June 14, 2013 § 6 Comments
The other day friends and I were having lunch, when we got into a lively and heated discussion about state budgets, public pension funding and unions. Afterwards, we hugged and one friend said, “I’m glad we live in a country where we can talk about what we believe and nobody will throw us in jail!”
That’s probably true for us, white, flag-waving, not very political women with Protestant-sounding names.
What if your views don’t line up with the State Department’s?
In 2010, in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law, the Supreme Court for the first time, ruled that free speech in the form of any kind of advocacy for a black-listed group, is a crime; that is, it is against the law to provide “material support” to any group that the State Department designates a terrorist organization. Material support includes humanitarian aid, advice, “services,” “political advocacy,” and “coordination.” Suspected violators are subject to raids on their homes, “special administrative measures” which is a nice way of saying solitary confinement for indefinite periods of time without trial, time in a “super-max” prison or a notorious “communications management unit,” facilities designed to isolate violent criminals.
Don’t worry if you’re a judge, T.V. commentator, wealthy businessman, former mayor of New York, former governor of New Jersey or former White House advisor. The rule doesn’t to apply to you.
If, however, you are an ordinary person who supports workers in Columbia, if you’re a Muslim, or if you send money to a Palestinian aid group, or speak out against wars in the Middle East, or publicly oppose NSA surveillance of your phone calls and e-mails, beware.
Here’s the story of former NSA computer program designer William Binney, when he raised his head a little too far in protest of NSA surveillance.
June 6, 2013 § 6 Comments
“I hate to tell you this,” the clerk says as she folds my new pants. ”But I’m required to. By law. I have to charge you five cents for a bag. Would you still like a bag?” She raises her eyebrows in an ominous and foreboding way.
Our bag ban (see post) went into effect last month. Plastic grocery bags are outlawed and stores are required to charge a nickel for paper bags.
Bellyaching abounds. A woman buying groceries ahead of me in line, who looks like she probably has a few nickels to spare, commiserates with the checkout lady about the usurious bag fee. They roll their eyes, sigh and shake their heads.
One letter to the editor complains that cloth bags are bacteria laden. Isn’t everything bacteria laden? Never mind. Another letter writer wonders how he’ll line his trash can.
There are complaints about the five cents, it’s not the nickel, it’s the principle of the thing. It better be about principles, since nickels are worth so little we can barely afford to make them. What else can you even get for a nickel these days?
One man writes that from now on, he is going to shop in the neighboring town. So there.
I think people are secretly happy about the bag ban. It gives us something to talk about besides the weather. So much simpler and more accessible than crazy stuff like teacher layoffs and global warming. Here is the crux of the national debates in our own little town, something we can really wrap our tomatoes in.
Good work bag monsters.
May 29, 2013 § 7 Comments
What screws us up most
in life is the picture in our
head of how it is suppose
Pink ribbon alert and a few quiet moments to send love and support to Susie Lindau today, as she faces down one of life’s biggest challenges. Many know Susie, virtually speaking, from her ‘Use Me and Abuse Me’ parties, where she invites bloggers to drop in, leave a link, and check out other guest links. Hundreds attend. She visits every guest’s blog, and answers every comment, always with encouragement and good cheer.
When Susie is not blogging, dancing, skiing, hiking, running or taking photographs, she’s out doing something for someone — supporting family and friends, writing, making art, cracking jokes, swimming (in a river, mid-winter) to raise money for disabled kids. About the dancing? Susie dances every chance she gets: on New Years at midnight, at the Polar Bear Swim, alone with her dog, with friends at parties. She rain dances, snow dances, blog dances. It is contagious. Watch a video or two of Susie dancing and before you know it, you’re shimmying too.
With her usual energy, honesty and, yes, good humor, Susie recently let friends and followers know she has a rare and aggressive breast cancer, and will undergo a double mastectomy. Surgery is scheduled for today. A life long proponent of healthy living and eating, she is courageously writing about her experience.
