Online Exposure Tuesday, Jan 27 2015 

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Cyber Shadows

by Carolyn Nordstrom and Lisa Carlson

The first thing I learned from being married to a magician is that there is a lot going on right in front of me of which I am totally oblivious. Nowhere is this more evident than on the Internet.

Credit card and identity theft, access into our medical and other sensitive information, online bank robbery, and malware hitching onto our personal computing devices is rampant in the boundless entity known as the Internet. Even medical devices can be hacked. It happens in one click or less, often long before we are aware. No device, company, or government is immune.

In a recent survey, 94% of healthcare organizations admitted experiencing at least one data breach in the past two years. And one in five households contains botnet-infected devices which can include computers, smartphones and tablets. Once infected, botnet owns your machine and there is no way to remove or clean the device.

And it’s easy to do. A child can hack with little more than a bit of online guidance.

Carolyn Nordstrom and Lisa Carlson tell the scary reality of the Internet in their book, Cyber Shadows. Power, Crime, and Hacking Everyone. It’s certainly not a fun read, but a reality check for all of us. We are naïve to think we are totally safe even in our own little town. Being aware of our surroundings is imperative. Most of the people in the world are good, or at least not evil. But evil does exist, and in the vastness of the Internet, the number of those seeking to wreak havoc is significant.

Mark Sullivan, PC World contributor, says in a quote used in the book that our personal data is not our own. Every time we click on Facebook, a YouTube video, shop, apply for a credit card, listen to music, or supply personal information to our phone company, government, or employer, we feed a beast with an insatiable appetite for personal data that will be bought, sold, and analyzed.

So what do we do? What can we do? Our online presence is here to stay. We aren’t giving up our devices.

We become more aware, get educated, and hold an open discussion on the topic, suggests authors Nordstrom and Carlson. Perhaps in this era where privacy is dead and we all are transparent and vulnerable, we can embrace a society of truthfulness. At the moment, there are no easy solutions. But we are creative and can work on this together for the common good. Humans created the intricate, diverse, and expansive entity of the Internet, and therefore, should be able to control it.

(Reposted from Doyle’s Delights)

Repurposing Sunday, Jan 18 2015 

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Clutter stresses me out. I cannot think clearly when my desk, office, or home is in disarray. I function better in clear, open, clean spaces.

The utility closet with all the detergents has always been a test to my organizational skills. I had most of the cleaning products on a cart and rags in a basket, but things were so crowded together that it was difficult to find the item I was looking for or see how much we had of anything. By re-purposing some unused small furniture in my home, I discovered the solution.

An old CD case now clearly displays all the detergents, and a trash/hamper holds the rags. The slim CD case takes up considerably less space than the cart and items are easily identified and retrieved. I’m so excited, I have to periodically peak in the closet just to admire how neat it looks.

Look around your home and see how you may use something more efficiently that you already have .

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Our Favorite Article of Clothing Tuesday, Jan 6 2015 

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My husband once questioned why I buy inexpensive denim jeans, which I wear  nearly every day, yet spend considerably more on a dress for a handful of special occasions.

Jeans must be the most commonly worn article of clothing, at least in the U.S. Nearly every American owns a pair or more. We have dress jeans, everyday jeans, and work jeans in various shades of blue as well as black, white, and other colors. We also have a wide selection of styles including baggy, boot leg, skinny, casual, and dressy. Jeans are our go-to pants and worn everywhere from hiking trails to fine dining restaurants, churches, and the workplace.

Jeans were introduced to Americans in 1853 during the California gold rush when Levi Strauss, a 24-year-old German immigrant, made sturdy overalls from canvas for prospectors. After complaints about the rough fabric, Strauss used a twilled cotton called “serge de Nimes.” The fabric soon became known as denim and the overalls called blue jeans. Strauss received a U.S. patent on blue jeans in 1873.

The word “jeans” most likely comes from the French word for Genoa as serge de Nimes originated in Genoa, Italy and Nimes, France. By the 17th century, the fabric was commonly used in clothing of the working class in Northern Italy.

