Sidebar: Protect that computer information and thank yourself later

While writing today’s piece on yet another phishing attempt by someone claiming to be PayPal, a few things came to mind and they deserve a blog entry on their own. I’ll include them in this sidebar.

Off the top of my head, I listed a few measures you can take to protect your computer and your online information — in fact, your whole identity — from being stolen.

This gets even more important as we use the Internet for more important aspects of daily life, such as moving money around.

Most of these tips are common sense, but those are sometimes the hardest ones to remember and implement.

Here’s a sampling:


  • Choose your tools carefully. If you use Internet Explorer, take that icon off your desktop right now and surf with a different browser. Chromium (an open-source version of Google Chrome) is good, as are Firefox and Opera.
  • Keep that browser updated.
  • Be careful about passwords; PayPal_Andy’s advice of having a designated password for each site is highly recommended, even though I’m guilty of using the same passwords for more than one site.
  • Don’t open any attachments if you don’t know the sender.
  • Be wary of attachments from someone you know; zap it with your virus and malware protection tools before you open it.
  • I’d also be wary of links sent by email, especially when they’re shortened through bit.ly or some other service. Also be careful of links posted on your favorite social media sites; you can click on some malware real easily that way. I’ve seen malware propagate among everyone on your friends/followers lists, making them the gift that keeps on giving.
  • You do have virus protection, don’t you? You do keep it updated, don’t you? Virus protection that’s not kept up to speed is totally worthless.
  • Grab some spyware protection, too. For that I recommend Spybot Search And Destroy.
  • Be careful about using public wireless for any business involving money; it’s too easy to tap into your information that way.
  • If surfing in a public place, watch for anyone behind you or sit with your back against a wall. I know this sounds goofy, but when some lowlife is trying to grab your information the low-tech ways are often the most effective.
  • Don’t let me scare you or anything.

If you use a smartphone:

  • Guard it with your life. Even if you want to be a good neighbor and help someone in a pinch, don’t let that person “hold” your phone. It’s too easy for him to snatch it and run. Most smartphones carry way more information than you’d think, and most of it can be found in seconds.
  • Be careful about dropping or leaving your phone somewhere. Same reason.
  • I use a lanyard from an old mp3 player and attach it to my phone holster. The other end is attached to a small carabiner, which I clip onto a belt loop. The holster’s flap is closed when I’m not using the phone. That way, if the holster falls off (happens more often than I’d like to think) or someone tries to snatch it off your belt, you’d know immediately.
  • Stay aware of what’s around you, even if you’re texting or playing whatever brain-sucking smartphone game is hot these days. I’ve heard of folks stealing someone’s phone while the person is using it.
  • Two words: Password protection.

If you can think of any other means of protecting your information, share in the comments section. I’ll be glad to include it. Let’s watch one another’s backs.


Sharks in the phishing hole: That email isn’t really from PayPal

smile, you son of a b!!!!
If you conduct your business online, make sure you don’t put any blood in the water …

Much of my life is automated via the Internet. I do my work, pay my bills and buy things online. Shoot, I haven’t been inside a bank in two years because all this is done over the ‘net. I even have an account with one bank that operates completely online, without a brick-and-mortar branch within sight.

This is great in most circumstances but it sure leaves me open to all sorts of security glitches.

If you’re reading this on your computer, you may be in that same boat. Of course you have an Internet connection. You might buy things online, pay your bills through the Internet or even govern your whole life through a coaxial cable or wifi connection. It’s great, it’s convenient, and sometimes it’s dangerous.

I received more confirmation of this danger the other day when I checked my email. It’s allegedly from PayPal, and it carries all sorts of dire warnings.

The email that set stuff off

Here’s the note, in its entirety but with the account ID deleted. Other than that, I kept the capitalization and spacing (this part’s important) just as you see it here:


Your account has been limited Paypal ID PP-xxx-xxx-xxx

Service@paypal.com

Identity issue PP-xxx-xxx-xxx

Please complete the attached form to verify your Profile information and restore your account access.


Personal Information Profile

Make sure you enter the information accurately, and according to the formats required.

Fill in all the required fields.

