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Keep Your Eye Out For Smoky Mountain Life Center!

in Blog/Charitable Campaign/Current Events/Get Involved/News/Social Commentary by

Try growing up having summers where the temperature is 114 degrees for week straight, to going to a place that actually experiences a winter. I’m talking, it has snowed at my home in Sevierville at least 5 times since October. Like, BIG snows; big enough to build a snowman, and his wife and two children! This is very…different for me. I wouldn’t call it difficult though; not in comparison to those of our community who don’t have a warm bed to snuggle up in to write articles, like me. The contrast between my situation and theirs ignites the fire in my heart to want to bring warmth to those who struggle more than I have ever had to.

The opposition between my situation and that of the street-people reminds me of Samuel Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. In his poem, Coleridge masterfully describes an underground dome as beautiful as the Bible’s garden of Eden.

“So twice five miles of fertile ground /
With walls and towers were girdled round; /
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, /
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; /
And here were forests ancient as the hills, /
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.”

The comfort that I enjoy is like that! Sure, I have worries, stresses, anxieties, struggles. But -let me just do a little privilege check here- I have never been in a situation where I have had no other choice than to ask someone for help paying for my food, or my utility bills, or clothing for my children (if I had them). Did I do anything to deserve this? Absolutely not. So, do I therefore have a responsibility to my community to ease the suffering of those who are less fortunate? Absolutely. IF you ask me.

As in life, in Coleridge’s poem, there is a bit of trouble in paradise. There is a river running through the lush land that encounters some rough waters.

“A mighty fountain momently was forced: /
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst /
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, /
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: /
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever /
It flung up momently the sacred river.”

I see the rapids…I can use my empathy to try to understand what it would be like to try and stay afloat on such a rushing river, and so I want to help.

I am not the only one.

That brings us to last Monday, where I found myself at the third-ever meeting of a local group called “Smoky Mountain Life Center.” This is a group who wants to provide warm, safe, temporary housing for the homeless population in our community.

The organization is getting the ball moving, as I learned from the meeting! They are working with churches to secure emergency shelters, so that folks seeking immediate help on the coldest and wettest of nights can have a warm and dry place to sleep. They are working with realtors to find a place that can provide a little bit more long term assistance for folks who may need to develop some skills such as resume building, need job-appropriate clothing, or financial advise. They have even contacted beauticians willing to donate their time to offer free haircuts to folks who are down on their luck.

The idea is to network with existing organizations such as SMARM (Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Mission) in order to help the homeless folks in our community reintegrate into a self-sustaining situation for themselves and their families.

Ideas on how to raise funds in order to secure the 501C3 licensing are going around the group of about fifteen people. It is a dream (unlike Coleridge’s pipe-dream) that is currently being built. All it will take is time, dedication, and persistence. Plus, a lot of compassion. But, if I know anything about the people of Tennessee, it is that you have to be tough to weather these cold winters, and that you have to do it by relying on each other.

“That with music loud and long, /
I would build that dome in air, /
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!”

Creating a warm place for the least fortunate of our human brothers and sisters around us is a cause that I am happy to be a part of. I have plenty enough to share.

This was the first meeting that I attended for the organization, and the next one is on the 19th of this month. I absolutely look forward to continuing to brainstorm about what comes next, and I will be there the whole time, chronicling the building of a paradise in my home not just for some, but for all.

Chasing Sunshine

in Blog/Travel by

A single piece of snow, fluffed to the fullest, lands upon my nose/
Its brothers join any exposed skin seen peaking out of my winter garb/
While the crisp cold chases me indoors, my heart gladly goes/
To a place away from chilling bones and frozen roads; a place very far/

Plane doors open, and the sunshine welcomes my cheeks into a bright land/
Rain breaks up the rays, so we chase the warmth around the island green/
Chasing sunshine; never have I endeavored an adventure so grand/
Souvenir particles get caught in my skin, and behind my eyes freshened with a glean/

Now I remember the colors in the breaking of the waves which show their sheen/
And think that it might be the most beautiful light I have ever seen/

Or felt.

