Tuesday, June 14, 2011

CBS Sunday Morning's excellent segment on bedbugs

CBS Sunday Morning (June 5, 2011) offers one of the best reports on understanding bed bugs. Eeww, didn't you want to swat at those bugs crawling across the screen?

You will note that the expert exterminators shown in this feature are using steam guns on furniture and removing pictures on walls to search for bed bugs (remember they like to climb up)! I highly advocate using steam or freezing as a non-chemical way to rid a dwelling of these unwanted pesky bugs. CBS's segment also offers excellent advice on staying away from from the temptation of free curbside furniture.

The CBS Sunday program does not, however, mention diatomaceous earth. I am not sure why, but I suspect the pest control industry has lobbied against it being mentioned. Why? If you apply diatomaceous earth correctly, it will eradicate, yes I said ERADICATE bed bug infestations (and eradicate the need to call an exterminator) and prevent bed bugs from ever taking hold should you bring home a stray female bed bug. Read my travel tips on how to prevent adopting a bedbug hitchhiker.

Pest control companies should embrace diatomaceous earth and although it is readily available to (and inexpensive for) consumers, there is an art to the application of the fine diatom dust. Diatomaceous earth is   totally organic, but it can be harmful if applied incorrectly. It is microscopically abrasive and may irritate eyes if exposed and lungs if inhaled. Application of DE should be fine and even, not clumpy.

Remember, bed bugs aren't just hanging out in mattresses!  Do not ignore the room where you found the infestation, and to be absolutely safe, treat your entire dwelling with diatomaceous earth and steam as a preventative.

Follow these tips!!!
  • Travel with Space bags and or zip lock-type bags
  • Lightly dust your suitcase with diatomaceous earth
  • Unpack your belonging outside if you suspect something
  • Hot water in laundry or high dryer temps will kill active bed bugs
  • Freezing will kill bed bugs
  • Steam will kill bed bugs
  • Bed bugs aren't just in beds. Books, electronic devices, furniture, paintings are places bed bugs hide.
  • I'm not sure how to suggest you go about steaming or freezing your teenager or college student, but you can and should scrutinize the contents of their duffle bags, laundry baskets, etc. This age demographic tends to sleep over at friends' houses, indulge in after-party crashes on a convenient sofa and loves dragging free curbside furniture into their residences. They are prime candidates for picking up a bed bug hitchhiker. Young adults are also fearless adventurers who travel a great deal and stay in cheap housing. Any interaction with people who fit this profile is a bed bug infestation waiting to happen! As this video shows, they only have to bring home one loaded female to wreak havoc!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Defriending people in Facebook- is it wise?

March 4, 2011- Defriend Day has come and gone. But it is still wise to do. Take a look at this video:

The bottom line: It is so incredibly easy to create a fake FB account and be included in another person's life. Who are your Facebook friends? If you are into friend collecting as so many people are, for crying out loud, create lists for them, like family, school, people I really know, work, acquaintances, not sure, never met, etc. and then go in and either include or exclude these lists for things like your posts, album views, work and other personal information.

There are several levels of privacy settings in Facebook. You can literally customize who can see your profile, your friends list, where you work, your love life, your birthday, where you went to school, what you believe in, and your individual photo albums. Why should near strangers see everything?

Some of your Facebook friends could be posing as:
Your boss
Your supervisor
Your college professor
College admissions
Scholarship grantors
Potential employers
Your parents

The life you say you live- the impression you give on college essays, in job interviews, could all be undone with one false friend. Be very careful folks.People can see if you really study on the weekends, if you really like your job, if you are the person who you say you are. Even if you have nothing to hide-if you are 100 percent proud of your life-do you want everyone to know every detail about your day to day activities? Can nothing be considered sacred?

And don't forget, you can be judged by the company you keep. Fair or not, most people will draw their own conclusions.

Networking is a worthwhile activity. Sharing intimate details and allowing strangers a window into your private world is downright foolish.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hitler finds out about Facebook and Homeland Security

I know mentioning AH at any time has its risks, but I am taking an apolitical stance here and just posting this for the sheer humor of it!

Fake Facebook friends a danger, says Bianca Bosker

I have to agree.
Read Bianca Bosker's article here

Making friends is fun, rewarding and valuable. Collecting Facebook versions to establish your popularity and win in popular games can be dangerous.

