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rose from a wreck

A couple of decades ago, an Oregon girl’s car slid in the rain and flipped on a country road. Virtually everything else was wrecked, but she survived along with some silverware and one minor but ever-present reminder of the event.

I didn’t know that girl at the time. I didn’t know about the event for years after it happened. When I did come to know of it, the knowledge itself flowed from a fairly random convergence of events.

This morning, with my three-year-old snoring next to me, I set the book I was reading on my stomach and thought about the tenuousness of past events that led to this life.

My entire life would be different had that Oregon girl not arisen, basically fine, from a wreck. Read more…

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exploring “efficacy”

In a recent trip to Long Beach’s Gatsby Books, I picked up a couple dozen political books. Many were written by authors I’d never before encountered, which didn’t deter me from picking up their works.

I’ve read a few of the books I picked up that day, and I’m glad to have found each of them. That being said, I feel a special gratitude for the Gatsby-acquired book I’m currently reading: doctor Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor.

I’d never heard of Farmer (“Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology at Harvard Medical School”) before I happen to pick up this book on the strength of its title. I’m grateful the title caught me; Amartya Sen’s introduction coupled with the first few pages of Farmer’s words had me totally, absolutely hooked.

Having grown up devastatingly poor, I understood the impact of powerlessness–of poverty–on life outcomes. As I wrote in “Bernie, Because I Was Poor,”  Read more…

our own legacies of love

I met my now-husband, Anthony, shortly before I graduated law school and moved to Japan in 2004. We hit it off, and kept in touch for the four years I didn’t live in Los Angeles County.

sai nose

Sai

When I decided to move back to Los Angeles County in 2008, I ended up in Long Beach. This wasn’t because I was especially drawn to Long Beach. I landed here because there were more apartments friendly to larger dogs, like my buddy Sai.

Anthony was thrilled to discover I’d moved to Long Beach. He’d gone to high school here and offered to show me around. He did just that, taking me on a night tour of downtown Long Beach and the shoreline.

I remember standing on a bluff with him that night. Together, we looked out at the twinkling lights of manmade drilling islands. I thought that the twinkling lights were beautiful, and felt so glad I’d made Long Beach my home.

Almost a decade later, I remain glad I made Long Beach my home. That early 2008 evening with Anthony happened because of his familiarity with this town. We now have a lovely family, and–no matter where we may someday move–Long Beach will always be the place where we began.

Those manmade islands, on the other hand, are no longer beautiful to me.

In a 2015 article entitled “What the Frack is Happening Under Long Beach?“, OC Weekly describes the genesis of those twinkling islands: Read more…

The imperial mindset

I endured and witnessed much abuse as a child.

I learned a lot from it.

One of the most important lessons I learned was that there are, roughly, two sorts of people: one who will hear you, whether or not it benefits them, and another who will only hear you when it suits them. The former are great friend material; the latter, who hold what I call “the imperial mindset,” are best kept at a distance.

If I ask you not to do something that hurts me, especially with little to no benefit to you from doing it, and you do it anyway, you’ve indicated with your action the probability you hold an imperial mindset.

If I ask you again, and explain why, and you do it again, you have confirmed my initial impression. Unless you later adopt a cooperative mindset, we will not be friends.  Not ever.

If I ask you again and provide another explanation for my request, and then another, and still another, and you just keep doing it, I will cut you out of my life completely, if possible.

If I can’t cut you out, for whatever reason, I will acknowledge your imperial mindset, understand you will not change, and stop asking. Instead, I will do my best to remain cordial face to face while utterly shutting you out of my heart.

We won’t talk feelings, or go out on adventures, or do anything but exchange perfunctory greetings.

It’ll look to you like a choice I made, but really?

It was a choice you made: to not hear, because it didn’t suit you.

There are many people in this world who will hear and respect your wishes, whether or not they understand. They implicitly understand that their opinion, or total understanding, is unimportant to your requests to withhold hurtful-to-you acts.

I am so grateful to call many of these people friends. Because of them and childhood abuse, I know the difference between imperial and cooperative mindsets, and know that life is sweeter the less empire one lets in.

