Do people still write? British study says not so much

You might be a dinosaur if ... you still write things down on paper. (Photo by Eric Pulsifer)

When was the last time you scratched a note out in longhand? I mean take a pen, pencil or pocketknife and wrote something on paper, your hand or a bathroom wall.

If some of the pundits are to be believed, handwriting is a lost art. Another casualty of the digital age. According to an article on the Daily Mail (yeah, British press), the average adult hasn’t handwritten anything in more than 40 days. Anything. And if you take away what used to be the day-to-day jottings of adults — I’m thinking of those notes to yourself, grocery lists, phone numbers on a matchbook cover — only a third of adults actually sat down to write something in the past six months.

Now there’s scuttlebutt that the schools may at some point stop teaching young people how to write. Well, it’d been a while since they stopped teaching youngsters how to think … (Eric, just shut up; you’re going to get in trouble again!)

As I recall it in grade school (and my folks would be glad to fill in any gaps in my memory), my handwriting was beyond horrible. I seemed to lack the coordination (or the interest) to form my letters well, and things did not improve much when we learned the Palmer method of handwriting in third grade. By sixth grade I largely abandoned the Palmer teachings and reverted back to printing, which by then was a lot more readable. To this day I employ a half-printed, half-cursive hand, readable in most instances and instinctive enough that I can take notes without looking at the paper and still be able to understand it later. My penmanship (another wonderfully descriptive word that no one hears any more) is far from elegant, but it’s functional.

As far as my legal signature, forget it. You can’t read it. I got that honestly; Dad’s signature looks a lot like mine, like a Volkswagen that had been hit by a train. But you’re not supposed to read it. Years ago I knew this guy from the Middle East; he spoke fluent English without an accent, was thoroughly westernized. But he signed his checks in Arabic, starting in the middle and working outward. You don’t see anyone trying to forge that, he told me.

But now, there’s little call to write anything down. Pens and pencils may soon go the way of clocks with hands and landline telephones — cool to have, but some training may be required.

Think about it. We haven’t had to write long things out if there was a computer (or before that, a typewriter) handy.

Now we have smartphones. Just tap your note on that, save it to something like Evernote. Don’t need any pen. Or paper. Or pockets, for that matter.

Don’t even need to do much scribbling when you’re dealing with a bank or signing a contract any more. An e-signature takes care of the latter (just type your name), and nearly all bank transactions are electronic these days. The only check I write each month is to my landlord, and that’s only because he’s a Luddite.

I find I’m more of an anomaly these days because I do some of my writing in longhand. Notes are taken on index cards. First drafts go on yellow lined paper. Journal entries go in a leather-bound book, written with a fountain pen.

But more and more, the tech bug creeps into my life and I’m going more to the digital tools. Can’t remember when I last wrote a real letter, and I used to write some great ones. But everything’s by email now. If it wasn’t for my rent check and a few publishers who prefer hard copy when I’m pitching a story, I wouldn’t use the postal service at all.

I can’t rightly say I keep a paperless office, though I’m moving more that direction. A blessing, considering how I am with clutter. But the stacks of index cards and 5×8 legal-pad sheets lying around my desk bear proof that I still use paper and pen.

Reckon if you still write, you just might be a dinosaur.

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Some other tidbits, from a study by Docmail, a British stationer. Read ’em and weep:

 

  • Four in ten Brits rely on predictive text and increasingly rely on it for their spelling, with one in four regularly using abbreviations or ‘text talk.’
  • LOL (laugh out loud), U (you) and FYI (for your information) are the most regularly used abbreviations.
  • Today, creating a shopping list, taking notes in a meeting or even wishing someone a happy birthday are more often done via electronic means.
  • One third said when they do write something down, they often struggle to read their own writing when coming back to it later on.
  • And nearly half (44 per cent) said that their scribing is neither nice nor easy to read.
  • One sixth of Brits don’t even think handwriting should still be taught in schools.
  • One in three Brits describe handwriting as ‘nice’ but not something they would want to do every day.

Do tell. When was the last time you wrote something out? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Scam alert: If you get an email from the IRS, it’s not them

If you get a note from the IRS (Eternal Revenue Service), it’s usually not a good thing unless it comes with a check. But if you get an email from the IRS, you should really pay attention. It might not be them.

