Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy L.A. ~ What do they really want?

Occupy L.A. Movement ~ What do they stand for?
The burning question here seems to be what is it that this movement stands for?  Some say that the banks are corrupt and that the Wall Street bankers should be jailed.  Comments range from anger about how the bankers have been bailed out, and were not held accountable for their actions, to the inability of full-time workers to make ends meet.  Others say that corporations control the government via lobbyists, which ultimately corrupt politicians.  It does bring to mind the small percentage of the population that is comprised of bankers, lawyers and politicians that are some of the highest wage earners in America.  The unbalance seems to cause a lot of unrest, as the average person in the United States seems to feel that the system has failed them. 
To complicate things even further, there has become an increasingly large part of the population that has taken to working under the table or engaging in income opportunities that are illegal.  The problem here is that these workers that are selling drugs, running illegal gambling rings, or working under the table are not paying taxes.  That is a real problem as it puts too large of a burden on the legally employed as they are taxed too heavily.  There are a lot of supporters of the Fair Tax Movement, which goes something like this:  Income taxes are eliminated and replaced by a consumption tax.  It is a simple concept:  Whatever someone buys is taxed.  This offers fair taxation to everyone, not just those who are following the rules and working legally.  It seems unfair for a percentage of the population to pay the taxes for those who are not working legally, if at all.
Furthermore, many of these people working under the table or participating in illegal income opportunities are also taking advantage of social services.  They can get cards with free money to use at establishments that take EBT cards.  They can get food stamps without proof that they do not have any income.  The system is definitely broken and the deficit proves this.  But many ask: Why should so many be able to abuse the system doubly?  Many working legally have resentment for those that are getting a tax free ride.  There are so many aspects of the American economy that are broken, that of course the issues seem to be confusing. 
Some of the people at these protests do not even know what they stand for, but they are mad about inequality.  They know of the cushy lives that so many lead, while they struggle to make a living.  The movie “Network” comes to mind.  It is as if they have stuck their heads out of the window to yell that they are as mad as hell and they are not going to take it anymore.  It is a fact, that the economy is spiraling out of control, but these protestors do not know what to do about it, nor do I.  The loss of the American Dream comes to mind.  Have people lost hope? 
A lot of these protestors site their constitutional rights for freedom of speech and assembly.  However there is nothing in the Constitution that says that you can have an ongoing sleep over on city property that comes with health issues caused by urination and littering.  Furthermore, there is nothing in the constitution that gives anyone the right to loiter or trespass on city property when told to leave.  If they wanted to get our attention, they have it.  But, most people do not understand what it is they really want to have happen.  It is not some specific thing many say, but I can only ascertain that it is all about change.  I agree with that.  We live in a country whose economic system has failed the bulk of American workers.  The American dream of working hard and being successful is not available to most people.  I think that a lot of people feel frustrated that they live paycheck to paycheck and just can’t seem to get ahead.  Many people feel unable to get ahead as credit card debt is a way of life.
As far as the city asking the campers and protestors to disperse, they do have the right to ask them to leave, even if the protestors disagree.  All citizens do have a right to enjoy a sanitary park, and this assembly that says it is one of peace, has become a public nuisance and a health issue where drugs abound.  Of course a peaceful assembly and a right to protest is a part of the first amendment, but it is not unconditional and limitless.
The arrests from Occupy L.A. were many, and yes, they have made a real statement, and that I agree with.  What upsets many people, is the millions of dollars that has been spent to disperse these protestors.  I wonder what has really been accomplished here.  Will anything really ever change?  So many things are broken when it comes to the economy.  It did not get this way overnight, so ultimately change will be slow, if any.  I can only hope for some kind of change, but do not think that the entire overhaul that is necessary will ever happen.  I hope to hell that all of this will prove helpful and create some kind of awareness of how so many people feel that they are chasing a dream that they may never achieve.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cyber Warfare Today

