Should Privacy Be a Right?

A bit of a departure for me, but something that is very close to my heart, Privacy I don’t mean people not knowing what I look like on here or the fact that I choose to put pictures and my opinions on the internet for all to see, I mean the data that I do not choose to share, the buried tracking cookies, the carefully worded “terms and conditions” that essentially boil down to you agreeing to being tracked and profiled in order to use a service, and when that service is Google or Facebook, it is difficult to make the decision to not agree and to walk away from the service because they have become so ingrained in our society, life can genuinely be difficult without them.

I want to deal immediately with the first argument that people come up with when faced with this point “if you have nothing to hide what is the problem?” the problem is that I do not want to share ever aspect of my life and if you think about it I bet neither do you, secondly I want to choose what I allow people to know about me and my family, and third I want to know what information is being gathered about me and how much care the organisations that have that data are taking over it.

I work in network security and as such have always been one of the “tin foil hat brigade” because when you understand the nature of a thing you see just how powerful it actually is, that said the event that triggered my latest rant had me baffled as to the mechanism in the background that allowed the transfer of data, and it concerns the setting up of an account with the same avatar that I have on here, I like a lot of people run Plex media server at home, it is run on a local server not in the cloud and has three accounts on it, I will not name the site that this happened on and have only named Plex as it is important to understand that this was a local server, I created an account on the other site and added the avatar, the next time I went to log into Plex it had updated my profile picture (previously blank) to the new avatar, there is no discernible connection between the two and to this day the way it pulled that information is a mystery.

The Giants of the tech world log and track our lives By Default removing our ability to be in control of our own information, they use this information to shape the world we see and as we become more and more dependant on social media and devices to run our everyday lives algorithms are working in the background make sure we never see something that doesn’t interest us, but think about that for a minute, if we never see anything that they think would not interest us and the knowledge they have is only built from things that we have searched for or looked at previously then where is the diversity? where is the random nature that makes humans so interesting, all our visual cues while online will be similar and our browsing experience will be shaped to appeal to what the system thinks we want.

Computers like uniformity, they thrive in a binary predictable environment where an action equals a programmatic and logical response, and of course it is a marketers dream, consistent advertisements, news stories suggested feeds and search results that all point to a single direction will ultimately push an individual into a course of action even if the only reason is frustration at the seeming lack of options.

The boom in devices for children that require an account to tailor the results and media to the younger audience simply means that this cataloguing of the human race begins earlier, and our children provide information without a care in the world, a slightly more sinister way of looking at is with the ability to shape the content that they consume it is not a major stretch before you arrive at the ability to condition and influence an individual or in the case of YouTube and Facebook, a generation effectively allowing tech companies to provide the generation of the future, and the Best case scenario for this is that they shape consumerism, the worst case doesn’t even bear thinking about.

So the question really isn’t about privacy being a right, or about the ISP knowing what websites we are going to, it is far deeper and more fundamental than that, it is about the right to live your life as you see fit, to have the ability and the information at your hands that makes you equal to your fellow man both in freedom and opportunity, it is allowing your children to grow and choose their paths through their own experience and curiosity not through a pre-programmed journey based upon an unseen authorities view on what they should become.

I guess that for the most part this post is really “my two cents” but I urge anybody that has even a passing thought that I may have a point, to just look at the videos and content that is popular among your children, or take more notice at the lack of deviation in advertising on social media that you see as well as the difficulty in trying to search for a topic outside of your normal interest on Google, look past the inconvenience and think about the long term consequence.

Jeez what a day!

So I am all set now for the start of the Holiday Challenge and one of my brain waves was to go to the local swimming pool to get some widths in to provide a kick start to my cardio for the week, but I could not have been more wrong, if you imagine being stuck on the London underground in rush hour, up to your waist in warm water semi naked (as is a swimmers want) that is exactly what we walked into, I can assure you however close the analogy there are a lot more awkward moments when you are wearing a swimming costume in close proximity to others than when you are in a business suit!

However my daughters loved it, and managed to thoroughly enjoy the slides and chutes as well as the wild water section where an artificial current drags you round a circular pool, one thing that made me laugh was given the close proximity of parents and children funnelled into a whirlpool you really had to look twice to make sure you still had hold of the same child at the end as at the start! but I finally made my way from the play pool to the main boring square one that had no slides, chutes, flumes, whirlpools or plastic dragons firing water at me from varying angles, and so despite the odd cannonball from an over excited child ( usually my eldest daughter ) I managed to get some swimming done before setting off back home for a family barbeque.

