Spying On You With Permission, by Will Saunders

The concept of privacy is hilarious: it’s a big joke. I wrote on this topic previously in my post titled, Do We Really Have Any Privacy?The funniest part is, most people think they have much more than they’re actually getting. If you’re paying attention, you might notice what I have noticed, and there’s not much you can do about it.

So, check this out. I just did a search on Hilton.com for a trip I’m considering in mid-summer. A few minutes later when I went hang out on Instagram, one of the sponsored ads was for Hilton. I went to log my breakfast on MyFitnessPal, and the banner ad was for Hilton. Same is true for Twitter. I got an unsolicited, sponsored ad in my timeline for Hilton. Additionally, I kid you not, while I was double-checking to ensure I was correctly using ‘a while’ (as opposed to awhile) as I write this blog post – via Dictionary.com, I got a pop-up ad in the header for Hilton. So, I’m convinced this lack of privacy is much larger than most of us realize.

I know we don’t have privacy. If you use a computer, have a smart phone, and are connected technologically in any possible way, you have no privacy and this doesn’t even take into account the hackers who try to infiltrate various systems and steal our data. C’est la vie.

It’s more of a rant rather than a complaint, and it’s not really anybody’s blame or fault. If you ever bother to read the user agreement, terms of service, or whatever it’s called on these individual sites, they clearly indicate they routinely collect and share all sorts of information about us. No shock. But when signing up for an account on these sites, nobody (well most people I surmise), reads the agreements. They just click the accept button. I’m sure the same is true when they send out an update to their agreement. People don’t bother to read it. Do you? I bet you don’t. These sites need to install a positive acceptance feature. By that I mean, it should use data analytics software that requires us to at least scroll through the entire agreement before that accept button appears for us to click. Maybe that way we’ll be more likely to see a word or phrase here or there about how we are giving up our privacy by virtue of the fact we’re using these sites. But from various conversations I’ve held personally and professionally, many people don’t really care.

Here’s the kicker: people get their socks all out of joint when they hear a CNN or MSNBC report about a company that has  collected and shared their information that got hacked. Even if you visit the websites of CNN or MSNBC, they use cookies to track you (Big Brother is always watching). These cookies store information about your visit to the site, whether you came directly by typing in the URL or were linked from another site, what you do while on the site, how long you were there, what stories you click on, which ads caught your attention, and many other things. Sites remember you when you come back too, which is why some sites don’t require you to log in with your userid and password each time.  You can always turn that off via your browser settings, but many sites won’t work correctly – some may even prevent access – if cookies are not enabled. While most terms of service don’t specifically mention cookies, they speak generally about what they collect and how that information is used and shared.

Google, for instance, collects quite a bit of data on you.  Their current agreement stipulates in part, “We collect information about the services that you use and how you use them, like when you watch a video on YouTube, visit a website that uses our advertising services, or view and interact with our ads and content.”  That’s very clear. They even note when you ‘like’ something.

Further down it also states, ” When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location. We use various technologies to determine location, including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell towers.”

I’m not here to pick on Google. But it goes on to talk about the ways in which they use your info. You can read it on your own if you’re interested:  Google Privacy Statement. The language is very similar to what most sites state in their user agreements.

So, as an FYI, the next time you sign up for an online site or service, take a moment to read the agreement. Most are fairly standard, but you might find some things therein surprising.

 

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Random Musings, by Will Saunders

~~ all that glitters ‘aint gold, and sometimes you’ll find a diamond when you clean off that dirty stone ~~

I’m one of those people who try to see the best in and want the most for and from everybody. The most evil, wretched, and thoughtless people have redeeming qualities. This thinking was solidified for me after reading Tupac Shakur’s book of poetry, The Rose that Grew from Concrete. There are many among us who shine brightly, born out of the storm they lived in for so many years, sometimes decades. So, even when there are reasons not to keep believing in someone, and even when everyone else has washed their hands of them and given up on them, I still go just a little while longer just in case their breakthrough is about to happen. I’m also no fool. I too have a breaking point, and once I’m done, I’m done. When I give up on someone, there’s no turning back. I figure, I give far more than I probably ought to. I’ll keep trying to be there while nobody else is there, so I feel justified in being done forever once I have finally given up trying. After the love, adoration, fondness, and appreciation have all gone, see ya; goodbye; outie; hasta la vista; arrivederci; peace out; and if it were still a thing to say, bye Felicia — or as my departed Auntie Helen would have said, “Don’t let the doorknob hit ya where the good Lord split ya.”