I Left My Ego in Tennessee

in Blog/Travel by

Do you ever have those dreams where you are flying? For me, it usually begins by jumping once, only to return to the earth. By

the third or fourth jump, at the height of my ascent, instead of sinking back down to the ground, I continue to rise, my sense of elation growing as I conquer gravity, breathless, my spirit soaring. The g-force pushes me through air like a smooth sailing roller coaster ride that is propelled by my belief in the fact that I *will* keep on going. The only thing that ever weighs me down is my ego, and I left that behind in Tennessee.

That is the feeling that accompanies me now, as I quite literally soar above the clouds. The initial panic of exhausted bustling from airport to airport is gone. From Knoxville to Chicago (where I had my first Chicago dog and deep dish pizza), and from Chicago to Denver, then the plane in Denver took me to this elevation, high above the ground. I am overcome with a sense of awe and gratitude for life and its wonders. Every new experience now is full of magic.

With this mindset, I humbly look forward to taking in the culture that I will find on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

 

Though I love the mountains, the way that the sun heals my soul is like no other.

So may my heart stay humble and my spirit soar into the place where magic invites me to partake in it around every corner.

From Waves of Snow to Ocean Waves

in Blog/Travel by

The waves of big, fluffy snow which are falling upon our heads here in Knoxville, Tennessee are not nearly cold and wet enough to dampen the spirit of adventure which possesses our group of coworkers as we make our way to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. There, the ocean waves lap upon the shores, and both the air and the ocean are a sweet 75*. You had better believe that that warmth and sun are calling me; calling us.

It will be with no regrets that I wave goodbye to the coldest winter I have ever known for a whole week. Having been living on the top of a mountain in Sevierville, Tennessee for 9 months now, I have begun to understand why mountain people have a reputation for being so tough. Learning to live in such devastating beauty requires one to learn to prepare and plan. However, even the mountain veterans, the ones who have lived atop the beautiful, icy peaks for years do not attempt to drive down once the roads are covered in life-threatening ice. There is a difference between driving on ice in town where it is flat, and driving down a switchback where you look off of the side of the road and see down a cliff, as if you are coyote looking for road runner. But drive down the mountain in the snow I did, before it had a chance to stick and freeze, and now here I am at the hotel, wondering if sleep will overpower my excitement or if I will save my sleep for the 14 hour flight ahead.

I do not mean to say that the picturesque snow scenes in the Smokeys are not a vision out of a fairytale book. The mountains of Tennessee in the snowy wintertime are a winter wonderland of beautiful views that the eye can drink up forever and ever. But me; I am a beach girl. Give me that sunshine during the day, let me get lost in the waves, and set me loose on the shores, fire poi in hand at night, and that is all I need to be happy.

Waves, waves, I get lost in waves of enthusiasm for life as I embark on a new adventure, new camera in hand, ready to appreciate the beauty of a land foreign to me, surrounded by people that I love and will soon love even more. The distant shore will only bring me more of the happiness that I already harbor inside; may I appreciate it and share it more and more every second of all of the time <3 😊

Girls Don’t Rule, but They Should

in Blog/Social Commentary by

Professional women are a long way from gloating “girls rule and boys Drool,” and our country is a long way from women not having the Right to vote, but does that mean that women and men are now Equal? Though 1st wave feminism fought for women’s suffrage, and 2nd wave feminism gained women some fair property & reproductive Rights, our current 5th wave of feminism is not without a worthy cause.

Let’s not wave goodbye to feminism when only 6.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and not one is a black woman. Not to mention only About 20% of our Congress, Senate, and House of Reps are women. Women also disproportionately earn less, when 62% of workers Earning minimum wage are women. Women still have a long battle Ahead to even the playing field.

