Writing Tips 101…

 

Let’s get to the point – I am a poor writer.  When friends find out that I contribute to an SMB blog, they usually do a double-take and ask, “say what?”  I am Jamaal Wallace in Finding Forrester where Sean Connery shoved a typewriter to the shell-shocked African-American teenager and yelled, “just freaking write!”  I would write a paragraph and instead of keep on writing, I’d go back to the same paragraph to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed (there, I did it again).  So for all those Jamaal Wallaces and Richard Lees out there, below are some quotes from best-selling authors and luminaries that may help you.

  • “What a writer has to do is write what hasn’t been written before or beat dead men at what they have done.” – Ernest Hemingway
  • “You have to show up.  If you show up, the creativity will show up.  If it doesn’t, I take a walk or meditate.” – Laura Benedict, author of Bliss House
  • “Tell a story.  Everyone loves stories.” – Stu Perlman, now retired 9th grade English teacher at Washington High (Fremont, CA).  A side note – I would not have gotten into college without taking and passing Stu’s English 101 class
  •  “My advice is not to wait to be struck by an idea. If you’re a writer, you sit down and damn well decide to have an idea. That’s the way to get an idea.” – Andy Rooney, ’nuff said
  • “I would not get into a car unless I Knew where I was going.” – Peter James, creator of the Roy Grace series, comparing driving to working with outlines or other forms of plotting
  • “Just write, maybe in bullet points.  It doesn’t even have to make sense in the first pass.” – Jason Busch, Group Managing Director and Chief Editor of Spend Matters and MetalMiner
  •  “Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So, I try to do the best with each as it comes and that’s where my responsibility ends. But I just don’t wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. And if I don’t use the ideas that I find, they’re going to quit showing up.” – Peg Bracken, author of humorous books on cooking, housekeeping, etiquette and travels
  • “I have a self-starter—published 20 million words—and have never received, needed or wanted a kick in the pants.” – Isaac Asimov

So which quote above resonates with you?  What’s your motivation for writing?  Mine – I suck at it, and I’d like to get better.  Not sure about getting better but since I’ve been writing for a few years, I find the process rather therapeutic…

Hope everyone’s having a great long weekend  :)

No S*it Economic Commentary of the Year

Russia’s central bank said it would have to tear up its previous economic forecasts due to uncertainty surrounding the impact of sanctions imposed by Europe and the US over the conflict in Ukraine.  No, really?

Are we Secure?

By guest writer Gregory Pickett.  Greg is a sought after Defcon speaker and leads RJSL’s (www.RJSLgroup.com) internet / technology infrastructure security practice.  He can be reached at gpickett@RJSLgroup.com

DC GROUPS logo

This is the question that many of us should be asking about our business and it’s systems but unfortunately most of us don’t really know.  Sure, there are many among us who are told they are secure but how do they know.  In most cases, it is because someone told them that they were secure.  If they asked the web server guy, what would he say?  He would probably say, “Of course, we are secure.”  Same goes for the email server guy, and the guy who handles the network.  If not, you might be asking what having we been paying you for all these years.  But are you really secure just because they say you are secure?  I am sure that every business that was hacked also thought that they were secure the day before it happened just because someone said they were.  So the question remains the same.

If we are stuck in the position of only having been told that we are secure but we don’t really know, how do you move to that point?  This is where testing comes into play.  OK, but what kind of testing.  There are several types of testing such as security audits, and vulnerability scans but the real action happens with penetration testing.  This is when someone, under controlled circumstances, actually tries to defeat your defenses.  With penetration testing, you move from someone telling you are secure to knowing you are secure because someone has tried to hack your systems, just like the bad guys would.  Using the same tools, techniques, and methods as hackers, they evaluate your systems and tell you the avenues of attack.  With permission, they escalate and attempt to breach your protections and take control of your systems and your data.  Afterwards, they prepare a report, tell you how they got in or if they didn’t how they tried, how they did what we did, and how to remediate it so that it doesn’t happen again.

With penetration testing, you not only learn if someone could get in but also how they would do it and if your supporting infrastructure and teams could detect and handle it.  Is your monitoring sufficient?  Would it let you know something was going on?  Would your team know what do?  Could they remediate it properly and recover the systems involved in a timely manner?  All these sorts of questions and more can be addressed during a penetration test.

