Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mini Bloggiesta Sign Up Post

mini bloggiesta badge

Mini Bloggiesta is this weekend. I'm hosting a mini-challenge on simple and easy ways to protect your privacy online, but I also have a short list of stuff I'd like to get done:

  • Write and publish my weekly Sunday Snapshot.
  • Go through my saved documents on Internet Typewriter.
  • Wake up early enough to participate in the Twitter chat.

And that's it! Good luck to everyone.

Discus this post with me on Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ or in the comments below.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Protect Your Privacy Online

"Graffiti in Shoreditch, London - Zabou, Privacy" Photo by KylaBorg via Flickr.

As bloggers, we want to share stuff over the internet: our posts, first of all, plus cute cat videos, pictures of our dogs, our favorite TV shows, Benedict Cumberbatch doing anything, selfies, the list goes on.

But there's some stuff you DON'T want to share, and for very good reasons. Simple personal information like your name, address, phone, and birthday can leave you vulnerable to anything from harassment and stalking to hacking and identity theft. You don't need to be Mark Zuckerberg or a member of Anonymous to hack someone:

Neither of these hackers were trained specialists, they just used Google to get the information they needed, then followed the daisy chain of connected accounts and information to break the online lives of their victims wide open.

The good news is, you can still share what you want while keeping what you don't want to be known private. Rather than hurting your blog, this can help keep you safe from people online who want to stop you from posting your opinions and sharing your experiences–people like Kathleen Hale, who stalked and visited the home of a Goodreads reviewer; or, more recently, Richard Brittain, who went to the workplace of a teenage girl who left a one-star review of his book and physically attacked her.

Will these reviewers ever feel safe sharing things online again? Maybe-probably not. Should you feel safe? ABSOLUTELY YES, and you can do so by taking some relatively simple steps.

For this Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge, complete these nine steps to start protecting your privacy online. If you want, feel free to post about your results here or on your own blog.

1. The first step is awareness. Find out what information is available about yourself by googling your name, telephone number, home address, and social security number in quotes. Reverse image search recent photos of yourself. If you own domain name[s], do a Whois search on ICANN to make sure your name and address isn't public.

2. Lock your computer and all your devices with a password. Make sure your hard drive is encrypted.

3. View your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ profiles as someone else to see what information a stranger can get access to. Then adjust the privacy settings to what you're comfortable with.

4. Tape over your webcam. The NSA aren't the only ones who can turn on your webcam and watch you without your knowing; there are programs anyone can download that will remotely operate someone's webcam. (Needless to say, this is particularly important for young girls with computers in their bedrooms. There is a huge black market online for photos from these hacked webcams.)

5. Install anti-tracking plug-ins on your web browser[s], like AdBlock Plus and Ghostery. Use more than one!!

6. Sign up for a free online VoIP, aka wifi-based phone number. Great for dating, Craigslist ads, and companies that require your number when you don't want to give it to them. I use Talkatone, but there are a ton available, including Google Voice.

7. Use different passwords on all your accounts. Edward Snowden casually mentioned in Citizenfour that the NSA can track a person based on their passwords (if you're like most people, you probably only use three or four). Well, guess what? This is another thing not just the NSA can do. Anyone with an internet connection can track and find you based on your passwords.

I know it's a HUGE pain in the ass, but passwords are one of the lynchpins of privacy, and in the long run using different, strong passwords for all your accounts is a safety measure that's worth it. Fortunately, password managers like 1Password and LastPass make it slightly easier to deal with, so check them out.

8. And speaking of accounts, if you have different blogs, use a different email address for each (you can have all your email forwarded to just one address). Another, slight pain in the ass that will prevent people from wiping out all your blogs in one go if they wish (see: Mat Honan, above). NEVER use "one email to rule them all." Multiplicity is your friend.

9. Think about getting a PO Box (you'll understand why when you Google your name and address). If you need to accept packages from services that don't ship to PO Boxes, companies like PostNet also provide mailbox services and accept packages from FedEx and UPS. It'll cost some money, but it will also go a long way towards preventing identity theft, RL stalking, and hacking.

There's a lot more you can do, of course, but these are the first and simplest steps.

Further information:

  • The Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy: A Practical Guide for Staying Safe Online by Violet Blue: This book is a must-read, whether you're a "girl" or not. Blue covers how to get your personal information removed from websites, what to do if someone hacks or doxxes you, how to fight back against revenge porn and identity theft, and a ton more ways to protect your privacy.
  • In this interview, Edward Snowden suggests some tools to keep your online activity private. They're all fairly simple to download and use, even if I've found Tor Browser to be impractical for everyday internetting (it is fascinating to see exactly what websites will and won't work on it, though).
  • How Much Does Google Really Know About You? [Infographic] I guarantee you'll be shocked by how many pies Google has its fingers in. I still use Google, of course, but now I'm more aware of what I use it for and what information they have.

Questions? Tips? Please share them in the comments.

Discus this post with me on Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ or in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

In Support of Reading Series Backwards

going backwards

About a year ago, I wrote about the various ways one can read a book series, and that my favorite way to read a long-running series was backwards. Reactions to this methodology ranged from "crazy pants" to "no."