Whatever your reasoning, be aware some of the people in your Facebook friend list might not be who they say they are. 

I know many people who are very active gamers with Mafia Wars, Farmville, etc. While those specific game applications are safe, moving up and succeeding in games requires you have a lot of friends in your corner. Thousands. That is not safe! When you friend someone, you allow them to see more personal details in your profile, unless you carefully configure the many layers and categories in Facebook's privacy settings.

Yes, it's true, you can custom restrict friends from seeing certain things. But when you are collecting multiple new friends on a daily basis, configuring the various levels of your Facebook account will become a part-time job.

People I know who are gaming fans on Facebook have created fake Facebook accounts so they can play in unrestricted peace, because the fake profile does not disclose real birthday and other info contained within - you aren't giving away any private details.  If you are a big gamer, such a move would require you to lose the game ranking that you have already earned under your real-name account.

But if you don't want to do that, you can set your settings to allow only people you name to see your posts, contact information, place of business, school, photos, etc. Use that feature!  You could "Hide" or exclude game friends, but if you are adding new friends frequently this can become rather time consuming. It's better to put your trusted names in the "Make This Visible" section, for once you add your real family and friends, your trust list is not likely to change that much. Anyone who you do not personally know should not be on this list !

For me, the attraction of Facebook was never games, or finding out what guitarist I am, who is looking at my profile (THERE IS NO SUCH APPLICATION!!!) sending hearts, flowers, fortune cookies to my friends and relatives. I don't knock those that do, it's just never been my thing. But everyone should remember, you can restrict and cherry pick privacy settings on friends. You CANNOT do that with applications.

The creators of applications can, if they are computer savvy, see everything in your profile. If that is okay with you, then go right ahead and load up on apps.  Most applications of the cutsey, sentimental, fortune-telling, question or poll surveys- sort are dangerous. They lure you in with something cute, adorable or well-meaning, but you really have no idea, nor does Facebook by the way, who created the application to begin with and what their motive is. They could be people or groups of people with malevolent  intent, who want to steal personal information, capture your email, cell-phone, DOB or  sell your data to spammers. Anything  you have decided to share on your profile is fair game and has a price on it. Data sells.

Networking is a fabulous thing. Just look at Egypt. But sharing everything about yourself to everyone, unencumbered, is downright dangerous. And in a strange way, I sort of disagree with Bianca Bosker. Sort of.  There is a place for fake identities, tweaked ever so slightly, not to defraud, but so you can enjoy Facebook's many benefits without malicious,prying eyes watching your every move.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Joe Scarborough's interesting take on Facebook. Is he right?

I like to watch Morning Joe on MSNBC and I thought his article on Facebook, featured in Politco was a very poignant one, worthy of discussion.

Are we going to get ahead in the global competition if our youth are always on Facebook, complaining about their school, complaining they are bored. Have they forgotten how to read a book, expand their intellectual curiosity?

Are their 1300+ Facebook friends real friends? Without a doubt, Facebook has some advantages.  It helps us to network, share, communicate instantly with family and friends and promote business ventures - but are we making those gains at the expense of good old fashioned, people to people values?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Facebook remembers everything!

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I signed up two years ago, mostly to keep in touch with my family, many of whom are out of state, and for sharing pictures with friends and even doing a little family history research. I enjoy that about Facebook and hate to give it up. When I signed up, I was honest, and used my real name and birth date, though I have been pretty good about being on top of my privacy settings.

Facebook has made that last part rather challenging.  Facebook privacy issues have created a great deal of public debate and further research indicates the concern is a valid one. Being connected and sharing personal information is de regueur these days. But are we sharing too much? And if we decide we have shared too much, is it too late to go back?

Me thinks the answer is "yes" to both!

I have discovered that no matter what you delete or change  in your profile information, news feed or your status, Facebook deletes nothing! Facebook saves every thing you type, download and post. Let me give you a couple of personal examples.

