And now, we begin . . .

It’s time — past time — for me.

After the last 18 months, after the multiple health scares with my father, and family and friend drama, and just the sheer massive all day all week load at work, I don’t have a choice.  I have to make ME the priority above everything else.  

I’ve looked over my whole life — my job and career, my health, the statue of my finances, the fact that I’m working 24/7 as opposed to living — and realized I’m deep down in a pit in every facet of my life.

It’s time to climb out.

Three simple goals:

  • Get back in shape.
  • Get a new job or get my career moving again.
  • Make a plan to pay off my debts from law school and post-9/11 unemployment.

Three simple goals — on paper.

Three goals that are going to require lots of work, and finding the time to do that work.

But I have to take the time for me.  Otherwise, I’ll be broke, fat and unhappy for a long time.

Only an idiot wants that.

And I’m not an idiot.  At least not anymore.

I’ll be blogging with updates on the overhaul of my life.  I’ve also preset a number of posts so I can complete the review of Star Wars books, which I had plenty of time to read thanks to my hospital vigils, and I’ll add in other topics of interest as I go along.

Wish me luck.  And if anyone needs a talented in-house attorney — let me know!

Advertisements

Why net neutrality is important

Why does net neutrality matter? Two reasons. First, there’s no improvement in speed planned, which means those who don’t pay will be slowed down from today’s speeds which will make accessing basic websites problematic.  Second, slower speeds on websites will affect more than your Netflix or Facebook account – slower speeds will impact your ability to pay bills, access your bank accounts, renew your driver’s license and even register to vote!

No improvements in infrastructure are planned . . .

I may have missed it, but I haven’t seen that the carriers plan to dramatically improve the infrastructure of the Internet in the United States to provide a ‘fast lane.’ Just for the record, by every measurement I have seen, our Internet access speeds are slow when compared to the rest of the world. In fact, depending upon the measurement you use, U.S. connections rank behind some countries we would consider third world nations. In the absence of any improvement in the infrastructure, what will happen is that whoever pays for faster access will get the same speed they have now – and those who don’t pay will have their pages and services slowed down from today’s benchmarks.

Slower access will impact your daily life, not just your Netflix account

Why does it matter if a website slows down? Because the Internet isn’t just about Netflix and Facebook. It’s about paying your bills AND YOUR TAXES, accessing your bank accounts, renewing your driver’s license and even registering to vote! And we might have to forget about checking our business emails 24/7 or working from home.

Tried to pay a bill lately? You either need the Internet to access the company’s website – or you may pay a fee to receive a paper bill and use the phone or a check to pay. (This assumes, by the way, that you get the bill in your hands in a timely fashion to make that payment by phone or check, not at all guaranteed under today’s mail services.)

Most of my service providers have gone paperless – they will charge me if I want paper records, and some now have a service fee for paying by phone or check. Some of my providers’ pages already have access issues (my cell phone provider, for one). I’m quite sure that if they must pay for increased access to the Internet, a fee will be tacked onto the already-outrageous number of fees I pay for basic services.

The same with banks. Again, they’ve gone paperless. You need the internet to get your statement, balance your checkbook, and use the website to make bill payments. Want those records in paper? You’ll have to pay for it, and then experience the same problem with fees if the banks must pay more for access to the Internet.

Want to renew your driver’s license, or the car registration? You can either wait to get a renewal in the mail (see the previous comment about timeliness, I got my car registration renewal notice a week AFTER it was due), or hit the Internet.

Voting is the foundation of our Republic, right? So how do you register to vote, or change your party affiliation? You need the internet. My county requires me to access the form online. I actually asked a couple of years ago if they could send me a paper form in the mail. The girl I spoke to didn’t even know to what form I was referring. Same problem with communicating with your elected representatives – you need the Internet to keep track of what they are doing, how they are voting, and in some cases to contact them with your concerns.

As goes voting, so goes taxes. You want to file a return and pay the taxes owed, you need the internet. Oh, you can still use a paper return, and a check. But that paper form will take months to process. And if you’re filing on behalf of a business? Forget paper. I handle corporate taxes, and the Federal government and most states don’t allow my company to file a return or pay taxes using paper – we’d be assessed fines and penalties if we did that! I am quite sure the states aren’t going to pay for faster access, which means the slow-loading pages they already have are going to be positively moribund come tax season.

