Hobbies And Pastimes And Finding Flow

Flow is a state where you don’t have to really think about what you’re doing.  You just….do.  You are.  You become your activity.  It becomes a state of meditation almost.  Our society is so overcome by stresses and depression that we have to get back to our roots – this is one of the best ways to overcome these obstacles and find more relaxation and happiness.

Personally I love to surf.  This is my main hobby – I find it extremely meditative and relaxing.  It also gives me the endorphine boost that good exercise typically offers to us humans.  When I’m surfing I find that my mind is completely occupied – I don’t usually sit there dwelling on thoughts or problems.  I find that my mind kind of zones out in the way that most meditation practitioners seek.

I also find it fun to immerse myself in surf culture and collect surf type items.  For example, surf watches and tide watches are an excellent way to stay in tune with surfing even if you’re off doing something completely different.  For some reason having a tide watch makes me feel connected to the ocean even though I’m not there.  It’s a reminder of something I really love and am passionate about, and therefore it’s a great thing to have around.  And hey, it tells me the time.

If you have something you’re passionate about, why not buy some items that remind you of this passion on a regular basis?  If you love running, get yourself a running themed mug or shirt.  Or simply wear your running shoes around town.  If you like painting, take photos of things that you might want to paint at some point.  If you love dogs, get yourself a dog keychain.

It’s easy to stay connected to the things you love if you can simply try to remind yourself that there are better things out there waiting for you, especially if you’re stuck at work or stuck in a line somewhere.

If you’re feeling stressed, start by trying out some new activities.  Painting, yoga, running, karate.  Anything where you can immerse yourself.  Flow comes when you start to connect with what you’re doing and your mind frees up.

Yoga is especially good for this, and this is why a lot of people flock to yoga for stress relief.  It’s an activity that has meditation as a main component.

Of course, you could also try meditation on its own.  There are many apps out there that can aid you in learning the discipline of meditation.  Meditation has been shown to strengthen the nerve pathways in the brain that are responsible for relaxation and well being.  It has many benefits, and you’ll often find doctors recommending this as a first line treatment for everything tension related such as depression all the way to backaches.

What have you done in your life to ensure that you remain stress free and happy?  Have you started any new activities or hobbies?

Tips For Learning New Languages

If you’re trying to learn a new language, then you definitely have your work cut out for you!  It’s well known that learning a new language is rather difficult for most adults, and it just gets harder as you get older.  However, it’s also well known that there are some proven methods that will enable to you to learn at a faster rate.  While difficult, it is not impossible, and it can actually be extremely fun and rewarding.  Whether you are trying to learn the new language for fun or for work, there are a few things that you can do that will increase retention rate and success.  Read on for a few tips that can help you right away!

Get A Good Langauge Learning Program

There are numerous language learning software programs out there on the market, from free software and apps to highly priced packaged software suites.  In my experience, you get what you pay for.  It really helps to cement your goals when you spend a bit of money and make a commitment to a particular program.  I believe that attrition rates for free software and apps are rather high — since you have nothing invested there’s not much except your own willpower to prevent you from jumping ship.  In my experience it’s quite helpful to just buy something to give you a bit of skin in the game.  While there are many highly priced programs, we have found that Rocket Languages makes a very well priced and competitive learn-at-home language program.  You can check out the review I wrote of Rocket Spanish and see for yourself what’s in the program.  We really don’t think that it’s necessary to go all out and buy yourself Rosetta Stone, and given that it uses a very unique learning style it’s not always the best anyway.

Immerse Yourself

It’s well known that immersion is one of the keys to learning a new language.  So, for as much time as you can devote per day or week, you should try to “immerse” yourself in the language any way you can. Whether it’s watching TV or a movie in the language that you’re learning, or reading a newspaper or magazine in the language, it’s important to have some time with a full on immersion method.  Other options are watching YouTube videos of the language.  One method I used when I was learning Spanish was to get children’s books in Spanish.  This was an excellent way to improve my Spanish dramatically – and most importantly it was FUN!  I felt like I was actually accomplishing something.

