One Minute of Zen: Owls At Night

In my family lore, owls are not a good omen. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest, hearing and seeing owls became a regular thing. It spooked me. Couple that with my beloved Twin Peaks and “The Owls Are Not What They Appear” and you’ve got a negative visceral reaction. However, I’ve been trying to combat that knee-jerk reaction and come to terms and live in peace with the magnificent creatures. Listening to their songs at night has been a part of that. Enjoy this One Minute of Zen video:  Owls At Night. 

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In The Weeds: Password Management For The Win

Sorry for the poor photo quality, I was just so amazed this was a thing I think I was shaking.

I want you to look at that photo. This is an actual thing sold in stores.

But, friends, I’m here to tell you, that’s not how you keep your passwords secure. As someone who has too many passwords to remember, too, I understand the desire to write them down. However, that is bad. Very bad. As bad as having ‘password’ as your password.

Maybe you’re saying, “I’m not that stupid, Casz.” Perhaps you’re like I was and have a rotating grouping of passwords for your various accounts and it’s got to be one of those or it isn’t easily accessible to your memory. That’s bad, too. Not as bad as having a gold-plated book on your desk for anyone to find, but it still leaves you vulnerable to compromise. If your passwords are always variations on your pet’s name or your favorite sports team, it won’t take much work to guess that your password is “fluffy2017” or “GoWings34.”

Or maybe you were also like me and thought you upped your game by having an encrypted spreadsheet. Ha! If an attacker has access to the location where the passwords are stored (whether physically or through malware), then your spreadsheet’s password will not offer any meaningful resistance. Additionally, you have no protection in this scenario should your machine be stolen or suffer a hard-drive malfunction. “But, Casz,” you say: “backup is paramount to breathing…” Sure it is. But storing extra copies increases your risk of one of them being exposed to nefarious characters (doodle your favorite hacker drawing here). Not to mention managing multiple backup versions, which all might have different passwords for the same account. Because you do rotate your passwords regularly, right? (That’s a topic for another blog post)

Regardless of how you look at it, lack of secure password management is bad. It leaves you vulnerable in multiple ways. Maybe you’re not compromised today, but security is all about managing risk. Wherever you can reasonably reduce being exposed to risk, you should do so.

The inside of the no-no password management system.

Why? Easy answer = hackers. That includes phishers, scammers, phreakers, breakers, and all manner of people who try to exploit vulnerabilities for profit or pleasure.

Passwords are a pain, and until recently there haven’t been a lot of good solutions available, leaving people to develop some really risky habits. So how do you ease the pain of passwords, while keeping them secure and still have access to them?

Enter password management applications. These are much better than the pictured journal above, encrypted spreadsheets, or sticky notes under your mouse pad, because they offer things like two-factor authentication (another blog post), security challenge questions, and you can sync your passwords between computers and even to your phone.

You can pay for such software, and PC Mag did a recent review of those available for purchase:  http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp

But I have chosen LastPass, which has a free version that works easily and intuitively. I am able to share my list with my spouse in case something happens to me and he has to handle my internet presence.

I recently adopted it and am thrilled with how easy it was. Go to a website and a popup message alerts you to add it to LastPass. Or you can manually log everything into the application. I like the popup window because there are sites I go to infrequently and don’t always think about if I need to include them in my password management. The quick answer to that is: yes you do. Add it all in.

You have your own separate “vault” and you can share one password or all of them. Syncing to your phone is a small fee. I’m using the free version of LastPass.

But, wait, Casz, you say: What happens if LastPass fails somehow? Good question! As long as you have logged into the plug-ins you would be able to export all your passwords, even with LastPass completely gone – this is possible because a locally-cached copy of your data is stored by default when you use the LastPass plugin or LastPass mobile apps. To use any of the exporting options you can go to your LastPass extension Icon > More Options > Advanced > Export.

LastPass Pocket is also offered for backup access on your USB/portable drive.