But really, guys. Reading a series backwards is the way to go (unless you start in the middle, then I would go progressively forward and THEN backwards, but let's just focus on starting with the most recent book and working backwards for now).

My appreciation for reading series backwards started with the Vicky Bliss series, which I partially blame for convincing me art history was a viable career option. I first read Night Train to Memphis when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and I LOVED it. I think to this day it's probably my most re-read book. It's the last in the Vicky Bliss series, so I set about reading the other books.

I can't swear in what order I read the books–the great thing about Elizabeth Peters novels is you don't have to read them in any order–but I do know I read the first book last, and it was a big disappointment. I'm not saying the last book was the best in the series, but if I'd read the first book first, I wouldn't have read the series at all.

Or take the Walt Longmire series, where the first book I read, Hell is Empty, was actually seventh in the series. I let my mom talk me into going back and starting with book one, and now I've completely run out of steam on reading the series (this happens to me a lot with series). I have exhausted all the fucks I have to give, and I could have spent those on the newer books instead of the older ones.

Recently, I read Dinner Most Deadly, a delightful book in Sheri Cobb South's John Pickett Mysteries series. One of the things I loved about it was that it wasn't immediately apparent what was going on. If I had known, however, it would have been all too obvious, and obviously less interesting for it. After starting the book immediately preceding it, Family Plot, I think Dinner Most Deadly was the first time South let her characters really take control of the book. I probably won't read any of the earlier books in the series, although I'm more than ready to read the next one!

The point is, reading a series backwards has many beneficial elements. You should try it!

Discus this post with me on Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ or in the comments below.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Snapshot–It's 2016. Yay.

Calypso is enjoying my her new reading nook!

Sorry I missed last week's Sunday Snapshot. My mom and I went up to Denver and I didn't have time to write anything. Not the most auspicious start to 2016, but we're back on track today!

Currently reading:

The Martian by Andy Weir: There's soooo much science. I mean, it's a good book and all, but.
The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James: I can't resist a book about ghost hunters.


My 2015 year-end round up, and a review of a very strange book titled Master Flea.

Movies watched:

love's kitchen movie
Love's Kitchen, starring Dougray Scott and Claire Forlani

Dougray Scott really has a talent for picking awful movies. Everything about this movie is low-rent: the script is a mess, and the production is about as appealing as a used couch dropped in front of a dumpster. I wouldn't take that couch!

That said, I loved Gordon Ramsay's cameo, and he's surprisingly not-terrible at acting. More Gordon Ramsay movies!

haute cuisine movie
Haute Cuisine, starring Catherine Frot

An epicurean delight. A delight, I tell you! Hortense is "invited" to be the President of France's personal cook, but she has to battle the misogynistic palace chefs and cabinet ministers in order to give the President what he wants: simple, classic dishes with real flavor. While the script wasn't perfect, the food was amazing and looked absolutely delicious. I loved how Hortense and the President bonded talking about cookbooks. Definitely recommend this one if you're a foodie, despite the lame ending.

finding vivian maier documentary
Finding Vivian Maier, directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

In 2007, John Maloof won a box of negatives at auction that contained stunning photos of Chicago's street life in the '50s and '60s. The only thing Maloof knew about the photos were that they were by a woman named Vivian Maier. Who was she, and how and why did such a talented photographer remain unknown for her entire life?

Pretty compelling stuff. It combines three of my favorite things: historical research, photography, and weird people. Maier's story could have easily been lost to history, and much of it is still a mystery. Fortunately, through a twist of fate, she's receiving the recognition she deserves.

the revenant movie
The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy

If you like snow, this is the movie for you! Mountain man Hugh Glass goes on a mission of revenge! after his son and wife are killed and he's left for dead by his companions. So it's basically like Jeremiah Johnson, only an hour longer and more depressing. Also, the revenge part is like 20 minutes and the other two hours and twenty minutes are a series of unfortunate happenings and disgusting medical conditions. But I will say the visuals were incredible, and Tom Hardy was amazing, as usual. If I had a cache of Oscars I would just start throwing them at him.

Sorry, Indian people, you're relegated to plot devices once again.

New Year Resolutions Time!

Even though I tend not to make resolutions, there are some things I'd like to do in 2016:

  • Freshen up my professional writing site. Did this already! I installed a new template and scheduled a bunch of posts to run with links to my articles.
  • Focus more on my fiction writing. While I make more money from non-fiction writing, fiction is really my passion and I recently decided I needed to do more of it, just for myself. Annnd I'll get started on that any day now.
  • Get back into food and drink writing. Ever since Food Riot shut down, I've been missing it. I get to write some foodie articles now and then, but I'd like to find another publication I can write for regularly, or write my own book.


bloggiesta button

Next weekend is Bloggiesta! There's still time to sign up, so if you haven't done so yet get on it.

I'll be hosting a mini-challenge here about tips for online privacy. See you then!

Discus this post with me on Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ or in the comments below.


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