Dear customer ,

As part of our efforts to provide a safe and secure environment for the online community, we regularly screen account activity. Our review of your account has identified an issue regarding its safe use. We have placed a restriction on your account as a precaution.

To lift the restriction we will require some further information from you.

If, once we review your further information and we’re convinced that the use of your account does not present a safety risk to our service and customers, we’ll be happy to reinstate your account.

We have sent you an attachment which contains all the necessary steps in order to restore your account access. Download and open it in your browser. After we have gathered the necessary information, you will regain full access to your account.

We thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Very sincerely,

PayPal Review Department.


There’s an attached document that came with this note.

Did I download and open it?

Uhh, noooo … forgive this journalistic lapse, but I’m really not as dumb as I look.

Things that made me go h’mmm …

PayPal
Watch it if you get an email purporting to be from these guys.

There were a couple of red flags that went up right away.

One of those red flags was the address this email went to. I have six email addresses, and two of them (my Gmail addresses) are attached to my PayPal account. But this email went to two addresses that have nothing to do with PayPal, and both are under my ericpulsifer.com web domain.

Now understand the importance of this. PayPal uses your associated email address to make all transactions. That means if you use that service and want to send me money (hint hint) you’ll send it through the email address associated with it.

(So if you’re feeling generous, crank up your PayPal and my email address is epulsifer@gmail.com. Be sure and send it in small unmarked bills and I’ll be real happy.)

All my PayPal communications go through that one Gmail address. So to receive this email through one of my business (non-Gmail) addresses gives me pause right away.

This gets really suspicious when I get simultaneous emails to different boxes under the same domain name.

While the email’s reported sender is Service@PayPal.com (with the capitalization just as you see it here), the actual email address is security@info.com. Now, how suspicious is that?

I checked my PayPal account and found nothing even resembling the account ID number listed in the email. I do have a merchant ID number, but it’s not even close. Could be that I’m not looking in the right place, but I don’t think so. Paypal’s ID is basically your email address. Got that?

After receiving the email I checked my PayPal account right away. Everything was copacetic. I was able to access it like I always have, without restrictions. So you know the sender was trying to baffle me with BS.

Chasing the story

Being the troublemaker that I am, I ran a Google search using the phrase “paypal restore account information email” and man, did I get a pantload of results. None of them carried good news either, but it was highly educational.

Just from looking at the first page of the search results, I saw this scam has been kicking around since 2006.

According to consumerfraudreporting.com, PayPal will never send you an email without putting your name on it. In other words it will be “Dear Eric Pulsifer,” not “Dear customer.” And you can bet they won’t leave a space between “customer” and the comma in the greeting; this just tells me it’s just some guy sending these emails from some basement somewhere.

Oh, yes. According to my research, PayPal doesn’t send attachments. I know I’ve never seen one from them. Forget it.

I checked on the PayPal community forum, and found some more revealing information. Several users reported similar emails and the forum administrator, who identifies himself as PayPal_Andy (I’ll assume he’s an employee) wrote this:

First, I’d recommend running a virus scan just to make sure you didn’t pick up anything unsavory when you clicked there. If everything’s fine (or once it is), I would recommend going to PayPal and changing your password and security questions through the ‘Profile’ link. Make sure this password is brand new and you haven’t used it anywhere else and you should be fine. Just keep an eye on your PayPal account for any unauthorized charges, and if you see any, let us know ASAP.

Andy

Sound advice. It’s common sense, but you can ride with the assumption that the phisherman probably snagged some of your information before sending that email. Change your password immediately just to make sure.

By the way, Andy posted his response in August 2011, so you know this scam is an oldie but goodie. But phishers and other off-brand types wanting to access your valuable information tend to stick with a winning formula.

If you get that email …

Generally, if you have an issue with access to your PayPal account, you can do all the fixing through the actual site. They have a “resolution center” where you may or may not get immediate answers, but it’s sure a lot safer than downloading/filling out an attached form you got from some random person and sending it via email.

Consumerfraudreporting.org suggests forwarding any fraudulent PayPal email to spoof@paypal.com — which I just did as I was researching and writing this piece. Here’s what I wrote:

I received this at two separate email addresses under the same domain, and neither one is associated with my PayPal account. Smelled a rat immediately and didn’t bother to open the attachment, so I won’t pass that part along to you.

