Sharing Your House Keys With Strangers

Your Facebook friend posts a seemingly harmless request:

Let’s see how well we know each other. Answer the following questions about yourself then share it with your friends. My answers are below. No fair posting and not sharing!

  1. Where did you go to high school?
  2. What was your first car?
  3. Who are your grandparents?
  4. Who was your first teacher?

Maybe you have participated in such a list. Look back at the small list I made. Does anything look familiar? If I know your high school I can also find the mascot. If I know your grandparents, I can probably determine which are your mom’s parents.

Why is that important? The security questions to confirm your identity with your bank, credit card issuer, health provider, financial website, email service, and security websites include information such as mother’s maiden name, birthplace, high school mascot, first car, and favorite band. Knowing the answer to these questions allow access when you forgot your password or make account changes.

Once you’ve made this information publicly available don’t think that it is only your friends who have access. Bad actors create profiles they can use to impersonate you, access your information, or other purposes. So be discreet with what you share on the Internet (or your children share about you) and err on the side of privacy.

Sharing tracking information

Forbes had a recent article on a story that made national media about fitness tracker data shared on a social media app for athletes that provided outlines of military bases, embassies, patrol routes, and even routes between possible intelligence facilities and non-declared bases. (Article link) Military personnel, contractors, and others wearing fitness trackers that was shared, in this case with Strava, was collected and “heat maps” of popular routes of its users. In similar apps, the data may not be for public view but the company’s possession of aggregate data could be used in nefarious ways. Also, “anonymous” data might be identifiable using other techniques which provides additional concern.

Many work locations prohibit tracking devices, Apple/Android watches, and other information into their facilities. Be aware of any security restrictions if you use these devices. Also, think about how the information you are sharing might be used against you. In the early years of Facebook, there were reports of people’s houses being robbed while they were on vacation because thieves, seeing real-time vacation postings, knew the houses were empty. Regular check-in’s on apps allow others to know your routines and location-based services can also disclose your location by your phone’s location.

Be smart about what you share

We may have reasons for allowing these services and each must do a personal evaluation and risk assessment to determine what is valuable enough to share private data and what should be protected. Having considered this, periodically check the privacy settings and sharing data in your social media accounts, smart phone, and apps. You may want to restrict settings and should delete any application sharing that is not longer useful (such as allowing Facebook to access a web site or app that you no longer use).

Most importantly, ask why you are sharing the info. Are you satisfying your ego? Do you really think it is so interesting that the world must know? Maybe you think you are just having fun with friends but remember, enemies may be more interested in some of this information than your friends will ever be.



Twas The Night Before Camp

Twas the night before camp,

and all through the state,
all the counselors were panicked,
as they readied in haste.

Another trip to Wal-Mart,
For toilietries and snacks,
For shaving cream and SHAVING CREAM?
I forgot. Must go back.

Their camper kids were packing,
and singing a song,
“We’re going to camp tomorrow
No baths all week long!”

Though they packed no underwear,
And only three shirts.
They did pack their candy,
And three socks covered in dirt.

The counselors made ready,
with chairs and radios,
And a t-shirt for tie dye (?)
Arrgh, to Wal-Mart again go.

As they pondered the heat,
that awaited next week,
They considered the kids,
that with smiles they would greet.

What a great week awaits,
full of singing and talking,
of study and praying,
and laughter and walking (lots of walking!).

Yes, there will be work,
and sweating off pounds,
and kids’ screaming voices,
that are hard to calm down.

As they finish their packing,
and re-packing for the kids,
They load up the car,
For the long Saturday trip.

One last night in the peace,
and quiet in their room,
in a bed full of comfort,
by a clean bathroom.

A thought comes to them,
at the end of this day,
“One more thing forgot,
at least Wal-Mart’s on the way.”

Why Walt Disney Parks Should Embrace Virtual Reality

Why Walt Disney Parks Should Embrace Virtual Reality

Walt Disney said that his parks would always change as long as imagination was in the world. That guiding statement has its share of problems.

