Your Friends Tell the World about You

Professor Jennifer Golbeck has a Talk on TED.com you should listen to if you are a user of social media or not. The subject of Professor Goldbrick’s talk is the act of a ‘like’ for a picture of curly fries. How that innocent like categorizes you into a special group. Generally liking curly fries, and other innocent ‘likes’ tells those who are interested, a lot more about you than your taste in food.

Social media is social, no surprise there. You generally are careful about what you say or write about in your own life, or what you comment on in other peoples live’s. It all appears harmless enough on the surface, but the amount of seriously personal information you are giving away is scary, both its width and breadth.

Pre-computer age, if a company wanted to learn if you were a good fit for the company, they would ask you if you would mind a taking a test, or four in my case. The company was upfront about it. These were personality tests designed to unravel who I was, what I thought, and where I drew my boundaries.

If you were asked to take tests such as these as a condition of employment what would you do? In my case I said, sure I would take the tests. How bad could it be? After all, if there were questions about subject I chose not to share, I would answer differently than I really thought.

After the eight or ninth question it hit me. If I am choosing to not answer honestly about a question, and answer differently, how does that reflect on me? Is everyone like me, and are they answering in the exact different way? Or am I answering the way a pathological criminal would answer?

This series of tests was quite a little mind game for me. After the fourth test, the company for whatever reason gave up on me. Somewhere in my answers, it became apparent that I was not the right person for the job. It may have differences to my answers of the same type of questions, or it may have been my answers led them to believe something else about me. It may have been there was no company hiring, and I was being lied too. I never heard from the company after the fourth test.

So what has that srtory to do with social media? A lot more than you think. You are I am sure very careful about what you say, and pictures you post in social media sites. Seems like a safe approach in itself. After all what information are you really giving away?

You are giving a lot more persoanl and private information away than you think when using social media. Starting with your on-line friends. Do you really know all your friends in person, or do you only know the persona they pretend to be? Do you know their friends, or just the friends they mention?

What are your friends generally posting about? If you are in college, and you never mention drinking, drugs, cheating, when writing about college, it does not matter. If your friends are doing something, odds are you are too. That’s the way life works.

From Tribal or villiage life of old to facebook of present, we haven’t changed. We are who we hang around with. There is an old saying I was told as a Teen that applies more now than ever. “You are your friends.” It may be a good idea to commit that line to memory. What your friends are so are you.

What this means, is if you socialize, or are linked up with certain groups of people who like or enjoy certain things, chances are you do those things too, even though you may not mention them yourself. What your friends, online or off talk about, is what you are probably doing too.

After all what is the point of having friends if you do not share interests? If your friends are talking about spending the fourth of July in a drunken stupor at some beach, it does not matter if you post about it or not. If you have no comments during the time they will be partying, it is pretty likely you were right there with them.

If some of your friends mention being in favor of one or more frowned upon behaviors, and you do not mention it anywhere in your posts or messages, guess what? You are connected to those behaviors by association, because of your friends. Even if your friends have little in common in your real life, inferences are being made about your life, every bit of it.

Social media is fun, Social media helps you feel connected, Social media is also stealing your life and selling it for profit. Social media is forming your world. Think about the amount of freely given information available to someone if you are a long time user of social media. Chances are good that you have already been categorized, binned, and classified in a hundred different ways, waiting for the buyer of your personal information.

Secret to Your Success

What is the reality of your life? Are you suffering from polar reality disorder? Are the things you want from you life working in harmony or conflict? Your success at life as you define it depends on knowing and acting upon your answer.

In the physical world, the world of animals, animal reality is simple. Animals live in earth based reality. Animals eat, sleep, feed, and occasionally play. Animals do not need language as we understand it.

Animals do not need a certain look, live in a certain place because its popular, or hold certain aspects of their lives as more important. Animals live in a simple reality. Be born, eat, sleep, procreate, hopefully grow old, and die.

