My life as a sysop

internetI love the internet.

 

I detest the amount of maintenance that’s required just to keep things running.

I didn’t sign up for wasting several hours a week dealing with nuisance requests. It’s beginning to feel like the old days, when you had to kow-tow to IT to get anything done.

Over cautious?

Take this morning. eBay emailed that my account had been compromised. Change your password! So far so good. Next instruction: change the password for your primary email account. Great. Now my passwords are so obscure than if I don’t have my online password manager at work, I’ll be locked out of those accounts in the future.

Then I log into my bank. As a routine security measure, I must change my password and username to access my account. What? Change my username? Now I’m jaycross everywhere except my bank. My username’s never been secret. Why mess with it now?

Changes like these cascade to other linked accounts. No doubt I’ll be dealing with vestiges of these account changes for weeks.

Google and others keep bugging me to set up two-stage identification where I’ll have to enter a code they email or message me in order to get into my accounts. No thanks. I’d be checking messages 20 times a day. Some companies don’t give you the choice; they implemented this clumsiness without asking permission.

“Security”

Yesterday we got a letter (paper, stamped, brought by the letter carrier) from Anthem Healthcare. They reported that our account security may have been breeched. Yeah, we read about that three months ago, when it happened to 80 million current and past customers. It may have started almost a year ago, in April ’14.

It appears the breech was caused by phishing access credentials from five different Anthem employees. It was simple old social engineering, not sophisticated software, that opened the door to expose your and my name, social security number, email addresses, physical address, employment history and income. Anthem hadn’t bothered to encrypt any of this information.

Anthem wrote, “There are steps you may take to guard yourself against identity theft or fraud. We urge likely impacted members to stay alert for incidents of fraud and identity theft.” What a load of crap. There was nothing I could do to protect the information in the hands of Anthem or Chase or Target or the others who are sharing my personal data with Russian hackers. My crap detectors are always out for criminal hackers and their scams.

Aa far as I’m concerned, if a company requires me to submit personal information, they have responsibility for keeping it private. That’s part of the deal. Break that promise, and I’ll no longer be your customer. In fact, I’ll spread the word in order to scare off other potential customers.

Phishing

Today’s mail brought this gem:

I Am Mr. Phillips A. Oduoza, Chief Finance Officer & Executive Director of United Bank for Africa (UBA). We wish to bring to your notice that you have an Accrued Interest worth of $775,500.00 usd (Seven Hundred and Seventy Five Thousand Five Hundred United State Dollars), in our Bank to claim.

Worse still is the free program I downloaded from the net. The software used to work just fine. This time, hackers inserted malware that took residence on my computer. It took a couple of hours to remedy the damage.

I could go on but we’d both be bored to tears. Experience has already taught you this stuff.

 

Flip your meetings


American business people attend 11,000,000 business meetings every day and half of it’s a waste of time.

Knowledge workers spend three hours a day in meetings. Senior executives spend more. Four out of five of us have brought other work to do during a meeting. One in ten of us admits to daydreaming. Four in ten have fallen asleep. What a waste.

Bringing people together face-to-face is a catalyst for innovation, collegiality, and rewarding conversations. Collaboration has its intrinsic rewards. It is sinful to waste this time together aimlessly or passively listening to presentations.

Over the course of a career, you will attend tens of thousands of meetings. It adds up to years of meetings. They could be great or they could be horrible. The choice is yours.

You can re-jigger your meetings to make them relevant, challenging, and fun by adopting an approach that is revolutionizing secondary school learning.

It’s called Flipping the Meeting. Flipped meetings focus people’s face-to-face time on working with one another to solve problems. You prepare in advance at your own pace with resources framing the business issue. When people convene, they spend their time collaborating to solve a problem. Conversations cross-fertilize ideas and fuel learning. In the flipped meeting, you focus on making the decision before the bell goes off.

