Archive for January, 2014

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MORE PEOPLE; LESS CARS

January 21, 2014

Yes, after one year I can say from experience, one can live in the city without a car JUST FINE.

Yes, I walk more.  Yes, I’ve learned the Metro Transit sytem is a great alternative to a car ESPECIALLY in this almost-old-fashioned winter of sub-zero temperatures and lots of snow.

Yes, car-sharing services are convenient and easily fill in for those times when the bus means multiple transfers.  Even this December/January, I will spend far less on Hour Car  than in my old auto life of monthly expenses from depreciation to insurance to garage rental, to gas, maintenance, and general parking fees.

Yes, sometimes it takes a little pre-planning but certainly not even the time one normally wastes at the service station or “circling” looking for a parking space.

As for those times I’d like the convenience of a cab without feeling robbed?  NOW THAT’S A DIFFERENT STORY!  Case in point: returning to Minneapolis after the holidays, I chose to cab it from the airport instead of hopping on the light-rail – just because I was juggling a few more items.  Big mistake.  With tip, it was almost $60- more than it cost for the shuttle from Rochester to Minneapolis!  When one is used to light rail at 75 cents, $60 seemed astronomical!  I learned my lesson.

I admit, if cabs were more available, however, I would consider them an option home after an evening gathering…but the wait or the walk from wherever I am to a hotel nearby that MAY have a cab available usually means I am half way home before I find one…at that point, it is just much easier to keep on walkin’! 

 

 

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A QUESTION FOR LEE SCHAFER

January 19, 2014

I have a question for Lee Schafer of the STRIB who is representative of one of many reporters continuing to diss Target and its president for a slow and uninformative response to its recent customer data breach.

Your description of the incident, although very detailed, did not mention the Federal Alert that was sent to Target and many other retailers advising that their customer systems may have been compromised by Koptaxa.  A recent STRIB article reported that Target’s timeline of announcement came on the same day as they received the government announcement.

Were you able to verify that as earlier reported, Target did indeed discover the breach on the same day they received the alert from the US government?    You describe Target as “playing it safe”; but make no mention of any directions from the federal government about what to look for, how to report it nor how to handle.

I ask only because other breaches were announced significantly later than Target – for instance, Neiman Marcus- who was alerted to the potential problem on the same day Target was  and yet, we have seen little criticism  of their slow response several days AFTER that of Target’s.

The STRIB also reported that several banking institutions were previously victims hit by this same  malware as far back as 2009.  I do my banking at one of those institutions, and the first I was aware of that breach was in the last week.  Now that is what I would call “playing it safe” as you have described Target doing.

You may be entirely correct to assume that Target’s appearance on CNBC was driven by investment concerns, but so far, I have seen little released on what these companies were instructed to do.

 For me that does not mean they showed no concern for their customers-it simply means the Press may not have (or are not sharing) all the facts.  Likewise, I believe the only retailer most recently impacted that is offering credit protection and other steps to help their customers deal with the crisis is Target…although several banking institutions are stepping up to the plate and reissuing cards….finally.

Instead of looking for things to criticize, I would think that have been enough books, publications, and discussions released over the last 5-6 years cautioning about potential dangers as we blindly move forward into a new century and a whole new digital age that it would be to the STRIB reader’s benefit to take advantage of this crisis with Target to share some of those discussions as well.   You might start with THE NEW DIGITAL AGE by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen.  It does not paint a totally positive picture, but it certainly gives every reader a wealth of “food for thought” on where we are headed.  Anyone who has read it is not surprised by NSA or this latest retail crisis.  

 

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KAPTOXA

January 17, 2014

Interesting update this morning on the behind-the-scene- activities realted to malware used to infest the Target system.

It appears this is an international malware with origins in Russia.  Both Eastern Europe and Brazil have been targeted back as far as 2009.

Confidential reports from the US government were distributed to retailers on December 18 and that same day, Target discovered their system had indeed been breached.  Perhaps one should assume that it was GOOD Work on the part of Target if they identified they had a problem on the same day that the US Government sent them a warning that it could happen…obviously, it took Neiman Marcus weeks to discover the same.

Yesterday, the blogger Brain Krebs who broke the Target story updated his information of how the breach was accomplished at Target.  The Ukrainian suspect names “Rescator” is key to the Target heist; the Russian Group IB of BlockPOS software used known online as Antikiller is the creator.