Most of us are now required to be connected to our offices 24/7. I’ve had to check emails, review documents and edit them at midnight. On bad weather days, when it’s impossible to get onto the roads, I’ve had to work from home. I don’t see most businesses paying for faster access to the Internet so I can look forward to waiting for Outlook to load, and delays as my emails to go out and come in. Slower response times will definitely endear us to our employers, I’m sure.

I could go on, but you should have gotten the idea by now. The country AND the carriers have spent the last decade urging us to go online and transitioning all services to the Internet. Now, when there are no longer free redundant systems in place, the carriers want us to pay to access basic and necessary services essential to daily life. I don’t believe that should be allowed to happen. Do you?

If you don’t September 15th is the last day to make comments to the Federal Communications Commission about net neutrality at http://www.fcc.gov/comments. 

 

 

 

The aftermath of Target’s hacking

Anyone else out there rethinking their provision of personal information in the wake of the Target hacking?

Because I am not only rethinking it, I am actively removing my information from a number of sites.

I am one of the 70-110 million people whose personal data held by Target was stolen in December — although Target didn’t see fit to email me to confirm that fact until last week.  I might, just might, have been less upset about the situation, had I not just gone through this mess with Adobe, and can now anticipate the same thing with Neiman Marcus.

My Adobe account was hacked in August; fortunately, the card also expired in August, and I had already replaced it.

But in the case of Target, they not only got my credit card numbers, they got my debit card and pin, my name, address, email, phone number and possibly my driver’s license number as well.  Pennsylvania law requires you to present your driver’s license for scanning when you buy cold medicine; no one has yet satisfactorily explained to me whether that information is stored, and was included in the hacking.  The annoyance with the debit card is that, not only do I have to change the card, I have to change the number on every membership that charges that card. I just did it in August; now I have to do it again.

And then, on top of it all, I made some purchases at Neiman’s, and they’ve announced that they were hacked as well.

It’s enough to drive me back to cash-only purchasing.  Especially since the news sources are reporting that several other major retailers were also hacked — and haven’t yet announced it.

It started me thinking about all the places that have my personal information.  The stores that send me a receipt by email.  The shops, hotels and airlines that enrolled me in rewards programs.  The places, online and in the mall, that signed me up to receive my catalogs by email.  The simple fact that Amazon, eBay and Paypal store my credit and bank account information.  Yes, their having my information is incredibly convenient.  But now, I realize that it’s also incredibly dangerous.  Not only if one of these companies should be hacked — but also in how they might be using that information and to whom they could be selling it.  Literally, we have no control once we agree to provide that data to them.

I’ve been toying with the idea of simply unsubscribing from some of these sites, and sending them the required letter to demand they delete my information from their databases.  But now, now I am actually doing it.

The impetus? The realization that they are getting so much more information than they need for their stated purposes.  That fact hit me in the face when I went to register a holiday gift.  For some bizarre reason, to register my cookware warranty on Cuisinart, they need to know my birthdate, gender and a mess of other personal data.

Actually, no they don’t.  They need to know my name, my address, what products I purchased.  I’ve filled out a lot of warranty cards in the past, and none of them asked me for such personal data.  And in light of the hacking of so many stores, there is no way in hell that I will provide that information willingly again to someone who doesn’t need it for a legitimate purpose.  And the registration of a warranty is most definitely not a legitimate purpose.

So I’ve made a list, of every website, store and travel service that I’ve ever enrolled in, subscribed to or done business with.  I’ve started clicking through the emails, hitting the unsubscribe button, then going to the website and pulling up the privacy policy to get the address to which I can send a deletion notice. Realistically, I won’t be able to pull back information from everyone.  Some sites have probably already sold my information to other companies.  I know that I’ll have to be vigilant, unsubscribing to everything I receive, sending deletion notices, watching my bank account and my card statements and my credit report.  But I can do what I can to minimize the danger that my information will be spread further than I desire.

It’s the ultimate nightmare scenario for retailers and marketers.  What happens if everyone just pulls back their data?  I’ve seen stories that claim stores, companies, entire industries could suffer economic damage.  And maybe they will.  But as someone who has already gone through the theft of her personal data once, a decade ago, and now has to deal with it again, as someone who will have to spend extra time guarding her finances and dealing with the inevitable misuse of her name by thieves, whose credit rating has been damaged once and probably will again, I find it hard to feel any sympathy for them.

