With people reeling over data security issues left, right and centre (are you annoyed with people using Signal, too?), it is worth reconsidering your data privacy settings and how you can protect your personal data better. Especially as a blogger and keen social medialist (is it a word??), I sometimes want to share a little on such topics; however, I had to learn these things the hard way, too, and am no expert. So, I am happy to share a guest post from TurnOnVPN here in which you find succinct and helpful tips to get your privacy data secured.
Whether an individual everyday user or an enterprise, data security, and privacy should be important to you.
With every passing day comes some tech to reduce the level of privacy that we enjoy on the internet. It could be browser fingerprinting, IP address tracking, intelligent cookie tracking, hacker attempts, or something else. Now is a good time to learn how to take control back into your own hands.
Know Phishing Signs
Phishing attacks are the most successful social hacks because of how they leverage user trust to work.
Whenever you get a message, email or call from a supposed company that you are affiliated with, beware of giving out sensitive information. Instead, go to their official websites/pages and initiate a customer service request to know if they truly reached out. Avoid clicking on links in emails too. Instead, type the official company address in your web browser by yourself.
Speaking of web browsers…
Choose Secure Browsers
There are a lot of browsers to choose from but they do not all focus on user privacy and security.
The best ones have been optimized against different kinds of ads, keeping you safe from malvertising and adware. Top browsers like Safari are also equipped to tackle browser fingerprinting and intelligent cookie tracking, among others. Picks like Mozilla Firefox and Brave browser are praised for their library of security features that can be enabled from the settings panel. When it comes to DuckDuckGo, the fact that they have a privacy-focused search engine makes all the difference. Although it could take some learning curve, Tor browser is not half bad either.
Install a VPN
There are numerous reasons why you should get a VPN app.
On the one hand, the fact that a VPN can change your IP address at will means identifying you on the internet becomes less probable. This prevents doxxing, allowing hackers to link you to a home network, or unravelling who is behind an account you might want to keep anonymous. Furthermore, VPN apps operate on a technology known as tunnelling, which passes your data through a lot of servers, making it impossible for hackers and scammers to track.
Beware of Wi-Fi Networks
Here is yet another section where VPNs find an application. Why, though?
Free and public Wi-Fi networks are almost everywhere these days. They provide the convenience of enjoying the internet without limits or worrying about incurring data costs. However, these networks are often unencrypted which makes it easy for hackers to come out to play. The lack of encryption means malware injection and data sniffing is possible. One way to avoid this is to stay away from the public and free Wi-Fi networks. In the case that you have to use them, layer your connection over a VPN to encrypt your internet traffic for that session.
Use Secure Websites
A secure website is usually denoted with a lock icon near its URL in the address bar. On some browsers, the address bar also turns a shade of green. On closer inspection of the URL, secure websites have HTTPs instead of HTTP – with the extra ‘S’ standing for ‘Secure.’ Secure websites have an SSL certificate which ensures data you are entering is safe to a large extent. When you don’t see that on a website, it is better to get off immediately.
You don’t have to spend hundreds to several thousands of dollars on cybersecurity when you can start with these tips. Most times, simple approaches like these are what you had been overlooking – and they are costing you a great deal of your privacy. Get started today and you’ll have a better privacy model for it.
In my lactation group the main topic, apart from bleeding nipples, is sleep. Every parent, it seems, struggles to get their offspring to fall asleep gently; napping terrorises the better half of the day, and we all know about the sleepless nights.
Why write this post here and not on the mummy page? you might ask. When you have a baby, sleep, invariably, becomes a topic, but I feel it is a massive issue with most people - children or not. And if we know that sleep is not only a topic for the smallest among us, is it possible that we, as parents, make it an issue, rather than it actually being one?
I have a book about sleeping and babies in which it says that tribal African women were asked what "bed routine" they have with their children. They were puzzled by the question and simply said, "they sleep when they are tired." As a society we seem constantly tired. Everyone is tired, all the time. It seems none of us get any sleep - children or not - measured from the level of tiredness around. I also hear "I really should go to bed earlier more often" from many, many people - so what's keeping us?