For we humans, this is not enough. Early in our life, identify what we perceive to be our points of weakness. We spend our days trying to compensate for that weakness. We collect and attempt to control our perceived weak point and make them into strengths.

Just as a rich man and pious man cannot live in harmony, the secret to your success is to determine what is important in your life, and resolve conflicts of polar realities by removing conflicting wants and needs. Spend each and every day making your aligned realities more believable and stronger. It also helps to have other people envy your chosen reality, and want to be just like you.

Realities of money and Christian religion are polar opposites when it comes to creating and living a successful life. The reality of money means putting collecting money above all else. The reality of Christian religion means putting others above self, and money has little value.

Trying to meld polar realities is a study in extreme frustration.The best one can hope for from these two polar realities is to become Pope. The worst outcome, is becoming a transient street preacher living in or wandering from slum to slum. The mediocre outcome is becoming priest or minister of a struggling church in a town or city where no one really wants to live.

Diamonds are not rare, except we choose to pretend they are. Tons of diamonds are mined each year. If more diamonds were needed year to year, they may be manufactured. Diamonds are everywhere. However, we choose to make diamonds valuable in the reality of wealth. Money has no real value except the value we choose to give money. We don’t need money to live. We want money to live better in the reality of money.

Choosing realities which affirm each other rather than polarize, will create a successful life, happening almost as if by magic. Choose polarizing realities and the very best that can hoped for is mediocrity or less.

The summation of realities you choose for your life determine your life path, and the level of success you will enjoy. How well you harmoniously merge and focus on your chosen realities, determines your personal, or life success. The more affirming realities you hold, the more successful you will be.

This simple idea of eliminating polar realties from your life is the secret to your success. Simple on paper, or in the abstract, actually doing this is a monumental task in the day to day aspects of your life. What are you really willing to sacrifice to make your reality come true: family, friends, children, money, or leisure time? In most common realities people choose, in order to stand out, many parts of ones life is either ignored or not important.

Too be successful in the eyes of others choose a reality where the collection of something is important and is the benchmark of a reality. Being the owner of the worlds largest collection of dust bunnies does not garner the admiration of most people. Choose your reality to fit a definable end state of your choosing and which other people will value.

Now you know how to be successful. Examine the realities you are living your life by. Decide which realities are the most important and do not conflict. Spend each and every moment of your day only to further your realities. From time to time bechmark your progress. Start over.

Skin Color and Sports, Looking Back, Living Forward

I watched the movie, 42 today. I remember being a kid and watching Jackie Robinson playing ball. I was too young to know the story behind Jackie Robinson playing ball. All I knew was he was a quiet serious player, and he was darned good.

Jackie Robinson took care of business on the filed. I never heard, or understood the word professional at that age. I never heard the word racism either. All I knew by the time I was old enough to watch baseball was Jackie Robinson was one heck of a palyer, and he seldom spoke.

Growing up in rural Minnesota, I did not know much about baseball and race. In 1962 I knew we had a hot hitter on the Twins roster, named Tony Oliva. Tony Oliva struck fear when he moved to the major league on the Twins roster. Tony Oliva was one of the best batters in the league coming into the league.

Until the end of his first season he was a hot batter. By the end of his first season, Tony Oliva could not get within four feet of home plate. Pitchers would throw the ball at him. I thought as an ignorant to how the world works kid, there was a battle between Tony Oliva, and the Pitchers over who own the plate and the batters box.

When the Civil Rights movement started to make national news, I never made the connection between Civil Rights, Jackie Robinson, and Tony Oliva. I always believed Jackie Robinson was the consummate professional, and Tony Oliva was pressured away from the plate because he was too powerful a batter.

Today, after the movie 42, it becomes clear what the real issues were. Jackie Robinson was a professional, because he had to be. Tony Oliva shied away from the plate not because the pitchers of the day did not want him to hit off of them. They both were the way they were because of the people who did not believe they belonged on a professional baseball field with white players.