According to Wikipedia, after actor James Dean wore jeans in the movie, Rebel without a Cause, the pants became a symbol of rebellion and sometimes banned in theaters, restaurants, and schools. I remember as a young child in the 60s resisting my mother’s insistence that I wear my brother’s hand-me-down jeans. I thought then that they were only for boys. But it wasn’t long before they became part of my daily wardrobe.

Jeans popularity has endured due to their durability and longevity. We keep them for years, as they get more comfortable with wear and washing. Ironically, as we search for the best prices, they are our best wardrobe investment.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

 

Peace in 2015 Sunday, Dec 28 2014 

DSCN0916As 2014 fades away, we look to the new year with optimism and anticipation. Whatever was good about the past, we hope it continues. Whatever was difficult, we pray is left behind.

Some of this is in our control, which is why we make New Year’s resolutions. The custom of assessing our financial, emotional, and physical health at the onset of a new year, and making plans to improve them, is our opportunity to begin anew. Some say there is no reason to make promises that will not be kept. But however long we follow our resolutions, at least we turn things around for a few months. We lose a few of our holiday pounds on our new diet, get a little stronger with an exercise program, and spend a little less money, slightly easing the credit card gift charges we made over the holidays.

In addition to the typical resolutions, perhaps in 2015 we might consider ones that promote a kinder, more peaceful world. We don’t have to do much to make a difference. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food kitchen
  • Donate gently or never used items
  • Avoid all books, movies, and online activities that include violence, cruelty, or profanity
  • Visit museums
  • Attend cultural events
  • Surround ourselves with gentle, loving people
  • Attend church services
  • Don’t participate in gossip in the workplace
  • Give thanks daily for what we do have
  • Clean the clutter out of our home
  • Smile at strangers
  • Think positively
  • Treat others respectfully
  • Check on elderly neighbors
  • Read inspirational books
  • Pray for peace
  • Try to be more patient
  • Avoid worrying about things that are not in our control

©2014 Mary K. Doyle

Time Out Saturday, Dec 20 2014 

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You are hereby given a time out. You are instructed to sit quietly and do nothing for at least 20 minutes. This is not a punishment. It is a mental health break.

‘Tis the season for running crazy: shopping, wrapping, baking, visiting, hosting, spending more money than we should, eating too many Christmas cookies, and getting even less sleep in our sleep-deprived lives. No wonder we approach the holidays sick, exhausted, and irritable.

We can’t experience much joy in this magical season when we are in such a weakened condition. Let’s do ourselves a favor and take time to rest and rejuvenate. In the big scheme of life, it doesn’t matter if there is one less greeting card, gift under the tree, or homemade dessert on the table.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

(Photo: Me, my mother, and brother, John Michael. Christmas 1955)

Turning Flaws Into Assets Sunday, Dec 14 2014 

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose, and that nose helped make him the reindeer we’ve grown to know and love.

The children’s tale of a reindeer with a glowing, red nose was written by Robert L. May for Montgomery Ward. May’s Rudolph is much like he believed himself to be, an outcast who didn’t fit in with the rest of the crowd. Rudolph’s bright, red nose made him the brunt of bullying and excluded him from reindeer games. But in the end, it is that nose that saved the day when Santa needs him to lead the way.

The famous story was written for commercial purposes in 1939. The long-time department store of Montgomery Ward gave away coloring books every year for Christmas. To save money, May was hired to write a story they could use in one of these books and publish themselves. More than 2.5 million copies were distributed that first year alone.

The story became even more popular when May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, adapted the story into song. Gene Autry’s recording of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer hit the radios in 1949 and was the second best-selling record of all time until the 1980s.

Montgomery Ward turned over the story’s copyright to May in 1947, ensuring him financial security.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Angels On Board Saturday, Dec 6 2014 

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Angels are among us. Who hasn’t heard a story of someone being saved or comforted by a presence that appeared in the nick of time and then vanished before their eyes? Plenty of saints, and countless regular folk, tell stories about angels. They are referred to in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, as well as in the Quran. Revelation 5:11 says angels numbered, “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.” Whether we see them or not, they are everywhere.

