An Identity Crisis
Recent headlines regarding the government’s phone tapping of journalists’ phones and computers and the IRS revelation that it targeted political groups applying for tax-exempt status for closer scrutiny based on their names or political themes has caused many to ask themselves, “is any of my personal information safe?” Yes and no, depending on many things, of which I’ll outline in today’s “Tuesday’s Tip” blog.
Smartphones have indeed made life easier and information more accessible, but they’ve also made us more vulnerable to someone retrieving personal information off of them, most times without us even knowing it until it’s possibly too late. How can you protect yourself?
Phones and Other Devices
- Open pages only from reputable sources. Four out of 10 mobile devices click on dangerous links every year.
- Password protect all of your devices.
- Androids are particularly vulnerable because their apps aren’t always vetted for malware but iPhones are identity thieves’ favorites. Download the free “Find My iPhone” app, which allows you to remotely wipe out your date, lock your device, and possibly even track its location. McAfee offers a similar service for Androids.
- Install antivirus and antimalware software on all your devices.
- Purchase apps only from trusted sources.
These four-digit numbers are hacker’s dreams. If your PIN is your birth date, a year in the 1900s, or an obvious numerical sequence, the odds of it being compromised increase dramatically.
Surprisingly, 1234, 1111, and 0000 account for 20 percent of all four-digit passwords and every combination that starts with 19 ranks in the 80th percentile of popularity. Month/day combinations are also prevalent, as are combinations using only even numbers, like 2468.
Create passwords that include upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and change your passwords often.
Why should you care about these statistics? Because by using them you are automatically making your password easier to guess. The least popular PIN seems to be 8068 because it follows no discernible pattern.
Protecting Your Identity
In 2011, more than 11 million Americans were victims of identity theft. I can’t even imagine the horror of finding out someone out there is posing as me and has all my personal information. Computer viruses, so-called “dumpster divers,” and old-fashioned hackers are three of the most common ways your personal information, and your personal identity, can be accessed by high-tech hoodlums. How can you protect yourself?
- Shred all pieces of mail that include your name and address.
- Create passwords that include upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and change your passwords often.
- Protect all your devices with anti-virus and malware software.
- Password protect all of your devices.
- Purchase or download remote “wipe” apps like those mentioned in the phone information above.
- Don’t participate in any on-line quizzes that ask information such as pet names, hometowns, mother’s maiden names, and other bits of personal info.
Scary world out there, right? What can you do somewhat worry free? Most experts agree that you can:
- Read your favorite online magazines, newspapers and news outlets sites.
- Access music through music players, but be sure to buy songs only from reputable and safe sites.
- Use GPS systems.
Those same experts agree, however, that you should never:
- Use mobile banking sites.
- Use free Wi-Fi in places like airports.
- Update your Facebook page remotely, especially if your page includes your birthday, hometown and other personal information, as someone can easily figure out security questions once armed with this info.
So, enjoy your latest and greatest smart phone and research away on your laptop and notebook. Just make sure to surf smart and surf safe.
Can you ever imagine being without your smart phone or other small device like an IPad or laptop? Sounds inconceivable? How about for only 24 hours? Sounds easy enough perhaps, but according to a University of Maryland study, going one day without their smart phones was asking too much of many college students. The study, called “The World Unplugged,” asked college age students around the world to leave their cell phones behind for one day; just one day. An alarming 70 percent flat out couldn’t do it and researchers discovered that the psychological impact on those who did partake was significant. Participants reported being bored and emotionally detached from the rest of the world. Scary, right?
Are smart phones society’s latest addiction? Some would say yes, including most of the 91 percent of Americans who own a cell phone. According to author Sherry Turkle, who wrote the bestselling “Alone Together” and was recently interviewed by “CBS This Morning,” all of these devices have made us more disconnected, not more connected, and we have virtually lost the art of conversation. It doesn’t just come down to actually calling someone and talking to them though. We’ve all been annoyed by that obnoxious person in a store (or while getting a pedicure, which I recently experienced…the nerve!) talking at length on their phone and in a tone loud enough for everyone to hear. So conversing with someone is clearly not the answer. The answer is sometimes just putting your phone away! I don’t care if you’re expecting an important phone call. If you are, then maybe you shouldn’t be in Target or getting a pedicure!