I have a theory. Ever since Lily came to this world, I have read plentiful on sleep. Sleep is about relinquishing control. Sleep is about letting go. Sleep is about loneliness. Sleep is about calmness. Sleep is about quietness. Sleep is about missing out on things.
Listing it as above, I am not surprised most people have an issue with sleep, for, in our society, hardly anyone is good at any of these things. Let's start at the bottom. FOMO, we've even got a word for it. The thought that we might miss something because we're going to bed early seems to be a major factor in the sleep conundrum. We're obsessed with dancing on all balls - even the ones we don't particularly like. But what do we really miss? Watching Netflix? Playing on our phones? Drinking? It seems to me these are all hardly things we should stay up for.
I am a very bad sleeper - partly because I love doing the things I just said above (apart from drinking). However, ever since Lily was born, I more than not went to bed with her at eight o'clock - and you know what? I didn't miss anything. I did, however, wake up at seven in the morning, feeling like a million dollars (for a new mum, which is still not great, but at least not a-truck-has-just-run-me-over-feeling like). Still, I sometimes even admonish myself for going to bed early, I could do so many things if I got up again, right? Also, I am scared of my thoughts.
Which brings me to the next point. Most people I encounter are terrified of being alone with their thoughts - which is also why the present situation is so difficult for so many, I assume. Permanent entertainment guarantees a swift and gapless transition without having to address the lurking thoughts bubbling underneath. Especially under the prevailing circumstances, I have noticed how many people I know are paralysed by the thought to be at home on their own all day - with their thoughts. Don't get me wrong, it can be depressing to be alone all day, it really can. As a freelance writer I am painfully familiar with that condition; however, silence and aloneness are not only pitfalls for depression. They can also be deeply replenishing, mindful and resourceful.
True genius is often borne of boredom, so I believe. Minds that are allowed to wander, to be idle and to venture into unknown territories are the ones who stumble over great ideas, reflections and thoughts - which is probably why so many people say their best ideas hit in their half-sleep. True, many of them seem to be much better during half-sleep and are simply rotten in an awake state, but it means we explore the possibilities of our thinking much deeper when our guards are down, when we're not in full control, when we've yielded full consciousness.
I am also intrigued why so many people want to try meditation these days. On the one hand I can understand that many of us crave a spiritual access to something; but most people I encounter wouldn't be able to sit still long enough for their minds to settle out of sheer fear what might be dredged up from their muddy memories. And before anyone starts believing I am this smug, enlightened beast shaming other people, I fully count myself as part of this category. It is insanely difficult for me to calm down, to quieten the mind, to sleep.
Another issue I encounter in myself but also feel is a bigger problem for the society at large, is relinquishing control. Sleeping means letting go. Letting go of control, the active mind, full consciousness, decisions. We enter a world where we don't know the rules, where there is no remote control or driving instructions - a world where anything could come up without us being able to shut it down. Being asleep means being vulnerable and vulnerability appears to be associated with weakness - don't drop the mask (the proverbial one, I mean), don't "lose your face", don't let them see your pain, "grit your teeth" - we have so many idioms centring around "keeping it together", yet hardly any that go among the likes of "show them the pain", "cry in public if you have to" or "admit that you feel hurt by what someone said." Being in full control of your emotions, your surroundings and, ideally, each and everyone in your vicinity seems to be the sought after state of mind - only that this is impossible to attain.
Speaking of idioms, ever heard of "surrender to sleep". It says plenty about the relationship we have with sleep. It's a battle and we lose if we fall asleep, we surrender. "Surrendering" also associates to weakness and vulnerability, doesn't it? And, more importantly, it is a negatively associated term. If you surrender you didn't win, and if you didn't win, you're a loser. Contrary to that, ironically, we perceive our babies (and ourselves as parents) as "losers", i.e. "bad sleepers" if they don't nod off gently the minute we put them down in their crib in their own bedrooms. Conversely, we are losers if we surrender to sleep, linguistically, and also losers if we are "bad sleepers". Sleep, as it seems, is a minefield in which one can only lose. Damned if you sleep and damned if you don't.