Create Goals

It’s so easy to slack off over time – you have to give yourself goals.  I like creating a calendar to remind myself to do a little bit of langauge learning every day!  You can also come up with some creative ways to do this – with stickers or something that you can reward yourself with.  With learning anything it’s important to hold yourself accountable – especially as distractions increase this day in age.


Microsoft Will Notify Users About Government Sponsored Hacking

microsoftsecurityMicrosoft has recently started a new policy for users of their Outlook email and OneDrive cloud storage – they will let users know if their accounts have been compromised, and they will also let the users know if the attack appears to have been government sponsored.  The reasoning behind this is that any government sponsored attacks can be more prolonged and extensive than attacks from garden variety hackers.  In their blog post they stated:

We’re taking an additional step today. We will now notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an individual or group working on behalf of a nation state…   We’re taking this additional step of specifically letting you know if we have evidence that the attacker may be “state-sponsored” because it is likely that the attack could be more sophisticated or more sustained than attacks from cybercriminals and others.

This is a very interesting action by Microsoft.  In essence they will notify you that your account may have been targeted, and that if they believe it is by a state sponsored group they will let you know so that you can take extra measures to protect your data.

It is definitely a new age for computer security and government espionage and terrorism.  So what can you do in order to keep yourself and your accounts / data safe?

First of all, as Microsoft suggests, we recommend turning on two step verification.  This means that if someone is trying to log onto your accounts on an unknown device, an additional security token will be sent to something such as your phone.  This is a second step in preventing people from hacking simply by knowing your password.

Another thing is to install an antispyware software program such as Spyhunter.  These programs are different than antivirus software and they will protect against different threats.  An antivirus software program will not stop malware, and vice versa.  This blog post goes into detail about one of our favorite antimalware programs.

Use a password manager to ensure that your passwords are complex and strong, and change them often.  One of the hardest things to do when it comes to passwords and making them good is the fact that you just can’t remember them all.  Using LastPass will enable you to create separate and unique passwords for all of your accounts, and enable you to access them across many different devices.

Lastly we highly recommend that you do a bit of self-education in order to be able to spot suspicious activity, websites, emails, and more.  The more you know about how you could potentially fall victim to cyber crime the safer you will be able to keep yourself.  It’s really a matter of having common sense and being careful – not browsing internet bad neighborhoods, not downloading from sketchy software sites, etc.  It’s not that hard to avoid shady activities.

Although cybercrime has been on the rise, it seems that online security systems are poised to keep up and continue to foil would be attackers.

Gift Cards On Reseller Sites Could Be “Stolen” Money

giftcardsA recent article on Krebsonsecurity.com has pointed out from a tip from a reader that the gift cards sold on sites like giftcardgranny.com are often obtained by stealing merchandise from one store and returning it to another, and collecting the “refund” in the form of a gift card.

Most of us know that if we lose our receipt or return a gift we sometimes can’t get paid back in cash.  However many big chains will strike a compromise and offer to give a refund in the form of a gift card.

However, thieves are taking advantage of this by stealing merchandise and returning it sans receipt, getting the gift card refund, and then selling that gift card on a gift card resale website.  It’s quite a clever little scheme but it’s really hurting the stores.  Those who want to be ethical should be on the lookout for cards in “odd” amounts.  Most of the time when people return merchandise they receive a card with a strange dollar amount, such as 78.57.  However when one buys a gift card for someone they usually do so in increments such as $25, $50, $75.  Any even number such as $40 is also probably kosher as well.

I myself probably won’t not use card resale sites.  After all, you can’t read minds and know which cards are fraud and which aren’t.  The companies themselves are taking the risk and the inherent loss by offering gift cards in the first place.  Should the company decide it doesn’t want to deal with fraud such as this they can stop offering gift cards.

Either way I still suggest that you look for those cards in even type amounts.  It’s still a good way to save money overall, especially if you know you use a certain merchant all the time.