Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dead is the Princess


A Shannon Dermody Awareness project

Close this page now if you are a Disney fan.

Shannon Dermody has chosen a polarizing approach to raise awareness. It leaves you shocked, hurt - and touched. Perhaps that's what we need.

Aurorasa Sima Quote

We are visual creatures with a rapidly decreasing attention span. Way too often we sugarcoat, don't call things by their names, play evil things down and don't do everything we could to create change.

Generally, I have no "eye" for art (whatsoever) and I am not interested in sculptures, paintings, and pictures. Even I can see that these pictures are extraordinary, especially because they convey an important message.

Consider me touched, reminded, feeling guilty for not doing all I can. And angry that we as humans sometimes just s.... I mean: have a lot of potential for improvement.


Snowwhite not having a good day


Who was sleeping with that beauty against her will? Every 98 seconds!!!!! a US person becomes victim of sexual violence


Ariel finding it difficult to swim

Police violence

police violence
At least 258 black male killed by police in 2016 reports the Guardian

Find the rest of this series on her homepage. I would have left "nicotine" out (addict talking) and added anorexia, depression and climate change.

Picture credits: Shannon Dermody via

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Age bias and the case of the sausage slice

Picture credit:

The age bias

Hopefully, you will not feel let down by this article ... I struggled to find an appropriate title.

I considered calling it "old but cool" but I neither wanted to attract the "wrong" crowd nor put a label on myself and others. We all know that a sure sign of a person who is not cool is that they call themselves "cool".

No, I am not shooting at all the "influencers", "ninjas", people who wear sunglasses on their social media profile pictures and disruptors out there.

I am shooting at butchers, doctors, club owners and many others.

Age discrimination happened the first time to me when I was about 12. I am a vegetarian, but with a strong sense of fairness and equality.

In Germany, where I spent the first 44 years of my life, it is common practice that a kid who enters a butcher store receives a slice of sausage. It's like an unwritten law. You tiny? You get a slice!

Even when you are really little, the butcher (or salesperson) might walk over to your stroller, his eyes seeking the eyes of your parents to get permission TO HAND YOU A SLICE OF SAUSAGE.

Then over time, the slice gets smaller. You are puzzled but do not come to the right conclusion (like when you gained weight for the first time and did not understand how your winter coat can be shorter than last year). You have grown.

Aurorasa Sima

Inevitably, the day is approaching where you will not get one. It's a process. It does not happen overnight. First, you don't get a slice every time, then only if you stare at the butcher with evil eyes for quite some time until one day, finally, it's over.

No more sausage slice for you. No more grabbing in the toy jar at the doctor's office. No surprises in your menu. No cute drawing on your yogurt. No nothing. Ok, I am exaggerating but I trust you see how this is an emotionally painful topic.

Society has decided that I am "too old" for things. For a lot of things. Luckily for me, society has tons of idea what I am supposed to like now and how I can behave "age-appropriate".

It's not just sausage, oh, no!

The same applies to the way I dress, the books I am supposed to read, what's printed on my shirt (depending on if you are allowed shirts in your role at all) and if I may jump on one leg in public.

The worst thing for me is the music case. It's not as if my music taste changed to "old-fashioned" when I turned 40. It's not as if I stopped enjoying the feeling in a club when the bass penetrates your body, cleanses your brain ... you know? When you're in the "two drink" status where you are not drunk but just a little clubby.

Old people are not welcome

I am not sure we have this in the US (at least not in my area), in Germany, they have "Ü40". Once a week, people over 40 are welcomed to the club for a special party.

It's a splendid place to go if you like mainstream disco music from the 80ties and married guys trying to pick you up. The idea is great, even though it's sad that we would look like weirdos if we went to a regular club.

We never get tired of clichés, do we?

Something isn't right here.

I don't know about you, I will not have society decide which harmless things I can and cannot enjoy.

Oh and here is how I feel when you hit me with age-discriminating phrases like
  • Young lady (thanks for your evaluation, my self-esteem depends on it)
  • You look great for your age (you're annoying)
  • You don't look 30, 40, 50 (so? What if I looked my age?)
  • I like older women (interesting ...)

I can't be the only one who has grown older (and wiser I like to believe) and whose soul is unharmed. It can't be that all people's taste and likes change when they turn 40. Uniform, like zombie puppets.

You know you're getting older when the question "when will you get married" changes to "why did you never marry".

Grown-ups unhappy with the self-accepted rules society dictates often go around telling other grown-ups how they should behave. Social media is a perfect outlet for judging people - from whining on LinkedIn to the worst dress lists and shaming people for who they are.

I believe that happy people do not bother with mean comments from anonymous social media profiles, gossiping and such. It's easier to point finger at others than to change so that I don't blame people for being scared to focus on their own flaws.

I thought for a minute self-marketing would not come naturally in the sausage case.

But while I am finishing up this article, I realize how I can help people and how this article on my "unprofessional" blog fits perfectly with my profession by supporting people to:

Bottom line: You are you, I am me. Youth is not earned and aging it not an accolade. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

IoT and the Cost of Convenience

Credits: Withings/Kérastase/L'Oréal

Careful, your hairbrush is watching

Available this fall is a connected hairbrush that comes with a built-in microphone.