How do we progress from “you drool, I rule?” By learning to rule Together. Let’s respect the women breaking the mold; the woman Business owner, manager, or professional in any position of authority Like we would a man. Let’s stop allowing “locker room talk” about a  Women to continue after she leaves the room; women are not sex
Objects. Let’s stop saying things like, “A man would be better in that Position than a women because she would let her emotions get in The way.” Women are not doomed to be swept away by their Emotions any more than men are unable to control their aggression. Girls should rule; men should too. We should rule together.

 

More Statistics About Inequality Between Women and Men in Society:

http://time.com/4064665/women-college-degree/  

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/02/single-fathers-pew-research_n_3535586.html 

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/average-minimum-wage-worker-myth 

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/05/05/more-women-than-men-earn-the-federal-minimum-wage/ 

https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/minimum-wage/2015/home.htm 

http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/women-us-congress-2017 

 

Who Is Malala Yousafzai?

Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan. As a child, she became an advocate for girls’ education, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Malala when she was traveling home from school. She survived, and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2013. In  2014,  she was nominated again and won, becoming the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

^The above is a direction quotation taken from www.biography.com. This link will take you to Malala’s page on that site.

Dressing Up

in Blog/Social Commentary by

Lights flash,
all day.

Welcome to my day.
Anything, everything can look foggy, cloudy, if your focus is on anything, everything.
Sharpen it, and you will see,
little kids smiling at the antics of our photographers as the professionals act anything but, sniffing feet and making animal noises to coax the smiles out of children they have just met moments before.

If you focus, you will see,
life celebrated by couples who chose to dress up as saloon girls and cowboys and take photos together, traveling back in time to the crazy days of the wild west, making memories that will last a lifetime.

You see, I can dress my vision up to be anything I want.
I can take portrait photos of these families, simply going through the motions, pushing buttons. Not even buttons, just one button, over and over.

However, if I sharpen my focus, I see beauty more valuable than all of the gold in all of the banks that a cowboy in the wild west could ever dream of robbing.
And it’s free, for those who choose to focus their perspective on it.

Not only can I find gold, I can turn that flashing light on the top of my camera into a beacon of happiness. A request from me to my models to smile a genuine smile. To be themselves and play along with the story I am creating for them to match their old timey garb. I can share the treasure with them.

Being a photographer has taught me more than just focus. It has also taught me about dressing the moment up.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you walk through the front door of the studio, past the sheriff’s office with its bars and key-ring hanging nearby, past the bar where many an empty liquor bottle sits, and where many a saloon girl has sat as well, you will find the swinging saloon doors that lead to the men’s dressing room.

Part of my job is to dress people up. Guests at the old time photography studio where I work can dress up to fit the wild west era, the Southern Belle era, roaring ’20s, civil war, or Native American. I was in the men’s changing room, hanging hats and arranging boots as a civil war general came strolling back in.

I began helping him with the mess of strings on the back of his costume so he could shed it, back to normal in his civilian clothes that lay underneath his costume.

John Buford, Jr. Our costumes are exact replicas of these.

 

Focus to the general’s conversation (and ignore the fact that yes, I undress grown men for a living. But hey, they just put the costumes on over their clothes). He says he is a schoolteacher in real life. He had just changed from teaching 5th grade to teaching kindergarten. I automatically have respect for anyone who wants to educate the youth of our culture. Especially since the wages aren’t that great. Traditional teachers in America get paid between $16 and $20 an hour. Many jobs not requiring a degree have similar wages. Hearing the general talk about what he deals with made me feel as if he deserved much more; if not more money, than more recognition.

Speaking on what he thought of teaching kindergarten, he said, “I can deal with it. I can deal with the boogers and goo that I somehow get on my hands throughout the day.

“I can deal with the tears. There are tears every day. Especially on Mondays. Those are the days that the kids find most difficult to leave their parents, after they’ve been together for a few days non-stop.