Something recently happened that is a perfect illustration of how I got this way. This individual called me and we chatted a bit this past Saturday afternoon. ‘Sam’ and I talked for a while about this and that when he eventually told me the main reason he had called. He invited me to go with him to a show a friend of his had produced. He said he would get the tickets if I was interested. I really wasn’t interested, because Sam can be so disappointing and is usually not very reliable. He has proven this to me over and over and over again. But I told him I’d go. Unfortunately, when I asked, he didn’t know the name of the show. He also couldn’t remember the date of the show, but said he would text me the flyer the next day. I thought it was kind of odd to invite someone to an event but not know the name or date of that event. In my head, I said, “How in the hell do you call and invite me to go someplace but you don’t know the date and you don’t even know the name of the doggone show?” That’s ludicrous. But whatever. I paid it no more attention and just waited till the next day.

Well, Sunday came and went, but I didn’t hear from him. Monday came and went, but I didn’t hear from him. It is now Saturday, a week later, and I still have yet to hear from him. Okay, I know what some of you may be thinking. I could have called him, right? Well listen. I know who I’m dealing with. I expect very little from Sam, because that’s about all I ever get from him: very little. I often get a lot less than that from him, but I want to give him the benefit of any doubt.

The thing is, Sam knows that although I’m a big homebody, I also am quick to make plans and I’ll be gone out of town or gone to various things around the region for fun and entertainment. I’m going to a show on 31 March. I’m going to another show on 7 April. I’m also going to another one on April 21st. To top off the month, I have plans on April 28th too. I also have plans on May 5th and May 26th. If something else catches my eye, I’ll be jumping on that too. I don’t know when Sam had in mind for us to hang out. But I know him well enough to know not to sit around waiting for him. I also know him well enough not to have high expectations, so I no longer get mad or upset about it.

The only thing that bothers me about it is that Sam isn’t self-aware enough to recognize that he’s the reason why I never expect much from him; in fact, Sam gets mad that people think so little of him, yet he never engages in any acts of self-discovery. Everything is always the problem, fault, and responsibility of everybody else. Oh well, that’s Sam for you.

Most people in life have a Sam they have to deal with sometimes. But I’ll tell you this. I don’t let my Sam hold me back. He’ll be calling soon with some excuse, and I’ll sit there rolling my eyes around, staring off into oblivion – or as he has also done, he may call to say hello as if nothing ever happened. He’s likely to not even bring it up. That’s how Sam can be. And this, my friends, is why, when it comes to Sam, I don’t give a damn.

 

 

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You’re Not as Important as Others: You’re Less Than, by Will Saunders

Well you’re not really less important than others. But that’s what some people would have you believe. A situation at work was a good example of this. Yesterday morning, I was sitting at my desk working on a report. It was a daunting task that involved some statistical computations and required my full, unwavering attention. I was immersed in my project, completely oblivious to any and everything around me, even the busy thoughts in my own head.

In the middle of it, a woman came to me and just started rattling off some things about some her own project, seeking my input and feedback – directing me to a page on our intranet site. So, I told her I was busy and would need to look at it a little later, and I recommend we get together about an hour later. She said that was fine, but she kept on talking about her own project, telling me in words what she wanted to show me on the site.

Even after I said, once again, I was busy and didn’t have time to talk with her, she kept on yapping her mouth off about her project, which evidently was more important than mine. It was about 18 minutes later before she excused herself and left. The entire time, I just sat there staring at her, not really hearing all of her points as in my head, I’m saying to her, “Didn’t you understand me when I told you I was busy?” The old me would have said it aloud. So, I listened and gave her some brief feedback. The best thing about it is, she got what she wanted and I didn’t have to meet up with her later. The downside of it is (downside for her, not for me) I wasn’t able to give it my full attention like I would have given it later had she honored my request.

I am not an advocate of rudeness. Oftentimes – really most of the time – being stern and assertive is about the same thing as being rude. That’s the quickest way to alienate your coworkers. Of course it’s flattering that she stated up front that she needed my expertise and wanted to get my feedback. Maybe she only said that in order to manipulate me into listening to her. People definitely will do that, in case you didn’t know. You usually can see right through it, though.

Then a couple of hours later, a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) came to my desk while I was on a call — anyone could plainly see I had the phone up to my ear engaged in dialogue — and he had the nerve to ask me, “Are you on a call?”  All I could do is give him a blank stare before he trotted off. C’est la vie! As the title of this essay states: Both of those people behaved as if their issue was more important than mine. I suppose they have what I like to call the ‘Queen Bee’ mentality (or the King Bee mentality, for the fellas).

No matter what other people may think, I want you to know you’re just as important as they are — and for some of them, you might even be a little more special. Don’t allow them to make you feel as if you’re less than. You’re more than enough.

