4 Tips to Protect Your Digital Privacy When Crossing the Border

Whether you’re an American traveling abroad or a foreigner visiting the United States, you need to protect your digital privacy.  US Customs can legally search your devices and demand access to your computer and phones with little formal cause or oversight – basically breaking the 4th Amendment of our Constitution. Yup!  But there are steps you can take to make it more difficult for them to invade your privacy.  Here are 4 tips to protect you and your personal information:

#1: Lock Down Devices
Encrypt your hard drive using BitLocker or Filevault.  Turn off your devices before entering customs because you’ll have full protection with these tools when your computer is fully powered down.

#2:  Withhold your Passwords
Legally, American citizens can’t be deported for refusing to give up passwords but custom officials can detain you and they can seize your devices for months. But, they’ll have to allow you to return to the US and you will be able to go home – but your devices may be held up in a forensic facility if they really want to get into them.

#3: Phone Home
Call a friend or family member (or your lawyer) before you enter and after you get through customs to ensure that someone can represent you should you be detained.  Without your phone or devices, you may not have the ability to get legal help while in their custody.

#4: Make a Travel Kit
If you’re concerned that you may be a target of suspicion at the border, leave your computer and devices that contain all of your sensitive and private information at home.  Travel with a laptop and devices that have been wiped clean and have only the information you need for your travels. 

These tips may seem extreme, and they probably are for most of us, but if you have a Muslim name or you’re traveling to and from Muslim countries, these tips may protect you from personal invasion. To learn more about how to further protect yourself, read Wired’s article “Guide to Getting Past Customs With Your Digital Privacy Intact.”  


How to Balance Real Work Expectations: Focus and Push

Multitasking is not a thing.  You can only do one thing at a time well so you might as well plan out all of the necessary steps to get everything done.  Right?  You can also take this a step further to ensure that you have enough time each week to handle big projects that seem to get put on the back burner.  Here’s how.

Focus: Block off 3-4 hours FOCUSING on just one project once or twice per week.   With this uninterrupted time, you’ll be able to think and delve deep into a project.  We all have those projects where you need to research an idea to make a proposal or develop a presentation for a conference.  You know what I’m talking about – the projects where you feel you need to hang a sign on your door that reads “Do NOT Disturb” or “Out of the office; Back at noon.” By blocking off time to focus on one thing, you can take the time to do that one big thing that keeps getting pushed back each week because your other responsibilities – the squeaky wheel gets the oil! – gobble up your time.

Push: By setting aside focus time, the other 34-36 hours can be productively spent PUSHING individual tasks and putting out fires. You can make preemptive phone calls, collect data, handle emails, and oh yeah, manage the onslaught of interruptions by employees, coworkers, supervisors, and clients. There’s no way around answering questions, making calls, returning emails and general business tasks so handle them around your focus time.

The best way to make sure that you, and your coworkers, respect your focus time is to block off a permanent time each week in your planner for the whole year.  Enter your plans for each focus time to ensure that you’re meeting your deadlines and then stick to them.  Use a sign or send an email that staves off interruptions so you really can complete your project during the allotted time.

You’ll find that you’ll be more productive, meet your deadlines, and most importantly, be happier when you block off time to handle the various types of projects you need to complete. For me, I either get to the office before the staff arrives, or I stay later after everyone is gone, to ensure that I have my focus blocks of time.  I always feel productive when I’m done and I enjoy my daily pushing of tasks much more when I don’t have heavy projects weighing in on me. 

Why Foreign Students Feel Isolated From Their American Counterparts

Casual relationships and friendly conversations are part of the American culture.  We’re generally politically correct (PC) and find it easier and more comfortable to hang out with people who share our political, philosophical, and even cultural values.  We can joke without accidentally stepping on other people’s toes, and to be frank, it’s just less hassle to associate with like-minded people.  But, we welcome meeting new people and even gravitate with curiosity to check out international people, be it students on campus or acquaintances at parties.  So why do 40% of these international people feel isolated and lonely here in America colleges?