Disney fans are excited to enjoy new interactive experiences at Disney Parks and the enhancements that freshen up older rides. After the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Captain Jack Sparrow and other movie characters were woven into the venerable ride in a way that respected tradition but renewed interest. For a time, the Enchanted Tiki Room was under new management using birds from Lion King and Aladdin to a show that fascinated our grandparents. Apparently the old guard wrested back control and, it has reverted to its peaceful tweet-tweet of paradise. Which was the right move: incorporate new characters or preserve the ride we all knew?

If Disney Imagineers decide to bulldoze the Tiki Room to build a dynamic interactive attraction, Disney fans would rebel. Yet, when was the last time you passed on the Tiki Room, Hall of Presidents, or Country Bear Jamboree because of time? Some true Disney fans visit the parks many times bypassing these venerable rides but would howl if management decided to re-purpose the area. But the great dreamer wanted the park to change and morph. What to do?

Some attractions are refurbished, remodeled, or removed and are greatly missed. My youngest daughter, a devoted Disney fan, regrets that she never rode Epcot’s Horizon ride as it closed years before she was born. It was a favorite of mine and I have a sentimental attachment to “If You Had Wings” and the terrifying “Alien Encounter.” I enjoy the Buzz Lightyear and Stitch attractions and think they were good replacements; however, I would like to have shared the other rides, though more quaint compared to modern standards, with my kids.

Enter Virtual Reality

You can enjoy ride-through videos of old rides and 360-degree trips on current rides with YouTube. Watching the Horizon’s ride video I forgot how amazing it was and enjoyed again some of the scenes I’d forgotten about. You can find videos of changed  attractions to remember the park landscape and rides from other times.Beautiful cyber woman over abstract blue background

This provides a perfect opportunity to build another park in the ethereal cyberworld. Before making major changes, and especially before removing rides, Disney Imagineers could use immersive audio and video capture technology to record the complete ride experience to be enjoyed with virtual reality. They could build a park of retired rides available to anyone with a connection, the equipment, and an E-ticket. They might even capture the experience of current rides, walking through the park, and visiting the resorts to share with those who physically cannot travel to the park but who want to relive an enjoyable vacation, perhaps from a hospital bed or from a remote location. Fans of Maelstrom could enjoy the boat ride with the trolls while, at Epcot, families are singing with the cast of Frozen. The park changes but we get to experience the old ride through VR whenever we desire. For the cost of storage space, bandwidth, and creative development Disney could have a perpetual park that would grow as the physical parks change.

I often listen to music loops, watch videos, look through my photos, and read articles to relive the many trips I have enjoyed and many Disney Park fans do the same thing. To have an annual pass to a virtual park created in high visual and audio quality that I could visit after a tough day at the office (“I’m tired, I need to mellow out at the Haunted Mansion a bit”) or want a bit of fairy dust in my hair would be very desirable. If any Disney Imagineers or Blue Fairies are listening, this is my wish.

Apply Massive Effort to Get Results

Apply Massive Effort to Get Results

When we set goals but direct limited energy towards fulfilling them and avoiding distractions, we get limited results. Developing skills, learning information in school, following diet and fitness plans, and nurturing relationships require focused sustained effort to succeed.

Inertia is powerful

We  enthusiastically embrace a diet or exercise plan, sign up for a class, or decide on a skill to develop and work through tasks enjoying the accomplishment. Then we hit a wall. We get bored. We get off schedule. We don’t see results. We question why we started this in the first place. Our natural tendency is to stop or slow the effort until we return to the inertia from which we began. We know a little more but we didn’t accomplish the goal, perhaps feel a bit guilty and defeated, and return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Massive effort is needed to push through barriers

When faced with the wall we have choices:

  • Stop immediately
  • Muddle through with little effort and eventually quit
  • Break through or climb over the wall

The difference between me casually leaning on my car and pushing it is massive effort. I can lean on my car and my weight may shift it slightly but the suspension will ensure that it doesn’t move. However, if I lean hard into the car, shoulder pressed against the trunk, legs pushing with great force, face grimaced with strain, and arms tensed with energy directed into the vehicle I get results.