“I can deal with the parents that want to come in and watch me and see what I’m doing and how I’m teaching their kids.

“I can deal with the hyperactivity, how the kids want to bounce around. I don’t force them to sit in seats. We do a lot of floor time. And for the kids who just can’t sit still, I let them sit on those yoga balls so they can just bounce it out, and that seems to solve the problem. They’re kids. Some of them aren’t even 5 years old yet, and they’re just not ready. I can deal with it.

“Finding out what works to allow growth in their minds is just crazy. I mean, I am coming up with rhymes to help these kids understand how to write the number two! There are fun songs I make up to get them to understand what the color red is. It is honestly such a joy, such a fun job. I love it. ”

I MEAN, MAN! Talk about focus! The general is not kidding himself about the glamour, or lack of, in his job, but his attitude blew me away. His positivity and ability to focus on the good work that he is a part of, even amidst stressors of which one would break many down, made every color that came into my eyes in that moment seem brighter. The vibrancy of his words struck my heart.

We are all still learning things that some might find just as basic as writing the number two.

An unforgettable chord rang out to me, and that is that there are people out there that make the learning experience magical for others. If the general can do that for a room of goo-covered, crying, hyper little ones, why can’t we do that for each other? With the awareness that we were all once children and that age does not entitle one with all of the information in the world.

We can make life magic for each other.
If we choose to focus on that.
If we choose to dress it up.

The Views From My Two Windows

in Blog/Flow Arts by

The big city,
Hustle and bustle,
Who even really gives a damn about the Joneses?

To be frank, I care more about my neighbor’s joneses.

Ego illuminating the concrete path before the feet which tread upon the broken dreams of a lazy lower class.
A “lazy” class of modern slaves…

If you can, rest your spirit when you can
While you have the chance my friend.

A window before me.
A window between my eyes and the thing that is being seen.

Can I break through?
My spirit often sings a haunting melody from inside.
Shall I break the window, or simply choose to walk a peaceful path that will lead me outside?

Outside, where I can sit and watch the seedlings grow bigger daily,
Exchanging my toxins for their oxygen as I reconnect with circles and my place.

If you can, rest your spirit when you can.

A house of tools awaits all who will choose to build.
A great city is comprised mainly of a thriving community,
And I truly don’t give a damn about so much concrete destruction
And cut-throat competition.

It’s too much to sustain, and I have never had to starve out others for my own gain.
Peace, we can build up to it.

There is a house of tools that waits,
Sitting while the resting soul gathers strength
And formulates designs to solve the very pain that plagues that gentle soul.

There is a house of tools that waits,
And the broken systems lie just beyond.

If you can, rest your spirit while you can,
if you get a chance my friend.

All eyes…all eyes…eyes leading to…whatever.
Whatever it is that you choose.
Leaving my own Joneses behind.
The eyes on me are an audience, all lined in a row, of living beings that will soon sacrifice their fruits to an animal larger than them.

I dance, in thanks, for them.

I take the sunshine in,
And surrender myself to endless circles that I am forever going in.
The windows are behind me,
Long forgotten as if I have ever only been here among the trees.

And I breathe…

Resting my spirit while I can.

New Beginnings

in Blog/Travel by

If I could choose a theme song for this article, it would be that oldy, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” by Neil Sedaka. Mainly because of the line that doubles as the song title. Also because it seems like it was a long time coming with that couple, and getting back together wouldn’t be best for either of them. Hearts, they do go on.

The next song I would pick would be, “Man, I Feel Like a Woman,” by Shania Twain. This song is a pretty fantastic diddy in the tune of being an empowered woman. I relate as I am in the midst of coloring my hair and I usually “do what I dare.” It just feels good to have some affirmation that you’re doing the right thing. Thanks Shania.

Well, it’s day seven of me being at my new, old home. I recently had a heart-wrenching breakup and had to have my folks drive from Tennessee to Texas to come get me so I can get back on my feet.