Categories: Communication, Health, Safety Tags: ,

danger

The first book to change my life was safety expert Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. As I’ve written here several times before, it may well have saved a sister’s life.

For all I love de Becker, I ignored everything his books have taught me this morning … and I did so at my own peril.

I just called the credit union I visited this morning. I told the rep that I’d encountered someone suspicious at the ATM this morning. I wanted to alert them in case he’d installed a PIN skimmer.

She asked me to explain what made me suspicious. I described the encounter, and only realized after I’d hung up the phone that he might not have been interested in skimming PINs at all.

My blood ran cold.

The man at the ATM had a hoodie wrapped so tightly around his face that no features were visible. He turned away and stepped toward his car. Funnily, he didn’t seem to have taken anything from the ATM.

I stepped up to the ATM and began my transaction, assuming he’d gotten into the car. Waiting for my receipt. I heard a shuffling behind me. I turned to look, and the man was behind me. He quickly turned away and scrambled into his car.

He sat there in his car, face to the steering wheel, features hidden.

I climbed into my car. I drove it to a spot where I could see and write down his license plate number.

He didn’t have a license plate. 

Oh, well, I thought. I’d tried.

I reminded myself to change my PIN and call the bank during business hours.

One of the key lessons de Becker teaches is that fear–which is completely distinct from anxiety–is a gift. When we feel genuine fear, it’s because we’re picking up subtle cues that something is unsafe. Our logical minds try to swat these thoughts away: “Don’t be ridiculous! Come on, you’ve done this hundreds of times before!”

In these cases, our logical minds endanger us.

This morning, before I even stopped the car, I looked toward the man at the ATM and thought, “I shouldn’t get out of the car.” But, dammit, I wanted to deposit that check, and I got out of the car to do just that.

I’ve read too damn much de Becker to do such a thing, and yet … I did. I didn’t even remember the thought until about five hours later.

That thought was my protector, and I discarded it.

The point is not to be anxious about everything all the time. It is to notice that one time out of hundreds that you do feel fear, and to treat that fear as the gift it is. To protect yourself.

If you want to know more about why you should listen to that voice, please read The Gift of Fear.

Whether or not you read the book, please listen to and act on that protective voice of fear if you hear it. To read de Becker is to understand that this often makes the difference between life and death.

Please protect yourself.

Please.

The merits of the credit freeze

On Monday, I wrote about my favorite source for InfoSec and Equifax breach-related news. Today, I wanted to add some important follow-up based on yesterday’s testimony.

Brian Krebs, my favored InfoSec resource, strongly recommends individual citizens pursue a legal credit freeze over a contractual credit lock. While a credit freeze might cost you a few dollars (depending on which state you’re in), it also affords you–the individual citizen–much more robust protection than does a credit lock.

Why? Krebs quickly gets to the heart of it:

Lawmakers on today’s panel seemed content with Smith’s answer that [a credit freeze and a credit lock] were effectively the same, only that a freeze was more cumbersome and costly, whereas credit locks were free and far more consumer-friendly.

It’s not only Krebs refuting this. He explains that Consumers Union staff attorney Christina Tetreault

notes that perhaps the main reason a security freeze is the better option is that its promise to guard your credit accounts is guaranteed by law, whereas a credit lock is simply an agreement between you and the credit monitoring company.

Krebs concludes:

What’s more, placing a freeze on your file is exactly what Equifax and the other bureaus do not want you to do, because it prevents them from making money by selling your credit file to banks and others (including ID thieves) who wish to grant new lines of credit in your name. If that’s not the best reason for opting for a freeze, I don’t know what is.

On a related note, now … retired … Equifax CEO Richard Smith made clear that “the company’s customers are in fact banks and other businesses – not consumers.” With credit bureau profits deriving from companies, not individual citizens, the bureaus have very little incentive to protect individual citizens’ data. This mindset shows in Smith’s testimony.

Once upon a time, I believed it was unequivocally good that tablet computers and EpiPens (for example) were made more widely available in schools. While there are indubitably some benefits, I now understand that improving citizens’ lives was not the corporate inspiration for such moves. Rather, that inspiration is in their profit margins.

Individual citizens can only pay pennies compared to what governmental customers can.