     Cyber attacks are becoming a more prevalent type of warfare engaged in by many entities against another.  Though identifying the source of the attacks can sometimes be subjective due to the lack of technology to do so, there seems to always be a suspicion as to where the attacks came from and what the motive was.  The Russian denial-of-service attack on the country of Estonia in 2007 made headline news as an act of war.  The cyber attacks on Georgia in 2008 during their war with Russia were speculated to be Russian driven.  Lastly, when the U.S. State Department computers of the East Asia Bureau were compromised during 2006, fingers pointed to China.  “The Pentagon warned earlier this year that China’s army is emphasizing hacking as an offensive weapon.  It cited Chinese military exercises in 2005 that included hacking primarily in first strikes against enemy networks.” (Griffin, 2007).  All of these three attacks have one thing in common:  they all used the same silent weapon; cyber-terrorism.
      Estonia is touted to be one of the most connected countries in the world.  The wireless communities and government of this country were rendered helpless in a denial of service attack, due to their extreme internet dependence.  It is a way of life, completing most things via a handheld or laptop, from banking to parliamentary elections.  The attack affected state and commercial websites, most of which were run primarily online.  Foreign and defense ministries, newspapers and banks were specific targets hit.  The denial of service attack in 2007 said to be instrumented by Russia, affected ordinary citizens as well as government officials.  The rippling effect was felt by a large segment of the population and caused chaos and confusion.  “Officials have blocked access to the servers from outside Estonia, to prevent them from being attacked.”  (Lagorio, 2006).   The  attacks  were said to  begin after a Soviet  memorial  statue in  Tallin  was
removed.  The defense ministry says that some of the cyber attacks came from Russian hosted servers.  Of course, Russia is not cooperating or commenting on these events.
     The cyber-attacks during the 2008 South Ossetia war between Georgia and Russia coupled themselves with the bloody shooting battle taking place.  The Georgian government stands firmly with their accusation of Russia for disabling Websites, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  This attack which encompasses massive requests for data is called a distributed denial of service attack. “These attacks appear to be controlled from a server based at a telecommunications firm.” (Markoff, 2008).  Since cyber attacks cost very little, they have taken their place in modern warfare.  Georgia was vulnerable due to its dependence on Russia and Turkey for global internet connections.  The United States is backing a fiber-optic network link under the Black Sea, due to happen in September.  Hopefully this will solve their future issues in this area.
      The computers that were compromised in the East Asia Bureau in 2006 came as a big surprise as nothing was missing.  Even though nothing was physically taken, the damage from these hacks occurred from information theft.  This large-scale intrusion that targeted the offices communicating with China and North Korea, involved the theft of sensitive U.S. information and passwords.  Officials reported that the unclassified systems were affected while the classified areas were uncompromised.  The Defense department noticed similar computer problems last summer, and considers Chinese hackers to be the culprits in that incident, as well as the above noted.  “After the State Department break-ins, many employees were instructed to change their passwords.  The department also temporarily disabled a technology known as secure sockets layer, used to transmit encrypted information over the Internet.” (Davis, 2007).  Identifying this vulnerable area will prevent hackers from transmitting stolen data, covertly from a victim’s network.  Also of note is:  “Many diplomats were unable to access their online bank accounts using government computers.” (Lagorio, 2011).  The problem is said to be fixed, but it was noted exactly how this was done.
    Since hacking is now being viewed as an offensive weapon, this type of cyber terrorism may be a permanent occurrence to be expected by all those connected globally.  “Given that most parts of the world now have access to the Internet, almost any country can fall victim to some form of cyber terrorism or information warfare.” (Taylor, 2011)  Since identifying the sources of these attacks still remains problematic, it will mostly likely grow in the near future.  Furthermore, since the Pentagon is already warning that China’s army is emphasizing hacking as an offensive weapon, the evidence of this type of warfare is proven.  Unfortunately, it appears that the silent weapon of cyber-terrorism is here to stay.  