I.feel like I sound like a blues song. OoooOOOhh singing, we broke up, my car broke down, I had to move, I’m just a big ole mess.

While I am so grateful to have such a fantastic support system, my pride is taking a, probably needed, hit for having to move back home.

Normally, I would shy away from putting my personal life on this site, but I am learning valuable lessons which I would like to share.

Right now I’m at the gym (which happens to be the nicest workout facility I’ve ever been in), staring at the “Tiki Bar” wishing that it was an actual bar instead of a booth where you can sign up to win a trip to Hawai’i, and that I had a Sex on the Beach, but actually waiting for my mom to get done with her class so she can drive me to work, as a 23 year old woman. Oh independence, how I miss you!

Moving really is turning out to be the best thing for me. It’s allowing me to get a fresh start. My life right now is full of new beginnings.

Moving, man, moving can be a pain. I packed up my stuff and moved it into and out of houses 6 times before it was all said and done. I did have help some of those times, but you better believe that I slept like a baby for about a week after that. That was physically difficult. Good thing I have an awesome friend with a truck. I definitely recommend making sure that you have a friend to help you move before you just decide to do it.

What was difficult for my pride was quitting my job I had just got in Fort Worth. I had only been there about a month and a half before I quit. In that time, I was finding my confidence again, exploring bicycling as a hobby and passion, meeting people who I felt could be a strong part of my community, learning valuable information about bicycle components and repair.

It was really difficult to leave that job, but it had to be done. It is always best to have a job lined up before you quit the one you have, that way you don’t miss a paycheck, and therefore won’t miss a payment on any of your bills or food, so on and so forth.

Luckily, I won’t be missing a paycheck, because I went job hunting the day after I arrived in Tennessee, got three on-the-spot interviews, one job offer, and one invitation to come back for a shadow-day the very next day. I liked what I saw during that second interview that Saturday, and went in for my first day the next Monday. All I had to do was make the effort, the opportunity was obviously very much there.

Now I am working as a photographer in a studio doing portraits for couples and families!

Making getting a job one of the first things I did helped make sure that I am able to support myself financially. It also helped me with my self-confidence, since I got such a positive response from employers. That confidence will remain and spill over into other aspects of my life.

My to-do list from all the errands and paperwork I had to do has finally diminished! It really only took a week of non-stop driving and planning to get it done. Here’s something novel, it only took me half an hour at the DMV to get my license. I know, shocking right. That happened.

Getting your change of address taken care of is one of those boring adult things that you have to do no matter who you are because the government wants your updated address. I did find out that Tennessee allows you to get a replacement license sent to you and you can make this happen from your computer. It’s super handy if you don’t mind waiting a week or two in order to receive it in the mail!

Other things I was so satisfied to cross off of my list included getting my resume printed off, the hours of research into who was hiring that I did on my phone during the drive, going to the sheriff’s department to get a background check for my job, getting documents notarized, reading the policy book, and studying notes from work in order to get good at my job as quickly as possible. Taking it one thing at a time is really the only way to get it all done without pulling out my hair or banging my head on a wall.

New beginnings can feel good and bad at the same time. I left behind many things that I love, and that is difficult. I want to keep in touch with my friends and I can get overwhelmed by this, so I’m trying to make it a point to have a conversation maybe once every few days. I left part of my heart in Texas, but I know I will find the rest of the pieces here in Tennessee, if I let myself. One thing at a time.

For now, I am focused only on getting trained at work, getting there on time, and having energy the whole time I’m there. At home, the only thing I will do until I get the routine down pat is sleep, make food and get my clothes ready for the next day, and keep things neat and tidy. Whenever I’m ready, I will work exercise back into the mix. There are still a few things left on my list of things to do from my move, and I will do them one at a time, as I have time and energy for them.