Thought you might like to know, especially if you’re counting.

Thanks,

–Eric Pulsifer

So far, no response. But let the record reflect I went through proper channels.

Despite PayPal’s somewhat squirelly reputation (every year it finds itself in the running for the most evil company by the Consumerist website), I’ve never had a problem with them. Never. I once had to send some paperwork to prove I was who I said I was, but everything was resolved quickly by phone after that. While that was inconvenient, I have to give them brownie points for taking that security step.

I also have my account set up to send me an email and a text message when I make a transaction, and this has served me well. I found out within seconds when a restaurant tried to charge my PayPal debit card twice for a meal, so after I complained to the restaurant management, PayPal fixed things on their end without me having to prompt them. I might have scared the PP out of everyone involved, but somebody had to do it.

So from my perspective I have nothing bad to say about PayPal’s customer service. They’ve always been responsive and went that extra mile with me. Maybe I’m just Texas-lucky here, but I’ll take it.

The upshot of this whole mess is, if you receive this kind of note from PayPal, don’t panic. Don’t click on any attachments because it’s not from them and it’s probably malware anyway. And if you a) get it in an email box that’s not associated with your PayPal account or b) you don’t even have a PayPal account — that’s been reported too — then you know someone just tried to pull a fast one on you.

Enjoy your computers. Keep your online experiences fun and/or profitable. Just watch out for the phishing holes; there are sharks aplenty in there.


(For more information on protecting your computer and your information, be sure and check out my sidebar here. I even covered smartphones here, including my favorite 99-cent hack that may keep you from losing your phone.)

 

 

Sample chapter: Do content mills count as exposure? (from Will Work For Exposure)

Intro and disclaimer: This is a sample chapter from my new ebook, Will Work For Exposure. It’s up on Amazon now, and of course I’m trying to boost my book sales. But this sample chapter gives you a detailed tour of some of the content-mill sites cluttering the Internet. Writing this chapter was spanking good fun; I got to name names and everything. If I put ideas in your head and encourage you to act on them, I won’t mind a bit. That’s why I’m here.

Enjoy. By the way, if you stop by Amazon anytime between June 1 and June 5, you’ll find this ebook is free for that period. Grab it, because its regular price is $3.99.

* * *

Do content mills count as exposure?

This is your brain … this is your brain on content mills. Any questions?

I mentioned content mills (aka “content farms”) earlier, along with the disclosure that I occasionally work for one.

Now, my content-mill work will not help me at all as far as exposure, even though my work shows up in highly-credible sites like the Houston Chronicle and Arizona Republic.

Here’s why:

Directly below the byline, where you would find something like “staff writer” or “contributing writer,” you’ll find the name of the content provider. Bam. There goes my credibility, right out the window.

You might as well say this article emerged from the slush pile only on a pass. Association with a content mill probably does my credibility more harm than good.

Besides, the writing is no great shakes anyway. It’s quick and dirty work, the kind I would not want to number among my best clips. Hey, I really do have standards.

Because of all this, my content-mill work shows up under an assumed name that I will not disclose in this ebook. Just call him John Doe for all I care.

Despite my misgivings I’m able to approach this assumed-name thing with some humor.

John Doe (or whatever his name is) has his very own email address under my business domain.

He’s an actual independent contractor with all the necessary paperwork (read: independent contractors require none).

John even has an official title — ghostwriter. Appropriate, considering he’s just a ghost anyway.

Even better, I don’t have to pay John because, well, he’s a ghost. What do ghosts eat anyway?

Although this sounds frivolous, maybe even my own sick imagination working overtime again, there’s a point to all this. My nonexistent contractor John Doe allows me to mentally detach myself from the work I consider objectionable or just plain lousy.

For me, that’s important.

I’ll say this about content-mill work. They pay on schedule, there’s always some work for me, and most of it is easy. I could do it in my sleep. In fact, sometimes I think I do. Or at least John does. It makes a nice supplement when nothing else is going on.

