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Writing – Just do it!

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Writing – Just do it!

I used to be an English teacher and the most dreaded task that I could assign my students was to write a short essay. Perhaps that fear is a product of our technological environment where the art of writing to introduce or share an idea has given way to terse or coded phone messages, happy faces or computer emoticons to convey a thought. Sometimes a student spends hours searching the Internet trying to uncover something that has been written before, in hopes that a teacher will not discover the plagiarized material. Unfortunately, many students graduate from school with minimal writing skills and enter the adult world unprepared to meet the challenges of having to write to survive in many professions.

There are many tips, tricks and gimmicks that are available that would suggest that if you follow this rule or that rule that writing ability will suddenly appear out of the mist and bless the afflicted with a talent that has hitherto been undiscovered – poppycock! Writing is just like any other endeavor in life. One does not wake up and become a football player because they think it will be a good career choice or enter into the field of investment banking without preparation, practice and some set backs along the way.

So what does one do when they are confronted with a mission to write something and they are unprepared? I recommend the well known Nike motto – “just do it”. I can hear the reader thinking now – “yeah sure – fine for you to say, but I don’t know what I’m doing.” Wrong! If you can read, you can write. There are only two obstacles to successful writing. They are fear and lack of desire. Fear can be overcome. Lack of desire is a terminal affliction.

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If you lack desire, stop reading now. You are wasting time. If fear is the only obstacle, please continue and I will provide two simple rules for improving your writing. First let me assure you that I had to conquer a fear of writing so I know the difficulty, but I also recognized that my career would be handicapped substantially if I did not learn to write so I set out to conquer my fear and improve my writing. In fact teaching English was my second career – I never would have “thunk” it!

Writing is like a child learning a game. Do you remember when you were a child and entered the playground to engage in some sport with your playmates? Did you know the rules? Of course not – you simple engaged in the activity and learned the rules as time progressed. Here is where Nike enters the picture as rule number one – just do it! Get the paper and pencil or sit at the keyboard and write. What do you have to write – a sales report, a letter of recommendation, a plan to improve some function or some other writing activity? All require a start – so start! No rules – just start! In fact, stop reading this article and begin. You can come back after the first 50 words are written.

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Rule number two. The last rule! There has to a beginning, a middle and an end in your writing efforts. You’ve probably heard of the old standby – an introduction, a body and a conclusion. So make sure you have introduced your subject, presented some material to support that subject and conclude with your findings or recommendations.

Alright! I know I have oversimplified a bit, but I’m assuming that if you can read this that you recognize what a sentence is and have at least a basic knowledge of punctuation. If you have those skills you can write! Just like the playground experience, you can learn the finer techniques as you practice the game.

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In fact, after you’ve written a bit – I recommend the “50 tools that can help you in writing” that are posted on this website. They offer additional information that can improve your writing techniques and add finesse to your game.
In conclusion, enjoy the experience! You can do it if you “just do it.”

David Richards is a retired teacher and former business owner that lives in Williamsburg, Virginia. He enjoys sharing any knowledge gained or lessons learned in his life in hopes that they may be applicable to others.

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Last Updated on November 25, 2021

Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

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Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

With all of the recent online services and companies falling under attack to hackers in the past few months, it seems only fitting to talk about password creation and management. There are a lot of resources out there discussing this, but it never hurts to revisit this topic time and again because of its importance.

Password management isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, yet it does seem like a bit of an annoyance to most people. When it comes to password management, you will hear the famous line, “I don’t really care about changing my passwords regularly. I have nothing important online anyways.” Let’s see if you have nothing important online when your PayPal account gets taken over because you thought the password “password” was good enough.

In my opinion, it is an “internet user’s” responsibility to make sure that they keep secure passwords and update them on a regular basis. In this article we will discuss how to make your online presence more secure and keep it secure.

The easy fundamentals

First thing is first; creating a strong password.

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A strong password is a mixture of alpha-numeric characters and symbols, has a good length (hopefully 15 characters or longer), and doesn’t necessarily represent some word or phrase. If the service you are signing up for doesn’t allow passwords over a certain length, like 8 characters, always use the maximum length.

Here are some examples of strong passwords:
* i1?,2,2\1′(:-%Y
* ZQ5t0466VC44PmJ
* mp]K{ dCFKVplGe]PBm1mKdinLSOoa (30 characters)

And not so good examples
* sammy1234
* password123
* christopher

You can check out PC Tools Password Generator here. This is a great way to make up some very strong passwords. Of course the more random passwords are harder to remember, but that is where password management comes into play.

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Managing your passwords

I know some people that keep their passwords in an unencrypted text file. That’s not a good idea. I suppose that if you aren’t doing much online and are decent at avoiding viruses and such, it could be OK, but I would never recommend it.

So, where do you keep your strong passwords for all the services that you visit on a daily basis?

There are a ton of password safes out there including KeePass, RoboForm, Passpack, Password Safe, LastPass, and 1Password. If and when I recommend any of these I always count on LastPass and 1Password.

Both LastPass and 1Password offer different entry types for online services logins (PayPal, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), credit cards and bank accounts, online identities, and other types of sensitive information. Both have excellent reviews and only differ in a few subtle ways. One of the ways that is more notable is that LastPass keeps your encrypted password Vault online where 1Password allows you to keep it locally or shared through Dropbox. Either way, you are the holder of the encryption keys and both ways are very secure.

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LastPass and 1Password both offer cross-platform support as well as support for Android and iOS (LastPass even has BlackBerry support). 1Password is a little pricey ($39.99 for either Windows or Mac) where LastPass has free options as well as premium upgrades that allow for mobile syncing.

Upkeep

You should probably change your passwords for your “important” accounts at least every 6 weeks. When I say “important” accounts I am referring to ones that you just couldn’t imagine losing access to. For me that would be Gmail, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, all my FTP accounts and hosting accounts, Namecheap, etc. Basically these include any account where financial information could be lost or accessed as well as accounts that could be totally screwed up (like my webserver).

There is no hard and fast rule to how often you should change your passwords, but 6 to 8 weeks should be pretty good.

Alternatives

You may think that all of this is just too much to manage on a daily basis. I will admit it is kind of annoying to have to change your passwords and use a password manager on a daily basis. For those people out there that don’t want to go through all of the hub-bub of super-secure, encrypted, password management, here are a few tips to keep you safe:

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  1. Create a unique and hard to guess “base password” and then a pattern to use for each site you logon onto. For instance a base password could be “Ih2BaSwAa” (this stands for “I have two brothers and sisters who are annoying”). Then you would add something “site specific” to the end of it. For Twitter Ih2BaSwAaTWTTR, Facebook Ih2BaSwAaFCBK, etc. This is sort of unsecure, but probably more secure than 99% of the passwords out there.
  2. Don’t write your passwords down in public places. If you want to keep track of passwords on something written, keep it on you at least. The problem is that if you get your wallet stolen you are still out of luck.
  3. Don’t use the same passwords for every service. I’m not even going to explain this; just don’t do it.

These are just a few things that can be done rather than keeping your passwords in a management system. Personally, with over 100 entries in my password management system, I couldn’t even dream of doing any other way. But those out there with only a few passwords, having a simpler system may be beneficial.

So, if you want to be a “responsible internet citizen” or you just don’t want to lose your precious account data, then creating and maintaining strong passwords for your online accounts is a must.

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