Sleep seems to have become a massive market because of the problems so many encounter with it. Have you noticed how many "sleep-aid" apps are around? Programs with subscriptions and the works, promising you sound sleep in exchange for more dependence on your phone and an outer source. In my opinion these programs only hold appeal because they give us the feeling to have any control about the whole sleep conundrum. That we can buy better sleep like brand sneakers or a status car. In a world where cities burn so bright that it never gets dark and we are told we can control everything from our heating even when we're not at home, our calorie intake with the right app to our screen time, is it any wonder we struggle to do one of the most fundamental things humans do?
I was tempted by such a sleep app, by the way, but when I saw how much the subscription was, I asked myself, Do I really need an app to help me fall asleep? In the end, I relied on the oxytocin from breastfeeding and the cuddly, warm baby on my belly to find into Morpheus's arms. Yoga, fresh air and an early dinner also help - oh, and why not give meditation another try? I've heard it helps with relinquishing control not only in the bedroom but other life areas, too. Personally, I could never be bothered with sitting motionlessly on my yoga mat, but it's still cheaper than an effing subscription to Calm where people teach you how to sleep.
Quickly returning to the baby issue before stopping with my rambling, if we as adults need an app to fall asleep, we shouldn't wonder if our babies need a minute or two as well. Relinquishing control here also means to accept that your baby isn't a machine where you press the buttons and it nods off, it's a human being like we are and maybe needs your assistance as much as you need the one of apps like Calm. And it's not just babies, we should allow ourselves to find gently into sleep as well - without an app but more appreciation of entering a state of controllessness and tranquillity.
There is no doubt that the coronavirus did not have massively positive impact on the lives of most people - even though I did also experience some positive effects from the pandemic. However, one globally positive impact was definitely how people behaved during this winter season and how little the flu (remember the good old flu) played a role this season. Maybe, just maybe, we've learnt how to keep the curve low on other viral diseases as well and learn for the future - but more on that on the guest post by Patriot Medical Devices.
Face Masks and Their Value During Flu Season
We know the deal with masks and COVID-19, but what role do they play in the midst of flu season? As COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly, masks are vital in slowing transmission rates. However, they don’t just protect against COVID-19: they are effective in reducing the transmission rates of many respiratory illnesses. The flu, like many respiratory illnesses, is spread through infectious respiratory droplets. Masks prevent those droplets from being exchanged between persons.
Research tells us that those infected with the flu are usually infectious one day before showing symptoms and around five to seven days after they start to exhibit symptomatology. In healthcare settings, surgical masks are used as protective measures between infectious individuals and staff. During the cold and flu season, pre-COVID, some clinics may have even asked symptomatic individuals to wear a mask in their waiting room. Prior to COVID-19, there were many reasons you did not see people wearing masks in the community. As the flu is not a new illness, we have many more medical interventions to prevent complications. However, as mentioned, masks are important in protecting against a variety of respiratory illnesses. Data this year shows that the use of masks and social distancing has had a large impact on the rates of the flu. The CDC reports a historical low of positive flu results, and the United States experienced a 98% decrease in influenza activity when compared to 2019. In part this decrease could be attributed to a decrease in individuals being tested for the flu, but it may also be attributed to the use of masks and social distancing.
When the world begins to move forward from the pandemic, masks will still play a vital role and can be utilized in both the community and healthcare settings.
Transmission Based Precautions.
Modes of transmission of virus causing COVID-19: implications for IPC precaution recommendations.
This article originally appeared on Patriot Medical Devices
I've always hated January. The drab weather, the biting cold and the Christmas cheer over. I used to cling to my Christmas tree until February when it was more of a dry stump than a festive decorative item and spent the month wailing for the month to be over.
