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Monday, August 18, 2008

(Mis)Fortune Cookies

Keeping with this year's Olympic theme, I decided to order some Chinese food for dinner on Friday night. Okay, I'll be honest... I have not watched a single Olympic event, or even read/watched any news to do with this year's Olympics (and not because I'm protesting... I seriously just don't give a sweet darn... are they over yet??). I simply was not feeling well and did not feel like cooking.

Bring a vegetarian, I went to the only Chinese restaurant in town that offers something more than plain fried rice (okay, so there is another restaurant, but I didn't feel like forking over $20 for a bit of fried rice with mixed vegetables and poorly cooked plain chunks of tofu). Of course, dinner still cost an arm and a leg... so to top it all off, I added a fortune cookie to the bill. Not feeling well, I was able to rationalise such an extravagancy; I needed a pick-me-up.

Now of course, I can't hold my hand on my ass. We live in a world of personal television and internet access, so I have come to appreciate (and rely on) instant gratification. In other words, I tore into that fortune cookie before I even glanced at my dinner. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered the fortune cookie contained no fortune. Seriously, who would fork over $0.75 for a stale, crappy cookie if it didn't have that tiny slip of paper inside? Actually, why would anyone fork over $0.75 for someone's $0.02 worth? I certainly began to wonder what it might mean to discover a fortuneless fortune cookie when you're coming down with a cold. Should I be worried? (for anyone who is concerned, I'm feeling MUCH better now!)

Although the cookie was a let-down, the meal was most excellent (even though, or possibly because, I couldn't taste it).

Have you ever had a bad fortune cookie experience?

Have you laughed at any of this? If so, drop by to vote for your favourite posts and visit some hilarious blogs.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

'Me' Before 'We': A Fine Line Between Self-Help and Narcissism

A wise friend once said to me, "it does not help us to think about how others have it worse off when we're going through our own trauma. We can only go by our own experience, so what may be petty to others can be rightfully major to us"... and, I agree... to an extent...

First thing's first: this is not a warm and fuzzy post about how truly wonderful you are. I'm not going to tell you how to love yourselves... 'cause really, I don't think that's the problem. So, if you aren't prepared to hear that you're not the be all and end all, you might wish to surf elsewhere.

So, what is "the problem"?

The problem is that we do not know how to love one another. In fact, I'm willing to bet there are some of you who grunted and/or rolled your eyes when you read the previous sentence. I don't blame you, if you did. After all, all of the leading experts in the field of bullshit popular psychology will be quick to let you in on the secret to happiness (all you have to do is buy their book)! According to many of these 'experts', the secret to true happiness is self-worship.

Okay, so maybe that last statement was a little extreme... maybe... but I doubt it.

Think of it... we're told, more and more, how we need to take care of ourselves... which is great (and very important)... but now that we're used to that idea, we're beginning to accept the idea that we shouldn't put our energies into others. Instead, we're being taught we should allow others to fend for themelves; we're being taught to walk through life without the weight of the world on our shoulders. Problem is, we're being taught to walk (or rather, sit) through life without any weight on our shoulders. We have become emotionally delicate in regards to ourselves, yet emotionally hardened in regards to others... and I really fail to see how that's made any of us happier, or healthier.

I am a huge advocate of taking care of your own needs. I believe you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. But, we seem to forget the importance of taking care of others... and we almost act as though it's ridiculous to put the needs of others, no matter how pressing, before our own. We have become so self-centred we actually believe anything that causes any sort of discomfort or feeling of unpleasantness should be completely avoided. I'm really not surprised though... as long as the pop. psychologists keep telling us we come first, we will continue to ignore those around us. So, when we need someone to turn to, we can go and pay the "doctor" who told us to shut out the outside world. And really, problems are not discussed over a cup of tea, with friends, nearly as much now as they are with doctors... we've grown to think it unacceptable to help each other out (or ask for help) without some sort of fee.

So, how do we start loving one another? Well, we bite the bullet and realise we are not the centre of the universe. We meet our basic needs, then we help others meet theirs. We listen to that friend with the crisis... especially after they just listened to ours! We listen... period (turn off the mind chatter when other people are speaking to you). We really mean it when we say "how are you?". And, we take the time to think of those we love even when they're not in front of our faces... among many other things. Honestly, I'd hope this would be obvious to anyone reading.

Some of you (who took the time to 'listen') will remember my opening quote... about the friend who told me we can only see the world through our own eyes. She's right... and like I said... I agree... to an extent... the fact that people have problems worse than yours does NOT make your problems any less severe... and I'm certain that is what my friend meant.
However, for anyone who may take from the quote: "disregard the experiences of others", I believe it is our responsibility, since we have the ability, to force ourselves to see the world through the eyes of others. Yes, our problems may be severe, but it does not give us the 'right' to diminish the problems of others. If we want sympathy, we'd best give it.

So, what do you think? Do we really put selfishness above selflessness? Do you think we should? If so, why?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Child labour and spam? Go check it out!

I was surfing the blogosphere, checking out some of my favourite blogs, and came across an article I just had to share...

Jenn Thorson, creator of the blog "Of Cabbages and Kings" has discovered the secret behind spammers - why they never tire.