Sometimes we forget we are a little planet, with no place to move to. Every generation repeats some of the wrongs previous generations lived under. I know the day is coming when skin color and sexual preference will no longer be an important. I hope we do not lose ground as we walk down the road to get there.

It is up to you now. It is your responsibility to ensure that the path to equality is not lost. The cost has been to high for you and your generation to forget how it used to be, and not strive to make it better. Make yourself proud. When you see a wrong, do what you can to right it. Don’t settle for good enough. Remember too, hate and ignorance do not have boundaries.

To Mooc or not to Mooc, That is the Question

Not a lot of content here, but rather a note about worthwhile free education for you. I have been hearing a lot about an acronym ‘Mooc’ lately and wanted to share Mooc with you, as Mooc is something you can use.

Mooc stands for: Massive Open Online Course. Many classes in the Mooc system are free to take. Thousands of people take the same class at the same time. Some of them pass their course, and receive credit for their time work.I

looked at some of the Mooc offerings, and I have to admit, there were some classes involving math where I was lost at the course name, let alone understanding the course content. There are many other classes offered covering the basics of almost any subject you want or need to learn.

What’s the catch? As I understand the process, when you complete a course, you receive a certificate of completion or some type. You can if you are motivated enough, complete a four year college degree plan for free using the Mooc system. The catch is you will not have a piece of paper from a formal university showing what you accomplished.

This is probably the greatest educational opportunity to happen in a long time. If you have a job and want a career instead, this is a path for you to follow if finances get in the way of a more formal education. It is hard to beat free. All you need to provide is your brain power and time.

In the workforce, once you are established, employers are more motivated by what you can contribute, than they are about a piece of paper you can produce. If you learn enough to contribute to your employers profit margin at a higher level, generally your pay check reflects your contributions. If not you will have knowledge and experience to offer your next employer.

The downside of Mooc is if successful, and they remain free, our world view will shift even further to the undereducated have-nots verses the educated haves. The balance, is free learning is hard to pass up and the upside of learning is awesome.

If you are thinking about getting on the Mooc bandwagon, but are on the fence, I think giving Mooc a try is a good choice. Get a few classes under your belt, and you may find yourself earning enough to take traditional classes. From their the sky is the limit.

Here is a series of TED videos about MOOC if you wish to learn more.

When Life Sucks, When We Hurt

Sometimes life has a way of taking us by surprise. When something good goes bad for no reason, the bottom drops out of our world. No need to go through the list of emotions that course there way through us. We all have, been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Yet, when it happens, is always takes us by surprise, we think we are the only person in the world who hurts. The only person in the world to feel this way. Generally we feel like the only person in the world.

Everyone else is going about their life, feeling good, and having fun. We on the other hand are sinking into a despair which if we stopped to think about, we would wonder if we will ever find our way back.

I came across this word a couple of times in the last week, and wanted to share it with you. I believe this word and its definition will help put things in perspective the next time we are caught by surprise and think we are the only person in the world who feels this bad.

From: The Dictionary of obscure sorrows comes the word Sonder.

sonder

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

It is important to try and remember when our world is falling apart, we are not the first to go through this. In fact if we could step away from ourselves, we could see the word ‘sonder’ in action.

Hundreds, if not thousands, or even millions of people feel same way we feel in the moment our world falls apart. Most people put on a brave face, or wear their face in a mask to hide what is really going on inside, so others do not see our pain and frustration.

Sonder. No matter how hurt, frustrated, helpless, and impotent we feel in the moment, we are not the first to feel this. We won’t be the last person to ever feel this. Take a moment and look deeply at those who are walking by, and think, Sonder. Remind yourself, sonder and time heals all.

Note Taking for Linux With Encryption

If you use a Mac or Windows, you may have read my posts about what I feel are the best note taking applications for Windows and Mac. As I now use Linux, and have used Linux for many years on and off, I want to share with you what I feel is the best Linux based note taking and storing program.