I got a strange one in my email box the other day, and it was a genuine head-scratcher:

* * *

Gmail Team mail-noreply@google.com
Jun 2 (5 days ago) 

to me

The message “Your Federal tax report #ID9837” from Internal Revenue Service (customer.service@irs.gov) contained a virus or a suspicious attachment. It was therefore not fetched from your account editor@ericpulsifer.com and has been left on the server.

If you wish to write to Internal, just hit reply and send Internal a message.
Thanks,

The Gmail Team

 

* * *

OK. Here’s the deal. Whoever it was sent it to my business email address, which hasn’t existed very long. See, all my emails feed directly into my gmail box, making it easier to keep track of stuff and handle all my addresses without having to log in and out and in and out. Email addresses are cheap.

Anyway, I went to my business email box:

* * *

Your Federal tax report #ID***7
From : “Internal Revenue Service” <customer.service@irs.gov>
To :
editor@ericpulsifer.com
Received :

06-02-2012 10:18 PM

Tax Refund,

The analysis of the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity has indicated that
you are entitled to receive a tax refund of $382.34
Please submit a request of the tax refund and a processing of the request will take 7-14 days.
A tax refund can be delayed by different reasons.
For instance submission of invalid records or sending after the deadline.

Please find the form of your tax refund attached and fill out it and send a report.

Yours sincerely,
Internal Revenue Service.

* * *

That’s the email, and it’s pure horse dung. I didn’t even bother to open the attachment. But as far as phishing/information mining/scamming goes, it’s an oldie but goodie.

Here’s what I got from the Internet from the Internet Crime Complaint Center:

* * *

Intelligence Note  Prepared by the Internet Crime
Complaint Center (IC3)
December 1, 2005
E-mail disguised as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) phishing for personal information
The FBI
has become aware of a spam email claiming the recipient is eligible to receive a
tax refund for $571.94. The email purports to be from tax-returns@irs.gov
with the subject line of “IRS
Tax Refund.” A link is provided in the email to access a form required
to be completed in order to receive the refund. The link appears to connect to the
true IRS website. However, the recipient is redirected to
http://www.porterfam.org/2005/, where personal data, including credit
card information, is captured.
This e-mail is a hoax. Do not follow the provided link.
Be cautious when responding to requests or special offers delivered through unsolicited
email:  Guard your personal information as well as your account information carefully. Keep a list of all your credit cards and account information along with the card
issuer’s contact information. If your monthly statement looks suspicious or you
lose your card(s), contact the issuer immediately.
If you have received this, or a similar hoax, please file a complaint at
www.IC3.gov.

* * *

Looking a little further, I checked from the jackass’ mouth itself, going straight to the IRS website. I pasted it directly in here, so it may look funky.

The upshot is, they’re not going to use email or social media to contact you:

* * *

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information

What is phishing?
Phishing is a scam typically carried out by unsolicited email and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites and lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information. 

All unsolicited email claiming to be from either the IRS or any other IRS-related components such as the Office of Professional Responsibility or EFTPS, should be reported to phishing@irs.gov.

However, if you have experienced monetary losses due to an IRS-related incident please file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission through their Complaint Assistant to make that information available to investigators.

What to do if you receive a suspicious IRS-related communication

If

Then

You receive an email claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for personal information …
  1. Do not reply.
  2. Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  3. Do not click on any links.
    If you clicked on links in a suspicious email or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit our identity protection page.
  4. Forward the email as-is, to us at phishing@irs.gov.
  5. After you forward the email and/or header information to us, delete the original email message you received.

Note:
Please forward the full original email to us at phishing@irs.gov. Do not forward scanned images of printed emails as that strips the email of valuable information only available in the electronic copy.

You discover a website on the Internet that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus … send the URL of the suspicious site to phishing@irs.gov. Please add in the subject line of the email, ‘Suspicious website’.
You receive a phone call or paper letter via mail from an individual claiming to be the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee … Phone call: 

  1. Ask for a call back number and employee badge number.
  2. Contact the IRS to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you.
  3. If you determine the person calling you is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you, call them back.

Letter or notice via paper mail:

  1. Contact the IRS to determine if the mail is a legitimate IRS letter.
  2. If it is a legitimate IRS letter, reply if needed.