I have cooked on a barbeque previously but only for us and relatively small quantities of food, so the prospect of cooking for the in-laws as well was frightening, I was further shaken by all forums and instructions on the NET stating that the charcoal was ready to cook on when it was covered in grey dust and the grill could maintain a steady temperature of 250 degrees, nowhere and I mean nowhere did it make reference to the charcoal being 50/50 black and grey and the temperature a good steady 300 degrees (largely because that was as high as the gauge read) while being put under pressure by a line of people with plates of raw meat, so I just took a chance and cooked on it open, and despite having slightly thinner eyebrows and a stronger facial tan the whole thing was a success.

we even managed to get some gardening out of the in-laws, which is a bonus because I am far from green fingered, and the disapproving looks, sighs of disappointment and the more than occasional exclamation of sheer surprise at the wife’s and my gardening skills is a small price to pay for transformation they seem to be able to make in only the time it takes me to cook a chicken breast to the point that I have to identify it to my daughter as she is picking what she wants to eat.

I am having my before photos done tonight as well as the Mrs did point out that for a fitness and finance blog I have only two pictures of me to illustrate that I have made any progress at all! and as yet nothing on finance, but in my defence I still haven’t found any financial that is worth talking about!

So if you read down this far, thank you, and I will catch up again later.

main Photo by Min An from Pexels

Practice the Preaching ep17

So after my rant about money, the Mrs felt that I should do something a bit more lighthearted, so I thought that I would share some of the highlights from our recent holiday.

We went to Chania in Crete, Agii Apostoli to be precise and stayed at the amazing Seaqueen villa, it is a family affair and so we were with the in-laws, I know daring right? well these in-laws are cool so there was no issues and absolutely no mother in law jokes!

The place is awesome, it is huge and easily accommodates the three couples and our two girls, the pool is perfect and it has restaurants and shops in close proximity, so it is perfect for us.

As you know I have been changing my diet and working out over the last year and one of the reasons behind this was that, when we were there last year I was in such a state physically that I couldn’t join in anything with my girls and spent all my time sitting on the sidelines, I was determined not to have that issue this time.

Pictures of me a year apart

Me a year apart, the first picture was taken in Chania Bay at around 25.7 st and the second was this year at 18.4 st

As you can see above I was much more able to move this year and the heat did not get to me as much, being able to do things with the girls and play without puffing like a steam train was priceless to be honest, and made every hour of effort of the last year worthwhile.

The pool is awesome and last year was something that I could not use, partly through embarrassment at how I looked and partly because at 42 years old I still had never learned to swim, and nobody wants to try and lift a wet fat man from the villa pool, it just ruins the overall good atmos!

So we arrived on Saturday, and by Sunday night I had fashioned a swimming technique that to be fair looked more like controlled drowning but was functional, as confidence grew by Monday I had a reasonable stroke and was swimming up and down with the girls with relative ease, so fast forward to Wednesday and the private yacht that we hired between us, this was an experience like no other and has really fired me up for the financial side of my traineesuperhuman journey.

View from back of the Yacht

All was going very well until the first stop at a beautiful secluded bay to do some snorkeling, the problems I was about to encounter are best described as “Character Building”, everybody else jumped in and set off toward the shore breathing through their tubes and enjoying the view of the fish while I stayed on the yacht, after all I learned to swim one day ago and this was the sea and not a small pool with no current, but I felt bad as they all disappeared into the distance and when the Mrs came back to get me, claiming that the beach was only a short swim away I thought “why not” after all the water was very calm.

However I didn’t consider two three things, one, I had lost a lot of weight since the swimming shorts I had on had been purchased, two, the sea is salty and tidal, and lastly, three, breathing through a snorkel only really works if you stop using your nose and breathe through the tube, So I jumped in and set off with the wife, about half way across I realised that I was losing my shorts, now that would ruin everybodies holiday and I really didn’t want to have to climb back onto the boat with no shorts on, but as I say I had only just started swimming so as I put one hand down to pull the shorts up I started to swim in a circle, to correct this I would change hands and swim the other way, eventually we reached the beach and spent time in the warm lake on the other side of it, when it came time to come back I chose not to use the snorkel as I had swallowed my bodyweight in salt water already and wasn’t ready for any more, but what I hadn’t banked on was that the water had changed and was now a little choppy and the waves were against me, I am convinced I spent five minutes paddling like mad just to stay still, then the boat started to move away from me as I got close to it just to really finish me off!

It was (despite the near death experience) an amazing day, and I feel very privileged to have experienced the whole private yacht thing, as it turns out I spent most of the holiday in the water one way or another, either in the pool or at the water park that we took the “little fun train” to.