Businessman pushing his car at the side of the roadNothing seems to happen at first and I continue to push but then feel the slightest movement in the car. I take short steps and force energy from my legs into the car and after a few short steps the motion of the car is more pronounced. I can take gradually longer strides directing energy into the car until I find that I am pushing less but the car is continuing to move. I can then jog while pushing the car as it moves under its own power with limited input from me. It took massive effort to transfer to start the movement and less to continue the movement.

Nothing happens until you put your head down, focus your energy, and keep pushing until something moves. You struggle with Algebra, until you don’t. You wrestle with reading or writing that book, until you don’t. You fight your resistance to the diet or exercise program until it becomes something your body seeks. THAT is when you see the biggest results. If you give up you gain nothing.

Diet and exercise example

I noticed this with diet and exercise. I worked out several times a week and embraced a healthier diet. While I felt better than without these choices, my weight range was still too high and my workouts were not challenging. It was better than nothing but there was something better than this.

I read (and watched a Google Talks video) about magician Penn Jillette’s drastic “potato diet” where he ate only plain potatoes for two weeks then added vegetable stews to trim 75 pounds from his 322 pound frame in just 83 days. The reason?

“The thing is, I don’t respect moderation so I had to do stuff really intense,” he said. “What I was most surprised about was I used to consider myself a happy guy. I look back on it now and I kind of, sort of wasn’t. I feel so great now. It’s night and day.”

Nutritionists and doctors got distracted on the pros and cons of the one food diet, the nutritional effects, and other health factors and completely missed the point. It wasn’t the diet itself, it was drastic action, not moderation, that was the kick start for his weight loss. He gradually adopted a mostly vegan diet and has worked to maintain his health and weight.

This is what got my attention. I was eating healthy and so obviously my diet would keep me in a 2 pound range but I needed something more drastic to get down to the healthy weight and then use my normal diet to sustain that. Additionally, if I wanted to see better results in my energy and strength I would need to intensify my workouts.

The results have been great. I have broken through my weight plateau on a lower calorie diet and work out until I feel I’m ready to be sick. As a result my body feels stronger, I have more energy at work, and am noticing the weight loss. The type of diet wasn’t important (though I am NOT a one-potato man) it just had to be easy to follow for a given period to reduce the likelihood of giving it up. I add variety to my workouts so they are not boring but do not diminish the intensity. Your diet and exercise program should not be a prison but should challenge you and reward your efforts. Find the ones that work for you instead of the latest fads. The difference maker is the intensity of the effort you exert.

Apply effort to work and personal goals

Have you set goals to develop professional skills or achieve goals? You’ve probably considered some things you need to do to achieve those goals. What drastic change do you need to propel you forward, develop strong momentum that will carry you forward towards meeting those goals? Do you need to block time, get an accountability partner or coach, or make an investment? Usually we can identify one task that if we apply massive effort to move it forward will cause us to move much closer to our goal and provide incentive to keep progressing. Maybe you are stagnant and you need to big challenge or a new path. Identify what you need to break the inertia and apply the energy to that effort. But, as they saying goes, “If you keep doing what you have been doing you will keep getting what you have always gotten.”


ABC News: Illusionist Penn Jillette on Shedding 100 Pounds



Why do people listen to pundits?

Why do people listen to pundits?

I enjoy sports talk radio but I don’t take it too seriously and usually tune out when they start predictions. Before the football season, the “experts” talked incessantly about who would have great seasons, what athletes and coaches would have success, and what teams would suffer. As the season rolled on their predictions proved incredibly wrong, and they do every year. However, no one loses their job and they begin the prediction process again with callers eagerly joining in with their insights. I enjoy much of the banter but I don’t put much stock in prognostication.