This same software may have been used in earlier bank heists including US Banks, Chase, Capital One and Citibanks.  THAT reminded me of an incident I had with my US Bank account in 2009. Amends were quickly made but no explanation given by US Bank at the time.  I assumed it was an isolated case, and handled- but in view of this morning’s news – perhaps not!

Target is now scheduled to appear at House hearings in early February for Congress to learn “when did it happen, who knew, and why the silence”.

From my perspective, in view of information learned today, I am thinking that once again, in search of the scoop and ratings, the American Press may well have jumped to conclusions, made Target a culprit instead of a victim.

The recent Press posturing of questions on WHY has Target been relatively quiet on coming forward may be taking on quite a different light based on what we are hearing this morning.   My guess is that they have been cooperating with the US government – not trying to cover-up a bad system.

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FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY of ISES – MN CHAPTER

January 17, 2014

Nice job on part of this year’s Board in reaching out to Minnesota ISES members over the last fifteen years; was great to see so many old friends from those days of BUILDING the chapter.

Unfortunately, not so good job of matching appropriate entertainment and sound levels to event purpose; nor of making adjustments as the space filled with murmuring complaints.  Nevertheless- a good “lesson learned” for the future and with a little perseverance, we were able to “overcome” and carry on!

So in spite of the sound barrier, the chapter Founders think we have finally sorted out and resolved the issue of how many of us were there and who were we!

The Chapter was founded by FOUR companies:  Creative Events by Kranz, Design Group, Destinations, and Mintahoe.  Part of a local group of event professionals active on the national level, we were determined to bring a chapter to Minnesota.

NEVERTHELESS, the actual “Perkins for Breakfast Group” numbered FIVE individuals:  Johlene Ihle from Mintahoe, Becky Harris from Destinations, Michelle Kramer and Diana Brash from Design Group(representing Nancy Jacobs), and Cheryl Kranz of Creative Events by Kranz. 

So perhaps we can put to bed this fifteen year debate of how many founders there were!  It depends – companies or people!

Past Presidents were recognized last night at the anniversary event – but only totaled 12 names – creating additional questions.  Jolene shed some light on part of that:  Because of the timing of when we reached the magic number of 30 and were officially chartered by ISES National President, Tim Lundy, at the Goodfellows event hosted by Mark Grassini, the first year covered TWO years.  Becky Harris, the first President served an 18 month term instead of a 12 month term.  That helps explain the discrepancy, but we still could not get to 14 names of Presidents…so that remains an open question.

And one more time, hope your ears were buzzing, Mark Grassini, as attending members of the original Programs Committee (Jolene, Jean, Cheryl) reminisced about how effectively we delivered on our “TWO STANDARD OBJECTIVES” for every chapter meeting in those 18 months, more than once we shared stories of our favorite “Ring Master” and comments  of “ wish Mark was here”!

 

 

 

 

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THE LAST STRAW

January 11, 2014

The continuing-to-unfold story of the Target data breach this morning quoted a consumer as saying…”This is the Last Straw”.

Really?  Come on, folks.  This is not the END; this is the beginning or at least I hope so!  Yes, I hope this is the beginning of the real understanding of the Digital World.

We’ve heard for months about Snowden and the NSA.  Most feel they do not want the government to even have phone numbers that could be eventually tracked to you – whether or not it is associated with a name when it is gathered.

And yet, until you hear of a breach, you have no problem with corporate America’s invasive disruption of your life 24 hours a day for all the information they gather on you.  For instance, this is the fourth day in a row that I have received an e-mail or popup ad on Facebook from a vendor – all because I checked the cost of ordering a new supply of contact lens solution on Amazon.com.  That information was harvested, sent to interested parties, and is now driving me crazy!

My office is filled with articles and books discussing the Digital Age that is upon us…Yup; it does a lot of good.  Yup, it has some significant downfalls.  Yup, we just want to ignore the implications…until we get an unauthorized charge on our credit card at Target – and then we make Target the culprit – not the system itself!

And, most interesting, there have also been comments this week suggesting that the government needs to do a better job regulating and protecting us from this.  So now, in addition to trying to keep us from harm from terrorists and other governments, the US government should do a better job of monitoring what every corporation and hacker in the US is doing?  But, of course, please do it without getting OUR phone number in that gigantic data base!  Do you really think this makes sense?   