My favorite Windows and Mac note taking applications do not run on Linux natively. The best known Linux note taking program I know of is Tomboy. Tomboy, is a cross platform application. Tomboy does have some limitations which keep it out of my favorites as my needs are different. Tomboy is included by default in many Linux distributions and worth checking out if your needs are simple for note taking and storage.

What for me is a better alternative to Tomboy for Linux is a program named Cherrytree.  Cherrytree per the home page is:

“A hierarchical note taking application, featuring rich text and syntax highlighting, storing data in a single xml or sqlite file.”

I enjoy using a a notes program with a tree like structure. If you ever used any version of Treepad for Windows, you will be right at home. Cherrytree’s tree like node structure lends itself to easily visually find any note. Cherrytree also contains a handy search function. The tree node structure allows for notes to be placed under notes. This means no folder to open and peruse, notes are visible unless you have condensed the node.

cherrytreeI enjoy the Cherrytree search function. When using the search function, Cherrytree lets me know every instance of the keyword, or phrase I search for. Cherrytree has options for keyword setting on each node of the tree. My notes are not that complex, but the option is there if you need it.

What makes Cherrytree special, is Cherrytree has an encryption option for storing note files. On top of an easy to use, and easily to modify tree structure, notes can be encrypted when the file is saved.

What I do is I have two files. The first Cherrytree file contains my ’43 folders’ type information (calender and to do system), and general notes. I leave this file unencrypted. I have a second file containing passwords and other personal private information which is encrypted. Swapping between the two files with Cherrytree is a breeze. When Cherrytree is in use you may open another file as easily as you can with a text editor.

For the password protection scheme, Cherrytree uses 7-zip. 7-zip uses Strong AES-256 encryption in 7z and ZIP formats. Strong enough encryption for me. If my computer turns up missing, as in stolen, I have plenty of time to make all the alerts I will need to make.

Another important Cherrytree option is the ability to make each node on the tree ‘read only’ with the press of a key. There is nothing to match the frustration of overwriting a password or phrase because I did a Shift + V (paste), instead of Shift + C (copy) and later saving the file and not noticing what I did.

One final and perhaps moot point is Cherrytree is aware of file modification. Some programs are written with the user in charge, no questions. A file may be saved in a changed state, no questions asked. Cherrytree however asks if I want to save the modified file. This simple question has saved my passwords from being overwritten by mistake because I am thinking of other things while closing programs.

Cherrytree is in the repository of many Linux distributions. If Cherrytree is not in the repository of your favorite Linux distribution, you can download Cherrytree (as I have) in the format you need from the authors web site. Install instructions are easily followed, and simple to do.

The odds of anyone trying to break an encrypted file saved on a stolen computer are so low it is not worth worrying about. Thieves are only interested in a quick buck, not personal secrets. Truth is, if a thief is smart enough to break password encrypted files, they are not physically stealing for a living.

If you use Linux, and want an easy to use program to store sensitive notes, Cherrytree is the best program I have found. Having read only ability by a key toggle, and strong encryption make Cherrytree stand out from the crowd.

For all this, Cherrytree is donation-ware. Try out Cherrytree, and if you like it, let the author know by making a donation to the program via Cherrytree home page. Donating helps keep Cherrytree and its author reamin alive and healthy.

Prostituted Customer

I feel like a company has tried to buy me off. They did so quite generously too I might add. Is this the new way of doing business?

I am a Celiac. I consume more than a ‘normal amount’ of a certain product because of the limited number of manufactured foods I am able to eat. The product in question is an oatmeal based snack bar. Over the last year, the bar(s) in their individual wrapper have been shrinking. The price remains the same.

I started thinking about what a waste this is. Shrinking product size makes excessive landfill waste because the packaging is over-sized for the product. Plus I get hungry faster – less calories per serving. The idea started to bother me.

Products that are grown such as vegetables, fruits, and meats do not shrink if the cost of farming and ranching go up. Why do manufactured products need to shrink? Can’t they be real, or is it falsely believed consumers do not notice?