Davis, J., (2007) Wired Website, Hackers take down the most wired country in europe, retrieved   February 13, 2011 from   09/ff_estonia?currentPage=all
 Griffin, J., (2007) Fox News Website (2007) Pentagon source says china hacked defense computers, retrieved February 12, 2011 from,2933,295640,00.html
Lagorio, C., (2006) CBS News Website, State department computers hacked, retrieved on            February 14, 2011 from      SearchStories
Markoff, J., (2009) New York Times Website, Georigia takes a beating in the cyber war with        russia, retrieved February 11, 2011 from
Taylor R. W., Fritsch E., Liederbach J., & Holt T. (2010). Digital crime and digital terrorism         (2nd ed.) New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Houdini Corkscrew - How to use it!

The Houdini Corkscrew - It's use made easy

     The corkscrew in its traditional form has been around for many years.  Anyone who drinks wine will need to somehow remove the cork from a bottle.  Though there are a couple of new versions for cork removal, little has changed to facilitate this process over the decades.  That is, until the invention of Houdini, “the corkscrew that works like magic.”
     The mechanism choice for an objective description came out of the necessity for use.  My Houdini Corkscrew has been unused, in a drawer for the better part of a decade.  Even though it is intended to make the removal of a cork easier, the package remained unopened.  Of great benefit is that it expels the cork from the corkscrew in one motion, as opposed to the arduous task of hand turning the cork out of the spiral.  The complicated look of it is baffling without providing any clues about where to begin, and I think that is why no one had ever made an attempt of any kind.  We simply did not read the directions, nor figure out what to do.  Instructions are absolutely necessary for this device, until becoming accustomed to the way that it functions.  If you were, or are confused; do not feel alone.  There are people that have felt the necessity to post directions for its use on the internet.  Indeed, it looks complicated with its odd “rabbit ears” and a very strange yet sleek, black and chrome design.  Do not let it gather dust any more, as help is here.
     First, make sure that the metal wrapping has been removed from the cork.  There is a nice little device that has been provided, with two blades for removing this metal wrapping.  Simply position the round part over the top of the cork and give it a turn.  It will cut a perfect little slice through the metal, removing it instantly.  Make sure to remove this metal first, as trying to put the corkscrew through the metal could ruin the integrity of the protective coating that is intended to prevent rust, and could damage the device.  Also, take off any wax that may appear on some corks.  After the cork is completely clean, grasp the rabbit ears firmly in one hand and raise the lever which will position the corkscrew on top of the cork.  Now, close both of the rabbit ears until they surround the neck of the bottle.  Next, lower the lever, which brings the corkscrew up and removes the cork from the bottle.   Finally, raise the top handle, and the cork is magically ejected from the corkscrew.
     This device, though complicated at first, is the fastest way to remove a cork from the bottle.  It also instantly ejects the cork from the spiral once done which is fun and amazing.  Furthermore, it works on all size bottles, comes with the cutter for removing cork metal, a spare spiral piece and a five year warranty.  It retails for $21 at retail and online stores.  Pollen Design and Metrokane of New York are the designers and inventors of this product, and further investigation shows that they have an entire line of wine and other accessories available worldwide. 
Patent number:  D441,265,D442,045  Made in China, Universal Product Code: 022578028033
D. Pitow, Houdini Corkscrew Instructions. Retrieved from: eHow website on October 20, 2010,