But content-mill work is not sustainable, and it’s just too easy to get all comfortable and get locked into something where you don’t have to hustle.

Pitching your work is a big part of writing, of any other art. You have to get your stuff out there, and if you’re interested in finding a real buyer paying real rates, you have to pitch it. Warm up the email program, make a few calls, hammer together a cover letter and get your clips in order.

Content mills take away that edge. It’s a surreal world where you pick titles from an online dashboard instead of engaging in the real world of writing.

So approach content mills with eyes wide open. They are what they are — a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

* * *

Here are some of the biggest content mills around, and what they pay at this writing:

Demand Studios: Payment is upon acceptance, and is forwarded directly into your PayPal account. In the business and finance section (where my ghostwriter John Doe works), they’ll pay around $25 for an article of 400 to 500 words. Pick your titles from the dashboard and hope you’re thinking of the same angle as your copy editor. You get one chance at a rewrite, but acceptance after that is iffy. You may not get the same copy editor for the rewrite as you did for your original piece, so that’s a risk. Until recently, the writer never knew who edited the piece.

Demand Studios makes a decent backup income source for those feast-or-famine times, but there’s still no substitute for pitching your work elsewhere and making better money from it.

* * *

Yahoo: According to the company via a recent employment ad: “Payment is provided on a performance basis, at $1.10 per every 1,000 page views. Contributors may also qualify for occasional Upfront Payment on a per-submission basis. Only the highest-quality submissions will qualify for publication on Yahoo …”

The writer is also expected to be active on social media, strive to build his audience, and despoil his hard-won online reputation with work for a third-rate content provider that won’t really pay you anyway. Read: You’re on your own for promoting your work. And at that pay rate, do they really expect quality?

No wonder Yahoo is hurting.

* * *

AOL has several outlets for writers, including the ubiquitous Huffington Post that became mega-profitable (AOL bought it for more than $300) while paying most writers in exposure.

Then there’s AOL Seed, which I think is still around though no one’s sure why. Seed offered decent payment (for online content-mill writing, that is), but there was a catch: Many assignments go to more than one writer. The best submission wins while the others get … nothing. I submitted one to Seed, got nosed out in the so-called competition and never wrote for them again.

I’ve looked into the hyperlocal AOL Patch, which was supposed to be the answer for out-of-work journalists. They have yet to make a profit. In fact, they’re inventing new ways to lose your butt. Recent news indicates they’ll be laying off more staff fairly soon. I’m betting they won’t be around in 2016, which is kind of a drag because then I’ll have to update this ebook.

I understand most Patch outposts have one editor (though he’s often juggling several hyperlocal editions) and a few stringers. I hear several different things about those contributing writers, too. Some sources say they’re not paid at all, while others say they get up to $50 per article. I guess it’s up to the editor or AOL’s budget.

From what I hear, the editors do everything and put in a whole lot of work for their paychecks. Patch is getting its money’s worth from the editors, and mimics the old 60-hours-of-work-for-a-40-hour-paycheck business model that old print journalists so fondly remember. Well, since Patch basically intended to replace local print journalism, it looks like they’re leaving many things just as they were.

* * *

Helium: Like I can say in my Facebook relationship status, “it’s complicated.” They’re mostly revenue-share with some restrictions and a couple of additional carrots thrown in. I signed on with them several years ago and never submitted anything. An old newsroom buddy of mine posted a few articles on Helium but I haven’t seen anything from him since. If his work with Helium brought him anything, it was the chance to reconnect with someone from his past.

* * *

Examiner: Another revenue-share site. I think I wrote four or five articles for the Examiner, and that’s probably four or five too many. I think I earned about two bucks from them. I remember they ran a mini-background check on prospective writers, though I’m not sure why. Some folks say they make decent money on Examiner, though you’d have to write a lot of stuff to reach that tipping point.

Just for grins, I glanced over my old Examiner pieces, which are still there and supposedly drawing page views. A couple of them are quite impressive; good enough for me to put in my clips. But I probably won’t. Any points I gain for good reporting and writing are immediately canceled by that brand’s reputation as a content mill.