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Dang, Someone is Always Watching, by Will Saunders

I’m often reminded how much I influence others. It’s good inspiration for me, because I’m often second guessing myself or I don’t think my success or progress or progress is as great as I think it is or want it to be. That’s especially true when it comes to health, fitness, and nutrition goals.
     Yes, I am usually dedicated and stick to my plan. I’m mostly a vegan eater. Many of you know I strive to be a vegan eater, and I succeed about 90% of the time. But sometimes I snack on too much of the wrong things and if I have a spirit — which is usually Kendal Jackson Merlot, I tend to snack even more than I usually do. Lord knows if I didn’t maintain regular physical activity, I’d have ’swole up immensely, and not in a good way. But for the people who are watching, in spite of faltering a lot the past few months, I’m still apparently a few steps ahead of one of my coworkers who told me how much of an inspiration I am to her. She told me this on Tuesday, February 13th. Ironically, a different person asked me about Lent and if I had thought of sacrifices I would be making this season.
     Well, I realized it would be no better time to re-commit my dietary focus than now. So, I’m back on my wagon. I got back on it about a month ago, and fell off again, but this last time I only fell a little; however, I’m back on in full effect now. I am regularly tracking my nutrition and fitness progress daily via MyFitnessPal instead of entering random numbers just to keep my account active like I had been doing. I’m also cutting out Facebook for Lent, a huge obsession of mine. I deleted the app so I won’t be tempted.
A year and a half ago, I was doing well, logging consistently for as many as 538 days. Then I fell off. After a couple of months I got back on and I’m now at 294 consecutive days of logging in. I got re-energized again by my co-worker’s interest in my efforts. I wrote about this back then when a fellow Metro train rider mentioned how he noticed the progress I had made. I wrote a post titled, You never know who is watching, in which I articulated many of these same points. I also wrote about it in Health and Fitness Failure: New Beginnings.
     It is like I have long believed.Life is really cyclical. We go in and out of good and bad phases, and it’s up to us to kick ourselves into gear. I also am convinced you’re always being watched, whether you’re doing good or bad.
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Michael Jackson: Ben, by Will Saunders

Are you a fan of Michael Jackson’s music? I think you don’t need to look too long and hard to find MJ fans. I’m certainly one. I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember.

In elementary school, a birthday gift was a record player and several albums. My favorite of them all is Michael’s Ben album. Though I had other albums, I played this album over and over and over again. I can safely say it is my favorite of all the songs on the album.

A funny tale may amuse you. At the time, I didn’t realize the song was about a rodent. I thought the song was about a lover. It wasn’t until many years later, probably after I was in college, that I realized what it was really about, after I saw the movie of the same name. Isn’t that funny? I think it is.

Michael was a diverse, talented man. He touched many facets of the music industry. A gem that is missed by many. Here’s my song.

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Green Eggs and Ham, by Will Saunders

I’m currently taking some online classes via Cornell University. One of the team building exercises included a discussion about our favorite children’s book; mine happens to be the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham. That discussion stirred up some fond memories of my mom.

When I was in elementary school, probably around the third grade, I was reading this book. In a nutshell, the book is about two characters talking about eating a plate of green eggs and ham; one character was trying to persuade another to eat it, though he didn’t want to.

When I mentioned to my mom how I’d eat it, that I wouldn’t need to be persuaded, she used some green food color and made me some. Can you imagine my reaction when I came to breakfast to find green food on my plate? My initial reaction was that of shock. But I quickly got over it, and I enjoyed my meal.

That’s my momma. It sure is sweet the way simple little things can bring up memories of special people who have departed this earthly life. If I still ate them, I would make some green eggs and ham.

 

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Ever-changing Music Industry

Do you think CDs will ever be valuable to collectors? I think of how the old fashioned record players began to fade away and now are coming back in demand; people are digging out their old LPs. I often wonder if the same will happen with CDs too.

Well, I remember my parents and their  8-tracks. Then records and cassette tapes made their rounds. Then CDs popped up, followed by digital recordings. I have a huge CD collection. I ended up building my collection via the Columbia House music company. Do you remember Columbia House? You could get something like 30 CDs for a penny, and they’d send you music periodically after that and you could either keep and pay fair market value for their choice or send it back. I always cancelled then signed up again. I have nearly 300 CDs. That’s just a rough estimate. It might even be more than that. I keep them because I keep thinking they might be worth something one day…maybe a gold mine.

Maybe they’ll never be worth anything at all. Who knows? As long as they are not encumbering and don’t take up too much space, I’ll hold on to them.

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Self-Discipline

I have been seeing a lot of posts and articles making suggestions on improving one’s self-discipline lately. Each of them focuses on the diet as the greatest catalyst for making the start.

The idea is, if you can be consistent with your diet, then other problem areas of your life will fall into place. I understand that very well. I know like most people know that controlling your diet is a major undertaking. It’s hard. Always eating and drinking the right thing be a challenge. But for me, that’s the easy part. Being that I’m a vegetarian eater [I try to eat a vegan diet but I don’t succeed 100% of the time but vegetarian is where I am most of the time], I eat plenty of the right things. The hardest part is refraining from eating and drinking all of the wrong, unhealthy things. I sometimes snack on things I ought not snack on.