This time, it’s Target and it’s based in Minnesota so we are hearing a LOT more about it because it impacts us in more than just the data breach.  Target is going the “extra mile” in my book, to be the “good neighbor” as they search for the full story on the consequences.  Financially, those impacted will have “zero liability” from damage plus Target has offered free credit monitoring and identity theft protection for customers for a year. It will be expensive to meet those promises, but at least outwardly, they have accepted the responsibility for something not caused by them. Because the truth is, if NSA can be breached by a disgruntled egotistical citizen, do you really believe that corporations can ENSURE that they will have no breaches in their systems?   

So from my perspective at least, I welcome the Target breach so close on the heels of the NSA crisis  – hoping that the two together will be enough to finally start a real conversation!

  • How do we as The World move forward in the Digital Age?
  • How many of our old 20th century expectations will be necessarily compromised to move forward?
  • Where’s the acceptable balance?  Where are the tradeoffs?

Then once we recognize and understand the new realities of the Digital World, perhaps we can have a meaningful discussion about what that means in government, in commerce, in personal lives. Where is the balance between convenience and protection; what is needed to achieve that balance.

  • We knew this was coming in the 1990s; we created a fear of Y2K that never happened and then we forgot about it. 
  • We knew this was upon us in the 2000s and we were too busy fighting 19th and 20th century-based wars to do anything about it…except to create the NSA.
  • We have not addressed it so far in the 2010s. But we certainly are wrapped in the impacts!

Only when we accept both the possibilities and problems of the Digital Age that are upon us will we understand there is work to be done.  We have to clear the way for the conversations, collaboration, and creative thinking/design that we need to participate in the future.

It is time, folks.  Let’s make 2014 the year America finally quits pointing fingers and realizes there is work to be done.  We have a whole new way of life before us and we need to adjust our old world thinking to accommodate it.  It’s time to move forward NOW before we destroy ourselves and our planet.

 

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PONDERINGS

January 9, 2014

SNOWDON AND THE NSA

A short STRIB feature this morning raised a thought-provoking question as debate continues on the NSA and the FISA courts.

Apparently, the general consensus is that the Supreme Court represents some of the least tech-savy people in the country.  www.startribune/politics/national/239124211.html  Reading the article, it becomes clear why there is controversy over Snowdon as a whistleblower vs. a traitor, as well as a growing discussion on why similar activities conducted by commercial and corporate entities (especially world-wide-web participants) are acceptable but less-intrusive government data gathering is not.

Even members of the Supreme Court are suggesting a reliance on the Fourth Amendment to resolve this issue in cases currently bubbling up in the system may not be the answer to resolving these issues of the 21st century.

In a way, that is comforting as it does point out the wisdom of the founding fathers as they drafted the constitution to become guiding principles, but at the same time allowed for amendments as necessary to change it to cover unforeseen future circumstances.

On the other hand, can you imagine the angst, emotion, and drama that would accompany any movement to amend the Constitution to clarify this issue in our world today?  I am afraid it would rank up there with slavery, women’s rights and the civil rights movement in terms of tearing the country apart.

ISRAEL AND REFUGEES

Keep an eye on this one…at least on the surface, the “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” mantra does not seem to be applicable – at least in all cases.

It is surely a complicated question that does indeed confront the Jewish state with key questions about its identity, who is a refugee, and do Jews have a special duty to be accommodating in light of their own history.

It does not appear to be a black/white issue; there have been attempts at accommodation; there have been concerns; and definitely there has been unequal treatment of Christian and Muslim refugees.

Sadly, as I read it, I could not help but draw some parallels to our country and our conflicted stance of  freedom and immigration – especially in view of the fact the US was also founded by early settlers often looking for refuge from persecution….and in so doing, created tremendous conflicts with the indigenous peoples already living in the land we wanted.  And yet, we are not always welcoming to those modern immigrants seeking refuge in what we built as a white man’s world.

 

AN ECONOMIC WORD GAME

A New York Times report on Obama’s comments yesterday following the Senate decision to debate the Jobless Benefits bill pointed out a truism that actually made me smile.

Yes, there is a careful “balance” going on in the 2014 message of “despite an improving economy, too many people are being left behind.”

The NY Times ended the article by citing critics calling it a “muddled economic message the White House has been delivering for years under Obama”.

And yes, the economic is not a right/wrong or black/white situation…it is a mixture.  There is not just a single“right” answer;  the situation is complex.