When I did my time with the Examiner, they paid writers a few bucks to recruit other writers. Now, I’m not about to call that company a multilevel marketing scheme, but did they have to make it look so much like one?

* * *

Hubpages: Admittedly, I like Hubpages. I still have an active account with that company, though it’s been more than a year since I submitted something. Hubpages offers 60 percent of any ad revenue your pages generate. That’s not bad as far as revenue share goes, but I’d rather post in my own blog. Hubpages generates pretty good traffic on its own, but it’s empty traffic. It seems I get very few clicks from there to my own sites. Probably the biggest thing Hubpages has going for it is that anything I write is mine. I keep all rights and can edit or take anything down whenever I want. As far as content farms that really don’t pay you, it’s not half bad.

* * *

Squidoo: The brainchild of Seth Godin (one of the great modern thinkers and a man I respect), Squidoo’s business model is similar to Hubpages.

* * *

EHow, then and now: Back in the Wild Wild West of the Internet, eHow was a really popular revenue-share site. Some writers swore they made good money via this site, only I never met one. Much of eHow’s content from back then was really bad, though. Demand Studios since took that over, cleaned out the garbage (much to the chagrin of the writers of said garbage), diluted the revenue-share scheme and went primarily with up-front payment.

Since Demand Studios took over the eHow operation and did the cleanup the site’s probably a bit more reliable for Web surfers who want to know how to do something. In the past eHow should have run a do-not-try-this-at-home disclaimer.

Another revenue-sharing site for how-to pieces, called Fire How, exists but it’s not going to knock eHow off the block anytime soon.

* * *

Textbroker: They’re pretty much a commercial content site where businesses and others post copy requests and they’re filled to order. Up-front payment, but it’s miniscule. Writers submit a sample to determine what pay rate they’ll get, and they can work their way up the scale. I have an account there, but I’ve never used it. Writers I’ve talked to say it’s an easy way to snag a few bucks from the low-hanging fruit.

* * *

Plus you have the usual suspects that I haven’t really tried: Constant Content, Associated Content (since taken over by Yahoo), Break Studios, About.com and a fistful of others. They all have different business models, though most are similar to at least some I’ve already outlined.

* * *

I know this is just a short list, as content sites come and go all the time. Recent changes in Google’s search algorithms really nailed most of these sites, which prompted Demand Media to clean up eHow and tighten its own editorial requirements. Many content writers, especially those with the revenue-share sites, saw their earnings plummet with each Google change. OK, so maybe Google is the spawn of Satan, but at least they’re trying to hide the thin content, total BS and unreadable, keyword-stuffed writing you usually find on the Internet.

Many of these content sites have since changed things up a little, but the info I have here is still remarkably current. Only the names have changed, you know how that goes.

* * *

I’ve checked out some of the bid sites like Odesk, but I don’t think they’re worth the trouble. You’re going against international competition which keeps most of the rates really low. It’s another race to the bottom.

Plus, some Odesk customers actually monitor the time you spend on one of their projects. They’ll know if you’re farting around on Facebook. They’ll know if you step away from the keyboard (which I often do when I need to untangle a fuzzy phrase in my mind). If you’re not at the terminal typing away like a deranged beaver, they’ll know that too.

I’ll pass, thank you.

# # #

That’s a preview. The book itself is on Amazon, formatted for your Kindle. During the launch period (June 1-5) it’s free. After that, you can grab it for $3.99. But whatever the price is, it’s still worth it.

 

Google Reader marked for death, news junkies flee

rss icon
If you see this on a website, you can subscribe. I’m just not sure where now.

I think I cried in my coffee when I heard the news. I think. I know my mind went utterly blank. What am I gonna do now?

But the news: Google Reader is shutting down!

It’s all part of search giant/Internet gadfly Google’s spring cleaning. In the past that company scrapped Google Buzz (which needed killing because it was a total cluster), Google Wave (did anybody use it?) and iGoogle (which I kinda liked). Usually they cut products hardly anybody uses. There was speculation it might kill Feedburner, but that hasn’t happened yet. But that forced me to make a few adjustments and I’m glad I did.

But Google Reader. That one hurts. According to plan, its execution date is July 1.

