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Chris Hardie

looking for a better way

Two-factor authentication

UCSF bicycle security failYou need to be using two-factor authentication (2FA) for your online accounts that matter.

Right now.

Do it.

Please.

In the past 2FA was a kind of geeky thing that only the most security-conscious would bother with. Today, it's essential that anyone storing sensitive information online or using online services for anything remotely important employs the use of 2FA.

It's an imperfect security mechanism and there things about it that are inconvenient, but for now it's the best intermediate option for protecting against unauthorized access to your accounts and your information. Using it is much less inconvenient than trying to recover from having someone take your money, abuse your identity, or access your private data.

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Perl script and Alfred workflow for quick call notes

As a part of trying to live a more paperless life, I'm determined to take notes electronically when I'm sitting at my computer, instead of jotting them down on scraps of paper and then putting them into a document later.

When a phone call comes in, I want to be able to start typing my notes about the call right away so that I'm not distracted as I'm switching over to my text editor, opening a new document, saving the document someplace to make sure I don't lose what I'm typing, and THEN being ready to actually take notes.

I've been using the OS X productivity app Alfred more and more lately, and so I decided to create a simple Alfred workflow that would let me get a phone call notes file up in front of me, ready to edit, with minimal typing.

I wanted to make sure that the resulting notes file was named in some reasonable way that I could find again later, and so part of creating the workflow was figuring out how to take a free-form description of the call that I'd be typing in as it started, and turn that into a filesystem-friendly name (sometimes known as a slug). I ended up using a simple Perl script to do that for me.

The Alfred workflow, then, is just a keyword and a script run:

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 2.06.56 PM

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Charitable giving, receiving FAIL

It's science!I recently had this experience trying to make a charitable donation to a not-for-profit organization I want(ed) to support:

I Googled their name to find their website. The "Donate Now" button was located prominently on the front page of the site, so I followed it to the donation form where I filled out my contact information, my credit card number, etc. and hit "Donate".

I got the form back with an error message in red saying "An error occurred during processing. Please try again." There were no other messages indicating whether the error was with something I'd put in one of the form fields, or if it was an error on their side (perhaps talking to their credit card processor, etc.). I fiddled with some of my form data (maybe the phone number field needs dashes? Maybe the postal code field doesn't actually accept 5+4 format?) but still got the red error message.

So then I sent email to the generic contact address on the site saying "I'm trying to donate to you online, here's what happened." I sent them all the details they'd need to troubleshoot the issue, including a screenshot of what I saw on the form.

Several weeks went by with no response to the email message. So then I saw that they had a fairly active presence on Twitter, and I sent them a message there saying something to the effect of "I'm trying to donate to you online, are you still taking donations?"

No response.

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What's in my bag?

I enjoy reading about what other people carry around with them in their work bags, especially other people in tech who can do their thing "anywhere." Here's what I carry with me most of the time:

Bag contents

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Interview with author David Ebenbach

davidebenbachOne of the things I appreciate most about living near a small, excellent liberal arts college is that it brings amazing people with amazing talents into my community, even if for just a short while. Sometimes I only get to encounter them for a single lecture, presentation or performance, but other times I'm fortunate to make deeper connections that continue on.

I'm glad that when author David Ebenbach was teaching at Earlham College a few years ago, there were opportunities to become friends with him and his family, and to start to get a sense of his love of (and gift for) the craft of writing. David now teaches at Georgetown University and he has published a number of books including Into the Wilderness, a collection of short fiction, and The Artists Torah, a guide to the creative process. David's written many different stories, poems and essays that appear in print and online.

As someone who enjoys good writing, aspires to do more writing myself, and who follows some of the "behind the scenes" in the world of authors and publishing, I was excited for the opportunity to interview David. We got to talk about his experiences as a writer, his take on modern publishing, and his own creative process: Continue Reading

Video as proof of reality

We know that Hollywood and others are capable of creating video images that look real but aren't real. Still, we generally tend to accept video evidence of an occurrence as proof that it happened that way.

But after watching this, I think it's safe to say we should no longer accept video as proof of reality:

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Anna Deavere Smith's questions

Anna Deavere SmithI had the pleasure of seeing actress, playwright and professor Anna Deavere Smith - known for roles on The West Wing and Nurse Jackie among other things - speak and perform today at Earlham College about the role of the artist in society.

She told us of her desire to get people to drop their typical verbal defenses and talk in broken sentences, to interrupt the rhythms of prepared, calculated speech to get to the truth underneath. She said that someone had once given her three questions you can ask someone in a conversation to help make that happen, and I want to share those here:

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Should we watch beheading videos?

On The Media had an interesting segment in Friday's show discussing whether or not it's helpful or important to watch propaganda videos released by terrorist organizations. Here's the audio, or you can download the MP3:

The discussion touches on some thought-provoking questions, including what good is served by viewing the videos, and whether or not media organization should display or outright censor these videos in the first place.

Related, DecodeDC has an interesting episode on whether or not the U.S. has a responsibility to act against ISIS:

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