As reported by WIRED, as soon as someone brushes their hair, the hairbrush collects data.

The inbuilt microphone is said to listen to the sound of the brushing and identifies patterns in the movement. The microphone detects "manageability, frizziness, dryness, split ends and breakage".

Naturally, the brush has WLAN and an app that transmits the data. 

To me, these items are not just funny gadgets but also potential privacy- and security risks. Do you know what your brush records, how secure they store your data, for how long, etc?

After the last major Apple Update, I thought my IPad and Phone broke (something drained the battery) until Apple sent me a message they accidentally activated "backup" on all of my Apple devices. 

GIGS of data from my Apple devices (I feel a bit stupid admitting I have four as I feel writing this article with an apple watch on is on the verge of being hypocritical) were sent over the air by mistake. 

I have more faith in Apple's knowledge of IT security than in the IT security knowledge of companies specialized in shampoo and conditioner. Or freezers. 

People don't know which data is collected

Most buyers do not understand what data is collected by their household items. And if they do, they have to have faith in the vendor that
  • he can keep the data safe
  • does not secretly collect more data than agreed
  • does not sell your data
How far do we trust vendors who are keen to get to our data? In 2016, the company WeVibe had to pay a pretty heavy fine. They are selling smart vibrators and - without consent or knowledge of the buyers - collected data they shouldn't. 

WeVibe did not object to the accusations but pointed out that the data was stored "safe and anonymous". 

The risks of IoT

In the best case, you convey unpaid market research. In the worst case?

Wannacry a wake-up call?

Wannacry is the name of ransomware that recently attacked computers of people and companies who did not update their operating systems. Experts consider "wannacry" a "warning". Obviously, it had an emergency switch and could quickly and easily be stopped. 

The worm encrypted the data of the infected machine and displayed a message with instructions on how much bitcoin you have to pay to get your machine back. Some hospitals were affected too.

Having to pay ransom or loosing data is one thing. How about electricity? No air-conditioning in the middle of a heatwave?

And do you remember last October? When hackers launched an attack through the IoT? Millions of internet-connected household devices like printers, cameras were hijacked.A single printer has limited computing capacity, But 1000 or 10 Million?

Target of the attack was a DNS-service company called DYN, but as major corporations use the service, even sites like Reddit, Twitter and Spotify had been down. 

And even if you do not own internet-connected devices: In November of 2016 over 900,000 households were cut off from the internet (including telephony and tv)  after Telekom became target of a hacker and routers could not identify themselves to create a connection. 

Evidence smart gadget data

Two recent court cases are interesting. They show that also the government might be interested in data gathered by smart gadgets. 

CNN reports about a murder case in Arkansas. Authorities demanded access to Amazon's server because the suspect uses the smart loudspeaker Amazon Echo.  Amazon protected the data of the user (who in March 2017 agreed that the data can be accessed). How about 12 cases from now?

In a second case, referred to by the media as the "Fitbit murder", data collected by the fitness gadget of a murdered woman was key to refuting the false alibi of the murder victims husband. 

As I said in a different context: Data security is an illusion. Every piece of data that is stored somewhere can and will be misused at some point.

Everyone has to ask themselves: How much am I willing to pay for convenience? Not only professional hackers but also the government might be interested in your data. 

Do surveillance cameras everywhere give you the feeling of security? They just make me feel less (care)free. 

PS: Check Craigslist Chicago tomorrow for my Amazon Echo, smart coffee machine, and Bluetooth headset. I am not kidding.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Three reasons to be grateful to Trump

Thank you, Mr. Trump - 7 Week Review

It is unnecessary to share my political view. I am a social skills coach. And even though I am a US citizen, I spent 8/9 of my life as a guest in Germany. Need I say more?

Please understand that the statement below expresses a personal, biased, subjective opinion. It takes courage these days to share your opinion. Troll bots, data collection, hateful commentators and potential loss of business can be pretty intimidating.

There is a time to be compliant and careful and there is a time to stand up for your beliefs.

Three Reasons To Be Grateful To Trump

Freedom and Brutality

It's not just since seven weeks. Piece by piece, latest since 9/11 we give away our right to privacy and freedom.

We did not speak up. We are so used to freedom we stopped seeing its beauty and importance. Sometimes you have to lose something or be in danger of losing it to value it.

Another factor is that the pieces we lost seemed little, and we were too numb to rebel.

For years now, our society is brutalizing. Few seemed to care. Fake news, vulgarity and hate speech became socially accepted. Words have power. They change our brain. Just say "love" 20 times in a row and see how it makes you feel. The same is true for "hate".

We care again. We are resisting. That is a good thing.

Journalism and Compliance

Journalism rendered itself more or less obsolete during the last years. Again: Opinion. Most major media (there are exceptions!) seemed to be interested in entertaining and ad revenue more than in educating us about what is going on in the world.

Some outlets even attempted to manipulate us instead of educating us and enabling us to form our own opinion. (Hello, Fox News, how are you today?)

I am exaggerating. Perhaps.

