Caring and Loving Interpretation of the Constitution

When responding to another’s Facebook post, I wrote I wanted justices to make a “caring and loving” interpretation of the constitution. It wasn’t surprising to see a quick objection to that. A friend wrote,  “Your premise about the loving and caring aspect interpretation is faulty . . . I would much rather interpretation of law be undertaken as much as humanly possible without the taint of subjectivity and human emotion, simply for the sake of equity and justice.”

And, here’s the problem with ideological purity. Whether we’re talking about left or right, doesn’t matter. The real world is messy and nothing is pure. My friend had some key words in his objection: “humanly possible.” I hasten to point out that Mr. Spock exists only on the Enterprise on television and in the movies. He is not real. When we real Earthlings interpret the constitution, it is not humanly possible to divorce ourselves totally from our emotions, upbringing, learned behaviors, etc. We can try to be totally objective, but my friend has one thing right. We can only do it to the extent that it is humanly possible.

Given that Mr. Spock’s passionless opinion formation is not possible, I would hope that whatever portion of our thinking that’s influenced by our emotions, upbringing, and learned behaviors will be guided by a caring and loving attitude.

Why in the world would anyone object to that?

Russians Stole 1.2 Billion Passwords and I Don’t Care

Russian criminals have stolen 1.2 billion passwords and email addresses and I’m not worried and I’m not changing any passwords. Here’s two reasons why.

The bad guys have over a billion people to choose to hack, and the odds of my being one of them about equals the chance I’ll win millions in the lottery. I buy a ticket once a week, but my plans don’t include getting rich any time soon from my winnings.

This thievery of passwords and email addresses has been going on for years with no one knowing. How can changing passwords increase my security? Certainly, not enough to change the two hundred plus websites I have passwords for.

And, even if lightning strikes or meteors fall on me and I am one of the Russian’s targets, what are they going to get?

Not much.

The worst case scenario is they get into my bank accounts. Each of those have limits on how much business can be conducted online. So, at worst, I’m risking no more than maybe a thousand dollars. Maybe. I check my account daily, so I’ll notice any illegal activity almost immediately. My banks cover me for fraud, so I’d probably lose nothing.

But, a thousand dollars is still a lot to risk. Add in two-factor authorization, and the odds against my being a victim of the Russians go to pretty much zero. My financial institutions offer that service, and I take advantage of it. If I, or anyone else, tries to get into my accounts from a new computer, the institution sends a code to my phone. I have to enter that code to get into my account. Because I rarely do business on any other computer than my own, I seldom have to go to the trouble, and it keeps others locked out. Easy peasy.

The next bad thing is that someone will find my deep dark secrets. Guess what? I don’t have any. Even if I did, I’d never keep them on anything that’s accessible on line.

Years ago, when email was just starting, I sent an email with sensitive comments to a colleague at work. She didn’t grasp the significance of what I was saying, and forwarded the message to about half the school system.

Yikes!

Since then, I’ve never put anything in an email or online storage that I don’t want to see in the newspaper. If I have something dicey to discuss with someone, I do that in person, either face-to-face or on the phone. Nothing in writing. The most I’ll say in an email is, “I’ve got something to discuss with you. Call me when you can.”

Medical records? Who cares?

And on and on.

I am amazed by how many people freak out about online security, yet fail to take the most important step possible for securing our financial lives – freeze our credit with the three credit bureaus. Notice, a security freeze is NOT the same thing as a security alert. An alert does next to nothing. A freeze keeps your financial identity pretty much totally safe.

Yet very few people have frozen their credit. I’ll address how to do that, and the ramifications, in a future post.

It’s a shame crooks like those Russians exist, but they do and always will. They will, not, however, keep me from taking advantage of the incredible online resources available to make my life so much easier.

Scholarships: Don’t get ripped off.

One of the things that frustrated me the most during my decades as a high school counselor was seeing students and parents be ripped off by scholarship scams. It drove me crazy to have them come to my office and tell me they’d gone to a “seminar” over the weekend and had paid crooks hundreds, and often thousands, of dollars who claimed they’d help them get a scholarship. The invitation to the “exclusive” meeting would come in the mail, and is full of praise as to how “special” the student is. The fact is, the scammers buy mailing lists and have no idea as to the academic credentials of students. Over the years, many high school dropouts with GPAs of less than one brought those letters to me because they wanted to know why they’d gotten them.

Here are some things you need to know about searching for scholarships.

Never pay money to anyone for scholarship information. Everything you need can be found for free on the internet. Here are some code words scammers use. When you hear/see these, run away.

“The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
” You can’t get this information anywhere else.”
” I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”
” We’ll do all the work.”
” The scholarship will cost some money.”
” You’ve been selected by a ‘national foundation’ to receive a scholarship” or “You’re a finalist” in a contest you never entered.

Here are a few legitimate websites for scholarship searches and tips:

And everyone should be using www.upromise.com. It’s a program that everybody can use to help pay for college.

Check back next Monday for tips on how to earn scholarships.

The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Weight Loss

From what I’ve seen, most people who want to lose weight skip the necessary steps to be successful. Based on my experience, and on the experience of people who have been successful at losing weight and maintaining the loss, there are a few conditions that are necessary. They are also sufficient. The vast majority of the people on the planet will lose weight and maintain the loss if these conditions are met in the order provided below. Those who don’t have some medical condition that makes their bodies react differently. The odds are massive you are not one of those.