We are too used to right vs. wrong with no nuances depending on our own political leanings along with the color of our skin.  We forget there is truth and fiction in both.

So perhaps that is why I see Obama and the way he thinks as a mixture of white and African-as a good thing. He, like our world, is complicated.  He, like our world, challenges both sides.  That, in my mind, makes him a good leader.

Maybe we are so critical of him only because it is scary – because whether we agree or disagree, we cannot go backwards.   There is no winner in black vs white or left wing vs right wing.

The way forward for success in the future is collaboration – from which will come a better way than either stance today.

OIL, PIPELINES, TRAINS and the MIDDLE EAST

We’ve tipped the scale; most of our oil comes from within our own country today; North Dakota is booming; jobs are plentiful…all good things.

Enter the pipeline vs environment debates and the reality of unsafe trains causing concern over hazardous materials…one more time, proof there is often on easy answer to almost anything in today’s world!

Then another question popped into my head to confuse the situation more.  With our capacity increasing, it is creating more self-sufficiency in terms of fuel.  What is that impact on the US relationship with the Middle East?  As far as I know, we have not heard much discussion on that.

  But obviously, if we produce most of our own oil, we are not reliant on the Middle East and that could well mean less dollars are flowing there from us – despite  financial help to various countries in need.  We most likely no longer carry the mantra of Good Customer in the Middle East – we have become something else.  Are we SURE that it is the tensions of “Obama’s” US policy goals alone that has changed the tone and attitudes?    Food for thought as you listen to the next rant from your favorite commentator claiming Obama’s approach is not working well.

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THE REPUBLICANS and NEW VOTER ID LAWS

January 6, 2014

Despite being raised in a home deeply divided on the issue of color and race, my first political leanings were toward the Democrats.  In the 1950s when I learned in school that the Southern “Dixiecrats” were ejected from the Democratic party, I thought, “Good, if the Democrats took a stand against this evil, then I want to be one. “  At the same time, however, with the simple reasoning of a child, I was really confused about why these people were given a new home among the Republicans.  If the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, freed the slaves, why were 1950-60s Southern Republicans so mean to the Negroes?  The whole thing was totally confusing to me- especially since my view of the South was the view of Tara as painted in Gone with the Wind!

Unfortunately, all these years later, with a lot more knowledge, a lot more debate, the Civil Rights Act, an African-American President, and a prediction for my metro area up here in Minnesota- the northern-most state in the first 48 – that by 2040, our population mix will reverse and whites will become a minority group-nothing has really changed. 

It seems we hear every day of another example of the residual trash that was not taken care of in the Civil War or in the ensuing 150 years that followed as non-whites in the US struggled to become “treated as equals”.

Nevertheless, It has taken me a lifetime to really understand that the white supremists-by any political name-are simply in-bred, self-righteous people who NO MATTER WHAT, believe they are superior to the rest of the world.  Today they reside primarily in the Republican Party.   I believe they still reside there because Republicans have elected to accept their support –not on principle-but in order to win. It’s a familiar theme.  WINNING IS EVERYTHING AT ALL COSTS.

So here we are STILL battling the problem.

But there is good news as well for those of us non-Republicans.  Instead of political affiliation or emotion, we now have supporting non-political research results that show the tougher Voter ID laws are part of a GOP strategy to win the 2014 election by keeping minority and low income voters away from the polls “despite the fact that widespread voter impersonation is virtually non-existent.”

In fact, what that research did reveal is the strong correlation between restrictive new laws and states where the Republicans control the legislature/governor’s offices- helping to expose this is indeed a Republican movement.

My original question based on Lincoln has faded away.  No longer a youthful innocent, I can almost accept that Republicans know voter impersonation is non-existent but it does not matter.  If constituents believe it, and laws are passed to suppress this nonexistent crime, Republicans have a better chance of winning.

No, my questions today are not about principle.  My new paradox is how do these people reconcile this white supremest position with their “strong Christian faith”? 

Have they ever been to the Holy Land…visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Sea of Galilee, Egypt?  How do they reconcile their good Christian views with reality?  The people they see living there were not white 2000 years ago and now have just overdone their “tans” today.  Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the Three Wise Men from the Orient,  the Twelve Disciples, or Mary Magdalene, Lazarus or Paul were not white nor were they speaking English with southern drawls.

Is their reality totally supported only from medieval religious paintings from the King James version of the Bible?