I will admit, there are times whenever panic or sadness overwhelm me to the point where I have a physical reaction. My body tenses up, a sense of terror washes over me, and I will remain numb for a minute, an hour, the rest of the day, or for a couple days. I will have to fight so hard to pull myself away from staring at a wall. I will not be able to keep tears out of my eyes. This is heartbreak, and this is shame. I know it will pass. I know that depression comes and goes, and it will go eventually. I know that one of the best cures for depression is exercise, and keeping busy, so I will do those things until I find my center again.

Being in the Smokey Mountains sure helps. There is beauty everywhere that you cast your eye. Not only that, but the Southern hospitality runs deep here. If you need help, it is never far away than the next smiling face and twang-filled greeting from your neighbor.

Sleeping with the window open and feeling safe to go outside barefoot, having woods all around me waiting to be explored, the soft tone of the folks here, and fruit that grows wild in the mountain will surely heal my heart.

So here’s to new beginnings and making tbe most of them!

Safely Surfing the Web

in Blog/News/Science & Technology/Social Commentary by

Without it, you would not be able to read this article.

I wouldn’t have been able to research the information contained within, and further, folks worldwide would be disconnected in a way that most people my age can hardly even imagine.

I’m talking about the Interwebs, of course!

Fellow web-crawlers, our dear Internet is 28 years old as of this year, 2017. It has been twenty-eight glorious years of sharing information faster than anything else human history can recall.

With all of that information floating around in cyberspace, I figured it was time to educate myself on how to keep my own information secure from criminals, hackers, unwanted solicitation, and agencies that I never gave permission to. The following is what I found!

Before you proceed, I would like to give you a mission as you read. I challenge you, dear deep web surfer, to take the time to complete each point as you read it. Don’t just read this article and feel all safe and educated afterwards. The information will do you no good unless you actually utilize it.

You have a mission. I believe in you.

INFORMATION TO PROTECT:

1-Personal Information

Personal information is just that: information that you alone should have knowledge of, until you decide to give it away. That information should be given away to loved ones and friends and your own discretion.

This information is at risk in that if you leave it lying about, anyone could come around and do with it whatever they wish. You wouldn’t hand a stranger a piece of paper with your name, phone number, home address, kids’ names and where they go to school written on it. It’s much the same on the world wide web, you have to take extra steps to safeguard it from the hands of strangers.

2-Location

Whether it’s a stalker, a company, or an agency, some folks just don’t want others to have a tab on where they are at all times. Enabling your location data to be tracked on your phone or social media accounts is basically like giving the entities that own them the ability to know when you are doing, pretty much anything.

3-Credit Card Information

This one is simple to explain. Putting your credit card information on sites that aren’t known, trusted, or secured greatly increases the chances of that information being stolen and money taken from you. Even secured sites are at some amount of risk. Just know that anytime you shop online or in a store with your credit card, there is a risk involved, same as carrying money around.

4-Messages

Like location, keeping your messages secure is a matter of privacy. Even if you are simply talking about how your day went, it’s not anyone else’s business what the content of your conversation is, unless you choose to reveal it to them. If you are talking about things better left private, such as business ideas, surprises, embarrassing information, or personal details, do you really want it to fall into the wrong hands?

5-Software/Hardware

Viruses are malicious creations that serve to steal information, ruin your computer, and disrupt internet infrastructure systems like email services and various servers.

 

WHAT YOU’RE YOUR INFO FROM

1-Criminals

Thieves stealing money and identities, predators preying on vulnerable individuals, companies and agencies abusing our right to privacy.

2-Hackers

Hackers are the ones creating viruses that destroy your computer and take information.

3-Unwanted Solicitation

If you’re not careful about where you post information and pictures about yourself, you could end up seeing your photo on an advertisement one day, and unable to do anything about it.

4-Agencies

You may not realize it, but your phone service provider or favorite websites/services may be required by law, or voluntarily, giving government agencies what you thought was your private information.