Blogging for Beginners ~ Things to consider when creating a blog

Blog Elements    
     Creating a blog requires a good combination of many elements; with purpose, content, design and audience being the main components.  Purpose can range from self expression to political statements, with many other topics in between, but there needs to be some type of motivation that fuels the post, otherwise little interest will be created.  This interest is tantamount, as ultimately a blogs main purpose revolves around the focus of attracting readers through its content.  These elements are the main focus and work together with an overall design that draws in readers, and hopefully calls them to action, adding depth and meaning, which translates into not only a memorable blog, but one that people want to follow.  Of course, intended audience can be comprised of only a small cross section of readers, while other blogs are intended to appeal to a much broader audience.  One blog may have a scope that is vast, while another goes stagnant, and there lies the important focus of a blog and its components.
     Purpose is the answer to the question of why someone would create a blog.  Often a blog is an assignment for a class, but some blogs are intended to deliver a message of one kind or another.  People search the web for answers to questions and the internet offers a wealth of information posted by bloggers and experts.  Often, the distinction between the two is blurred, so it is important to verify information and look at the source and references.  Just because it appears on the internet does not mean that it is true.  Bloggers are filled with intention, and their vehicle is their post, coupled with content choice.
      The most important component of a blog may be content.  Though there are quite a few celebrity cites that seem to have a good following, not everyone is interested in this information.  Some people are looking for current events, while others are interested in directions, or how to information for project completion.  Providing interesting opening lines and titles that draw the reader in, coupled with an absence of grammatical errors shows professionalism in a blog, helping hold viewers.  Receiving comments and offering responses, helps involve readers and make them feel wanted and appreciated, which can increase followers.  Whatever the interest of the reader is, involving them and providing content that is interesting and current can make or break a blog. 
     Next, the audience can vary from post to post, but a blog needs focus on who the intended reader is.  There should be some kind of uniformity for the intended reader and what may be of interest to them.  Writing for an audience and the intention behind that will help with the actual information and how it is provided.  Knowing who the reader is and how they will be written for is a function of knowing the audience.
     Importantly, design will draw in readers or send them away.  The content could be great, but if the design is too busy or distracting, the reader may exit the site.  Structure of a blog is like the foundation of a building, and needs to be built with balance, while including clarity, details and functionality. I recommend choosing the left alignment. This will make your picture move to the left of the page, with the text flowing to its right.” (Piechnic, 2011).Typestyle that is clear and easy to read is very important as the sizing and color of headlines and captions.  You can design logos and custom headers at  This is a great site to add interest in a unique way that you won’t find on every other blog.  The overall layout of a blog needs to be organized and simple, avoiding confusion and colors that clash.  Black backgrounds are hard on the eyes and should be avoided at all cost.  One word of caution goes out concerning widgets and gadgets:  Too many of these can create confusion and make a blog look junky.  It is important to choose them wisely without over doing it.  Darren Rowse of Blog Design says that: “Remarkablity is the   difference between a good blog and a great one.”  (Rowse, 2008).  Furthermore, soothing colors that blend well coupled with serene designs, with a few gadgets to create interest, will keep the visitor there and reading; the main intention of a blog.    
     Finally, a blog is an ongoing work in progress, always evolving to improve and create interest.  Most blogs will change over time as their authors make advances in content and design creation.  Since there are so many layouts, designs, gadgets and widgets, transformation is a combination of effort and time, and the product that results can be a site of great dimension.  Blogs are like art, a wonderful creation that can be something beautiful to not only read, but to behold.
Piechnic, D., (2011), How to set up a blog, Website Set Up Guide, retrieved April 9, 2011 from    wordpress.htm?gclid=CLbc3eSRlagCFWUbQgodYgeBCg
Rowse, D., (2008), How to craft a blog post, ProBlogger website, retrieved April 9, 2011 from                          

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How Virtual Worlds Can Influence Intercultural Communications

Can Virtual Worlds Really Improve Intercultural Relations?