To those who don’t know about such things, Google Reader is the RSS reader to end all RSS readers. Sometimes literally. As soon as Reader hit the scene, some (such as Bloglines) pretty much bit the dust. Netvibes is another that I question whether it’s even relevant. Feed Demon, a software-based (as opposed to Web-based) RSS reader, is either dead or dying.

OK, some of y’all may not know what this RSS thing is, so pull up a chair and I’ll give you the story. RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, ranges all over the Internet and pulls articles from all your favorite sites. They’re then put into your reader, and you can go from there. Most sites (including mine) are set up so you can subscribe in an RSS reader.

Think of RSS as a gigantic newspaper where you set the editorial policy.

You choose your feeds, they load any new copy into your reader, and off you go. From there you can send news items, save them, share them, bump them over to Evernote or Pocket, or put them on your to-do list. I save many links in my to-do list (in my case ToodleDo), building a pool of ideas for blog posts. I send wacky news items to my brother, and you can bet I saw those in my RSS feed first.

Since about 1995, Google Reader was the big one, and many of your smaller readers — including those on cell phones — are built as little more than a front end for Google Reader.

What’s a news junkie to do?

Admittedly, RSS has a high geek quotient and it’s not all that popular with your average Joe Mouseclicker. But to news junkies like me, it’s a wonderful timesaver.

Or a wonderful time-suck, depending on your perspective.

newspapers in a pile
RSS is like reading a whole bunch of online newspapers without having to surf for them.

Being a person with a serious news addiction and some decent chops in technical matters, of course I swear by RSS feeds. I’d tell you how many feeds my Google Reader pulls in every day, but then you’d tell me I have a major problem. I’m in denial and need counseling. You’d shake your head and try to hook me up with a 12-step program.

Newsoholics Anonymous, anyone?

My name is Eric, and I’m a news junkie (applause).

Anyway, I’m frantic right now. OK, maybe not frantic, but kinda concerned. Yeah, that’s it. Concerned.

Since I heard the news I’ve been weighing some RSS options, and most are found wanting. I’ve tried Feedly (too slow and not good for offline reading on my phone), the Thunderbird mail program (I’d rather gargle razor blades), Flipboard (beautiful, but won’t work with a marginal signal), and a bunch of pretenders. On my Android phone, where I do most of my news reading, I’ve tried numerous options. Most either drain the battery, make it run hot enough to blister my hand, gobble up tons of memory or serve as a front end for … Google Reader.

Already I think this is gonna end badly.

Folks tell me RSS is dying and Twitter is the new way to grab news, but I can’t see it. Even with a third-party program like Hootsuite it’s still way too disorganized. Twitter’s signal-to-noise ratio renders it useless. I guess Facebook can be sort of an option, and I might consider it if I didn’t despise that medium so much. I want to know the news, not what my friends are having for dinner (unless there’s an invite there somewhere).

Google-fied and frantic

This also makes me a little nervous. I use Google for so much of my work. Gmail. Google Drive (formerly Docs). The search engine. Google Calendar. Google Voice. Google Reader. Google Analytics. My Android phone, which is a Google brand. Occasionally Google Plus. Shoot, I’m totally Google-fied.

I mentioned Feedburner. I used that extensively, but when I saw that might not have long to live I took to managing my blog’s RSS feeds myself and went to MailChimp to send posts by email. I’m glad I did that, though I’m still a little chary about crapping up your email box like that. But if you want to subscribe to my stuff, that might be the way to go, hint hint.

(Note to self: Set up The Column on MailChimp, like I did with my flagship blog, creative&dangerous.)

With Google’s propensity for cutting services, you can almost set up a “dead pool” and pick what’s next to go. Maybe win whatever’s in the pot if you guess right. Hey, this might be a good office pool once everyone’s done with March Madness.

I don’t see Gmail going anytime soon. Nor Google Drive or Google Plus. That company invested too much of its reputation for those three. However, I am shifting most of my email traffic to my own Web domains and looking into other, in-the-cloud office options.

In truth, the Google project that would kill me is if Google Voice feels the nip of the executioner’s blade. So the fact Google killed off its Blackberry version in the latest sweep gives me pause.