Recall from my last post my note on how “deregulation” is really re-regulation. Basically, when corporations lobby for “deregulation,” they invoke the idea of “free markets” while (1) transferring the costs of so-called market freedom to individual citizens and (2) reaping ample profits from the transfer.* As Kate Raworth succinctly put it, “financial deregulation actually just shifts the costs and benefits of financial crisis onto a different group of people.” Namely, you and me.

Doesn’t feel very “free,” does it? It sure doesn’t to me. This is why it’s so important to understand the difference between a credit freeze and a credit lock, and to show your legislators you both know the difference and expect them to favor your protections over corporate ones in the future.

* If you’d like to read an excellent explanation on the merger between corporation and U.S. government, check out Sheldon S. Wolin’s 2008 book Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.

 

What’s a citizen to do about Equifax?

My professional career has revolved around software contracts. Initially, I negotiated and managed them; now I reference them heavily while performing a different kind of work. Throughout, I’ve been especially interested in terms related to Information Security (“InfoSec”).

Some software publishers offer customers fairly robust InfoSec protections. I generally felt pretty good about companies (1) whose starting positions guaranteed specific measures to ensure protection of customer data and (2) who promised some kind of compensation if customer data became available because of the publisher’s software and/or hardware offerings. Such software publishers had “skin in the game,” or incentive to really ensure their customers’ data was protected. Why would they be lax when they’d experience specific, sometimes severe consequences for breach resulting from failure to do so?

On the other end of the spectrum were publishers who offered vague assurances with no guaranteed compensation for any breach. This was the opposite of having skin in the game: “We’ll totally check our software once every other year for major flaws and give commercially reasonable efforts to fix them. If there’s a breach that reveals bunches of your data, we’ll send you cake.” I was much more concerned with these publishers, whose lackadaisical approach to InfoSec practically screamed, “We care more about the money you’re required to give us than your ability to stay afloat!”

This all left me with a keen interest in InfoSec, especially when I saw how much less care companies give individual citizens* compared to paying corporate customers. If corporate customers at the very least got a cake, individual citizens got … nothing. Giving more than nothing would cut into profit margins!

I’ve subscribed and unsubscribed to bunches of InfoSec newsletters over the years. The only one I continue to follow now is KrebsOnSecurity.com. Brian Krebs’s coverage of the Equifax breach is a perfect example of why. He critically analyzes the breach and presents it in language even distant non-experts can follow. More importantly, he lets individual citizens know what they can do to limit their exposure.

If you’re concerned about what to do following the Equifax breach of 143 Americans’ credit data, Brian’s “The Equifax Breach: What You Should Know” is a great place to start. If you’d like more excellent analysis of the breach, I’d suggest “Here’s What to Ask the Former Equifax CEO.” His proposed questions for U.S. legislators to ask reveal a great deal about companies that give prominent indications they care much, much less about citizen data protection concerns than for whatever revenue they can milk from citizens. If protecting citizen data costs money (uuuuugh, maintaining software and hardware is expensive!), they’ll cut corners and hope for the best.

As individual citizens, we don’t have the financial leverage to demand better protections the way individual corporate customers can. This means that it’s critical for individuals to (1) find and use those protective measures that are available to individuals (thanks for highlighting them, Brian!) and (2) consider how re-regulation** impacts citizens’ ability to collectively mitigate citizen costs created when some corporate entities treat InfoSec not as a valuable investment in citizen well being but a drain on profits.

Otherwise? It’s important to remember: Unlike corporate customers, we individuals won’t even get a cake. 

* I originally typed “consumer,” so prevalent is such phrasing in reporting, but I reject that. We individuals are far more than consumers. We are citizens, and are far more valuable than the dollars we spend.

** There is no such thing as deregulation, only reregulation. Changes to regulation typically called “deregulation” aren’t neutral but heavily lobbied for by specific corporate beneficiaries. As Kate Raworth puts it here,

There’s always going to be regulation shaping what can and can’t be done, you’re just shifting the regulatory space. You ask how are those shifts benefiting, or how are the costs and benefits of that shifting re-regulation falling on other people? So financial deregulation actually just shifts the costs and benefits of financial crisis onto a different group of people.

 

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