We’re lazy.  It takes a tremendous effort to communicate with people who don’t speak English fluently.  We need to listen carefully to decode their thick accents and to garner whatever we can from their words to comprehend what they are trying to say.  This takes a lot of work.  To do this for a few minutes as you exchange niceties, is fine.  But to have a conversation with any depth, about say politics, philosophy, or even describing a new concept requires too much effort for most people.  International students have trouble understanding jokes because they don’t have the history or contextual background or vocabulary.  When American students want to hang out with friends, they usually don’t invite their international acquaintances simply because it’s exhausting.

Take me for example.  I’m 100% Japanese American (3rd generation) but I don’t speak Japanese.  Yet, every time my friends have Japanese friends visiting America, they expect me to jump on board and be the “hostess with the mostest.”  So while I’m cooking and cleaning to prepare for a dinner party, I am also supposed to engage with guests where small talk takes intense listening skills and triple the time that I may not have because I’m juggling 5 other things. Hmm. No.  

I also found this true with my deaf friends.  I grew up and went to school with several deaf students and we share a wonderful bond because of our high school memories.  It’s been several decades since we were in high school and we get together every once in a while. After our visits, I’m grateful for the time together but I’m exhausted by the brain power it takes to communicate with them – especially since I’m rusty at reading lips and interpreting their speech. It makes me feel terribly guilty writing this because I pride myself on my color- and disability-blind philosophy.

As I watch American teens squirm every time I suggest that they invited an international high school student to join them while they shop, go to the beach, or just hang out, I realize this phenomenon is happening at the high school level too.  At first, I pressured American high school students to entertain these international teens, but then after much resistance, I stopped doing it.  I was doing what my friends were doing to me. Not fair.

Foreign students on high school and college campuses are feeling isolated, no matter how large their class sizes are or how integrated their demographics.  Sadly, I don’t see American students making social changes that will incorporate these students to bridge the gap.  I believe that the international students will need to be brave and join clubs and groups to become part of the American culture.  After all, they’re here to learn and the best way to understand our culture is to jump right in.  I think then the international students will immerse themselves in conversations and become fluent much quicker – bridging the gap and making American friends.  

Can We Really Discriminate Against Ugly Food?

Ever notice the perfectly stacked apples and other fruit in the produce section of the grocery store has perfect fruit?  You’ll never find a misshapened apple or any miscolored veggies in the store.  Some stores even spray wax on apples, peppers, and other fruit to make them shiny. Until I planted a fruit orchard 7 years ago, I assumed that fruit generally grew in these perfect shapes.  I remember when I grew my first “weird” carrot in my garden that looked like twins because it had 2 carrots that grew out of one top.  I thought that to be an anomaly – something I should photograph and send off to friends for some oohs and awes.

After the advent of the assembly line when industries became streamlined, we became removed from basic things like growing our own food. We came to expect to buy perfect strawberries and unblemished tomatoes.  With 2 working parents in the home, nobody had time to start gardens when you could pick up veggies at the corner store.  Then marketing made perfect fruit and veggies expected by consumers.  

Growing up in a city and living on the beach in Malibu where we had 2’ by 4’ of dirt next to our carport – seriously – we obviously didn’t have a veggie garden.  My mother planted tomatoes in big pots on her deck but that was it. In college, I remember how I didn’t know how strawberries grew: did they grow on bushes, vines, or trees? I know that’s embarrassing to admit now, and that’s why when I had children, we picked strawberries at Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville every year until they went off to college.  I was determined that they would know where their produce came from.

While this may sound like an extreme case of ignorance, the concept of expecting perfect fruit is not. Europe has started a movement to stop food waste by getting farmers to sell “ugly” food at a discount rather than to landfill them. After all, most produce that we eat is chopped and mixed with other ingredients so their colors or shapes really don’t have anything to do with the quality of the food. Getting food manufacturing companies and grocery stores to purchase this ugly produce will offer savings to consumers and more profits for manufacturers.

America is beginning to recognize this potential market for huge profits while preventing food waste.  I’ll be blogging about other ways to prevent food waste in future blogs. 