Keep in mind, security audits and vulnerability scans are still important and provide different types of benefits but there is no better way to know whether you really are secure or not than penetration testing.  It is not a guarantee that you won’t ever get hacked but it is the closest you can come one to knowing for sure where you really stand.   Ultimately though, the important question is answered.   Are we secure?  Yes, because someone actually tried.

Corporate Inversion…

AbbVie

AbbVie’s $55BN  bid for UK drug maker Shire was approved, providing yet another footnote in the history of corporate inversion by the US companies largely motivated by an opportunity to avoid US corporate taxes.  The combined firm will move to UK, saving upwards of $8BN in US corporate taxes by some estimates.  While such a move certainly rubs policy makers the wrong way, in reality isn’t this a perfect case study in the free market economy?  People / companies have moved across state-lines for better opportunities so why not across country-borders in today’s global economy?  Some compare this to individuals denouncing US citizenship to save on personal taxes – I think that’s a bad comparable.  The latter is unthinkable, outrageous (I am an ex-military after all).  Cry of jingoism will not solve the problem – only permanent solution is to change the US corporate tax laws so that we can be competitive, on the level playing field with the likes of Ireland, etc.  It’s been a couple of years since Chicago lost Aon to UK (well-respected board members resigned in protest).  We were bracing for the same after Walgreens / Boots (UK) merger.  Fortunately, Walgreens announced that they are here to stay.  Every accretion / dilution model has a black-box, designed to justify “positive synergy” that may or may not come to fruition.  I am just trying to imagine how to build one for inversion tax savings…

EBONY Wealth Challenge Wrap-up, Part 3

Continued…

  • Stock up – this is a tip that I am not really sure if I agree with but here it goes.  A few well-selected stocks can give your portfolio a nice boost.  Just make sure you do your research.  A legendary mutual fund manager Peter Lynch once said, “before buying a stock, do as much research as you would normally do before buying a refrigerator.”  I personally like to leave this task to professionals, e.g. buy funds vs. individual equities but researching before pulling the trigger still stands true.
  • Raise wealth builder – use technology (websites, apps) to encourage financial literacy with your kids.  Create family budgets, set savings goals and teach children how to earn money and save.  Good habits in fiduciary responsibility early on will go a long way.

These are 9 tips from the latest issue of the magazine.  Which ones are you going to follow?

EBONY Wealth Challenge Wrap-up, Part 2

Continued…

  • Develop a side hustle – explore a field related to what you already do for a living to develop supplemental cash flow, e.g. teacher giving private tutoring sessions.  Obvious downside – what you gain in discretionary income, you will lose in available free time.
  • Find extra money at home – in addition to selling unwanted furniture, clothes, etc. at one of many popular sites, take a hard look at various services you have including cable and cell phone.  Everything’s negotiable – give customer service a call and ask if there’s anything they can do to keep you as a customer.
  • Develop passive income – somewhat related to the first bullet above, this entails creating multiple revenue streams that’s truly passive, e.g. does not necessarily depend on your time such as owning a rental property.
  • Save for retirement – company pensions are gone with the dinosaurs and you should not rely on social security for retirement anymore.  Take advantage of 401K matching if available where you work.  While many personal finance experts advocate 20% savings of household income, I’d say save something every month regardless of how small.  We all have to start somewhere.

Another reason why Google is taking over the world…

Google

An equities analyst on CNBC a while back labeled Google as a “one trick pony.”  True… but that is one helluva trick (I’m talking about its search engine technology of course) that has fueled growth / innovation since its inception.  The latest – Google selected Alcon, division of Novartis, to be its partner in developing what’s dubbed Google Lens.  These smart contact lens are designed to monitor wearer’s glucose levels in tears to proactively manage diabetic conditions.  Data are transmitted through a radio antenna embedded in the lens, fraction of human hair thickness then presumably alerts the wearer to take certain precautions through various mobile devices.  Norvartis tried to invent such lens on its own but was not successful.  This is the stuff that you’d read in Ray Bradbury’s novels in the 80’s.  Truly amazing…

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