Part of why I always hated January was also school-related. In secondary school January is the month where Christmas-hungover teachers squeeze in the last tests before the term ends; and in university it is the month in which all exams take place - as if the month wasn't depressing enough. Coupled with fog weighing down, darkness wrapping up the land and a bitter-cold chill cascading through the streets, it was the perfect recipe for a deep-seated depressive episode.
Even after I graduated from school and uni, the month never managed to fully pick up and be anything else than the most depressive time of the year, but this year I have a plan to make it less daunting and more enjoyable - yes, you read correctly, I am attempting to bring light into the darkest of the month, and do you know how I will attempt to do it? By embracing the darkness and not moaning about it.
Do you already have a face mask for every occasion? One for Christmas, one for date-night, the little black one? Quite unbelievingly (and involuntarily), face masks have become THE fashion accessory of 2020 and will most likely remain an integral part of our lives for the next year at least. But is there actually a difference in quality between cloth masks and disposable masks? Patriot Medical Devices have the answers for us in the guest post below.
COVID-19 left us in need of masks on a scale like never before. Cloth face coverings were the creative and economic solution for many. Being washable and reusable, they allow community members a cheap and convenient way to mask up. Let’s face it, they’re much more fashionable too! So, how do these cloth masks compare to others?
In theory, any mask worn correctly is better than no mask. In covering the mouth and the nose it prevents, to some extent, the exchange of respiratory droplets. However, the level of prevention largely depends on the type of mask. It is important to first differentiate between a non-surgical face mask and a surgical mask. Surgical masks are tested to meet certain standards and approved for clinical use. A cloth-mask would classify as a non-surgical face mask. While there is no testable standard for them, the CDC still recommends cloth masks as a mode of infection prevention in the community setting. The historical use of cloth masks and prior research shows that cloth masks are still effective in reducing infection rates.
While surgical masks are overall more effective, and are considered the gold standard by the CDC, the benefits of cloth face masks should not be overlooked. In reality, most of us are not actually using our disposable masks just once. We’re throwing them back into our purses and pockets, and then fishing them out the next time we need them. This is where cloth masks have their time to shine. We can throw the dirty one we just wore in the laundry to disinfect it, and then pick up a clean one for next time. It is important to note that not all cloth masks are created equal. If you are using a cloth mask, consider the fabric, number of layers, and fit. The most effective cloth mask will have a fabric with a tight weave, multiple layers, and one that cups tightly around the face. This will most securely block your respiratory droplets from contaminating other individuals and surfaces.
If you are opting for a disposable mask, be sure to check whether it is a surgical mask or a non-surgical face mask. Surgical masks will offer the most protection, both for yourself and others. Surgical masks are tested by The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). They are tested for bacterial filtration, particle filtration, synthetic blood splatter, flammability, and breathability. Surgical masks are sorted into three levels, ATSM 3 offering the highest degree of protection. If you’re looking for a quality, comfortable mask, Patriot Medical Devices makes ATSM 3 surgical masks that offer the highest level of protection against particles and fluids!
For my English and American readers, this post may be a little bewildering, but I've been recently asked various times why I put up my Christmas tree so early (mid-December) and here's why.
In Austria, can you believe it, it is customary to only decorate the tree on the 24th of December, maybe the 23rd. I have never quite understood why, as the day of Christmas Eve is stressful enough without having to trim the tree, right?
When I first had my own Christmas tree in our first flat, I put it up two weeks prior to Christmas, and I've done so ever since. I know that in America and the UK, it is pretty much normal to put up the tree so early, and I can only advocate it, so why do I do it the British-American way and not adapt to the Austrian way?
I am a sucker for Christmas, like my mother. For me there is nothing more wonderful than the festive season and I cannot get enough Falalalala in the running up to Christmas. I love it all. Christmas music, punch, choosing presents for everyone, wrapping, baking cookies, putting up fairy lights, choosing a tree - it is an immense joy for me and our entire family.