Two teachers pioneered the philosophy of flip starting back in 2007. Students read their homework before class and use the classroom for discussion, not presentation. Grades go up, as does retention. Millions of students have signed up for flipped instruction through The Khan Academy. This is the same philosophy that underlies the Flipped Meeting. Be prepared to be inspired and listen to the founders of the flip:

How to Conduct a Flipped Meeting 

Provide the content and purpose beforehand, use face-to-face time for interactive problem-solving. It flippin’ works. Your flipped meetings will be characterized by::

  • Faster decisions
  • Better allocation of time
  • Action-oriented
  • More engagement
  • Innovative thinking
  • Shorter meetings

Tell your colleagues you want to experiment with a way to save time and improve performance in company meetings. Tell them about Flipped Meetings. Point them to this post. Get folks to agree to experiment for a few rounds. You can do it. It’s not rocket science.

Before the meeting

At least 24 hours in advance, tell participants what problem the meeting is expected to solve. Provide links to relevant documents and reference materials.

Make the problem a specific task, e.g. “create a plan to cut costs 20%” or “design new assessment strategy.” Here’s a sample invitation.

This simple step of sending background material in advance addresses the most frequent complaint lodged against traditional meetings: We don’t know the purpose of this meeting.

By the way, Amazon has banned PowerPoint as a way to explain the nature of the problem.

During the meeting

Facilitator encourages interaction and progression to solving the problem.

Don’t spend time talking about ideas or initiatives you know you won’t take action on.

Good practices:

  • Appoint a recorder.
  • Collaboration rules. Perhaps sit in a circle — or stand up!
  • Diversity is good. Encourage it.
  • Use Twitter as a backchannel for communications.
  • Solve the problem before departing.
  • Leave as soon as the problem is solved.
  • Final 30 seconds: How was this session? Would you recommend it to a colleague?

After the meeting

Share recorder’s notes and all notes, drawings, PostIt notes, and artifacts from the session.

Ask yourself, was this meeting worthwhile? Could we have accomplished our work in half the time? Overall, could we benefit from more 15-minute meetings? Half-hour sessions?

Why not experiment? Flip some meetings. It will improve your quality of life.


Research sponsored by Litmos.

The Puzzler

Help me figure out what’s gone haywire with my Macs. My keyboard has gone wacko.

config copy

Last night I cleaned the Bluetooth keyboard I use with my iMac. The batteries only had 18% juice left, so I replaced them. When I rebooted the iMac, I found I was missing the Space Bar, Delete key, and several individual letters. I figured I’d shorted something out with the cleaner. Luckily, I had a spare wired keyboard to use.

I plugged in the wired keyboard and it displayed the same symptoms! Missing letters, no space bar. The problem seemed to be the iMac, not the keyboards. I spent an hour with Apple on the phone. We were stymied because we couldn’t boot into Safe Mode. That takes a letter R and I no longer have one of those. I resigned myself to slogging into the Genius Bar for a fix.

I pulled an old MacBook out of storage to work with in the interim. I opened up Microsoft Word 98 and began entering text. No problem.

gizmo

I plugged in the wired keyboard. And the same damned thing happened again! No space bar, delete, R, S, etc.

It’s extremely unlikely that two keyboards would self-destruct at the same time. Similarly, I can’t imagine the iMac and the MacBook having exactly the same issue; their operating systems are generations apart. Keyboard logger? I don’t think so because the MacBook gave garbled text before I logged it into my network for the first time in a year.

I can’t come up with a logical explanation for this nor can I find any advice online.

Please drop me a line if you can figure this one out. I’ll be impressed.

apple

I’ve been depressed. You?

vangogh1I’ve been depressed. 

Telling you this will blow my chances of running for president, but what the hell: I have been clinically depressed for the last two years. It’s a form of going crazy. I lost interest in my work, stopped blogging and taking photos. I became a near-hermit. 

dogI want to share my experiences with you so that if the black dog visits you or one of your friends, you’ll recognize it for what it is and take appropriate action. No one deserves to go through life feeling shitty and that’s precisely what depression can do to you. Everything is gloomy. Nothing seems worthwhile. Yet this condition is treatable.