Wasting Food is Not OK

The first time I saw flagrant food waste was when I was on a Caribbean cruise.  I must have gained what felt like 50 lbs in just 2 weeks from eating 7 decadent meals a day – Yup.  Watching the chefs carve beautiful birds out of a watermelon and huge sculptures out of ice to provide the garnish for feasts was such a thrill UNTIL I saw the tons of food they threw out to sea when nobody was looking.  What was worse than just the volume of precious food being tossed out was that when we pulled up to Haiti – an impoverished country known for its massive starvation – the captain of the ship announced that we were not allowed to feed the Haitians when we toured the island! Bulls**t!

That’s when my family vacation became my mission to feed the starving.  I started stockpiling bread, fruits and veggies, and anything non-perishable in my suitcases and bags in my cabin.  The ship’s crew warned us that if we fed the hungry, they would mob us.  I was sickened by their cavalier attitude about hungry people and this gauche solution to keeping the fat and privileged Americans from being inconvenienced by these starving people. So I came up with a plan to feed as many people as I could during the one day I spent in Haiti.

I told my family to take their tour without me so I could feed the Haitians (that wasn’t the reason I told my father).  With Rob by my side, we carried bags of food into the center of town and left them on street corners where passersby could easily find them.  I didn’t want to create a riot or mob scene. Then we returned to the ship and carried bags of food out for the entire day.  We even went up the buffet to grab piles of cheese, meats, and whatever we could when we ran out of the stockpile in our cabin.  Surprisingly, the crew didn’t say anything and didn’t try to stop us.

Food waste is rampant all over the world, and as our population increases, we will face massive starvation because our food production system is wasteful.  I’ll be blogging about ways to change this paradigm we have become accustomed to so that we can feed the planet without resorting to genetically-modified foods or other unhealthy means.

Using the Pokemon Go Idea to Help Others

Remember the craze over Pokemon-Go? I never quite got it.  Watching thousands of people searching for an imaginary character here in the real world for the sake of, um, well, "catching" one seemed odd to me. While not into the game itself, I was most impressed with the marketing strategy used to get intelligent, busy people to find time to travel out of their way to play this game.

While talking with one of my clients during our session, we mused about the Pokemon-Go phenomenon.  What happened next was really exciting. This 16-year-old student decided to create an app that is similar to the Pokemon-Go game in concept but with a wonderful twist.  Instead of luring gamers to chase inanimate objects, his app would connect people who need a little help with nearby caring people who have a little time (and desire to win a lottery!). Yup!

Ever wish someone could pick up some diapers or coffee creamer for you when you’re in a bind?  Or if your back goes out while carrying in groceries, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone carry them in for you? There’s always someone nearby but they just don’t know you need help. So instead of chasing a Pokemon character, you would be checking to see if anyone needs help.  My student is setting up an app that connects these people by creating a point system for the volunteer and a nominal-fee system for the person needing help. To encourage the do-gooders to check their app to see if anyone needs a little assistance when they might have 10-15 minutes to spare, the nominal fees go into a big pot (like a lottery) that can be won by any of the do-gooders

Now that’s a game even I would play.  I could help someone out when I have extra time and I could win some money?  Um, yeah! If he could get a fraction of the people who chased Pokemon to help others, imagine how we could transform our communities into a more giving and loving world. I’ll keep you posted on my student’s progress.  Want to help him build the app?  Call me at Merit (831-462-5655)!

Wondering About "Real" Information on Climate Change?

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with politics in our nation’s capital, which has made it more difficult to wade through the volumes of articles, blogs, and news about what’s really going on with climate change. 

If you live in Santa Cruz County or the San Francisco Bay Area, you might be interested in attending the Climate Science and Policy Conference 2017 at UCSC.  This year’s focus is on ACTING NOW TO SECURE A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE.  It’s on Friday night, Feb 24th and all day Saturday, Feb 25th up on the beautiful UC Santa Cruz campus. 

Registration is free!  Check out the list of speakers 

Hearing from professors from Stanford, George Mason University, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz, and elected officials and government agencies should be entertaining.  Sometimes it’s best to hear from people who are actively engaged in research instead of the media.  Hope to see you there!

Guest Blog: Ideas That Make People Kill

Today's Guest Blogger is Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman, historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law. 