     Virtual worlds can create new channels of communication between cultures that may not have the opportunity to interact otherwise.  This type of online gaming venue is the vehicle that enables interaction between anyone who chooses to play at that particular time.  Because participating in these online worlds is open to anyone without restrictions, no one is excluded.  The anonymous nature of the avatar levels the playing field, while existing in a nonthreatening environment.  Messages presented in this arena may be more easily accepted, as well as help influence the ability to conceptualize the concept(s) presented. 
     Poems and songs can be used to communicate ideas in this fantasy world and can be more effective than those presented in more serious situations.  Somehow, a serious topic can be turned into a whimsical vision, while getting the point across without threatening anyone.  There seems to be a feeling of safeness in the anonymous nature that portraying oneself as an avatar creates.  This may positively affect receptiveness, and understanding as well.    
     Since many people have negative views of the Islamic culture, and view Muslims poorly, the unsupported nature of these thoughts needs to be addressed.  Stereotyping and bias has been perpetuated due to a few extremists who have tainted the overall image of these people.  Terrorists are being linked to Islam unfairly, and it is difficult to change people’s general attitudes toward the Islamic culture.  Virtual worlds and avatars can improve these cultural relations, because they reach many people and offer the information by communicating in ways that give people a chance to change their minds.  Quite possibly, the virtual world is a less harsh environment that may help eliminate racial bias by replacing it with understanding, compassion and empathy, all while offering entertainment.
     Though the virtual world has some limitations for improving intercultural relations, such as not encompassing those who do not play; its benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.  One thought is: Since these worlds revolve around fantasy, it may be difficult to present controversial topics in this arena. In my opinion, anything that improves global relations by offering a dissemination of information, while quashing stereotypical behavior, and creating more avenues to open one’s mind, is a good thing.  The very thought that anyone can participate in these avatar driven, virtual worlds opens up intercultural communications.  Virtual worlds simply did not exist ten years ago, and though they were intended to be a form of entertainment, the benefit of enhancing communication between cultures was not a consideration in their creation.  No one could have predicted the sphere of influence that these games can achieve globally.  Considering groups that are often involved in conflicts offers examples for contemplation and improvement.
     “Muslims represent a growing social and political force that questions some of the west’s dominant cultural patterns, particularly the following:  The relationship between God and humankind, the role of morality in human affairs, the role of technology and modernization, and the nature of progress.” (Jandt, 2010).  For example:  Islam does not tolerate greedy and selfish capitalism, which is dominant in the U.S., creating ongoing tension.  Understanding these and other cultural differences, offers a chance at better interactions overall.
     “I believe that diversity, like democracy, is a process, not an outcome.  It is something that people should participate in, as they participate in a democratic society.  Only together will we make good on the promise of a diverse democracy.” (Wu, 2007).      
     With more interaction of cultures comes tolerance and understanding, even if it happens in a virtual world.  Knowledge creates flexibility, patience and an open mind to view things differently. In contrast, lack of information and communication can create racial bias and stereotyping.  Propaganda can make people view things in a one dimensional fashion if they do not have any other information for comparison.  The more people know and interact peacefully the better off global relations will be, while improving intercultural communications worldwide.
References ~
Fischer, A., (2004). With a foot in each culture, Wu, F., Howard University professor fights           racial stereotyping, retrieved January 17, 2010 from asian.html
Jandt,  Fred, (2010). An Introduction to Intercultural Communication (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks,    CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Delivering Bad News ~