Because I do not mind having my opinions heard, I emailed the company at their customer service email address. Unfortunately for the company and myself, the person who was assigned to help me, appeared to have limited reading and comprehension ability and seems to be inexperienced in public relations.

I wrote in my email, over the past year their product has shrunk. I would prefer they return the product to its original size and raise the price. Sounded reasonable to me. I am willing to pay a little more for the original product size.

The first reply stated I was mistaken, and the product size has not changed in the last year (Ok, the last months maybe?). The last year was the time frame I used. I am reading the reply and thinking, ‘I eat a number of these each and every week. The open space in the package has grown by almost an inch, or about twenty percent over the last year. I get hungry sooner after eating them than before.’

Ok, I thought, perhaps there is an understanding gap between what I wrote and what was read on the other end. I decided to rephrase my email comments. I explained perhaps I was not clear in my first email about my concern and here is a rehash.

The product is a food, and therefore a major part of my diet. Because it has shrunk, I now have to eat something else to replace those calories that are missing when compared to your product from a year ago. I would prefer, you raise the price, and keep the product size the same.

The second reply echoed the first reply. The product has not changed in size. Also a check would be sent to me for my time and my emails. This email was a little frosty, imo.

This reply generated a third email from me. I stated I did not want any coupons or money from the company. All I want is to make the company aware of the idea, that shrinking product may not be the best answer in all cases.

This last email was ignored. Within a week or ten days, a check showed up in the amount of ten dollars addressed to me from the company I traded emails with. Really?

In defense of the company and the person who was unfortunate enough to have to respond to my email, I am sure they did their best, and I am sure they followed company policy.

The tone of the replies was a little brusque, but I lend that to the apparent inexperience of the person handling my email. A customer may not alway be right, but it helps to actually read and understand what is being said, before writing a flip reply.

So now, instead thanking a customer for making a suggestion to their business on how better to market their product, I feel like I have been prostituted. Ignore the customers concerns and suggestion.

Send the whiner a few dollars (against his wishes) to shut him up.

Chess Barely Past 1000

I have made it past 1000! Only 1,600 more points to climb before I say I know how to play chess. Just kidding, if I get to 1500 to 1600 I will be thrilled. I now know, there is no magic bullet. It takes time and energy to learn anything, especially chess.

Chess feels to me like a series of interwoven steps. I climb one, and step back two steps to correctly integrate what I think I now know. Some days I feel like a six year old would beat me. Then slowly, my newest learning starts to meld with the little I know. Then, for a few moments, I gloat over my new found skill. Then reality happens, again.

My biggest weakness right now is choosing to move too fast. I can’t seem to stay off the gas peddle of moves. I see a nice move, and I do not see (take time to look for) anything better, so I move. Then I watch one of my pieces I didn’t notice eaten, because I moved too fast. When I slow down, protect my pieces and  not leave them hanging, my chess ability will improve.

As I watch the Masters playing their game via a .pgn file, their play looks so thoughtless and effortless. I am learning, every move made in the late opening is meant to support a later move. I used to think they were wasted moves. For my part, I am busy getting my pieces out so I can castle. For no real reason, I forget what I am supposed to be doing, and poof, another piece bites the dust.

A second learning from the master level games is moves that made no sense to me and looked like errors, are starting to make sense. White moves their pawn to block a two move knight problem before it can be made. Black moves a bishop to tie up a rook, planning to over extend the rook in another move or two, while they plan trap the queen.

They had a plan, and a backup plan. My first plan is to get my pieces active. While doing this, I watch my pieces disappear from the board because I am not thinking and I am moving too fast. That is my current best chess ability.

I am a master at allowing my pieces to be taken. I am starting to appreciate the focus and thinking needed to pay chess well. I need a forced pause between mouse clicks. Counting does not work. I can not count and think at the same time. Perhaps having a clock close by would help, so I know when an acceptable amount of time has passed. Or in my case, an acceptable amount of looking and thinking has not yet passed.