If caller or party that sent the paper letter is not legitimate, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

You receive an unsolicited e-mail or fax, involving a stock or share purchase … and you are a U.S. citizen located in the United States or its territories or a U.S. citizen living abroad. 

  1. Complete the appropriate complaint form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  2. Forward email to phishing@irs.gov.
    Please add in the subject line of the email, ‘Stock’.
  3. If you are a victim of monetary or identity theft, you may submit a complaint through the FTC Complaint Assistant.

… and you are not a U.S. citizen and reside outside the United States.

  1. Complete the appropriate complaint form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  2. Contact your securities regulator and file a complaint.
  3. Forward email to phishing@irs.gov.
    Please add in the subject line of the e-mail, ‘Stock’.
  4. If you are a victim of monetary or identity theft, you may report your complaint to econsumer.gov.
You receive an unsolicited fax (such as Form W8-BEN) claiming to be from the IRS, requesting personal information … Contact the IRS to determine if the fax is from the IRS. 

  • If you learn the fax is not from the IRS, please send us the information via email at phishing@irs.gov. In the subject line of the email, please type the word ‘FAX’.
You have a tax-related question …Note: Do not submit tax-related questions to phishing@irs.gov. If you have a tax-related question, unrelated to phishing or identity theft, please contact the IRS.

How to identify phishing email scams claiming to be from the IRS and bogus IRS websites


The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

The IRS does not …

… request detailed personal information through email.
… send any communication requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.


What to do if you receive a suspicious email message that does not claim to be from the IRS

If

Then

You receive a suspicious phishing email not claiming to be from the IRS … Forward the email as-is to reportphishing@antiphishing.org.
You receive an email you suspect contains malicious code or a malicious attachment and you HAVE clicked on the link or downloaded the attachment … Visit OnGuardOnline.gov to learn what to do if you suspect you have malware on your computer.
You receive an email you suspect contains malicious code or a malicious attachment and you HAVE NOT clicked on the link or downloaded the attachment … Forward the email to your Internet Service Provider’s abuse department and/or to spam@uce.gov.

* * *

If you’re into links, here’s the IRS announcement.

So I’m not going to open this attachment. I’m not going to bother.

I know they don’t owe me a refund, and if they did they’re not going to tell me unless I ask. What do I think they are, stupid?

(Don’t answer that!)

So if you get an email from the IRS, forget it. It’s not them.

###

 

 

 

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NYC mayor’s vendetta against bladder busters may spread

A cartoonist for the Conservative Daily News caught the mood just right here.

New Yorkers may soon need to grab a refill if they want to consume mass quantities of soda. That is, if Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way.

It’s just another day at the office for Hizzoner. Since taking office, Bloomberg has opened fire on smokers, trans fats, salty snacks and soft drinks. This latest has Bloomberg calling for a ban of sugared drinks in anything larger than 16 ounces, no matter what the majority of voters say.

So much for the famous Bladder Buster, or whatever it is your favorite convenience store calls its 40-plus-ounce Mt. Dew. Even the 20-ounce bottle, which is the new standard size for soda, has to go.

Keep your nose inside the vehicle at all times.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey — which is really New York South though no one will readily admit it — is considering another out-of-left-field law that will prohibit the family dog from riding in the passenger seat with his head sticking out the window. Pets must be restrained when in the vehicle, maybe even with a harness.

Seriously.

I don’t live in New York. I’ve never been there, and I have no desire to ever go there as long as I live. I could say I don’t understand the Bloomberg way of governance, but that would be a lie. I grew up in California, which is about like New York except the sun occasionally shines.

It’s my California experience that keeps me from laughing as I read about the latest Bloomberg Follies and about New Jersey’s proposal. I’ve seen too much, and California wrote the manual on how to be a proper Nanny State. Even New Yorkers laugh at Californians.

(A fast disclaimer: “New Yorkers” means those who live in That Big City Up North. If you call an upstater a New Yorker, he’ll hurt you and I won’t blame him. But I digress.)

But New York and California are the incubators for many of our national problems. Folks talk of street gangs now as if they’re the newest threat to our way of life; they’ve been around New York even before I was born. Illegal immigration used to be a California problem; now it’s even in the Carolinas and yes, the Midwest.