I am as guilty as the next person, although I don’t pick up calls when I’m in a store or other public facility unless it’s my husband or daughter. I do, however, text a lot and check for updates on various sites. I’m an information junkie. Once a newsie, always a newsie, right? The minute I’m alone or simply idle, I reach for my phone. I email, I text, I tweet, I play Words with Friends, and I post on my beloved IPhone. Look around, everyone else is too. My husband just texted me from an airport yesterday saying “everyone is on their phone.” I was thrilled to hear he’d bought a new book at the airport, although when sitting at home watching TV, he is texting away. Considered a “skill” by many, texting now boasts its own competitions and people of all ages can now be found typing “tmrw,” whr r u,” and other abbreviations. When it comes to texting though, 18-24 year olds have us all beat. They reportedly text some 3200 texts a month!
Still, these phones aren’t only bad for us socially; they are proving detrimental physically too. Last year alone there were more than 1000 emergency room visits due to texting, not including automobile accidents. Yep, according to “Conde Nast Traveler,” staying connected and plugged in have some real health risks including:
Obesity: studies show a correlation between body weight & computer use: the more you use a computer, the more weight you are likely to gain.
Heart rates: stress levels and heart rates increase by frequent e-mail interruptions.
Posture: Slouching while checking your phone can lead to chronic back strain and permanent bad posture.
Body tension: constant computer and/or smart device use can lead to headaches, neck pain, backaches, eye strain, and even tendonitis.
Attention and accuracy: thanks to the Internet, we are faster but sloppier when it comes to attention to detail, spelling, punctuation, and proper grammar.
Memory: computer hard drives are quickly replacing our brains’ “memory” and hurting our abilities to remember things on our own, without the use of constant technological reminders.
There’s always a flip-side though, and in this matter it comes from UCLA Neuroscientist Gary Small, whose research has found human brains can sometimes actually be more active while searching the web then they are while reading a book. Small says researching on the Internet can also serve to sharpen our brains and has found significant increased brain activity when studying the elderly doing so.
Maybe it all goes back to our “primitive instinct to want to gather information and to know everything that’s going on around us,” according to Nicholas Carr, who wrote the book “What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” He told “CBS This Morning” that this fact, in and of itself, is a good thing but it’s become a bad thing because of the constant flow of information in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world. We just can’t seem to get enough and there’s always more out there, always. This constant demand for more, more, more and an endless stream of information are messing up our brains though according to Carr. In fact, so many distractions are “beginning to crowd out all the calmer, quieter moments when you might engage in reflection,” says Carr.
I remember talking on the phone in my house growing up…a phone that was attached to the kitchen wall. Now I’m virtually attached to my IPhone and everyone says that’s a bad thing. I also remember people saying the same thing about television, but somehow we’ve all survived what Bruce Springsteen sang about in “57 Channels and Nothin’ On.” However, when college students say they can’t give up their phone for a mere 24 hours and say that “media is my drug,” when the latest YouTube hit is a baby “pushing” on a magazine wondering why nothing is “coming up,” and when the mere thought of forgetting my phone at home makes me nervous, maybe we’re facing something more serious than too many channels and too many reality shows. Maybe we all need to face reality and admit that our so-called smart phones are making us do some pretty dumb things. Can you hear me now?
Get Nailed! June 19, 2013
“Pick color.” I’m sure most of you are familiar with that statement, as it’s usually the first thing you hear when entering a nail salon. They are popular, and they are everywhere. Check out any strip center, mall, hotel, or spa and you’ll find a row of comfy chairs just waiting for you to sit in and get a pedicure or manicure. I was blessed with good, strong fingernails so I rarely get manicures, although I have recently the discovered the long-lasting joy of shellacked nails. I do, however, love a good pedicure. I am not alone. According to “Women’s Wear Daily,” American women spent $768 million dollars on nail polish in 2012. That’s a lot of OPI, Sally Hansen, and Esse!
I recently saw a print ad for Orly nail polish claiming its creator, Jeff Pink, also created the French manicure. It made me curious so I did some research, and yes, the famous white-tipped nails are actually American-born, not French! Who knew?!
Pink, who worked as a Hollywood make-up artist in the ‘70s, came up with the now popular style of nails because it worked well with a wide variety of stars’ wardrobes. He took the look to Paris runways and it quickly became the in-demand look of models and designers. He continues to influence the beauty industry with his innovative designs and products, as well as his color expertise, and even Kate Middleton donned a French manicure on her wedding day.
“Once I started having the movie star stylists paint the nails with a white tip and a sheer, the celebrities loved it,” he writes on his website. “I realized the most elegant, universal nail look is a natural nail look.”