Now, I use Google Voice as my business line, and it feeds directly into my cell phone. I also give that number to people who are not in my inner circle because it’s easy to screen calls with it. Shoot, I can make certain phone numbers go away if I needed to. If you’re hounded by bill collectors or the law, Google Voice may be your best friend.

But Google Voice going into a horrible death spiral hasn’t happened yet, and it may not. With Google, however, you never know. Not after Google Reader.

Meanwhile, I must find some alternatives to feed my news habit. It’s like my morning coffee; I get evil unless I’ve had my fix.

# # #

What say you? What do you use to read your news feeds? I’m talking about online and anything that’ll work with Android. Help a brother out.

Writers, editors really need their coffee

Never mind the cup, I'll slam it down just like that.

Ya think?

Got this from MediaBistro, who in turn got it from CareerBuilder … well, you know how this Internet thing works. Anyway, writers and media types are among the occupational groups who need coffee the most.

What a surprise!

Here are the top 10 coffee-loving occupational groups, according to a study commissioned by Career Builder and Dunkin’ Donuts:

1) Food Preparation/Service Workers

2) Scientists

3) Sales Representatives

4) Marketing/Public Relations Professionals

5) Nurses (Nurse, Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant)

6) Editors/Writers/Media Workers

7) Business Executives

8) Teachers/ Instructors (K-12)

9) Engineering Technicians/Support

10) IT Managers/Network Administrators

All's right at the editor's desk.

Not surprised at the food and beverage workers, either. Those folks have to go go go an awful lot, and I’m amazed the F&B employees aren’t holding out for something stronger.

Kind of surprised that police and other first-responders didn’t make the cut. A badge-wearing motorcycle-riding buddy of mine works traffic in a town near me, and we’d arm wrestle over that last cup.

I do have a few friends who are teachers, and yes, they’ll make repeated trips to the coffee urn.

But writers? No surprise whatsoever.

###

 

Neil Armstrong, first to walk on the moon dies

Decades after his walk, Armstrong remained an iconic figure. Which in itself is amazing.

Back around the 1960s Andy Warhol famously said that everyone is famous for 15 minutes. Now in the accelerated 2010s, that time factor has collapsed to about 90 seconds or so.

What tells volumes is that the first I heard of Armstrong’s passing from a social-media friend who isn’t quite 20 years old. In other words, his parents probably are not old enough to have seen the grainy black-and-white coverage of the moon landing as it happened. That’s part of being a pioneer.

###

Gettin’ snarky about writing ‘for exposure’

If you’re a writer or artist of any kind, you already know the drill: Someone wants you to work “for exposure.”

Or as we call it in our language, “for free.”

And it happened again …

“I won’t mention the name of the guy, his company or his website, because that’s not important. I don’t want to send more Web traffic his way because that’s his game and I don’t want to encourage him. But he approached my writer’s group with his proposition.

“Basically his company — a media outfit from some big city Up North — owns a bunch of really choice Web domain names and he needs some content to fill his pages. Preferably quality stuff that fills a niche and brings eyeballs to his Web pages so people can then click on some ads and make his company a pantload of money. Or something like that.

“In return, the writers get “exposure.” Their stuff gets out there where it can be read.

“I don’t know what y’all call it, but I call it a scam”.

Truth be told, I had fun writing it.

Check it out in its entirety at creativeanddangerous.com.

###

 

Chick-Fil-A boycott fail: Biggest. Day. Ever.

image

Yeah, that boycott of Chick-Fil-A sure seems to be working, yes? This photo was shot Wednesday afternoon at the restaurant in North Charleston. Cars wrapped twice around the building, with employees directing traffic flow and helping people back out of parking spots. Inside, the lobby was jammed. Lunch hour was a nightmare. The employees kept it together through it all; they maintained sunny attitudes and high-level service. The customers knew it would take a while to get lunch and expected the food to be assembled in a hurry, but so what? No one made a scene; everybody was cool. Yeah buddy. These folks who don’t like the company or what it stands for, they ought to boycott the place more often. Everybody just stayed away in droves, or something. ###

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.

###

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.