Susie — Sending blue skies and best wishes for a speedy recovery!
To read Susie’s blog and follow her story: Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride
May 22, 2013 § 5 Comments
Help! My mind is stuck on Chinese characters.
Not those kinds of characters. This kind:
Visiting China without understanding Chinese is like walking around with a box on your head. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVED our visit there, and am wowed by the country, the small bit we saw of it, but know I missed a lot of what was going on.
Naturally, this inspired a naive and optimistic impulse to study the language. How long, my husband asked, would it take us to learn Mandarin? Kind of a non-starter for someone like me who has trouble setting up an iphone, but let’s just say, what would it take?
Consider: Chinese characters can be written from left to right, right to left, up to down, or down to up. There are about 13,000 characters, each an individual word. Dozens of languages in China use the same characters for the same words, and pronounce them differently. Compare the English alphabet, which breaks words down into letters and syllables to sound out and decode. We can tease out approximately how to say a word in another language by sounding out the letters, but unless it is similar to an English word, we can’t understand what it means.
The opposite is true in China. The characters — the words — are shared across dozens of dialects, but pronounced differently in each. So, while people in Shanghai and Changsha can’t understand each other in conversation, they can (if literate) read each other’s writings.
In the 1600′s the Jesuits brought the concept of spelling to China, and over the generations scholars used it develop and refine Pinyin, a phonetic system using the Roman alphabet. To a Chinese person it is weird to be asked something like ‘can you spell Julia for me?’ because traditionally, Chinese don’t think phonetically. Pinyin, however, makes it possible to create Chinese versions of English names. Here’s Hillary Clinton:
xī lā lǐ kè lín dùn
希 拉 里 克 林 顿
According to Google Translate, these characters mean “hope pull in” “gram forest Dayton,” but because they sound sort of like how we pronounce ‘Hillary Clinton’, that combination of letters is now defined as her name. (Intriguing translation though.)
The more I looked into Chinese, the more complex it revealed itself to be. The tenses work differently, and memorizing radicals (lines added to characters to enhance meaning — there are 1,000 of them) is a project in and of itself; there is the trick of training one’s ears and tongue to hear and repeat tones; and the decision about which Chinese language to study (the national language is Mandarin, but there are millions of Wu, Yue, Min, Xiang, Hakka and Gan speakers). Suffice it to say, I don’t think Chinese language studies are in my future.
It’s tempting to move beyond the question of studying the language to ponder how knowing English vs. Chinese might create differences in how we think, but that opens another minefield — debates and reams of conflicting information about whether English is more left-brained than Chinese, or whether Chinese is more whole-brained than English, or about how language shapes/limits/warps/improves thinking. I’ll leave that to the linguists and neuroscientists.
Make no mistake though, while English speakers like me throw up our hands at learning Chinese, the Chinese are busy learning English. Everywhere you go, billboards advertise English lessons, and there are a reported 300 million English language students in China. Granted, the hurdles for Chinese learning English are as high as they are for us, and many Chinese will never be fluent, but at least they are trying. Only about 70,000 American students are studying Chinese. At this rate, the English-speaking Chinese could hypothetically outnumber Americans speaking English.
How strange. How wonderful.
朱莉娅 (Julia, aka cinnabar li ya)
Jump in! Correct my misinformation and share your experiences with travel and learning other languages.
April 16, 2013 § 7 Comments
|Giant Iguana rests on its laurels|
NEXT 52 WEEKS, UP THE ANTE? Maybe drive around for awhile and think about it.
How about you? How often do you transport yourself by means other than a car?
We’re off to China! Hoping for bicycling inspiration.