Fortune teller

The 2016 US election political experts were hilariously wrong. They laughed at the thought of Donald Trump running for president and dismissed his chances of winning the Republican nomination in a crowded field of diverse and qualified candidates. When he won the nomination they wrote off the Republican party saying that there were great divisions within that threatened to rip the GOP apart. During the campaign, the pundits provided advice for how Trump should run his campaign and marvelled at how he was doing it wrong. As they polished the crown for Hillary Clinton on election night, they began eulogizing the Trump campaign and lauding the historic nature of Clinton becoming the first woman president…until Donald Trump was announced as the winner of the 2016 election. Never has the press been so wrong from the very start and, had Trump followed the advice of the press, he certainly would have lost. Good thing, for his sake, he didn’t listen to the “experts” in the press.

I laughed to myself on my way into the gym several days as the TVs were continuing the coverage by these same pundits on how President-elect Trump was going to administer the country and what he should do. To my knowledge none of these people lost their jobs because they were clueless about the election and the electorate. Yet people will continue to listen to these pundits spout meaningless babble for the 24-hour cycle when they have proved that they are out of touch with the very area in which they proclaim to have expertise.

Years ago I heard someone describe modern media as “reporters interviewing reporters.” I never realized that the radio and television news and talk shows were exactly this. Having aspired to journalism when I was in school, a dream I abandoned, I envisioned a life chasing the story, interviewing and cross-examining people, pouring through data, and digesting the data for publication with tight insightful prose. But many prominent “journalists” are just news celebrities and brands that have to say outlandish things to get hits, views, and invitations to shows that want to create a bar fight on screen. I believe there are journalists true to the calling who cannot be bought and want the truth regardless of whether it is left or right, but I fear they are a minority today and do not have the audience enjoyed by the male and female spokesmodels and fame seekers. Of course, we asked for this by what we pay for with our attention and mouse clicks.

If anything, I hope the 2016 election (and football season) has given us a reality-check regarding our news sources and experts with a healthy dose of skepticism for what they say, and say, and say.


Book Review: Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media ManipulatorTrust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday exposes the ease with which online news organizations and blogs can be easily manipulated, based on his experience using the system to promote his projects, clients, and American Apparel. He provides great insight into the blurring of the lines between blogging and journalism and how the twin factors of add revenue based on screen views and the desire to break a story first create the perfect storm of rumors as news and sensationalist stories appealing to fear, anger, or scandal. When you finish the book you truly will see news and blogging in a different light and how a “follow the money” approach explains so much of what we see. His information on iterative journalism explains how organizations publish rumor but do an ineffective job of “getting the story right” but make profit on the incorrect story and the updates to correct it. Not content to just discuss methods and practices, he dissects real news events and promotional efforts to demonstrate how the monster feeds and operates. His insight into the major web hubs for news and individuals, from Huffington to Breitbart, will provide some much needed perspective on how we get our news and whether we really are informed.

He presents the material as exposing media manipulation techniques but one could follow the process and have a good chance at promotional success but at a cost. I was put off on some of his initial YouTube interviews as he seemed like a person confessing sins that he is proud of committing. His later books reveal one who has learned and matured from this dark place to a more settled view of the world and a better ethical approach to life. Finish this book and you’ll never view blogs and online news the same again.

Purchase from Amazon (affiliate link)

Book Review: The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us

The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive UsThe Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us
by Christopher Chabris

I do not not trust my eyes or my memory as confidently as I did in the past. It is not because of age but wisdom. I’ve read several books on analytic thinking, scientific discoveries on how our memories are formed and reconstructed, and common observation failures as outlined in this book. The more I read, the more I realize that I must, as The New York Times review observed, be humble about my observation abilities.

This book reflects the foolishness of exalting the importance of eyewitness testimony above other empirical data in investigations and court cases. The eyes do not always have it and we can sometimes see but not see. I would not believe it but having failed to see the gorilla as I dutifully counted the basketball passes on the video described in this book, I am convinced. The book also explains why failing to register everything we see is not a failure or weakness but a neurological necessity to keep us from sensory overload.

The description of various observational experiments and examples from business and law enforcement reinforced the validity of the book’s arguments. However, the authors did not leave readers to bemoan their condition or completely distrust their senses but provide techniques to help readers observe and understand common blind spots and how to compensate for them in their thinking and with interactions with others.

Buy from Amazon (affiliate link)