So, I'm sending you all over to her blog today, since you just have to read her post...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

20 Questions You Should Probably Avoid on Social-Networking Sites

If you are reading this post, you most likely have an internet connection; if you have an internet connection, you most likely have an e-mail address. If you have an e-mail address, I will go ahead and assume you have friends (or maybe just family and co-workers) who send messages (personal or business) to your e-mail address. I know many people are still further behind the times than I, but I think it's safe to assume that anyone reading this post, or at least the majority of anyone reading this post, has been the recipient of a fairly lengthly survey, via e-mail, Facebook, Myspace, or whatnot, requesting the most intimate details of your life in exchange for a possible glimpse inside another friend's, or some casual acquaintance's, life.

Judging from my inbox, or, within the last year or so, my Facebook home page, a lot of people think displaying their life for, often, hundreds of people to view is completely harmless. Intimate surveys were never as much of a problem with e-mail, since these surveys usually stuck within small groups of close friends. But, since these surveys have started flooding social networking sites, the intimate information shared in these surveys is often available to hundreds of people (hardly an exaggeration), many of whom we hardly know.

Identity theft is very real and very common... why are there so many victims? I think part of the problem lies within these 'fun' surveys floating around in cyberspace... although many of the questions seem harmless, it wouldn't take very long to obtain a complete profile on someone. I'm not saying these surveys need to be avoided like the plague, but I am saying we should exercise caution when answering these surveys.

For now, here's a list of twenty questions we might not think of as a security threat - I won't bother posting the obvious, such as "what is your mother's maiden name?", or "what is your social insuance number?" - I'm sure my readers are smart enough to realise the danger in such questions. Also, some of these questions have less to do with identity theft and more to do with personal safety... I've compiled this list in hopes to pass on a few lesser-known helpful pieces of information.

20 Questions You Might Not Want to Answer (at least, not seriously)

1. What are the last four digits of your cell-phone number? This one should be pretty obvious... the city you live in is pretty much common knowledge, so it wouldn't be too hard for someone with not-so-innocent ideas to trace down the first three digits of your cell-phone number.

2. What was/is the name of your favourite pet? C'mon... don't tell me you haven't been asked this as a security question at least once.

3. What is your middle/full name? This one should be obvious too... seriously... do you often introduce yourself as "Jonathan Jacob Andrew Doe"?

4. Where did you attend elementary school? "In a large, brick building", or "at home, with my mother/father" should be a sufficient answer.

5. What is your favourite number? Okay, so this one seems pretty innocent... and generally is, but keep in mind, we're more likely to use our favourite number when filling out security questions, or creating PIN numbers or passwords. This seems like a really tiny, insignificant piece of information, but if it's pieced together with a number of other tiny, insignificant questions, it could be the missing puzzle piece. Personally, I just feel like someone's favourite number should be a fairly personal thing...

6. What is your height/eye colour/weight/shoe size? So these are questions that can be guessed pretty easily if someone knows you offline, or has a good picture of you. But, why flat out give them that information?

7. Who is your cell-phone/cable/internet provider? Most of us jump at any chance we get to whine and moan about crappy customer service from our service providers, but many of us do not stop to think how much easier it is for someone to cause problems with our services if they're told exactly what services we're using.

8. What bank do you use? What bank you use is hardly anyone's business... thankfully, this question is hardly asked on surveys (but I put it here because I have seen it on more than one occasion).

9. How many siblings do you have/what are their names/how old are they? You cannot (as easily) assume someone's identity if you know nothing about their family, can you?

10. Are you allergic to anything? If so, what? Right... that way, if you get to be a threat, you could easily be taken out (okay, so that's a bit paranoid, but is there really a good reason for everyone to know your allergens)?

11. Who is your best friend? Actually, avoid any question that asks for any friend's name (such as: "who was the last person to text you?", or whatnot)... some people don't appreciate their name being plastered all over the internet (plus, it's easier to gather information on someone if you can narrow down their network of friends).

12. Be careful when answering any sort of question beginning with "who/what was your first..." many security question often ask you to provide information about certain "firsts".

13. What is your sexual orientation/religion/political belief system? Think about it... do you really want every single person on your friend list to have access to that information? If so, by all means, express yourself... but keep in mind how much easier you're making it to piece together your entire being.

14. How much money do you make annually? If this one isn't obvious, there's really no hope for you.

15. What are your nicknames? This question makes it easier for people to find more information about you, if you happen to use multiple nicknames online.

16. What's your biggest secret? Again, you would have to be an idiot to answer this question... and no, I don't admire people who "let it all in the open".

17. What is your ethnicity? Avoid any questions asking for your cultural background information... or, if you're like me, just respond with "mutt"... once again, this sort of question seems minor, but it's pretty jam-packed.

18. Have you ever taken drugs/what drugs have you taken? This isn't so much an identity theft issue... more of a personal safety issue... do you really want your parents, or maybe even the police, seeing your answer to that question?

19. How many piercings/tattoos do you have? This works to identify criminals, so why couldn't it help criminals identify you?

20. Where did you meet your spouse/significant other? Common security question

21. What time were you born? This may be a little more superstitious than anything else, but it can be pretty easy to obtain a pretty detailed astrological profile of someone if you have the exact time they were born.

I hope this list provided some helpful hints and I wish you all safe surfing. Oh, and by the way, if anyone on here ever makes you crack a smile, drop by to vote for my blog.