All in all an amazing time that I was able to enjoy so much more due to the hard work that I have put in over the past months, and a huge boost to me continued efforts, which will now include swimming!

Get up not stay up

So many blogs and Instagram stories centre around working as much of the day as possible in order to maximise progress, but quite a large proportion of these are either written by immortals or they are so rich that they have robot stand-ins, constantly we see posts at 4:30 in the morning and then posts claiming that they are still up at 12 midnight, whilst I accept that this can be employed as a temporary strategy it has no validity in the long term, as you become tired you will start to lose cognitive ability, concentration and physical ability will start to fade and you will eventually end up in a heap on the floor.

At which point all your plans, workouts and learning stops while you recover, as the vast majority of us will be holding down full time jobs as well as whatever other activities we are pursuing it serves us better to go to sleep a bit earlier and wake up earlier, this way all you are missing is night time activities which are largely leisure activities, these are the things to sacrifice in pursuit of goals both physical and financial anything else is going to harm you and as I said will ultimately end in stopping your progress completely for at least a couple of days.

If you go to bed at 10:00pm and get up at 4:30am you still get 6 and a half hours sleep, only losing out on half an hour of recommended sleep and you have a good 3 hours to get your goal pursuits in be that training, learning or practicing guitar (quietly of course) most of us finish work at 5:30pm so you still have 4 and a half hours to either carry on working on the future or spending time with the family, that schedule will also fit a lot closer with children so as you and the children start to sync a bit in your rhythms you could even bring some more harmony to that relationship.

Remember all sacrifice is for nothing if you become to tired and ill to keep pushing.

Amazing Downtime

I had an amazing time last night with the Mrs for her birthday, we went to York to a Thai Tapas restaurant http://phranakhon.co.uk/ to be exact and had arguably some of the best food I have ever had (certainly Thai at the very least) and the went on to see The Rocky Horror Show at the York Opera House, the performance was amazing and I even managed a bit of a time warp!

I was able to enjoy myself with an amazing woman in an awesome place with outstanding food and an unutterably good show.

And this morning? Did I go for a 5k walk and did I feel guilty about eating food that isn’t exactly “on plan” ? HELL NO! We got in late and I had an early start at work, so literally did not have the time, we put all the work in so we can cut loose, we eat a sensible diet tailored to our needs so when we go out we can indulge and we stay in shape so that we can enjoy ourselves until the early hours when the opportunity arises.

The only lesson, only lesson here is to work harder, work so hard you turn weekends into weeks, fun and enjoyment into simply “life”, I was feeling a bit deflated before going out but now ready to take on the world.

There is an adage about a struggling salesman buying a bigger car to help him sell, sometimes we need to just get out and enjoy ourselves to remember what we are working for.

Children and iPad’s when is it enough?

The world is changing and as always Children are just changing along with it, without question and without a hitch so it would seem, if anything I feel jealous sometimes that my kids adapt to new technology and within a very short period of time are using the new gadget or application with the ease of a seasoned pro, they can do this because they do not resist change, life for them has been constant fast paced change and they are comfortable with it, no sooner can they walk and talk as they are then put into pre-schools, people come people go and they are constantly introduced to new experiences and toys to assist their learning, by definition parents on the other hand tend to be at least a generation away and have, if nothing else gotten used to a slower pace of life, we have settled into jobs / careers found somewhere to live and our interests and hobbies are all pretty much fixed by the time we consider having children, actually it is often this particular milestone that triggers the conversations about having kids.

So we start to resist changes, we look with suspicion at gadgets and apps as they appear on the market, and with confusion at the latest craze to sweep over our children from YouTube or TikTok or whatever the current craze is, but these differences just flow into and out of their lives with ease.

Children will literally spend hours staring at a screen.

They do not have the normal indicators that they have spent time on the devices though, their schedules are still dictated by us the parent, and I would be lying if I said that I haven’t found it easier to get things done when the girls are sat happily wandering down a YouTube spiral or making videos and editing them to share with friends.

But of course that is flawed because it is easy for us to lose track of time and before you know it hours have gone by and all you have seen of them is the back of the iPad or phone, the reaction is usually to tell them to stop playing with the devices and go out and play, or at the very least do something different, today I did this very thing and was horrified when they both stood outside in the garden looking a little lost, my youngest daughter wanted to play a game with her sister but she was sulking a little brought on (I suspect by the manor in which she was asked to put the iPad down and go out and play) so my youngest became very frustrated and chaos began to ensue, the problem was that they had no real alternative easily at hand, the virtual worlds that our children disappear into are so vast and colourful offering the ability to manipulate their surroundings at will and offer instant gratification that they are honestly a hard act to follow, but instead of getting just as stressed as they were I bundled them in the car and drove to a local bargain store and let them choose a selection of toys to play with back at home, I was surprised at how engaged they were, they picked and we headed home with inflatable limbo, a cricket set and some devices that you swing round your ankle and attempt to skip over with the other foot, as well as hula hoops.