Someone who might disagree with Pink, however, is Sophy Robson, whose fingernail art is in hot demand and is known for raising eyebrows and pushing boundaries. One of the first to embrace blogging, British-born Robson began posting images of her creations and was quickly embraced by the rich, the famous, and everyone in between. Her graphically-designed glossy embellishments are known to include flashy items such as zippers, animal prints, and gems. She’s also made fingernails fashion items by featuring the designer logos of Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and others on her clients’ nail beds. One of her most popular ideas, however, might be her take on Pink’s French manicure, in which she incorporated a new twist by using colorful hues instead of the standard white on the tips.
Robson considers herself an artist, albeit a nail artist, and was recently featured in London’s first ever nail-art exhibit entitled “Nailphilia.” Her work has also been prominently displayed in music videos such as Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” and in ad campaigns for Tom Ford and Jimmy Choo. It was previously unknown athletes, however, that perhaps put her on the pop culture map. In 2012, Olympic athletes from all over the world donned her creations, most notably the flags of many countries. I remember admiring the little works of art, and I bet many of you do too. They, along with Gabby Douglas and Ryan Lochte, were the talk of the games.
So what is it about painted nails that have struck such a cord? It is a multi-million dollar industry that employs thousands. Everywhere you look women are sporting different looks and lengths, and “Martinis and Manicures” nights are popular outings in small towns and big cities alike. Personally, I prefer a classic French manicure but I am loving the hot “mixed manicure” trend of painting ring finger nails a slight variation of the color worn on all other eight nails. I’m also all about glitter nails but I’m not a big fan of another current trend: super-long, extra-pointy nails. If you’re on Pinterest, you know what I’m talking about. Here are just a few examples of what’s out there:
Whether long or short, simple or flamboyant, your nails make a definitive statement about who you are and what you like. If nothing else, maybe it all comes down to feeling pampered and getting groomed. The word manicure actually comes from the Latin words “manus” and “cura,” meaning “hand” and “care.” So the next time you’re asked to “pick color,” have fun and be creative. Those 10 little nails may very well make a big statement!
Happy Father’s Day June 16, 2013
It’s Father’s Day! I love that we set aside a day each year to celebrate all things Mothers and all things Fathers. As many of you know, I lost my father to colon cancer my senior year of college. I was, in many ways, a “daddy’s girl,” even though my mom pretty much ran the house and enforced the rules. I am the youngest of three girls and grew up watching football with my dad. He loved his Dallas Cowboys and I loved my Denver Broncos. Somewhere along the way he convinced me those Cowboys were worth rooting for and I followed suit. My dad was a hard worker and a very proud man. To this day I don’t know how my parents afforded my out-of-state tuition at OU and I am forever grateful. My dad was not around to walk me down the aisle, but he was there, I just know it. Happy Father’s Day dad: hope you, Bapa, and Jimmy are having a nice day up in heaven!
Today the focus is on Smitty someday walking Kristen down the aisle. It’s a far off dream but one we all share. It seems like just yesterday they were holding hands on the beach like in that photo I took of the two of them in Longboat Key, Florida.
I also love the photos I take of their two hands on each of Kristen’s birthdays. Sadly, with her pre-op appointment falling on her 20th birthday this year, I forgot to take one this year. Maybe doing so on Father’s Day is an appropriate substitution.
I was lucky to have a father in my life, as is Kristen. Sadly today that is not the case for way too many. Check out these numbers:
50 percent of the babies born to mothers under the age of 30 are born out-of-wedlock
53 percent of Hispanic babies are born out-of-wedlock
70 percent of babies born to poor white women are born out-of-wedlock
75 percent of African-American babies are born out-of-wedlock
What does all this mean? It means the institution of marriage is meaning less and less to more and more people and it serves as proof that our democracy is evolving into a welfare state. Think what you want and vote how you like, but none of this can be good for any civilized society.
Even Rich Men Need God and Even the Devil Believed in God
On this Sunday; on this Father’s Day, maybe it’s time we think about bringing God back in our lives. He is the Father of all fathers and is there for all of us if we just ask. In a recent Bible Study book my group read about the rosary, a certain passage struck me:
“We face what has aptly but sadly called a generation without fathers. The absence of a fatherly presence in the life of so many makes it all the more needful that God’s fatherly goodness and care, his rich “masculine” qualities, come to play more powerfully in the lives of his children. We can learn to let God the Father fulfill the role in our lives that He fulfilled in the life of the most perfect and perfectly fulfilled human who ever walked this earth and who constantly looked to Him as Father.” (“Praying by Hand” by M. Basil Pennington.)
Enjoy your day fathers everywhere and honor the roll you play in your children’s lives and remember that a truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms even when they are empty. Happy Father’s Day!