Symbols of peace and love, angels are depicted on cards, posters, figurines, jewelry, and clothing. Culturally, fascination surrounds these spirits. Who are they? Where is my angel? And, do angels really have wings?

We refer to good people and loved ones who have passed away as angels, but in fact angels never were human. They were created as pure spirit and always will be that. They also have unique characteristics and are intelligent, holy, and here to assist us as God’s messengers, warriors, and guides.

Angels offer our own spiritual support group right here, right now, ready and waiting to help.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

 

Happy Thanksgiving Wednesday, Nov 26 2014 

The last few years have been increasingly stressful for me. In addition to extensive physical and emotional demands, I’ve had the responsibility of making several difficult and heartbreaking decisions. It’s taken quite a toll on my health, however I do feel that I’m gaining strength and envision an easier tomorrow on the horizon.

No doubt, many of you have your struggles as well. Perhaps this has not been your best year either. And yet I’m sure you, as I, have much to be thankful for. It often seems that when we feel loss we are more aware of what else we do have. I never lose sight of the fact that my list of blessings is quiet extensive.

Together, let’s take a moment to give thanks and wish one another peace and love. Happy Thanksgiving.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Ignore What Annoys You Sunday, Nov 16 2014 

Recently I got a little pimple on my cheek that annoyed me. It wasn’t very big, but just wouldn’t go away. I finally squeezed and poked at it hoping to get rid of it once and for all. Instead, it became infected and grew to cover half of my face. At least it seemed that way to me. It’s finally healing but would have been gone by now if I’d just left it alone.

I’m taking this as a life lesson. So many little problems consume way too much of our thoughts. Many are ones we cannot do anything to change. Like a dripping faucet, the negative energy of that unpleasant person, uneven step on the front porch, and rush hour traffic brings us down every time we think about it.

The Serenity Prayer, attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, offers a guide in dealing with these situations. It begins, “God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

The challenge, of course, is in distinguishing between what can and cannot be changed. It isn’t always easy to know if the problem is one that’s best dealt with immediately or one that can never fully be resolved.

But we do eventually figure that out in time. If we keep trying different ways to resolve a situation and it continues, we might have to let it go. For example, there are people that will never compromise, never treat us respectfully, and repeatedly hurt us. These are the problems we have to accept that cannot be changed, as the prayer goes. Our only alternative may be to wish them peace and avoid them as much as possible. There is no benefit in placing ourselves in an ongoing position that causes us pain.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Earning Potential Tuesday, Oct 28 2014 

Statistics consistently show that the more education we have the more employment opportunities are available to us and with a greater earning potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for those with only a high school diploma is 7.5% whereas those with a Bachelor’s degree is down to 4%. In addition the average weekly earnings for those with only a high school diploma is $651 while those with a Bachelor’s degree earn nearly twice that much. And the earning power continues to increase with higher education.

The more education we have the more choices we have for employment, although today many graduates are experiencing disappointment in their ability to acquire employment of their choice. We are at a time in history when the debt of tuition has to be weighed against the time it will take to earn enough to pay it off. I’m a strong advocate for education and personal growth but for many, college is not possible for a number of reasons.

The Careerbuilder section of this past weekend’s Chicago Tribune listed five of the best jobs without a college degree. The positions include Dental Assistant with an annual salary range of $28,820-$41,980; Elevator Installer with an annual salary range of $62,060 to $91,240; Health Information Technician with a salary range of $27,520 to $45,260; Massage Therapist with a salary range of $24,380-$51,820; and Carpenter with an annual salary range of $31,550 to $55,340.

I was particularly surprised about the elevator installer. It isn’t a position I’ve ever thought of and don’t know the risks or skill level needed for it, but if you’re physically able and up for the challenge, it just might be a career to consider.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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