Here are the necessary and sufficient conditions for losing weight and maintaining the loss:

  1. Maintain rigorous honesty: Honesty comes first and the most important person to be honest with is ourself. Instead of tying to cover up the reading as we weigh ourselves, advertise it. Wear a button that says, “I weight 200 pounds and my waist is 42 inches.” (Measure your waist one inch below your belly button — another honesty issue.) Say it out loud: “I am powerless over junk food.” Or, “Ice cream defeats me every time.” Admitting it is the first step in getting better. If you relapse and eat a piece of cake off your rigorous schedule, admit it. Don’t rationalize. Until you are rigorously honest, your efforts are doomed.
  2. Be willing to change: Wanting to lose weight doesn’t matter. Not a bit. What matters is having the willingness to give up preconceived notions that have never worked and to do things differently. You have got to be willing to listen to the winners: the people who’ve lost weight and maintained that weight loss for a long time. If you do that, you’ll find that the vast majority, like almost all, follow the fourth and fifth necessary and sufficient conditions.
  3. Learn to react to life differently: You also must change the way you react to life. If you eat ice cream when you’re worried, angry, or bored, you need a new way to deal with those feelings. If you don’t find that, you’ll never, never, never be successful.
  4. Effective Exercise is essential: Exercise comes next because so many people want to skip this part. If you’re not exercising, you’re doomed to failure. You simply cannot reduce your food intake enough to lose weight and keep it off. You must exercise, and you must be rigorously honest about that exercise. Plan on 45 minutes a day during which you get your heart rate up into your target zone. The harder you work, the more calories you burn (see # 5,) but an hour of brisk walking is good, too. Now look here: it does absolutely no good to sweat for 45 minutes, then reward yourself by eating a honey bun. You’ve just wasted all your effort.
  5. Believe you lose weight due to calories in and calories out: If you think calories eaten and calories burned don’t matter, you are doomed to failure. You just are. If you insist on believing that, stop reading this and accept that things won’t change for you. They won’t. Yes, I’ve seen all the stuff about good calories/bad calories. All that’s fine for fine measurements at the cellular level and for elite athletes.  For the vast majority of us, the calorie thing is key. An easy way to think about what to follow Dr. Harry Lodge’s rule about what you should eat that’s found in the book, Younger Next Year. Here it is in its entirety: “Don’t eat crap.”  We all know what “crap” is. Stay away from it.
  6. Eliminate decisions: At least for a while, meaning . . . oh, say . . . the first five years, you should do all you can to eliminate decision-making. Develop menus that have the number of calories that fit into your regime and stick to those menus. If you are cooking for a family, make their meals and make yours. Your menu shouldn’t be all complicated. At least for this time period, food should not be the center of your life. Have set times for snacks and make the snacks an apple or orange. Create a routine that you don’t change. When life forces changes, make careful substitutions. Notice, the word is not “exception.” Substituting one planned meal for another is okay. Eating a piece of pie as an exception is not. Don’t go to all you can eat buffets. Don’t go to covered dish dinners . . .or if you must go, eat your dinner before you go and don’t get near the food table. If you’ve tried to lose weight and have failed, or have lost weight but failed to maintain the loss, it’s clear your decision-making is flawed. Eliminate them.
  7. Give yourself a break: Take a meal off once a week. Eat what you want. Now, that doesn’t mean you eat as much as you want. Eat a piece of pie after your meal off — not a whole pie. When you are craving during the rest of the week, remind yourself that you can eat it during your meal off.

That’s it. If you do those things, you’ll lose weight. The concepts are extremely easy. If you’re honest about carrying them out, you’ll be successful.

Record Your Calls!

Recently, a customer service call by an AOL product manager went viral. That reminded me of how many times I’ve made my life so much easier because I record all calls when I’m doing business. It’s an easy thing to do once it’s set up. I’ll address how to do that in a future post.

First, though, I must tell you that there are laws about recording phone calls you must know if you want to stay out of trouble. If you’re in the United States, the primary information you need to know is which states are one party and two party consent states. If you call someone in a one party state, only one person needs to know the conversation is being recorded. Because you know, you do not have to inform the other person. If the person you are calling is in a two party consent state, you must inform them you are recording. I keep an updated list on my bulletin board and always ask representatives where they are located. I almost always reveal I’m recording, no matter the laws of the state they are in. Often, that’s enough to cause them to do the right thing. But, from time to time I’ll have a representative behave badly from the get go, so I’ll ask their location and if it’s in a one party state, I’ll just record and let them hang themselves. As of now, there are only twelve two party consent states. I won’t list them because they could change. You should keep an up-to-date list.

The vast majority of the times, I find customer service reps do good work. I record mainly to have a record of what we agreed to. From time to time, in a later interaction, I’ll quote the previous representative and say, “I’ve got a recording. Do you want to hear it?” So far, I’ve only had to play one back. Every other time, just the offer of the playback is enough to resolve the problem in my favor.

I did have a problem recording when I was dealing with ATT once and I’ll share that with you. Two representatives refused to talk to me if I recorded. I want to say now that eventually an ATT regional vice-president apologized and said he was sending information out informing their customer service representatives to allow recordings. But, that took some doing.

I had upgraded a phone on our plan and called to tell them to remove the $36 upgrade fee. Why should I pay for being a loyal customer of ATT and signing a new contract? That fee has always been waived when I’ve asked. This time, I had a problem before I had a chance to ask. As I said, I record those conversations so I have proof that the fee was to be waived. Here is the conversation with the first representative [Note: the recording is edited to remove personal information like social security number, as well as pauses and irrelevant comments]:

The lady never came back. After being on hold for several minutes, the phone was disconnected. So, I called again and talked to a different representative. I explained what I wanted regarding the fee, and what had happened when I spoke to the previous representative. Here’s how that went:

He did waive the fee, but I was not happy about the recording issue. The next day, I received a letter in the mail from a regional vice-president of ATT thanking me for being a loyal customer. There was an email address beneath his signature, so I sent him audio files of these two conversations. It took a while, but eventually he did apologize.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what I use to record.

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