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The Optimist Realist Posts

Maybe a Man-Eating Lion

Dennis Prager summed it up well in a recent interview with Dave Rubin on the Rubin Report podcast. The choice on November 8, 2016. was not between Trump and Clinton. Rather, it was between Trump and the Left. Prager likened the choice as having to choose between two doors. One had a sign over it that said, “Man-eating Lion”. The other (the Trump door), had a sign that said, “Maybe a Man-eating Lion”.

Like Prager, if I was American and had a right to vote, I would have voted for “Maybe a Man-eating Lion”. I would have voted for Trump.

Hope and Change

Why was I so against what the Left was offering America via Hillary Clinton? Because it was much more of the same, and really a further progression down the road towards a society that would be fundamentally broken.

Trump’s campaign themes were “hope and change”.
Trump offered real hope and real change to Americans, and throughout the country, people heard him and joined the movement. Obama also famously campaigned on hope and change, but then delivered neither. After eight years of Obama, Americans had far less hope for the future and nothing fundamentally changed. In fact, things got worse. Unemployment continues to be above 20% according to ShadowStats.com as people literally give up on trying to find a job and are simply not counted anymore in the official US Government employment numbers.

Obamacare increased health insurance costs for many and the mandate meant that those who couldn’t afford it were fined and had to pay to not have insurance. The much talked about economic recovery averaged 1.5% per year during the eight years of Obama’s presidency. That’s the weakest recovery performance of any president since World War II, and the fourth weakest in US history.

That doesn’t mean that I am a fan of Trump, or that I agree with everything he says. But that hasn’t stopped people from calling me a “Trump lover” or worse. In the months since the election, I’ve noticed a real interesting effect when I “come out” and make positive comments about Trump or negative comments about the Left. “Oh, you are one of them?” or “So you support Trump?” and then everything changes. People stop talking to me, or start throwing nasty comments my way. It’s quite amazing.

Even writing is a bit of a scary proposition for me. It’s okay though…I can take it. Unlike the Left, I’m open to the fact that people have different ideas and opinions from mine. I don’t shout people down or intimidate them. I don’t call people fascist, or a Nazi, or racist if they express a different point of view. In fact, others’ views don’t really affect how I think about them at all.

Classical liberalism

I am not a true conservative despite the fact that I now have a membership card for the Conservative Party of Canada in my wallet. I’m a classical liberal. I believe in free speech. I believe that you should be able to love whoever you want. I think all people deserve to get paid the same thing for contributing the same value to their employer. I think all people are the same, no matter where they come from, or what they look like. I think less regulation and less government interference is better than a lot of regulation and government telling me or anyone what to do or think.

Things I don’t believe in include shutting down free speech through violent protest. If you don’t like what someone is saying, either ignore them, or debate them. If you disagree with what an elected government is doing, make your voice heard. Protest and share your opinions and then vote.

Anti-free speech protestors at Berkeley promising war.
Sadly, the Left seems incapable of showing any sort of tolerance of late. Rather, they refuse to accept the outcome of a fair election in the United States of America. They shout down and shut down any events where the ideas being presented are different from theirs. They stir up hatred and try to incite race wars.

More to learn

I’ll continue to try to better understand the world we live in by listening to more voices that talk about the issues. That means exposing myself to debate and opinions on both sides. I’d never vote for her, but I’m happy to hear what someone like Kellie Leitch has to say, and I’m excited to see what Maxime Bernier brings to the table for the Conservative Party of Canada.

Looking south to the US, and east towards Europe, I’m very interested to see how things play out. I’m hopeful that the US will come out of the next four (or eight) years of President Trump in a far better place than the country is in today. I also fear for the future of Europe as they attempt to deal with the migrant crisis that very clearly has the potential to rip apart the EU and potentially destroy some great countries like France, Germany and the Netherlands.

There’s lots to learn which means I’ll be doing a lot of listening and reading of different opinions and views.