A far cry from the 4k HD screens they had been so upset to leave these things grabbed their imaginations the way they always would have done before iPads came along, they were bright, fun, and cheap there was no requirement to be careful with them they were their to have fun and possibly more importantly they worked better if you had somebody there to play with.

The afternoon went amazingly they played and apart from one relapse where my youngest had a minute on the iPad before putting it down to see what her sister was doing (she ultimately found a lot more fun in knocking over the Limbo pole as her sister was going under it) there was very few tears and they went to bed tired and happy.

We cannot remove these devices from our children completely, I know there are several schools of thought on the subject but it seems impossible to me and as far as I am concerned it would be damaging, information is imparted through these devices, our children are educated and inspired through them, and they will only play a bigger and bigger role in their futures, to deny them this would be to isolate them from their peer groups at best and at worst completely cut them off from career paths / life skills that they will need in the very near future, an indicator of just how fast we have moved from when I was a child, I can remember a VCR with a remote control on a wire being amazing, the ultimate in luxury, in contrast when my youngest daughter was three she became very frustrated that the TV screen didn’t react to her pressing it, as she just expected to be able to navigate the menus by touch, I still have issues picking up the phone in case a get an automated answering service at the other end, whereas they will happily have entire conversations with Siri.

My point is that we should not be scared of the focus and fascination that they exhibit with these devices, and nor should we take it personally when we try and speak to them and get a mere grunt of recognition, children will do fun things 100 percent and if we observe it we get the same response when they are engaged in physical games or playing with friends absent of any devices.

There is a balance inherent in life with all things and this is just another example of finding that balance, but while everybody at the minute seems to be vilifying tablets and phones in the hands of children we tend to forget that it is us that has put these devices in their hands and we need to remember that we need to moderate their use, as well as be responsible for securing these devices, and a good engaging alternative will smooth the way.

Children, our pupils and teachers.

Children can and do ask the strangest questions and their world can fall apart at the slightest drop of a hat, and we as adults, all caught up with trying to run a home a life and look out for the best interests of our children and significant others sometimes find these episodes a little testing, and that is without trying to fit in the reading of another blog!

Life does demand our full attention there is no getting away from that, but life is not just what we do for a living, what we want to do for a living or what is fed to us through tiny handheld 4k super hd screens, it is the mere act of living and breathing and what ever else we happen to be facing at the time.

So this explains why our children often overreact to situations or need our support for seemingly inconsequential things, they do not worry about work, the car or house payments and they certainly do not worry about their progress becoming rich or a Superhuman! so to them when a fly comes to close to their ice cream they are devastated, when they are being asked to eat something that they don’t like it is a life or death struggle (even if we know it is soo much better for them than their choice of Chicken Nuggets and Chips) but we still sit and shake our heads and in some cases (I know I have) actually ask them why it is so hard to eat a yogurt?

This actually presents us with a huge and rare opportunity to be problem solvers, to be a God, if only for the 2 minutes it takes them to forget what they were upset about, and to further cement the relationship between you and the most important people in your life, because you can swat the fly or chase it away, and to your child you have become a hero, you may as well have swooped down on a great green dragon and slain the beast where it stood, and imagine if you went in to work and your boss pulled you to one side and said “the company is going under we will all be out of work and have our houses repossessed unless you put this hat on and run around the garden with a stick pretending it is a gun”, twenty minutes later the world is saved and it was you that did it.

And our children do not take without giving either, in return if we listen really close we can hear a very clear lesson, a situation is as bad as we decide it is, and the vast majority of the time it is not as bad as we think it is going to be, so next time you feel that the world is caving in and you do not know how to proceed, just stop and close your eyes, and reduce the problem in your mind to what it actually is, just as the fly is not going to steal the ice cream and then take the remainder from the freezer rendering your child’s world ice cream free forever I would be willing to bet that majority of the situations we face everyday are not as big as we make them internally.

And every time you get the chance to save your child from a hell bent insect, or cure tears and a broken heart by running around the garden flapping your arms do so, because if at any point we lose touch with the ones we love then all the late nights and early mornings, all the trailing through blogs like this one looking for inspiration and guidance are for nothing, money alone does not make good company.

So solve the problems be a god, and put them to bed to rest, then smash the hell out of improving all your lives beyond any of your wildest dreams!

Photo by Thierry Fillieul from Pexels