Category: Observations


2021 Week 48 – You ARE Being Watched

I took some time over the long holiday weekend to finish a book I had started a few weeks ago and promptly start another related one.

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden is an eye-opening tale centering around a late 20-something NSA contractor who exposes the US Government’s mass surveillance system created after 9/11. Love him or hate him he brought to light the vast data collection of US citizens by their government.

No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald starts up with his interview of Snowden while he hides in Hong Kong before his trove of documents is released to the public by various medial outlets. Meanwhile, Laura Poitras films a series of interviews for her documentary Citizen Four. It goes into incredible detail about the surveillance systems in use around the world, by many countries, and details just how far they have gone to invade your privacy.

If you have any interest in this kind of stuff it’s well worth your time to seek out these books or at least watch the full documentary (available on YouTube with Ads (that will track you, haha)). It will chill you to the core and make you think about what you do online going forward.

As I wrote earlier this year everyone needs to be using a Password Manager application. My favorite continues to be Bitwarden. The free version is more than enough for most people but the $10 paid version adds some advanced features and helps support the development. Getting started with a Password manager is NOT difficult and is NOT a good excuse for NOT using one. Bitwarden for Beginners is a great place to start.

NordPass just released their annual Top 200 Common Password list. It shows what people are actually using to secure their private data as well as how long it takes to crack and gain access. If your password is on the list you should assume your accounts have been compromised because you probably use the SAME password in multiple places. The benefit of a Password Manager is that you can use a different, unique, password for every account and only need to remember ONE (secure) master password/phrase. The tool generates and documents the login details for you.

Another security tool you should consider using, especially if you use your devices in public, is a personal VPN account. This tool encrypts your traffic and protects you from anyone wanting to access your data. Sounds a little overkill but it’s not uncommon for someone to sit on a public network and watch for unsecured traffic to exploit. In fact, as far back as 2013 AT&T and Starbucks encouraged it! My personal favorite is Private Internet Access (PIA) which works on all devices including your phone and tablet. An annual subscription is $39.99.

I think that just about wraps things up for this week. It’s hard to believe 2021 is 90% over & we’re getting ready to settle down into the winter months. At least I have a stack of books to go through while hunkering down inside for the next 3 months. See you next week!

The Truth About Thanksgiving

I always love digging this out every November. Enjoy!

2021 Week 45 – Tech Upgrades & Tacos

I’ve been absolutely loving the new iPad Pro since I purchased it a few months ago. In fact, It’s my primary computing device when I’m home. Paired with a Lap Desk from Amazon, I can crank out all kinds of work and keep up with my reading from the comfort of my couch (while watching Soccer & Football).

The Apple Watch Series 7 arrived last Monday & I’m thrilled with the upgrade from the Series 4 I was using. Apple offered a $100 trade-in, and my company provides an annual fitness reimbursement of $60 for wearable devices, which brought the overall price of the device down to something a lot more reasonable.

Speaking of reasonable, Amazon just released the new Kindle Paperwhite for $139. I have an original one from 2012 that has gotten very sluggish (and stopped receiving software updates). I was able to get 25% off the price of the new Kindle if I traded my old one in. I think this trade-in option is something I’m going to start looking for when upgrading electronic devices. Otherwise, these old units end up taking space on the shelf with no benefit to anyone.

In local food news, Chris’ Ice Cream (and Tacos) has relocated across 86th Street from its old location, just east of Total Wine and next door to Subway. They haven’t put a permanent sign up yet, so it’s a little hard to find. I had lunch with a former colleague the other day, and the food is just as good as it was before at the old location. The new site isn’t any larger than the old one, so I think the relocation might have been landlord or rent-related. Either way, this is a great little hole-in-the-wall with some excellent Mexican food.

And finally, this video is a few years old, but it’s hilarious. There is NO WAY I would ever try Noodling, but it sure was fun watching these guys do it. Have a great week, and we’ll see you next time!

2021 Week 44 – Fall Back

close up of yellow autumn leaf on twig at sunset

It’s about that time again where we set our clocks back to observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). The official date is Sunday, Nov. 7th at 2:00 am so you have a week to go! It doesn’t seem that long ago when Indiana didn’t participate in DST. In fact, we had our own “Timezone” called Indiana in the settings on computers. The last time I checked it was still there in Windows 10, even though it’s not used anymore.


I’ve been trying to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and get some steps in by walking around the neighborhood. This is a perfect time to catch up on the numerous Podcasts I have downloaded to my phone. One of my all-time favorites is from 99% Invisible. This podcast explores all kinds of interesting topics such as the Sears catalog that had mail-order houses available, and why Margarine was PINK at one time.

99% Invisible is a sound-rich, narrative podcast hosted by Roman Mars about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. 

From 99percentinvisible.org

After the impressive iPad Pro upgrade, I decided to upgrade my several-generation-old Apple watch to the new Series 7 model. The larger display is what really sold me. I use my Apple Watch daily and I’m looking forward to checking the new model out. If there’s anything worth reporting I’ll do a mini-review in a few weeks.


And finally, I stumbled upon some motivational videos on Youtube last week and the following one featuring Joe Rogan was very interesting. Enjoy!

2021 Week 37 – 9/11 and the World Today

It’s tough to believe it’s been 20 years since Terrorists changed America forever. On September 11, 2001, I was driving to work listening to the news on 1070 WIBC when the first plane hit the North Tower and remember thinking it was such an awful accident. When the second plane hit the South Tower, it was clear something else was going on. That day was full of bad news after bad news with the Pentagon attack and Flight 93 crashing in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and I’ll never forget it.

We’ve had other historical events in the past, such as Pearl Harbour, where 2403 military and civilians were killed in 1941. That attack triggered the United States’ entry into World War II the next day. American involvement in the war lasted four years from 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, to 1945, when Japan and Germany were defeated.

The 9/11 attacks, which killed 2,996 Americans, were in peacetime and a first for the United States. This led to the 20-year conflict in the middle east, which we just “ended”. I say “ended” because even though we cut the head off the snake by killing Osama bin Laden, we didn’t end the war. The evil that is the Taliban survived and took over an ENTIRE COUNTRY in a matter of weeks. I can’t help but think we’ll be back; it’s only a matter of time…

After 9/11, the United States came together in unity. There was a feeling of patriotism, as we had a common enemy*. Many freedoms we had before the attacks were restricted in the same of security (remember flying prior to 9/11?) and, even though we didn’t like it, we accepted it and moved on with our lives. Unfortunately, as the years passed, we slowly drifted back to the complacency we had pre-disaster. Then COVID-19 attacked us…

Fast forward today, where we had another opportunity to rally as a nation with the COVID-19 epidemic, but we failed miserably to come together as a nation again. Instead of joining forces to fight another common enemy that was killing with impunity, we raised our defenses and ignored common sense that would have eradicated the virus.

As of today, we’ve had 677,737 American deaths attributed to COVID-19, with more dying every day. New variants are not helping the situation, but the real issue is people refusing to get vaccinated only to get sick, spread the virus, and in some cases, die from it.

While I’m not a fan of government overreach, I feel like we did this to ourselves by playing doctor and pretending to know more than the science. Now we’re seeing the US Government force our hand and start rolling out vaccine mandates. Unfortunately, I think the anti-vaxers will dig their heels in, and we’re going to see more civil unrest, not unlike we saw last year in the United States.

I really hope I’m wrong…

*I’m going to keep my personal thoughts about 9/11 out of this post because now is not the time. This weekend we remember the 2,996 Americans who lost their lives and those who died from health complications from that day.

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