Same thing with some of the laws you used to laugh at. Now you’ll have a problem finding someplace to smoke indoors or make a phone call while driving, and many of those laws started because someone in New York or California complained.

A state with a lot of immmigration — like South Carolina — tends to adopt these laws faster than someplace like South Dakota, which isn’t exactly a hot immigration magnet. Part of it is a natural thing. We California-bred types like our Mexican food, and New Yorkers like the idea that they can call someplace and have a slice of pizza and a bagel delivered at 4 a.m. Except I still can’t find any Mexican food that is even close to the real thing out here, and the 4 a.m.  pizza/bagel runs haven’t materialized yet.

But we’ve got their laws. And we’ve got politicians who think they know what’s good for me better than I do. Something obviously got lost in the translation.

If you want to know the future here in these United States, cast your eyes on New York and California. It’s better than a crystal ball. Just hide your Bladder Buster when you see a cop, and make sure Fido’s paws and tongue stay inside the vehicle at all times.

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Outside work: Getting some ‘droid time in, and some Dizzy-ness to go

You callin' me?

Doing more writing on the outside, and going geeky with it:

Using your Android phone as a USB drive – a very useful/cool trick:

Android’s built by Google, right? So what if you want to use Bing, Yahoo! or DuckDuckGo for searches?

Both articles appear in No Brainer App Reviews.

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I found this while hunting up graphics for something else. Dizzy Gillespie finds his way to Google fame.
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Are you still renting your phone? Your bill may say so

If you're paying rent on a house phone, it had better be a cool one like this. I got my first telephone in the late 70s. it was olive green, had a dial on it, came with that newfangled “modular” plug-it-in-anywhere wiring, and I bought the durned thing.

Buying a phone. This was something new then. It gave the consumer some choice, but it also released the phone company — Pacific Bell in my case — from having to maintain the handset. They didn’t have to worry about repairing or replacing your handset if you slam it against the wall in a fit of rage.

I’ve bought a lot of phones since then, but it seems quite a few people are still renting theirs from their phone companies. Like hundreds of thousands of phone users.

Renting? Didn’t that go out with the rotary dial?

Well, kinda sorta. The idea of buying your own phone started to catch on for real when Ma Bell broke up in the early 80s. But some still hung on to their old equipment, four-pronged plug and all.

I’ll say this. Much of the older gear was built. One of my parents’ extension phones was an old black metal-bodied rotary-dial number, branded by Stromburg-Carlson. Like my old Canon AE-1 camera I stubbornly held onto until it became harder to find film processors, this thing was built like a brick outhouse. Like a Sherman tank. I’ll bet if you dug it out of the garage now and plugged it in (good luck with that given the old four-prong plug) it would work just fine. There were no parts in there to screw up.

If those of us who ditched the landline in favor of cell phones are the ultramoderns, those who continue to lease their house phones are the traditionalists. Provided, of course, they a) can find that rented phone and b) it’s still in use.

But according to The Consumerist, many are still paying to rent a phone that is no longer being used. Monthly phone rentals, according to the site, range from a dollar per month to more than $20, depending on the carrier.

If that’s the case, don’t expect the phone company to bring it to your attention; only a fool would shoot a cash cow.

Anyway, check your phone bill, especially if you’ve had that service for decades (not unusual if you own your home or lived in the same place for a decade or three). Decipher it, go through all the line items. If it shows you’re still paying for a phone rental, you’ve either got one of those phones that will outlast you, or you’re more than likely being hosed.

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Happiest, unhappiest job rankings include some real surprises

If you’re a security officer, all I can say is … I feel your pain.

This is according to a site called CareerBliss, which ranked the top 20 happiest and 20 unhappiest jobs you can work. And the security guard’s post is, well, right at the bottom of the dungpile.

I guess it depends on where you work, too. I’ve never worked a security gig myself. But in my days as a casino employee I got to know some of the security folks. Perhaps there are worse security beats than on a casino floor, and that town didn’t really have a police department. The security workers were the cops. Maybe that counts for something, because most of the casino security guys seemed to like their work. Or maybe you just had to be warped enough to handle it.

Factors such as pay, work environment and job resources (such as support) were considered in this study, which ranked non-top-executive jobs.

