend to forget. Happily put small things down for the express purpose of crossing it off and feeling good about it.

On the other hand, if you get overwhelmed by a large list like this, I’ve got a new trick that seems to be working well. A motivational speaker came to my office and suggested writing down only the top 5 things that absolutely have to be done today. Well, it occurred to me that not much more than 5 items will fit on a sticky-note. You can stick it to your phone, inside your date book, to the sun visor of your car, to your desk, or pretty much any other place you’ll see it a dozen times a day. Ok, sometimes I cram 6 or even 7 items onto that note. They get done, and that’s the important part.

Ok, ready for In Closing?: resume; clear your search history; and we pay the bill; fat is not the enemy; inflation; the agenda; if they’re following the rules, they have nothing to worry about; and Occupy is still out there.

Mama Economy

Remember Tay Zonday? He’s back, and he understands economics.

In Closing: Autopsy; Castro; Google thinks I’m a dude too (clearly I need to search more for shoes and makeup); Just for fun, read the first paragraph to somebody before telling them it’s Bob Dole; Because surely her hair is more important than anything else; Okay, maybe that’s a problem; and have a great weekend.