Delivering Bad News in a Tactful and Effective Manner
     Managing conflict in the business arena can be confusing and complicated.  The following case study outlines the work situation and the issues at hand.  The proposed solution follows, with illustrations of scenarios that may or may not play out.  The hope is to solve this workplace conflict with little or no escalation, in an effective and calm management style.
The Problem:
     You are a department manager in a mid-sized company that provides technology support services.  You have ten employees who are required to maintain a high level of technical expertise and deliver excellent customer service.  One of your employees, who has been with the company for two years, is performing at a substandard level and you have received numerous complaints from customers and coworkers. In addition, this employee has displayed confrontational behavior which has created a hostile environment. You must now meet with this employee and deliver an ultimatum regarding the need for immediate improvement or dismissal.
The Proposed Solution:
     This work situation requires a confrontation which is a conflict process where certain issues are addressed.  Though often viewed as negative and/or aggressive, this confrontation will have underlying collaborative efforts not only to help diffuse the emotions of this employee, but to help engage efforts that will resolve, rather than escalate the situation.  Focusing on the cause of the problem and how to solve it, in a non-hostile fashion will be a primary concern.  First, the employee will be called into a private meeting after having been given advance notice.  Then, the issues at hand will be discussed in a direct manner.  The communication will include three things that require change:  That the performance is substandard, that there are numerous complaints from customers and co-workers, and that the confrontational behavior is unacceptable.  Since this is a point where the conflict may escalate, considering the other person’s point of view by listening, empathizing, and responding in an understanding way, can reduce the chance of things getting worse.  Should the situation escalate the S-TLC method will be employed: Stop, Listen, Think and Communicate. (Cahn & Abigail, 2007, p.40).  If the employee becomes confrontational, calmness while illustrating that their job is in jeopardy, along with the necessary changes that need to occur, should make things clear.  Next, an empowering method which uses a collaborative plan to resolve the issues will begin at this point.  Having both parties work together while sharing ideas will help bring about a good resolution to the problem.  Making and agreeing on a mutually satisfying arrangement has a better chance of success.  Illustrating the severity of the situation, coupled with the importance of enacting the changes agreed upon will follow.  Directness for communicating the problem, the proposed changes, and the desired results is better than being indirect.   “Don’t use qualifiers or euphemisms to avoid accepting responsibility.” (Roebuck, 2006, p.86).  This eliminates the chance of the communication being misunderstood or confused. 
     Lastly, a time will be set to revisit the issues in order to re-evaluate the progress and outcome.  To agree on a resolution is not enough, and requires some type of follow up.  Knowing how to confront others appropriately and effectively creates the likelihood of beneficial results.  The ultimatum portion of this scenario would only come about during the follow up phase; in the event that the employee had not made the required changes in behavior.  Should this occur, the employee will be put on probation for an assigned timeframe, with the desired improvements that need to be implemented, and the consequence of termination that will result if the employee does not comply.  This warning would be put in writing, presented by a superior and signed by the employee.  Should the employee not comply, termination will be the result.  “The effective conflict manager knows how to appropriately confront others.” (Abigail & Cahn, 2011, p.294).
Abigail, R., Cahn, D., (2007), Managing conflict though communication, Pearson   Education, Inc., Allyn & Bacon: Boston, MA
Roebuck, D., (2006) Improving business communication skills, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Communicating With Other Cultures ~

     Defining culture is difficult due to the vast array of things that combine to create it.  Beliefs, attitudes, values, symbols, norms and/or behavior are shared by a group in some manner, and that is the closest I can come to defining culture.  Of course, one must consider ethnicity, as it is an integral component of this scenario.  Regarding rules and guidelines, the “Ten Commandments of Cultural Communication” (Hahn, 2011) provides a good set of guidelines to follow.  Taking responsibility for communication seems trite, but this is more important that what one might imagine.  Being sensitive to differences, being patient, showing respect, withholding judgments and being patient are key factors.  It is the responsibility of the person who is engaging in intercultural communication to do just that.  Be responsible.  Empathize with the person while being flexible and mindful in order to send clear messages.  Of course keeping all of these actions in mind may be hard, so it is good to use common sense.  “There is no way that you could learn all the rules governing appropriate and inappropriate behavior for every culture and subgroup with which you come into contact.” (Jandt, p. 81, 2010).  Instead, be aware of these general barriers that will influence your communication efforts:  stereotypes and prejudice, anxiety, assuming similarity instead of difference, nonverbal actions, ethnocentrism and language.  Importantly, being sincere in your words and actions translates well in any cultural interaction.

Hahn, M., (2005), The ten commandments of cultural communication, retrieved on March 23,   2011 from

Jandt, F., (2010), Intercultural communication, (6th ed.), Sage publications, Inc.