 The funny thing is, when I’m strict and on point with my diet, I tend to be on point in other areas of my life as well. When I eat right, my fitness and exercise are consistent. When I eat right, I’m more mindful of some of the practices I vowed to improve in my life (i.e., community service; unity; improving my mind/self-development; renewed spirituality; etc). I hadn’t thought of it before now, but when my mind and heart are focused on maintaining a healthy diet, I tend to make healthy choices in other areas of my life. In fact, when I’m eating right and living right, I tend to make time to write new blog entries more regularly. I know I’ll really be doing well when I get back to writing the sequel to A Shattered Heart, fiction novel I wrote a few years back. I should have been finished long ago but that evil monster called procrastination kept rearing its ugly head and stopped me. By the way, you can get it for your Kindle or your Nook. If you’d like an autographed copy, let me know and I’ll hook you up.

Anyhow, I’ll get back to writing the sequel before the year is out. I promise.

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I Could Have Told You So, by Will Saunders

Many people don’t know Chuck Brown recorded a jazz album, The Other Side. It’s a sweet little gem. It was a project he did in collaboration with the late Eva Cassidy in the 1990s, and it departed greatly from his well-known go-go brand.

With many old famililar songs such as, You Don’t Know Me, Over the Rainbow, and God Bless The Child, it’s a CD that is sure to appeal to many lovers of this genre, young and old. It’s clearly Cassidy’s, one of her several great productions, but The Other Side included Brown on a few tracks. Incidentally, I acquired it when it first came out as one of the CDs I got for a penny when I signed up for Columbia House. Do you remember those days? I still have more than 200 CDs. I hold onto them thinking they might one day be valuable to collectors.

Anyhow, I digress. My favorite song on the CD is I Could Have Told You So. It was recorded by many artists through the years, including Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Arthur Prysock, and lots of others. But this rendition by Brown and Cassidy is by far the best, in my humble opinion. I think you’ll agree with me, taking nothing away from the other versions. This one is top notch. In addition, you should download the album for your listening pleasure. It’s filled with many greats. meanwhile, here it is:

 

 

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Be a Blessing to Be Blessed, Part VI, by Will Saunders

Doing the right thing for the wrong reason …

People sometimes frown upon doing a good deed for the wrong reason. Generally I agree, particularly if you relish some sort of personal gain for your kindness. But, I believe that a few rules ought to have a clear exception, and this is one of them.

When I was in middle school, there was a kid I’ll call Michael who got teased a lot. But by today’s standards, it would be a serious case of bullying. From what I could tell, it wasn’t anything too serious. But, when you’re the one who is the brunt of the unkind treatment, it is very serious. So, I would sometimes sit with Michael during lunch, ask him about his day, and I would even partner with him in gym or on class assignments sometimes. He seemed appreciative.

Here’s where the wrong reason comes in. I went out of my way to be nice to him because I felt bad for how the other kids treated him. He wasn’t one of my school chums, but I didn’t like seeing him go through that. I always root for the underdog. It’s pretty pathetic that bullies prey on people the way they do. Nobody really  knows how bullies decide who to pick on, but Michael was one who got it almost daily. That’s why I made a little extra effort to show him some kindness.

Fast forward to today — well not literally today but to the present time frame, I ran into Michael at the DMV when I was renewing my driver’s license. He worked there and recognized my name. I hadn’t thought of him since middle school. If someone had asked me the name of that kid who got bullied who I was nice to, I wouldn’t have remembered. But he sure remembered me. He looked at my name and asked if I had attended Andrew Jackson Middle School in Suitland, Maryland (At the time, it was called Andrew Jackson Junior High School. The name changed at some point.).  I confirmed that I went there,  and he reminded me who he was, and he thanked me for being nice to him and even told me how I had saved his life. He had contemplated suicide several times, but my thoughtfulness helped him to feel a little better and helped him to get through the school day.

Listen, I had no idea. He didn’t talk much back then. So, he never articulated to me his suicidal thoughts. He never mentioned to anybody else either that I’m aware of. That day in the DMV, he told me all about it, and listening to his story nearly brought tears to my eyes. He told me every time he was about to hurt himself, he’d remember how kind I was to him and wouldn’t do it. Yes, I was only kind because I felt sorry for him, and usually that’s not a reason to be kind; however, that saved Michael’s life, stopping him from killing himself. He even got married, has two children, and is now living happily ever after.

You never know what impact you’ll have on someone’s life. Like I always say (mostly to myself, but I say it all the time): “Never miss an opportunity to be somebody’s blessing.”

B a Blessing to Be Blessed: Part V

Be a Blessing to Be Blessed: Part IV

Be a Blessing to Be Blessed: Part III

Be a Blessing to Be Blessed, Part II

Be a Blessing to Be Blessed, Part I

 

 

 

 

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