When last spring rolled around, my frustration with chess was high. It was easy to set chess down and pretend chess is something for people with a lot more free time than I have. That is what I did. I told myself, it was not worth the effort. There were better things to do with my time.

This fall however, I started spending more of my spare time with chess. I am finding chess is a lot more fun, as long as I am willing to do some thinking as I play. My frustration level has dropped because the more I think, the more I see good changes in my chess, and in my life.

If you work in a group, I strongly suggest you take up learning chess (again if you stopped). The need to focus and analyze in chess will help you in your work and with the problem of office politics.

It is a good feeling to create a situation where a potential problem is either solved or deflected before can cause you harm. Chess also helps one focus on actually doing work. I’m my case at least, it helps me see ways to be more valuable by using the tools I have to work with in new ways.

Target and My Personal Information

I received an email apology from Target today. This is my reply:

Hello Gregg Steinhafel,

I do not remember ever using a credit or debit card at Target? I certainly did not provide this email address. Since I do not remember doing this, either I have not, or it has been a few months since I did use any plastic as a Target customer. I do not give out this email address.

Why are you hoarding my personal information?

Michael

I am sure Target’s email to me is sincere. What bothers me is why does Target have my information on file in the first place?  Does being a customer give a company the right to collect and hoard my personal information?

Homeless and Invisible, Mexican and successful

In the 1980′s when Ronald Reagan was president, America felt about the same way it feels now. America was looking for a hero, a financial fix, and a sense of self worth.

Earning a living was a hard, pretty much like people are trying to make ends meet today. Feels like Ground Hog Day lately. In an effort to reduce taxes, someone decided that institutionalizing people who were not a threat to themselves or others was a violation of their civil rights.

In a short period of time the walls of sanitariums fell, and tens of thousands of people were free to live a life that was their ‘legal right’, or in other words, literally kicked to the curb to fend for themselves. Nobody really noticed what was happening except their taxes went down. This homeless group of people were pretty much invisible, migrating to inner cities where few saw them on the streets.

During this same period Caesar Chavez prevailed in nothing short of a revolution for Migrant Farm Workers. Migrant Farm Workers were Mexican citizens who did low pay long hour ‘agricultural’ jobs, aka picking fruits, vegetables, citrus and such.

More and more Mexican citizens decided to stay and try to make this country their home. Speaking poor English, no real rights, and no financial support, they thrived.  They too were not noticed at first. There were few of them, and they lived quietly in rural and eventually inner city areas eking out what passed for a living.

It is interesting how some things have changed and other things have not. Mexican Migrant Workers have joined the American workforce with some becoming American citizens. Some small percentage have become wealthy, experiencing first hand the American Dream.

The homeless are still homeless. As natural born citizens many Homeless people lack basic skills which would enable them to hold any kind of job, have a place to call home, and a support network to help them. Many Homeless people who are mentally ill, or otherwise challenged and are brushed under the rug, as they fall through the cracks of life. They are rarely mentioned, barely noticed.

The Homeless population may be indicative of how we choose to treat those less fortunate than ourselves. People who legally may not be a threat to themselves or others, but emotionally or cognitively are not able to manage the basics of a normal life.

Homeless People wander and live in the streets, preyed upon, locked up, and murdered. This happens every day in our streets. We more fortunate Americans are unaware, or pretend not to notice. After all we can’t afford to help them.

I am in awe of the power of marketing. This is mass marketing in its finest hour. Mexican immigrants are the new pioneers, demanding their fair share from their newly conquered lands. The Homeless remain all but invisible. They are not able to get their act together, protest, and be heard.

Yet, the Mexican/American population of these United States shows the American Dream is still alive, and thriving. How is it a people who weren’t born here, may not speak any English, have several roadblocks in their path, become successful Americans, while the Homeless are ignored.