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Europeans engaged in mutual slaughter over religion: the Catholic-Protestant wars. Religion was not the only issue; the birth of nation-states added poisonous nationalism to the fray. The scientific and industrial revolutions added another element. Catholic states were fighting a rear-guard action in defense of the feudal world. The Protestant states, over time, advanced all the ideological changes that we value: participatory governance, religious tolerance, emancipation of women, and an economy that produced middle class majorities.

Fighting over borders is straightforward; fighting over ideologies is not. When people are “true believers” in anything, even death is no longer an impediment. Otherwise rational human beings can become mindless fanatics seeking the death of all who do not share their belief and willingness to die for the cause. Suicide bombers illustrate this process.

Islam is a religion with no central authority (such as a Pope). Over the centuries, many different schools (interpretations) of Muslim jurisprudence sprang up as the religion spread across the globe. But early in the 20th century, a new form of Islam emerged, an ideology influenced by Fascism, and based on reviving the 7th century Islam of the Prophet Mohammad and his companions. These fanatics believe that they must revive early Islam's mission to convert non-Muslims by force, persuasion, or terror when necessary, defending every horrifying attack by citing Islamic history and religious texts.

The new wrinkle is that they use modern weaponry, modern medicine for their leaders, and modern means of communications and propaganda. Saudi Arabia's bonanza of oil money has taken this campaign global, supporting it with money, mosque building and staffing, and brainwashing schools throughout the Muslim world. They unconvincingly profess alliance with us in our “war against terror.”

Ordinary people following Islam are in the middle of this war. A growing number of Muslims living in the west are “cultural” Muslims, like most Jews and Christians in the modern world.  They revere the best in their religions and do not literally practice the worst. Some do not follow religion at all. But others living around the world are foot-soldiers carrying out terror attacks against ordinary Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and modern states. This is not precisely a religious war, but it is a war based on one interpretation of that religion. The terrorists are true believers. The cynical leaders of ISIS, al Qaeda, al Shabab, Boko Haram, Hamas, and others, recruit and brainwash young men and women who find out too late that they have been used. Defection from these cults, like defection from early Islam, is punished by death. Decapitation has returned from the dark ages, along with slave markets.

But there is light at the end of this tunnel. It has been too little noted that the forces of Muslim modernity are finally fighting back. The long awaited Islamic reform movement has begun in the US. Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser has founded the Muslim Reform Movement, representing 14 other Muslim reform groups. Their declaration of principles includes human rights, secular governance, and rule of western law. This modern declaration conflicts with the Cairo “Islamic Declaration of Human Rights,” which defines human rights as anything that Sharia law mandates: child marriage, stoning for sexual offenses, amputation of limbs for theft, lashing for criticism of the state, and death for “insulting Islam.” Cairo Human Rights are an “alternate system” that the UN has not challenged.

This “alternate system” is creating martyrs of women, journalists, bloggers, homosexuals, judges, and artists. The punishment for “insulting Islam” is death.

A Pakistani court acquitting a Muslim mob of 155 that torched homes in a Christian neighborhood in Lahore because a Christian man had supposedly “insulted” the Prophet. This fits Cairo's “Human Rights” standards.

The Islamists have overreached. Their attacks on the US, India, Britain, Spain, France, Belgium, Australia, Indonesia, and Germany should remind us what Israel has always known. This is not just an Israeli/Palestinian conflict over turf.  It is a global conflict over whether Western values or those of murderous nihilists will prevail. We defeated the Nazis and Communists. We will win this one too.

Is Etiquette Back Again? Part Two

The ever-changing dynamics of business requires occasional updates on what is preferred and acceptable business behavior.  Instantaneous connections on mobile phones has created a world where everyone expects instant answers from you after office hours – something that wasn’t even possible just a decade ago.  Clients feel entitled to having your personal cell phone numbers so they can call or text you at any hour of the night, and when you don’t respond, they get angry.  Wow, when did we allow our business to creep into our personal lives?