Registered nurses and teachers took the second and third unhappiest spots. Now, these are jobs that carry plenty of their own rewards (especially for the altruistic among you), but job support may be lacking and the pay probably not enough to compensate for all the work-related headache or heartache.

The happiest occupation, according to the study, is software quality assurance engineer. It’s gotta be the pay, right?

Strangely enough, others included in the happy-zone top 10 are customer service reps, administrative assistants, and accountants. And human resource managers.

OK. Definitely gotta be the pay. I can’t think of anything else.

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The ol’ tried-and-true Facebook worms are still around

Watch out for Facebook weirdness.

From what I get, ol’ Koobface is still around.

An anagram of a popular social media site, this multi-platform computer worm is still hanging around in all its variants and wreaking havoc after all these years.

There are plenty of hoaxes and urban legends circulating around this piece of malware (like the hoary tale that it’ll burn up your hard drive), but there’s enough truth that shows what a contentious bugger Koobface really is.

In a rare show of anger against the folks who produce malware and security threats, the Facebook folks even calling the Koobface gang out. Naming names, all that good stuff.

But Koobface is still around, as you can see by checking the comment dates in this McAfee post. Some things, like pyramid schemes and chain letters, are not going away anytime soon ’cause they’re successful, right?

This came to my attention about a week ago when a friend got word of this creature through his Facebook account. What he got was a link to the Snopes site, and when he forwarded it to me (at my request) I had a look at it and immediately recognized the M.O.

For those who forgot, you might get a provocative-looking picture on your Facebook feed. When you click on it, you’ll be asked to download a viewer for the accompanying video because the one you have is allegedly out of date.

When you click on that, the fun begins.

I experienced something like this a couple of years ago. Like an idiot I clicked on a picture that showed up in my timeline via a friend, a picture that this friend never would have put up in a zillion years. Got the opportunity to download some program called flvdirect.exe — which triggered all sorts of weirdness:

  • The video was automatically sent to many people on my friends’ list.
  • The .exe file to the viewer sat in my /home/download file. I noted the name and ran a Google search. The program in question, flvdirect.exe, is billed as something that would help download torrents but is actually spyware. It’ll do all sorts of nefarious things on your hard drive and it monitors your surfing habits.
  • For the next hour or so, I heated up my high-speed Internet line. Running Google searches on the offending software. Firing instant messages back and forth with a Facebook (actually a real) friend who also got the video — from me. Posting my findings on Facebook. I finally got to bed at 2 a.m., exhausted.
  • My conclusion: Spreading malware sure is hard work.

Myself being the impulsive type, I shut down my Facebook account and started looking for other ways to communicate. It wasn’t until a year ago that I opened another account.

I’m a lot more cautious these days, steadfastly saying no to all those app requests. Third-party applications are the fastest way to screw up your Facebook experience, so I’m keeping my account an app-free one. Every so often when the app requests get heavy I’ll put up an announcement to this fact — a rude one, but not as rude as some I’ve seen:

I stole this off a friend's Facebook timeline; hope she doesn't mind.

With that thought in mind, enjoy your social media. It’s fun, a great time waster and all that. But there’s no reason to let it take your computer over.

Watch out for bugs.

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New quit-Facebook move has wealth envy at its core

There are lots of reasons for a person to want to quit Facebook, but objections to how insanely rich it made its founder isn’t one of them.

But as the social media behemoth prepares to go public and make what could be a record-shattering IPO (that’s “initial public offering” for those of us who put our money in CD’s of the Miles Davis and Willie Nelson variety), folks appear to be storming the exits. There’s even an I’m Not On Facebook Twitter feed and website, though it appears the people behind thee site are more interested in hawking T-shirts than anything else.

But the objection is that Mark Zuckerberg used to be one of the guys; now he’s a porcine one-percenter. He’s committing the grevious sin of making a pantload of money from Facebook.

OK, what’s the problem? More power to him.

I have my own negative feelings about Facebook and did shut my account down for a year before restarting it. It can be a colossal waste of time. By its very nature it shoots your privacy out the window. The user leaves himself to be flamed, cracked, stalked and generally violated with just a few mouse clicks. You have to use filters to screen the good information from the usual junk. Many third-party apps are malware just waiting to happen. And each new innovation puts your life a little more out in the street — like what’s that option that allows you to share everything you read online?