April 13, 2013 § 10 Comments
“Our teapots are broken, our rocking chairs smashed, and our bicycle tires all blew up when we crashed…” from Horton Hears a Who
There’s bicyclist in town who sports an impressive set of safety gear: front and rear helmet lights, a headlight, tail light (all lights going, day or night), reflective jacket and vest, reflectors on the fender, reflectors on the spokes of his wheels and on velcro ties around his ankles, all topped off with a flag. I’m tempted to ask if this was because of some kind of bicycle trauma that he doesn’t want to repeat, or if he just likes gear.
Not that I blame him.
There was a time when I avoided safety equipment. It felt like a bull’s eye. Come on cars, here I am. Come and get me.
Reflective material, however, has risen in my estimation …
… especially when someone else wears it. Illumination in a drizzle, before dawn or at rush hour, is good.
“We are here, we are here,
we are here, we are here!” (Horton’s Whos)
Week 49: walked 1x, bicycled 2x.
Week 50: bicycled 3x.
Week 50: walked 1x, bicycled FIVE TIMES. End date: April 15. Grand total: 124, TWENTY in the bank.
April 5, 2013 § 20 Comments
OK, ‘fess up. Do you use the same password for a gazillion different websites?
Not long ago, I got a bunch of e-mails from people I follow on Twitter warning that my account had been hacked. Seems “I” was sending diet tips far and wide, and people foolish enough to click on “my” link got hacked too. Ouch. I hardly even look at Twitter, just signed up to see what the buzz was all about. I clicked on one little thing, something about someone trying to find me (I know, how stupid can you get) and boom, off my password went to some hacker in Russia or China, who sold it to a ponzi schemer.
How many other sites was I using the same password for?
I know, I know. It’s a pain in the you-know-what to have to remember and/or store a bunch of “secure” passwords. Who wants to go digging every time you buy a book, or read the New York Times, or check whether the electric bill is coming out of the checking or the credit card account? Nobody does. So what do over 60% of us do? Use an easy password over and over and hope for the best. Not. Good.
TWELVE MILLION pieces of personal information were illegally sold in the first quarter of 2012. Once your password is compromised by a security breach at, say, LinkedIn (June ’12), Twitter (May ’12) or eHarmony (June ’12 ) you are TEN TIMES more likely to be a victim of identity theft.
OK, OK! Say this to ourselves ten times: Buying, selling, saving, paying, transferring money? EVERY SITE NEEDS ITS OWN PASSWORD. A GOOD PASSWORD. Do you know what happens if your identity is stolen? Your g-mail account gets hacked? Months of misery. You might as well pull your fingernails out.
DO NOT DESPAIR. Shoring up the walls is easier than you might think.
What is a good password? Pop quiz — Pick the safest password:
Answer? It’s (B) YourDogEatsPoopandBeans
A good password is one that is hard for hackers to guess, and easy for you to remember. v2@t56Bbl_!*2dd is impossible to remember and believe it or not, easier than (B) to hack. Why?
Length is more important than gobbledegook. A hacker’s software tries out random combinations of symbols or dictionary words. The more symbols you use, the more combinations the software has to try out, and the longer it takes for it to crack your password. Weeks. Years. If it takes too long, the hacker gives up and goes fishing for easier prey.
Hide your passwords in a secure system, aka an “open source [free] password manager” that can be stored online and on your computer. I use Keypass and store it in Dropbox, so it’s accessible on my phone and computer. The only password I have to remember is for Keypass (Setting that up is another post, but it’s not hard).
The important thing is this: change your passwords. Use lots of different passwords. Make them long. Go ahead, be silly. Use words you can remember. Vary them for different accounts by changing the order of the words or adding numbers to the beginning and end. Use at least 15 or 16 letters. Make it fun.
Считать, что вы хакеры!
(Take that you hackers!)
I am quite possibly the last person on earth who should dispense advice about technology, so your additions, subtractions, corrections, scoldings and of course, accolades, are welcome! Acknowledgments to my daughter Grace who, as a computer science major, is living proof that the apple can indeed fall far from the tree. Thank you dear one.