Before going on, let me explain that I am no longer depressed. Hallelujah! I have found my cure and have returned to my normal jovial set-point. Let’s grab a beer sometime.

How do you recognize depression? Lots of us are sad. Pollsters tell us more than half of all workers are disengaged. Many jobs are gone forever; PhDs are pouring the lattes at Starbucks. DoD is in an intractable war with Muslims. The maw between rich and poor widens daily. Technology has accelerated the business cycle into a frenzied pace few can maintain. There’s plenty of sadness to go around.

Depression is more than sadness, however. It doesn’t have a target. It’s irrational and self-destructive. When my last episode came on two years ago, I could sense pulling down the shades on optimism. I was slower, weaker, and lacked energy and the ability to focus. It was physical (the juices in my head) and mental (the belief-set that controls my interpretation of the world).

The acid test: Do you think of taking your life? If you think yes, go to the doctor. Get help. You’re depressed. Or maybe you have a suppressed anxiety disorder (I did.) These two often go hand in hand. Happily, both get better with the same treatment. You’ll recognize you’re getting better when suicide disappears as an option.

My neurologist will tell you that depression is a neurological condition. No amount of trying hard and talk therapy is going to change it, any more than they’ll heal broken bones. Here, take these blue pills and if that doesn’t work, we have some yellow ones. Of course, it makes sense to follow general principles of good health: get enough sleep and exercise.

My cognitive behavioral psychologist tells our therapy group that drugs are largely ineffective. This is psychological condition. Emotions are the products of thinking. Get your thinking straight and your feelings will follow. Let’s look at what’s really going on. Got that? Say it back to me.

Stanford’s David Burns is the author of Feeling Good and cognitive behavioral therapy’s leading advocate. Watch this video not only to understand Burns’ work but to cry your eyes out at the surprise ending.

A few months ago the cloud of doom lifted from my shoulders. I was no longer eternally bummed out. The depression was fading away. 

I dropped out of the therapy group which was beginning to wear on my nerves by this point anyway. Then the psychologist and I agreed I no longer needed his treatment.

My restoration to normalcy is the result of a lot of people, a lot of reading, and a lot of pushing the boulder up the hill. However, I attribute 95% of my change in mood to drugs.

Pills-300x126

During an episode similar to this twenty years ago, Prozac did nothing for me but Zoloft restored me for years. Two years ago, I re-tried Zoloft but had grown immune to it.

The doctor and I dropped into a rhythm of taking a few weeks to build up to a proper dose of a drug, try it long enough to know it’s not working, then take a few more weeks to wean and clean out the system for the next round. Again and again and again.

In the last four years, I’ve been prescribed these drugs for depression and/or ADHD.

  • Wellbutrin
  • Straterra
  • Nuvigil
  • Zoloft
  • Effexor
  • Latuda
  • Abilify
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Dexedrine
  • Adderall
  • Provigil
  • Brintellix
  • Vibryd
  • L-Tyosin
  • Selegiline
  • Sertaline
  • Venlafxine

None of them did anything positive. Zilch! I was running low on hope after years of fruitless drug testing, but I remembered how Zoloft had once turned my life around.

“There’s one more drug to try,” said my neurologist. “It’s rarely used these days but it was actually the first anti-depressant. It can interact with your diet, for instance you can’t eat fermented foods. It’s called Monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAO-I.