The Christmas tree symbolises this festive cheer perfectly, in my opinion, as it twinkles with lights, shows off my most precious baubles and emanates that Christmassy forest smell I love so much. So why not make the most of it?
As much as I love Christmas, I love pre-Christmas even more. The run-up to the holiday, the time of cocoa, snuggling up, lighting the advent wreath, opening the calendar, enjoying looking at the tree while watching Christmas movies. It's truly the most wonderful time of the year. A Christmas tree makes every living room cosier - in fact, I chose to put up THREE Christmas trees this year, one in the kitchen, the balcony and the living room - so I bring in this Christmassy warmth as early as a real-life tree allows (and I absolutely hate fake trees, I mean, what's the point).
So while most Austrians can only admire their trees from the 24th December to the 6th January, I can relish the Christmas season already, and my heart warms every time I look at the twinkling tree, hailing Christmas.
We survived the coronavirus, thank God! A few weeks back my sister was tested positive after they had an outbreak at her work and everyone in my family (except for my Mum, the medical wonder), caught it. Even our four-month-old daughter, Lily.
Thankfully, we all only had mild cases, actually like a mild cold. Lily had a high temperature for one day and threw up a few times, but that was it. To be honest, I've had colds that were worse than that, but the mental impact of the two weeks were indescribable for me.
I never really feared the coronavirus. I took it seriously and am an advocate for the measures taken to prevent it from spreading; but it never really touched my life personally and I didn't expect it to be a big deal for me.
Until it suddenly was very personal. I had actual panic attacks, being completely catatonic that I or Lily might die, up to the point where I was convinced that would actually happen. Even after she was brought to the children's hospital to have her checked through (just as a precaution), I was convinced she would have to die - or I would and leave her alone.
Inching towards thirty, I have noticed that my body and, particularly, my skin do not forgive as readily as ten years ago.
While aging may not be the most pleasant experience, the memories, experiences, and life lessons we learn along the way are invaluable. But what if someone told you there are ways to stop, or at least limit, the symptoms of aging. With help from specific vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, we can help rewind our body’s biological clock by replenishing valuable nutrients that we lose with age. That being said, aging is inevitable, and symptoms are almost impossible to avoid altogether. If anything, utilizing this collection of nutrients can help improve quality of life and raise bodily optimization.
With the coronavirus pandemic still raging in pretty much every country worldwide, it is still astonishing how many people seem to be confused on how to wear them properly (the nose hangs out, it's actually not ON the face but on the chin, etc. etc.). It has been explained various times by various studies and virologists that masks, in fact, do help to contain the virus. Therefore, it is pivotal to bear that in mind and wear a mask when you go close to people. In the light of that I am happy to share a post by Patriot Medical Devices on How Do Face Masks Work, starting in the next paragraph. If you haven't got the memo on why to wear them, this is your chance to read up, and if you've already mastered it, there's nothing wrong with brushing up the basics, so let's get reading.
At the start of the pandemic, there were mixed messages on whether or not the public should be wearing face masks. This left many wondering if face masks work and why they should bother wearing one. The good news is, they do help protect us! While the guidelines for COVID-19 may be rapidly developing, and confusing us all, we can look to other well established healthcare guidelines to understand how face masks protect us from becoming infected and infecting others. So, what exactly do these masks do?
As a freelancer there are, unfortunately, many more things to consider than just the creative outlet, and internet security is among them. Protecting your business and yourself from phishing, scams and knowing which tools can help you is an immense support when setting up your business. TurnOnVPN specialises in internet security and I am happy to share a post highlighting how the scary way into freelancing can become a little easier.
The freelance economy is booming – and we are not even at the peak of that curve yet. In the time since the start of the pandemic, there has been a push to freelancing for many people, which isn’t surprising, considering many workers are in furlough.
If you are looking for work as a freelancer, though, know that it is not all rosy. Those that have been freelancing for a while are aware of the challenges, but you are just starting in the field. An understanding of the dangers you might face – and how to tackle them – will do you a lot of good.
Common Challenges for Freelancers
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.