You can also re-import your passwords back into the Internet Explorer and Firefox password managers.

That being said, LastPass is spread across two data centers, two countries, and have a team of people who can each run the service individually. Plus LastPass tells me (us) that they don’t plan on going anywhere. Besides in the world of security, there are no absolutes. You can only limit your vulnerability. LastPass, and programs like it, do that.

It certainly beats the above leather-bound journal or a spreadsheet on your machine or phone, or the unbelievable ‘password’ as your password.

Stay secure out there.

Editor’s Note:  As stated in former IN THE WEEDS posts, I’m brand new to this world of #infosec and #digitalsecurity. I’m allowing you to learn as I learn. I am no expert. Your mileage may vary.

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One Minute of Zen: A new feature at Casz’s Fiction Farm

One of my 2017 resolutions/goals was to do this new project here to give you a one minute video, once a week to produce a feeling of calmness. I’m calling it One Minute of Zen. I had the idea some time ago.  I’ve been collecting these videos for about two years, in order to do this. Having learned over time that having some work already in the can when you start a new project is paramount to its success — at least for me.

So, every Tuesday, I’ll be posting this One Minute of Zen. Why Tuesday? Because you likely have a Monday stress hangover, it’s not quite hump day (business socks day), and well, you’re so far away from the weekend. Therefore Tuesday seemed appropriate.

As I’ve gone along, these videos have gotten better and better. But some of the first may be a little raw. I don’t think it detracts from their effectiveness, to just take one minute and reground yourself in the present moment and feel a little peace.

I’m calling this one, MINI WATERFALL (<<You have to click on the link…;) )

 

Enjoy.

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Inkster Dispatch: Easter Eggs and Wilderness Rim

Can you find the Easter Egg Inside?

I didn’t mean to do it; but, it’s hard to live where I live and not have this influence drip, ooze, and coat into your own writing. There’s a fandom Easter Egg in my newly released book, Wilderness Rim: Echo Falls Book One.

As a born-again gamer, Easter Eggs are just as much part of the modern gaming, experience as much as getting an epic armor piece. The placement of Easter Eggs is now often found in films and all over other media, too, especially that connected with computers or the internet. I put one in my book.

I thought it would be fun to hold a contest here on the blog for those reading Wilderness Rim to find the hidden reference to another story entirely. And no, it’s not Catcher in the Rye or Huck Finn.

Clearly you need to read Wilderness Rim to figure out what that nod to another fandom is. So, the contest won’t run just yet; but, it will run soon. Be sure to subscribe to my blog so you know right when the contest begins because there will be an epic prize:  think fandom memorabilia, a video game, and some other TBD loot. Also, you’ll want to subscribe soon, because I’m going to start dropping hints on what this little Easter Egg is right here on the blog.

So subscribe to Casz’s Fiction Farm. Buy the book. Read the book. Leave a review. Uncover the Easter Egg, but don’t share just yet. Be sure to tuck it in your brain to win another day by paying attention to this little piece of the internet.

Make sense? Feel free to leave any questions below in the comments.

 

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Inkster Dispatch: A Blessful Book Release

Every seat was packed. And I was so grateful to not only The Black Dog, but also Released From Quiet, the band that book-ended my reading and signing. Huzzah to all of you. (Photo by Alexa Lioncourt)

It’s taken me more than two days to process (and another two just to get this post up) what was the book launch for my debut novel, Wilderness Rim, Echo Falls, Book One. As far from where I sit, the launch went off without a hitch. I mean, there were small things I wasn’t prepared for because I’ve never done my own book launch before, like the fact that if you’re on a stage with real stage lights, it might be hard to actually do your reading because the lights can cast weird shadows on the text (oh, and maybe you need to see the eye doctor again). And that you better eat before the event because I couldn’t even settle down long enough to drink a glass of wine until it was all over. But, then the venue owners took pity on me and got me sustenance — great wine, even better food (I need that spinach enchilada recipe, stat!).