But it’s still fun and somewhat useful. Many of my friends use Facebook as the only way to communicate, eschewing even anachronisms such as email. There are some real blasts from my past among my Facebook friends, including old running mates from decades ago, former co-workers, kinfolks, some old girlfriends (awkward), even an ex-wife (tres awkward). Many of my blog readers come from my Facebook ranks, and the whole thing is good for business. I won’t knock that.

So Mark Z can probably buy WalMart instead of shopping there. Anybody have a problem with that?

Facebook isn’t my go-to social media site, though. Not even close. I spend more time on Twitter than any of the others, and tweeted incessantly during the last few minutes of the Super Bowl (a barnburner of a game — I tweeted that the game was so nerve-racking, if there was a toilet on the 50-yard line the players would be using it). I use Linkedin for professional contacts and get a lot of mileage out of the groups. I enjoy Google+ and picked up some story ideas from Quora.

But come on! So Zuckerberg won’t ever have to work at a WalMart as long as he lives; he might be in a position to buy the whole schmeer. Like who cares? Get a life! He came up with a product that at the time was far better than anything remotely similar (remember how long it took to load a Myspace page?). People like his product. He’s created value, whether real or perceived, and the users number almost into the billions. Apparently he’s doing something right.

I was once accused of wealth envy because my computers run Linux instead of Windows. Ain’t necessarily so. I have no problem with gazillionaire Bill Gates. I just find Linux meets my needs and allows me to really customize my system and use free software. It’s funny hearing some Mac users decry Gates and his billions, though the late Steve Jobs could afford to buy his black turtlenecks by the shipping container. But I digress.

I don’t mind the one-percent gang. I wouldn’t mind working for some of them. With those folks I stand a better chance of making my exorbitant asking price. I won’t have to worry so much about whether the guy is going to vanish come billing time, or whether the check would bounce. Instead, it’s a straight value-for-value transaction, and a rich guy (i’m talking self-made here; I don’t count the trust-fund brats in this equation) would understand this concept better than anybody.

Ditch Facebook because of the malware. Junk it because you don’t like to put your business out on Front Street. Shut it down if you’re wasting time instead of rainmaking. Kill it because it has no value for you. Scrap it because you can’t stand the third-party games, the inane postings, the fact your significant other is making time with a former flame, because those pictures of you lying unconscious in a puddle of what you hope is beer are messing up your chances of a promotion …

But quitting Facebook because it’s printing money for Zuckerberg is the wrong reason. Spin again to find another excuse.

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If your phone goes off and it’s nobody, you’re not alone

One of the things that took some getting used to was how active my Android phone gets. It makes noise and vibrates when I get a phone call, an email or a text message. Considering my own online/offline activity — not even counting all those alarms I set to keep my ADHD self on track, that’s a lot of vibrating.

So you can imagine my surprise when I felt my belt vibrate over my right hip, and when I checked it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t for anybody. It didn’t ring or vibrate at all. The phone sat inert in the belt pouch, and I only imagined the vibrations.

Welcome to the phenomenon called “phantom vibration,” which a study by the University of Worcester suggests is a sure sign you’re getting goofy about your phone.
It’s akin to those phantom pains amputees talk about, where a nonexistent foot itches or develops muscle spasms. Purely psychological stuff, and hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it.

Shoot, I feel enough like an idiot when someone else’s phone rings and I’m sure it’s mine. I’ve experienced enough of that to realize I get a little obsessed about that phone.
But when there’s no phone ringing anywhere near me, that’s when I know things are bad. What’s even worse is when I feel that vibration over my hip — while the phone is in my hand.

Turns out I’m not the only one who experiences this. I brought the subject up over dinner with a few good friends, all technophiles who would sooner leave the house without their pants than forget their phones. And all of these friends nodded knowingly when I mentioned phantom vibrations. The discussion became a heavy confession time for a few, and you’d swear a recovery group broke out right then and there. Lots of sympathizing but no solutions, but that’s normal. Like they say in recovery groups, we’re not trying to fix anything.