It seems like someone poured new life into journalists. Suddenly they became as edgy and important as they should be. Not shy to touch controversial topics or take a stand.

When government agencies/national parks received a muzzle, 40 unofficial twitter accounts were created by government workers in no time. They are 65 now. If you feel that government agencies should be able to provide truthful information, spread this list HERE

Discussion and Solidarity

Injustice, income difference are not news. The decline might have slowed down under Obama, but it never stopped. Many perceived the last election as "choice between two evils". Did we not care enough or stop believing that we can create change?

Something that always fascinated me about many intellectuals and liberal people is that they never seem to agree. Why can we never agree?

Generally, hateful groupings who share the same belief are better at solidarism and focusing their power towards their goal - as opposed to internal discussions and arguments. We are often unable to even agree on a goal. Do we have bigger-than-life egos?

Until seven weeks ago it was hard to find a political post by a liberal/democrat/humanist that did not receive as much headwind from the "left" as from the "right".

Now we stand together. 
Now we stopped arguing. 
Now we join forces and see the bigger picture. 

Thank you, Mr. Trump,
for being so out of line you created the amount of
pain we needed to change!

What now?

I guess everyone is tired of reading yet another horrendous Trump story.

Now is the chance to make a change.
Now is the chance to make a difference.
Now is the time to resist and stay passionate and awake.
Now democracy and the basic American values are under attack.

It is a challenging time for the US. It is also a time with a lot of opportunity for positive change.

Like it or not, comparison to Nazi Germany is not as far-fetched as you might think. When Hitler came to power, "I will kill 11 Million people" (6 M Jews and 5 M other people) was not part of his campaign.

He came to power in an economic crisis. You could say as an avenger of the poor and common people. One of the first things he did was taking control of the media.

Does that sound comparison sound crazy to you? Yes? How did it sound when you first heard Trump is running?

Only this time we do speak up.

Arrogance might be our enemy no. 1. 

And I am as guilty of arrogance as the next person. I do not watch television, I spend my time with positive clients and positive people, I am not active on Reddit or Facebook and disconnect from the few negative posters on LinkedIn.

Even when I deal with VP of Sales with Mike Bosworth, I am around constructive and productive people.

While I lived in my bubble of positivity and discussed the latest scientific findings or interacted with an interesting article or well-educated person, I missed that the world had changed. It was painful to admit that I was guilty of arrogance and even ignorance. I embrace this painful realization as a chance for growth.

I deleted the Kool-Aid picture I used to make fun of Trump's campaign and will become a better person. A person that tries to help people in fear rather than avoiding them.

The time to act is now

The danger is that people adapt. They get used to negative situations, war, injustice and even violence.

Well, I won't. And I hope you won't either.

Progress is not a linear process. Neither is evolution. We took three steps backward and now we will make a jump forward.

To peaceful, respectful resistance!

Love & Light,


Recommended Article: When Words Become Weapons / How To Spot Manipulation

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why tomatoes have no taste anymore

It felt just right. Delicious looking is the warm red skin and the scent of tomato tickles my nose. I rest my finger and press it gently. Yes, it feels just right. Not too hard, not too mushy.

Why tomatoes have no taste anymoreWhen I was young, I used to bite a whole in the tomato and then suck the liquid and pulp out. I might still do but you will never know for I would not admit it.

So I took the initial bite. Dug the whole that shall lead me to the source. To the sweet, sour, tomatoey insides that smelled and felt just right.

I tasted nothing. I felt that I was chewing on something that changed its consistency while I was eating it. But it tasted nothing like tomato or anything else for that matter. It was not the first time in the last years and it will not be the last.

A week ago I purchased a multicolored "gourmet" pack of tomatoes. Five different varieties. I thought at least one or two types will taste nice. But then it tasted only bitter for the gourmet price I paid for tomatoes of different colors that were united in tastelessness.

What is wrong with our tomatoes?

Those around my age probably still remember the taste of a tomato.

Is it just nostalgia ("this used to be made from wood") or did tomatoes change?

Maybe you live in a warm place or you had the chance to pick a tomato from the vine while you were on vacation. I remember how they were bursting with aroma.

Tracing it down

An international team of researchers investigated this topic at the University of Valencia. And they found the answer.

Our modern tomato has nothing to do with the tomatoes we used to know. The genes of the plant changed - and therefore the taste.

The researchers analyzed 400 different varieties. Laboratory tests confirmed that the industrial tomatoes we buy in supermarkets have lost genes that were responsible for the delicious taste.

This is why tomatoes taste like nothing

The genes responsible for increasing the amount of sugar in the pulp are gone. Farmers wanted smaller plants they can harvest easier. While removing one gene, the other was removed too.

Antonio Granell, Professor at Valencia's Institute for molecular biology says: "In modern varieties, 13 flavorings are contained in a much lesser degree." The result: Tomatoes have less or no taste.

Bringing back the taste

Researchers attempt to bring back the taste to tomatoes and are in the process of identifying individual genes that are responsible for the flavoring. "We want to reinstate the genes contained in wild tomatoes", said Granell.

Years will pass until the new/old tomatoes will hit the supermarket shelves. Until then: Why not going the organic route?