My scholar Athlete, Yours Truly, and My Viking. We couldn’t be happier with the night. (Photo by Lisa Holcomb)

One of the gingerbread Sasquatch cookies I made to share with all the folks who came out to the book launch. (Photo by Sheri J. Kennedy)

But the good things far outweighed the bad things, and there were mostly good things. Those good things include the fact that it was standing-room only in the venue, The Black Dog Arts Cafe. They were gracious and had wonderful food and drinks for everyone. I didn’t have to bring home too many of the Sasquatch cookies that we handed out.

Additionally, we sold out of the 30 books we brought with us to the launch event. I honestly had to tell people that they would have to get their books on Amazon and to look on my web site for my next reading event of Wilderness Rim to get it signed — or find me at The Black Dog on any given Friday. Yes, yes, it’s a great problem to have.

The crowd represented many aspects from my life — people who know me from my kids’ activities, other local writers — especially those who are involved with SnoValley Writes! (the writing group I formed in 2008, which is still going strong), the arts community at large, my farming friends, my activist friends, and of course, my family. I loved that I wasn’t the only one in Sasquatch Silliness Gear. Big kudos and thanks to fellow author, Rachel Barnard for being in the Bigfoot spirit.

Signing the last book sold for the night. The look on my face is utter happy shock. (Photo by Sheri J. Kennedy)

There were people who came from all over to be there — Buckley, West Seattle — and my soul sister, Lisa, traveled all the way from Portland, just to surprise me for the night, bringing a “pamper yourself” gift for her favorite author. 😉 She made me cry and I had to chastise her for ruining my make-up. What another great problem to have.

My cover artist, Leslie Moon, had art available at the event, too, and she even saw lots of love that night, people gobbled up her art as much as they gobbled up the cookies.

Sasquatch Silliness: Yours Truly and Bigfoot Rachel. (Photo by Sheri J. Kennedy)

One of the things I learned was that you’re going to forget something — even if you write it down. I had planned to reveal that there’s another fandom Easter Egg in Wilderness Rim, and that I would be running a contest here on my blog for the first fan to find it. I was going to give a hint at the launch about what fandom that is. But, I forgot. So now everyone gets an even chance and I’ll be hinting at that on the blog here in a couple of days. So, stay tuned.

The creativity was so thick in the air and we launched an “I <3 Stinky” campaign that soon will be launched right here, so stay tuned.

At the end of the night I was exhausted in one of the most pleasant ways anyone can — just overwhelmed with the love and support. It was a blissful, bless-full night.

One of the members of the bluegrass band that was playing right after my event ended up winning this prize basket. Hope they love Stinky as much as I do.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be saying Thank you I believe until the next book launch. For my inaugural novel event, you all made it so wonderful.

This is how I looked at the end of the night — kissed and blessed and a bit overstimulated. (Photo by Sheri J. Kennedy)

A lot of years, lots of tears, and much sweat equity went into making this event the success it was. I would be remiss if I didn’t say a special thank you to Colleen, who brought the delicious cupcakes to compliment the cookies; to Sue, who served the goodies; to Tonya, who was my prize basket drawing diva; and to Jess, Sheri, and Lisa who took photos. Also, to my son who provided grunt labor, and my spouse who was the money man that night: I love you both and your support Saturday was invaluable.

No project like this happens by the feat of one person. So, thank you. And a hat-tip and curtsy to Cris and Greg at The Black Dog for opening their wonderful cafe to our Sasquatch Silliness and Released From Quiet for playing us in and out of the night. Going to be hard to top this with the next book, Rattlesnake Ridge in late summer, but we’ll try.

Leslie Moon (L) and Yours Truly. I made her come up on stage to give her a little treat and let everyone know that she’s agreed to do cover art for the entire Echo Falls series. Woot!

 

 

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