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Why I Left the Left

This pretty much explains the bizarro world in which I now find myself living. I literally have a Conservative Party of Canada membership card in my wallet with my name on it, but I consider myself a liberal. It didn’t make much sense to me when I sent my $15 and joined, but I felt that the Conservatives best represented how I saw things.

This video explains it very well.

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The End of Social Media

Crazy prediction time: I think 2017 will mark the year that social media began a significant decline.

I’m seeing many blog posts and stories on the mainstream media about people checking out of Twitter, Facebook and other services. Millennials already don’t use them in a lot of cases and Generation X is getting a clue as to why. It’s a waste of time, energy and it’s terrible for your mental health.

My own experience with quitting recently has been positive. I don’t miss Twitter, and I never really cared for Facebook anyways. Instagram is still enjoyable, but that’s a carefully curated stream of photos of things I want to see and nothing else.

Imagine if Twitter declined to the point that it was no longer relevant. Would you miss it? I think the only thing I thought I was giving up was the ability to get news updates and real-time information about services I use like the TTC and some web services.

It turns out that most of that was noise. It seemed useful, but in reality it was a stream that contained far too much useless and unimportant information to be really useful. I thought I needed to know, but the truth is, I didn’t.

Here’s a challenge for you: go a week without using Twitter and/or Facebook. After seven days, honestly assess whether you’ve gained or lost from the experience.

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I’m Out

I think I’m done with social media.

I don’t check Facebook anymore. The app is gone from my phone and the bookmark is gone from my browser favourites. Every one of my “friends” has been unfollowed. In Facebook parlance, that we are still “friends”, but I don’t see any of their posts, likes, and other Facebook activity like article shares.

I held onto the Facebook Messenger app since some friends use that to contact me now and then. I’ll check a lone Facebook group now and then for the Sunday running routes.

On Twitter, I’ve unfollowed pretty much everyone. My timeline consists of TTC notices, and tweets from a few select people and services whose tweets I find interesting. If the TTC provided those notices some other way, I’d probably kick Tweetbot to the curb as well. I’ll see if I still check those updates. I think I probably won’t.

What I used to see on Facebook years ago is vacation photos, some updates on friends lives, a birthday, some pics of a dog or cat, maybe a Dailymile run or two. You know, actual stuff that I’m interested in hearing about so I can get a glimpse into the lives of people I care about.

What I get now is endless shared articles, mostly political, hurled into a vast echo chamber. For years I’ve been carefully pruning my Facebook feed through the “hide all from website” feature. Hide all from BuzzFeed. Hide all from Huffington Post. Hide all from OMG Facts. You get the idea.

It’s become too much. Despite my constant pruning, Facebook insists on showing me article after article about how the world is ending, and how society is breaking down around me.

Do I blame Facebook? No. Because that is literally all it has to show me. That’s all people post these days. See an article, share on Facebook. Comment. Like. Shake head. Rant and rave. #whatever.

Twitter is the same thing.

OMG, this is INSANE! Retweet some celebrity going on about some cause. Someone died. RIP. So sad. Some company gave me bad service. Call them out with “Hey @starbucks…” so everybody knows that Starbucks messed up my latte in some awful way. RT to try to win some contest.

I’ve been guilty of some of this over the years. It’s too easy to just type out 140 characters and send it out into the world without thinking whether a) it needed to be said, or b) anyone either read it, or cared.

I write a blog post, link to it on Twitter, see a few likes, and when I check analytics, it turns out that nobody actually read the post. What’s the point? There isn’t one.

No time to actually read or learn or investigate or come to your own conclusions. Read clickbait headline, retweet and like. Repeat.

The value of these social networks to me has been diminishing and a tipping was reached where I don’t think the value I get out of being a part of it is greater than the cost I’m paying in time and mental health. Ironically it was #BellLetsTalk that really pushed me over the edge and got me thinking about quitting.

I’ll keep my accounts for now, but don’t expect any posts on Facebook or Twitter from me. If you need to reach me, Twitter direct messages aren’t a good way anymore. I’ll be on Signal, iMessage or Facebook Messenger (if you must).