 

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR INFO

1-Settings

a) Phone

Adjusting the security settings of your phone is a very important way to secure the data contained within. When you first set up your new phone, you will usually have the ability to choose many of your own security settings right then and there. Even if you have had your phone for a while, you still have the option of going in to your phone’s security settings and personalizing them. Every phone is different, but in general to get to these settings, you will find the settings tab (usually will look like a gear), then go to the tab that says “security.”

Some examples of how to set up these settings to the maximum security: not allowing your device to access your location, setting up a passcode to unlock your phone (can be a numerical code, a fingerprint, both, even an eye scan), then having your phone erase all saved data after a certain number of failed attempts on the passcode.

Anti-virus software is another way to secure your phone (here are some good ones). Androids need this more so than iPhones since Apple only allows you to download apps from the iTunes store. That being said, please note that jailbreaking your phone will increase your chances of obtaining a virus if you aren’t careful.

Update your phone’s software as soon as the updates are available. Oftentimes, these updates occur primarily in order to make sure that your phone’s security is up to date and able to handle the latest threats. The same advice is recommended for any apps you are using; update them.

Back up your files. I use OneDrive and DropBox to back up the files from my phone. Then, whenever those are full, I move them all to my external hard drive. Backing up your files ensures that if your phone is lost, stolen, or crashes, you won’t lose your memories or your files used for business purposes.

The most secure thing you could possibly do if you are not a tech-guru is to purchase the purported ultra-safe Blackphone.

b) Computer:

Firewalls are one great way to keep your computer from accepting information from the internet that is considered a high risk for being unsafe. Here are some that you can consider. Most good firewalls will cost you a little bit of money.

Anti-malware can be used to protect your computer from “malicious software.” Even if you have a firewall, it may not always be enough to protect your computer from attachments sent in emails and other threats. Here are some anti-malware options that come highly recommended.

Update everything. Just like with your phone, your computer’s updates mostly serve to fix security issues.

Back up your data. I personally use an external hard-drive to save all of my files that I am finished editing or working with. Then I delete them from my computer. This saves space on my computer and makes sure that all of my files are safe in the event that my computer crashes or is attacked.

Here is an article for more information:

ASK LEO

2-Knowing the law

It’s such an exciting time to be an internet-using, active & informed voting citizen of the United States right now, as policy is being created AS WE LIVE AND BREATHE RIGHT NOW as to how to govern the world of the wide web.

I *firmly* believe that as someone who enjoys utilizing the tools that the internet has to offer, I deserve to have a say in how it is regulated, and you do too!

The Federal Privacy Council is a name to know. It has a legislative membership list of committees and subcommittees related to privacy and surveillance issues.

There are a couple bills to keep an eye on:

-Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008

-The Email Privacy Act

As it stands now, internet and phone service providers do not have to have permission to give your information out to be used for advertising purposes.

Not to mention the fact that the information can also be given up if it is thought that it is going to be used to stop any illegal activities. Here is the analysis of a case that is a few years old. It explains what information police are able to glean from your phone if they choose. Here is a broader analysis of what phone companies can give to police to help aid an ongoing investigation.

It is time for states to begin creating their own regulations as to what the police and feds are allowed to take, and how they will be allowed to use it.

***TAKE ACTION!!!*** If you are interested in preserving the freedom of the frontier that is the world wide web, you must realize how important it is that you take action to protect it! If you don’t, who will? This article is EXTREMELY helpful in giving you easy instructions on which of your elected officials to contact about this issue, and what some of the technical jargon you will need to include is.

Additionally, here are several other articles that will give you plenty of information to get you started on where we stand with governing the Internet, and Internet privacy:

a) NCSL
b) THE HILL
c) NEWSY
d) SNOPES
e) PROPUBLICA
f) YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF TED TALKS

4-Personalizing Web Use

Know where it’s okay to use a credit card. You can tell if a website is secure by looking a a couple of things. The first is the title bar. That is the part of your screen at the top where the name of the website exists. If it starts with “https,” that means it is secure.