You want us to give you our personal data? Learn how to be a responsible guardian of that information. And stop blocking the implementation of better technology to protect that data. Implement chip-and-pin card technology. Screen your third-party service providers better. Stand up and take responsibility for your actions.

Until then, though, I’m doing most of my shopping with cash.  And removing my information from everyone who no longer can be trusted with it.

And I’m calling Cuisinart tomorrow, to register my cookware.  Without any of this nonsense about providing my personal data.

And we’re back

Been awhile — real life got freakishly interesting there, between family, friends and work. Had time to draft out posts — but deadlines kept knocking out my posting time. But I’m back and playing catchup.

It’s nine weeks till yearend, so let’s see what I can get accomplished between now and the new year. Which, I’m told, should be an interesting day. Seems the new year falls on a new moon, and the new moon kicks in at almost the same time as sunrise. Which fascinates me, but then I’ve loved watching the skies ever since I took that astronomy class in college and they let us play with the really, really big telescope.

And here we go.

I went, I saw, I cried!

I did go to the Sunnybank Gathering last weekend.

It was wonderful. And inspiring.

I’ll post a much longer entry, probably tomorrow, once I finish editing my pictures. What I will say right now is this:

I went to Sunnybank largely because it was someplace I’d wanted to go since I read Albert Payson Terhune’s books as a child. And while I was there, I found myself more relaxed than I’d been in a long time, happy, a bit sad (for a good reason) and above all, inspired.

The setting:

While the house is no longer there, having fallen into disrepair and then been torn down, there is enough left of ‘The Place’ to connect you to the books. You still drive down the narrow, winding driveway, where Wolf herded the harum-scarum puppies out of the path of early automobiles. There is now a parking lot where the house once stood, but if you can ignore that fact, exercise your imagination, you can look around and picture how it must have been to sit on the veranda of Sunnybank or walk its grounds.

The root cellar remains, you can see foundation stones from the barn peeking through the grass, and a replica of a puppy house has been installed where the original once stood. The pond has been filled in, but its foundations have been retained and now a stone frog leaps from a cluster of lovely grasses. The line of larch trees still marches down to the landing on the lake, and while I was there, no speedboats were cruising by — you could close your eyes, listen to the silence, and imagine yourself back at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

Or rather, you could listen to the barking of collies and think yourself back to Terhune’s time. So many collies (and shelties), in so many colors — sable and mahogany, tricolor, white, different permutations of merle, black and white — and all of them friendly and welcoming, even to total strangers like me. As if they were saying, welcome back to the place that made our breed famous! Along with collies, I saw borzoi, a chihuahua, a couple of other toy breeds, a staffordshire terrier (I think) and a corgi, who sported a bow for a tail.

I went to Sunnybank, uncertain what to expect. I got out of the car, said hello to the lovely ladies from Ohio getting out of the next car, and promptly was made to feel welcome. They gave great advice to this newbie on what to do first, outlined the whole day for me — and any hesitation I felt just melted away.

I did feel a bit sad (alright, I teared up!), when we went to the gravesites of the Sunnybank dogs. Yes, their graves have been preserved, at least those that could be identified a hundred years later. The kennel dogs are buried in one spot, along with two of the Township’s K-9 officers. The champions — known through many of the stories — are buried by Champion Rock, including one of my personal favorites, blind Fair Ellen. Bruce and Jean are buried elsewhere, and then, there is the patriarch, the dog who started it all, Sunnybank Lad. I’ll admit, when I saw that stone, “Lad, Thoroughbred in Body and Soul”, I wanted to cry.

But more than anything, I was inspired by my visit. Why? Because, this park, this preservation, was not undertaken by government. It was driven by people who love these books, love the dogs in them, love collies — and therefore entered into years of organizing, fund-raising, lobbying and politicking, all to save this little slice of American history. Not the usual ‘grand’ history of war or politics, but a personal, beloved history for so many people who grew up with these stories as part of their childhood. Ordinary people who took on a task of saving something personally important to them, and who continue to fight to save it, against the encroachment of time and ongoing vandalism.

A lesson to be remembered by us all. When it’s important to you, you can, and should, stand up and fight for it.