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How I Secure My MacBook Pro

Securing a computer is a balancing act. On one hand, if you go for complete security of your data, you’ll be annoyed by repeated password entries and other hassles. On the other hand, if you rid yourself of even a few of those pesky little hassles, it compromises security.

Who cares?

If you wondering why it even matters, think about what you have on your computer right now. I bet you have easy access to your email account(s), photos, probably a year or more of your browsing history and logged in sessions for your online banking, and who knows what else.

Would you hand your computer to a stranger, walk away for an hour and let them dig around? Of course not. Losing it or having it stolen is the same thing except it’s more than an hour, and the person with your laptop is going to be looking for more than your bathroom selfies.

It’s all about balance

I’ve got what I think is a pretty good balance now. Here’s how I’m set up:

I have a good user account password for my MacBook. It’s long, contains things other than lower case letters but it’s still memorable enough that I can type it in if required.

The user account password on a Mac is almost useless if someone gets physical control of your computer as it can be bypassed without much effort. With that in mind, I also have a firmware password set. My firmware password is not the same as my user password, it isn’t very memorable and I store it safely in 1Password in case I ever need to use it.

I also have FileVault full-disk encryption enabled. That means my full hard drive is encrypted and protected from prying eyes, even if someone clones the drive or steals my whole computer.

‘Unattended’ consequences

None of those things do much if I leave my Mac logged in and unattended. To mitigate this risk, I have fairly aggressive screensaver and lock settings. My screensaver starts after one minute and my computer locks five seconds after the screen saver is activated. Closing the lid puts my Mac to sleep and locks it immediately.

For example, if I’m sitting at my desk and don’t interact with my Mac for a minute, the screensaver starts. I have five seconds to flick the trackpad and clear the screensaver before it locks my Mac, requiring the password.

When I leave my desk, my computer is vulnerable for the first minute and five seconds which is probably not the end of the world where I work. I sometimes use the “hot corners” feature of macOS to instantly start the screensaver if I am leaving my desk, or I use Alfred to quickly start it from the keyboard.

The ‘key’ to reducing password entry annoyance

Entering my user password a few dozen times a day is a bit of a pain point, so I invested in a Yubikey 4 USB key. This little device works with macOS Sierra and when it’s plugged in to one of the USB ports on my Mac, the requirement for my user password is reduced to a requirement to enter a 6-digit numeric pin which is quick and easy to type.

1Password

As noted above, I also use 1Password to help keep all my online accounts secure. I have unique, long, unmemorable passwords on every online service I use, and I rely on the 1Password browser extension to log me into the various accounts on my Mac and the 1Password app on my iPhone.

The Yubikey 4 offers some additional convenience for 1Password. While there isn’t the full support I’d like for these type of hardward keys, the Yubikey 4 in particular can store a static password that it will enter on demand by pressing a button on the key.

I have my 1Password password stored in the Yubikey and when the 1Password extension asks for my password, I touch the button on my key for a few seconds and the Yubikey 4 types the password in for me, and hits enter. That allows me to to set the lock delay for 1Password to a much shorter duration as it removes the annoyance of having to type a long password in every time I want to use the extension.

Balance achieved

Overall I’m finding this to be a workable balance. My MacBook Pro is locked and secured behind good passwords when it is unattended. When I do need to log in, the Yubikey makes it much less annoying by lowering the requirement to a PIN.

If my laptop is stolen while closed, I’m covered. The data is encrypted and locked away. My user account is safe. Inside the office, my data is safe from snoopers by enforcing a quick account lock. I never store the Yubikey with my MacBook unless it’s plugged into the USB port. If I leave my MacBook on my desk at the office, I take the Yubikey with me. When my MacBook is in a bag over my shoulder, the Yubikey is in my pocket on a keyring.

Total investment was about $40 USD for the Yubikey, $5USD/month for 1Password Family, and some time getting the various screensaver and lock timings set up.

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