This is Part 2 of my blog: Is Etiquette Back Again? In order to maintain respect from co-workers, your boss and/or your employees, and your clients/customers, here are 15 tips:

  1. Always respond to callers (phone/written) within 24 hours. Even if you’re not interested in their proposal, a simple “Thank you but I am not interested” is best.  Unless it’s spam (unwanted emails from people you don’t know), you want to dissuade your caller without insulting them.  Besides, there are some crazy people out there and you don’t want them to retaliate. An email or text is okay even when they left a voice message for you.
  2. Always inform the team or boss if you will not be able to meet a deadline in time for them to make different plans.  In other words, don’t tell them you didn’t do something when it’s due.  Instead, write a simple apology and give a realistic deadline that you know you can meet.
  3. Always pick up the tab for business meals/drinks when you do the inviting. If you anticipate a struggle, pay in advance by giving your credit card to the waiter before your guest arrives.
  4. Always be thankful when someone picks up the tab (even when it’s expected).  Follow up with a quick thank you email or text the following day.
  5. Never order the most expensive entrée on the menu when your friends or colleagues are ordering moderately-priced items – especially if you’ve agreed to split the bill.  Likewise, order wine and drinks in the same price range as the meal. If they’re ordering appetizers, sides, and desserts, follow suit, otherwise you might feel cheated when it comes time to split the bill in half.
  6. Never order messy finger foods like ribs and corn on the cob when dining with colleagues or business associates. Besides having food lodged between your teeth, your face will need washing and you’ll be quite the sight!  Stay away from carbonated drinks if you can’t control your burping.  There’s nothing more unappetizing than talking to someone who is trying to contain a burp!
  7. Always use good table etiquette: salad fork on the outside, dinner fork on the inside. Spoon soup away from your body, and don’t slurp! Don’t hold your bread in your other hand and dip in the soup. Cut meat with your dominant hand and switch your fork to eat it.  Yes, this is controversial but when in doubt, go with American tradition.
  8. Always maintain control of yourself while drinking with business associates.  Even though they may be socially drinking, if you can’t keep up with them, don’t embarrass yourself.  Drink plenty of water or ginger ale. Remember, they’re taking mental notes that will definitely effect their business decisions about you later. Think: This is a job interview.
  9. Always dress for success. We all know that beauty sells (whether we like it or not) so put together outfits that make you stand out professionally. Make sure that your clothes are clean, pressed, and fresh. Brush and floss your teeth.  There’s no bigger turn off than a person with body odor or bad breath!
  10. Never date co-workers -- period. When the relationship ends, you’ll be miserable at work and the entire workforce will be watching both of you.  The way you handle the breakup will be public and your performance reviews will reflect both of your maturity and professionalism.  Besides, it’s nice to have separate work and personal worlds. They’ll give you time to recharge and appreciate one another.
  11. Always smile and be charming. If you smile before you pick up the phone or write that letter, you’ll be received better. Use your charm to improve your workplace and you’ll be remembered for it.
  12. Never use profanity in the workplace or in public. A potty mouth makes you look crass and unrefined. Use the dictionary to find words to better describe your circumstances and you’ll send a much clearer message and receive respect from colleagues.  Save cussing for private conversations to let off steam.
  13. Always be clear about your intent for gift giving during the holidays and birthdays. By announcing several months in advance that you would like to or would not like to exchange gifts, you won’t hurt any feelings and you’ll avoid those awkward moments when you’re handed a gift that you aren’t prepared to reciprocate.  Besides, exchanging gifts between lots of people can rack up charges on credit cards that’ll be difficult to pay down.  So let everyone know our gift-giving plans ahead of time.
  14. Always “pay it forward” because you could always use good karma! Let people go before you in line, and it will make their day.  It can turn sour people into grateful people. Besides, what if that person you wouldn’t allow to cut before you was your future client or boss?  What if that person was having a heart attack and needed to get the hospital? If you could spare 5 seconds, let others go first.
  15. Always say “thank you,” “no thank you,” and “you’re welcome.”  Like paying it forward, it makes people glad they did something for you because they feel appreciated.  These are little things that can turn around bad days.  You can send this message in an email, text or call – better yet, say them face to face!

By using smart etiquette, you’ll put out a professional air that speaks volumes about you. If you need a little help getting started, read books on etiquette or take a class.  It’s like a make-over from the inside out!