When I first signed up, I placed my real employer in my profile information. But as a joke, and in deference to my admiration for Seinfeld, I also stated that I was an architect at Vandalay Industries. For those of you who are not Seinfeld fans, that was the fictitious career and company that Jerry's friend George Costanza used to impress people and obtain dates with girls.  Apparently my joke wasn't original. Facebook was always suggesting, as it does, ways for me to connect with potential friends, including others employed at Vandalay Industries, which included a good number of architects!

Ha ha. But last year, as the joke grew old, I deleted my fictitious employer and position. A year later, I am still getting offers to connect with the crowd at Vandalay. Perhaps these are just lingering meta tags that didn't get deleted when I made changes, but I am not so sure.

It doesn't stop there. I periodically clean out my old posts, removing them from my archives - statements that are dated or are no longer relevant.  Last month, after the  introduction of the new profile page, I was treated to something called Facebook Stories, and there, popping up to remind me, were posts I wrote three and six months ago. I didn't ask for them to be there, they just popped up. Many I thought I had deleted. I was sure I had deleted them, but there they were, word for word!  That disturbs me.

Even though my privacy settings are fairly stringent, I had originally posted my full DOB, including year of birth. It is there forever, though I select not to publish my DOB on my profile, even for friends. I also removed the year I graduated from high school. It strikes me a little odd that some of the people I know, don't publish their year of birth, but have no problem publishing the year they graduated. Someone can pretty much figure out the year you were born based on the year you graduated. Despite my removing that information, Facebook has held onto it, urging me to connect with the Class of 197*. But I took that out- how do they still know?

The whole thing strikes me as kind of creepy, in a big brother-ish sort of way. I've never been one of those kooky conspiracy theory types, and personally, I have little to hide or be ashamed of as far as Facebook is concerned-but I don't like the feeling that the stupid, silly, innocuous things I have to say are being stored somewhere...that an overall portrait is being painted and preserved in Facebook's vaults. It gives me the heebie geebies.

Especially since I have read that Facebook plans to roll out Messages as a competitor to other email services. Why use your Verizon, Comcast, Gmail, Yahoo account when you have Facebook's Messages so conveniently at hand? I must confess to using FB's Send a Message a lot more lately, because I know my friends and family are all on FB and they get the message instantly, as opposed to waiting 2-3 days for them to check their regular email. But I am not convinced that FB doesn't have access to what I am sending. I don't want them reading my email. Delicate family matters are no one's business but my family's. I don't know if FB is now or ever would look into my messages, but FB seems to have access to everything else I I just don't plain trust Facebook.

I've recently deactivated my Facebook account for time management and academic reasons (I have books to read and thick papers to write), but I have a mind to get rid of FB all together. Yes, you can totally delete your Facebook account. Follow that link for good instructions. This requires abstaining from all Facebook activity, liking other pages, signing on to pages through Facebook, etc. for a prescribed period of time. These instructions specify 14 days  Then it will be safe to:
  • Create an anonymous email account, such as Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail
  • Use that email account to open a new Facebook account with slightly altered name spelling, slightly altered DOB and a bit of creative disinformation entered, not to defraud anyone mind you, but to protect my privacy from the mysteries that lie behind Facebook's prying eyes.  
It is important to note that DEACTIVATING your Facebook account is not the same as deleting it. If you deactivate, you can reactivate at any time and all your information and photos will be restored.

For me, the possible loss of my photos was a big reason to postpone permanently deleting my account. However I was pleased to learn that you can now download all your pictures you have posted on Facebook to your computer. Facebook will ask you a series of security questions (mostly asking you to visually identify your friends so make sure you know them well), and the process can take a long time depending on how many pictures you have posted. In my case, I started the process in the evening and it took overnight into the next morning before the download was complete. I received a ZIPPED folder of all my photos via email. This did not remove the pictures, but simply gave me a backup copy. Go to your account settings to learn more.

Should I decide to permanently delete my original account, after 14 days, I can create a new more user-controlled Facebook account and upload many if not all of my old pictures.

I was taught to share and play nice. But if I decide to share something with a friend, family member, or you, I deserve the peace of mind knowing that my message, confidential or not, is going to the intended recipient and no one else. Sharing should not be forced, coerced or surreptitious. Until I am convinced, I am canceling my play dates with Facebook.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bed Bug Travel Tips

Bed bugs are still in the news. Almost daily, I've spotted one scary article after another on major news sites and blogs. Terrifyingly, the creepy subject matter seems to be resonating across the globe- by people who are either infested by bed bugs, or scared to death that they soon will be!