Another thing to look at is the domain name. Some websites will mimic the name of well known websites to make you think that it is that certain site. They can even make their webpages look like the sites that you know and trust. Be sure to check the domain name to make sure that it is spelled correctly.

This article has some other pointers.

Website owners need to take precautions to protect their information by securing their websites. The following information is advice that I got from a customer service representative from GoDaddy, which is the service I use to house my domain and to host it. He recommended that I 1) use WordFence which is iTheme’s free malware security plugin, 2) Check for updates from my hosting, theme, and domain registration site once a week, 3) use Word Fence which is iTheme’s security, 3) use Sitelock which is a paid service which will remove and prevent harmful attacks to your website, and 4) try to hack into hackmywordpress.com, a website that a GoDaddy customer representative created. That site uses the security precautions mentioned above and challenges people to try and hack into the site. So far, according to the representative I spoke with who is friends with the creator, no one has been able to do it.

For messaging, you can use an application that sends encrypted messages. For phone messaging applications, some that come highly recommended are Signal and Wickr. Signal was created by the head of security of Twitter, and Edward Snowden endorsed it.

If you have completed all of these steps, you may consider yourself a cyber security ninja warrior that few hackers or viruses can even mess with!

Congratulations for making it through this article, and for taking the steps to protect yourself and your personal information against the dangers of the world wide web.

You may now surf in peace.

Don’t Forget, Dallas Shooting July 2016

in Current Events/News/Uncategorized by

(Watch in highest quality!)

I remember this day very clearly.

It was the first time that I had ever heard of a shooting happening in a city where I had lived.

It was the first time I felt mass panic on such an intimate level.

July 7th, 2016 was the day that Micah Xavier Johnson shot several people in downtown Dallas, Texas during a Black Lives Matter protest. The shooting was caused by a man who let hysteria consume him and made him view someone with a color of skin different than his as his personal enemy. He was a black man who was set on killing white authority, including five police officers and a DART officer (Dallas Area Rapid Transit).

From the room of my apartment in a different city, I began making this video while live news coverage was still going on. First, they could not figure out who the shooter was. Then, they accused an innocent man of being the shooter, because he came forth to the authorities saying he had a gun because he was afraid of being blamed for the shooting. He was found innocent, then they tracked down the shooter and cornered him in a parking garage.

It seemed that the police force was reluctant to just plow him down. They also may have been suppressing panic themselves. In the end, a robot bearing a C-4 explosive was used to shoot and kill Johnson, marking the first time this kind of technology had been used by a police force to kill a man.

I am supportive of equality, and in tipping the scales so that we may be better balanced with it. I support most protests.

Violence however, I cannot be supportive of. It seemed to me on this day, that some protests from some groups had become a grounds where violence was at the tip of everyone’s tongue, and lots of folks just needed the right trigger to incite them. That was true in this protest at least.

The reason for me posting this tragic event on my website is 1) to bring the video from my YouTube page to my personal news page and mainly, 2) as a reminder to keep protests peaceful. It’s that simple. All violence at a protest will do is hurt the cause by making it look ill thought-out and spurned by hatred, not justice.

Even Arizona is trying to pass a law that would take away property from any person who helped organize a protest that turned violent. That person could also be held liable for any damage done during the protest, even if it was caused by someone else.

This is terrible legislation that infringes upon our constitutional right to gather in assembly. However, I do agree with what I believe to be the point of the bill, which is that we need to make sure our involvement in government is peaceful and community-minded.

No matter what “the other side” or “they” are doing, if we as a collective, unified body of compassionate humanity want fairness and equality, the attitude of the ends justifying the means and violence being a tool to get there, cannot be so.

RIP to victims of hate and irrational thinking.

May we all look upon each other seeking understanding and through that, peace.

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