Wikipedia reports:

Because of potentially lethal dietary and drug interactions, monoamine oxidase inhibitors have historically been reserved as a last line of treatment, used only when other classes of antidepressant drugs (for example selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants) have failed.[2] New research into MAOIs indicates that much of the concern over their dangerous dietary side effects stems from misconceptions and misinformation, and that despite proven effectiveness of this class of drugs, it is underutilized and misunderstood in the medical profession.[3] New research also questions the validity of the perceived severity of dietary reactions, which has historically been based on outdated research.[4]

The reason most of the restrictions on diet are bunk is that MAOIs can now be delivered with a patch, thus bypassing the liver. The current regulations were set for pills, not patches.

images

Every evening I peel off the old patch, leaving a red mark behind for a day or two. I apply a new one to the other arm. Every morning I awake with a smile. This stuff works for me.

PatientsLikeMe has reports from people who have used these various drugs. What works wonders for one person sends the next screaming to the toilet.

My message for depression sufferers is to keep trying. The latest research recommends trying both drug and CBT treatment as well as community activity. See what works for you.

We who have wrestled the black dog seriously are sort of a secret society. Lots of people I’ve talked to begin with, “Yeah, when I was going through that….” All are open to helping one another. There’s camaraderie among people who have been there. Ask for advice. You’ll be surprised at how commonplace this is.

Me and AT&T


bell system
I’ve done this dance with the phone company too many times. We have history. My internet access, part of the AT&T Uverse bundle is spotty. A few weeks back, AT&T upgraded my service to Power (45Mbps) Internet. A technician installed a new modem/router to handle the increased bandwidth.

My net connection is unacceptable
Skype and Google+ and FaceTime start but soon crash; even audio-only fails to work. Sometimes I can’t even open my own sites, jaycross.com and internettime.com. Every now and then, gmail refuses to open or other sites come up with weird notices of time delays. It feels like somewhere along the line my connection is being throttled. I spent 90 minutes on the phone with Apple: they concluded that my Macs are functioning properly and that my wi-fi is working as it should. There seems to be some bottleneck between the router and the net. That part of the connection is the purview of AT&T.

Once bitten, twice shy
History tells me that I should expect to experience a lot of drama before I get the right prescription for a viable broadband connection.

pacbellI hope it’s not like a dozen years ago when I signed up for an early-adopter DSL connection. The AT&T data guys would come and mess with the box in the house and on the pole outside and get the net connection up. But the phone stopped working and the “Bellheads” would come by and curse the clueless data installers, and screw up the net connection. I endured this ping-pong of incompetence and perhaps sabotage for eighteen visits to my home and my inside wiring. I’ve seen the underbelly of AT&T.

sbcAt the time I reported on my struggle on this blog. People talk about “learning out loud.” Good concept. I believe in Living Out Loud. This is what customer service was like thirteen years ago.

My blog posts eventually got the attention of a SVP at AT&T and my problems were solved. He retired.

atttlogo

I’ll keep track of my interactions with AT&T and others this time around, so bookmark this page if you want to see the follow-up.

Can you help me figure how to solve this? If you have advice, I will sincerely appreciate it.

I feel cut off from the world.

speedThis just in:

 

 

Chronology
Jan 19 – I called the technician, who’d kindly left me his business card. He said he’d look into it and get back to me. Jan 21 – I spoke with Thali in the Philippines. We changed the router channel to 10. I was able to Skype. However, just now my download speed is 6.56 and I can’t open several sites.

Trade fair – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Trade fair – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A trade fair ( trade show, trade exhibition or expo) is an exhibition organized so that companies in a specific industry can showcase and demonstrate their latest products, service, study activities of rivals and examine recent market trends and opportunities.

Source: en.wikipedia.org

I’m curious about what’s going to happen to L&D conferences in the next five years. Will their business model be disrupted? How will they change? How can they be more effective? I’m doing this study on my own, unsponsored, and there’s no hidden agenda.

See on Scoop.itFuture of Conferences

Dumping my land line

I’m cutting the copper cord. My long-time business land line [(510) 528-3105] goes dead on Tuesday. I’ve been encouraging people to use my smartphone [(510) 323-5380] for the last six months. Please make a note of it.

phone

The stupid land line is a phone-spam magnet. It rings two or three times a day. I can’t count the times my “Google specialist” called to put me on page 1 of people’s results. Indians call, offering to help me figure out Windows (I am 100% Mac.) Most of the time, there’s no one on the other end at all; I just get dead air. Getting rid of this nuisance will also cut my ATT bill $15/month.