Bed bugs are natural hitchhikers and aside from banning DDT, one of the reasons they have endured is their natural inclination to move and scatter and hitch a ride. This is built into their nasty, insect DNA, and they see you, and all fellow travelers, as their ticket to survival land!

I'd like to share some travel tips that can significantly reduce your chances of bringing home these unwanted guests. Yes, some of these are extreme and not all hoteliers and motel chains are going to appreciate the requests. It's up to you how ardent (or annoying) you want to be and how proactive  about prevention you wish to become.

Bed bugs are not class conscious!! A clean hotel one day, can become a breeding ground the next. It only takes one pregnant female to cause a serious problem for you down the the road.

Here is what you should consider when selecting a hotel:
  •  Visit  travel review sites like Trip Advisor to see if the hotel you are considering has had any complaints.
  • Ask the hotel if they change the bedspreads (and blankets) upon check out. Not all do! If they don't, ask them to either give you a new one or remove it. (I prefer they remove it from the room then I don't have to deal with it.)
    • Hotel bedspreads  and furnishings are commonly in dark patterns, making insect activity hard to spot
    • You have no idea what previous activity has occurred on the bedspreads. (If I see a bedspread the first thing I do is roll it up and put it away).
  • Ask that your mattress be steamed before check-in.Not every hotel, motel, B&B or Inn is going to offer this service, but there is no harm in asking!
  • Ask if they are using a bed skirt or dust ruffle. Conscientious hotels are removing these decorative bedding features because they provide additional hiding places for bed bugs. It may not look pretty, but if your bed is missing a skirt, your hotel is taking the extra step it needs to prevent the bed bug from spreading. Thank them for their efforts!
Steps you need to take:
  • Before packing your luggage, lightly dust with diatomacecous earth. See my earlier blog for more details.
  • Place all items in sealed plastic bags with a zipper seal, or use a product like Space Bags, or some of the inexpensive food storage containers. The bags, however, provide more flexibility.
        • Everything goes in a sealed container
        • Everything gets put back in a sealed container
      • Do not place your luggage on the bed or on the floor. Use a luggage rack, open up the ironing board if provided and use it, or ask the hotel for additional luggage racks.
      • Bring a hand steamer. These are about the size of a hair dryer and can be picked up in most drug stores or wherever As Seen On TV merchandise is sold. They usually run under $30. I don't travel without one! When you get into your hotel, steam any gaps around the headboard, wall art, night stand, etc.. Most hotels affix their art and furniture to the wall or floor- but there are still gaps where insects can hide in and behind. A jet of steam should force any live insects out in the open. Steam will also kill insects on contact. If you don't see any, you are safe! Try not to steam off the wallpaper however. A few short bursts should suffice!
        • You could also steam the area in between the box spring and mattress and the flooring around the bed.
      • Steam any chairs, sofas, sofa beds etc. Again, darker upholstery makes it hard to spot a problem. Bed bugs like to hide in folds, and near the base of any upholstery cording. Steaming will reveal a problem...and it also sanitizes the furnishings. It will also kill other unwanted pests, lice, etc.
      • Make certain that dirty laundry is kept in a sealed bag. Not a trash bag or a bag with a draw string. There must be a complete, 100 percent seal.
        When you return from your trip:
        • If you can, set your luggage outside in a driveway, balcony, back yard deck, etc. before bringing into the house. Remove the contents of your luggage (remember, they are still in sealed bags) and steam the inside and outside of your luggage. Allow to air dry.
        • The contents inside the sealed bags or containers should have kept your belongings safe. Inspect before bringing in. Wash laundry in the hottest setting possible. Dry on the hottest setting possible.
        • Report any bed bug activity to your hotel immediately, and also contribute helpful reports on travel review sites.
        Remember- bed bugs don't just hide in beds. They lurk wherever people hang out, sit, rest, read, etc. They are tiny and fast and the baby instars are practically invisible. They are known to hide in clock radios, tableside books, etc. If you act under the assumption that you have brought back an unwanted traveler, and act accordingly, your diligent efforts will pay the dividend of a bed bug free home!