This study, as cited in the UK Telegraph, says workers who are issued a smart phone for on-the-job use, especially feel the stress that seems to trigger these phantom vibrations. They feel they’re not checking their messages often enough.
Psychlogist Richard Balding of the University of Worcester (why is it the British get to do all the cool research?) says it’s a stress thing — stress if you’re getting messages, and stress if you’re not.

According to the Telegraph:

” … this became a vicious cycle in which the more stressed people became, the more they compulsively felt the need to check their phone, the study showed … Balding, who led the research, said employers should seriously consider the burden that smart phones put on their workers … ‘Smart phone use is increasing at a rapid rate and we are likely to see an associated increase in stress from social networking,’ Balding said.”

(Note to employees everywhere: If your company issues you a smart phone, run like your hair’s on fire. Or negotiate a massive salary/wage increase. Your life is no longer your own.)

Others who use their smart phones as their link to social media may also feel the stress of always being “on,” or the anticipation of another message. Hey, if you get a text from Publishers Clearinghouse saying you’d won a few million bucks, you sure don’t want to miss it.

It’s crucial I stay in contact with the outside world. I do some social media stuff but it’s not a big part of my life. It’s not job-related, at least not related to my day job. But as I try to build something of a business on my own, contact is essential. It might not exactly be Ed McMahon calling from whatever realm he’s hanging out at these days, but potential customers and contacts have me keeping an eye on the phone. My own obsessive nature doesn’t help much either, but we won’t discuss that here.

Whoops. My phone is vibrating, and it’s nobody.

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How much does the Internet know about you? (besides a lot)

How much does the Internet know about you?

Probably enough.

You’re surfing your favorite sites, and the ads seem to be for places that are awfully close to where you live, and for products/services you are interested in.

Like the man said about the Thermos bottle that keeps your coffee hot or your sweet tea cold, “how do it know?”

It’s almost accurate to say the Internet is stalking you. It sees you when you’re sleeping, it knows when you’re awake. It probably knows what sites you surf, and what you’re using to surf these sites.

Check out these graphics, and tell me they don’t creep you out:

(Signs by Danasoft – Get Your Sign)

These goofy graphics aren’t anything new. I had these up for a long time on my old blog, and I’ve been meaning to put them up here for some time. Now’s my chance.

Syndicated tech columnist Kim Komando recently ran a piece on this, along with a link to a site that is powered by ip2location.com. When you click on the button below, it’ll bring you to the site with some really interesting information. OK, the linked site has the Kim Komando brand all over it, but … well, admit it, she’s not half bad to look at.

Anyway, click this graphic to find out all the gory details:

See What They Know

I copied/pasted the results from when I ran this test myself. For the record, I was using the wireless Internet system from my day job, running my Acer Aspire One with Bodhi Linux and Google Chrome:

* * *

Here’s what They Know

Your location as guessed from your IP Address

As I linked this into a social media site (Google+), I saw some of the values in the above box change. I don’t know if it will keep my information or read back yours. Probably the latter.

* * *

Below is from my own readout, and I excised some information that y’all probably didn’t need to know:

CHARACTER SET
ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.3
LANGUAGE
en-US,en;q=0.8
REFERRER (who told you to come to this page)
http://privacycheck.komando.com/?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=notd&utm_content=2011-01-11-article&utm_campaign=end-c
OPERATING SYSTEM
unknown
BROWSER
Default Browser 0
YOUR TIME
Mon Jan 09 2012 13:18:36 GMT-0500 (EST)

Sites you’ve visited

Hmmm… We were not able to detect any social networking sites that you’ve visited recently.

Sites must exploit a Web feature to see your history. By default, browsers display links you’ve visited in a different color. And sites can see how a page looks on your computer. If a link changes color, the site knows you’ve visited that link. Using special code, a site can check more than 25,000 links per second!

This page only checks to see if you’ve visited a handful of sites. If nothing is listed above, you haven’t visited one of the sites we checked (or you recently cleared your browsing history).

* * *

If you check the ip2location site itself, you might also find it quite interesting.

I saw that Net Speed entry on my readout (it says DSL) and this probably explains a bit. The wireless connection at work is really poky. But it’s a decent fringe benefit.

I will take the rest of the Komando readout to mean my computer is more secure than most. Unknown operating system, default browser, no history of sites browsed. Very good. Excellent, in fact. The more “unknowns” your readout has, the better.

You put enough of your business out there as it is.

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