Speaking of which, let me pass along a tip. Sticker prices for tv/phone/net bundles are a starting point, not what you need to pay.

uverse

I’m an ATT U-verse customer. My bill was due to rise to $250/month as my “discount bundles” on various services expired. I told ATT I could get comparable service from Comcast for $120/month and that I didn’t see why I shouldn’t move my business over to them. “Would I stay if they dropped the price to $170?” I agreed, so long as they threw in their fastest internet connection and a new modem. Deal. A five minute conversation shaved $80+ from my bill.

#JAYCROSS

Tyramine Diet

Ah, the joys of modern medicine.

I’ve begun taking a drug that requires me to restrict my diet severely. I’m not allowed to eat aged cheese, sausage, draft beer, sourdough bread, or anything else that contains significant amounts of tyramine, an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure.

Eating the forbidden fruit can cause severe headache, nausea, stiff neck, vomiting, a fast or slow heartbeat, tight chest pain, a lot of sweating, confusion, dilated pupils, and sensitivity to light. People have died after bingeing on cheese.

So many foods are restricted (sauerkraut, bacon, caviar, peanuts, vermouth!) that I need a way to remind myself of what to avoid. I hope visualization can prop up my memory.

If pictures aren’t your thing, here’s a good list from the National Headache Foundation. (Tyramine can cause migraine headaches in people who are sensitive to it.)

Foods to Avoid on a Tyramine-Restricted Diet

krautcaviar fish4 fish3 fish2 fish herring duckliver2 duckliver cornedbeef bacon hotdog sausage3 choucroute sausage2 sausage cheese5 cheese4 cheese3 cheese2 cheese

sherryribsporkagedsteakairdriedbeefpickleonionsokrasoybeansmisomiso2soysauceshrimppasteteriyakisaucetempehkimchifavabeansromanobeanssnowpeaspeanutspeanutbutterbrazilnutscoconutsprocessedmeatprocssedmeat2yeastsourdougholives

 

 

walnuts

nutsbouillonbeefstewbeefsaucebeefgravydraftbeerkoreanbeervermouthliqueurschartreusechianti

 

The following foods have limited amounts of tyramine. It’s okay to consume up to 1/2 a cup daily.

citrus

pineapple

sourcreamyoghurt

eggplant

raspberries

redplums

figs

avocado

bananas

driedfruit

raisins

I assembled the list from Wikipedia and a dozen medical sites. None of the sites list all of these items. The list on the Mayo Clinic site is typical:

“Tyramine is naturally found in small amounts in protein-containing foods. As these foods age, the tyramine level increases. Some foods high in tyramine include:

  • Aged cheeses, such as aged cheddar and Swiss; blue cheeses such as Stilton and Gorgonzola; and Camembert. Cheeses made from pasteurized milk are less likely to contain high levels of tyramine, including American cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, farm cheese and cream cheese.
  • Cured meats, which are meats treated with salt and nitrate or nitrite, such as dry-type summer sausages, pepperoni and salami.
  • Fermented cabbage, such as sauerkraut and kimchee.
  • Soy sauce, fish sauce and shrimp sauce.
  • Yeast-extract spreads, such as Marmite.
  • Improperly stored foods or spoiled foods.
  • Broad bean pods, such as fava beans.”

The amount of tyramine depends on how the food was processed and how old it is. Tyramine increases as a food ages. Pickled, smoked, fermented, or marinated meats are generally high in tyramine. Fresh produce is okay if you eat it within 48 hours of purchase. Nuts are never okay. A draft beer contains 25 times as much tyramine as a can of beer.

See the follow-up, The MAOI Patch and the Tyramine Diet.
 

 

#ITASHARE