hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Feb. 16th, 2009 06:48 am)
Signed up today with Kiva. It's a microlending site. People in third world countries need money to start businesses and improve their lives. You, via Kiva (which works through carefully chosen local banks and lenders around the world), can provide that money by making $25 loans. (Using PayPal.)

You look through the listings of who needs what, choose the ones you want, and lend them money. In time, they pay it back.

It's not charity, because you get repaid. But it can make a big difference in their lives. And you don't make any money off it yourself. (The local lenders charge interest - they have to cover their costs and make some money, after all. But Kiva screens out the ones who charge rates that they feel are out of hand. And they are considering ways to allow users to get some interest, as well.)

When you do get repaid (and though there is some risk of default, 99.70% have so far been repaid), you can take the money back or relend it to someone else.

There are also teams. Just for fun and socializing and such. I've joined up with a dozen of them. LJ/Fandom, FSM, Jews, MIT, Colbert... I'll spare you the full list. But some of you may be interested to know that there are teams for Browncoats, X-Philes, NaNoWriMo, and Homeschoolers, among others. There are over 4000 teams for schools and places and ideas and families and just about anything you can name. And if you can't find it, you can start it yourself.

It's pretty cool. A way to touch lives and help change the world. $25 at a time.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Dec. 12th, 2007 04:44 am)
Quick URL to share with those of you who are in the US and who are concerned about some of the things the current administration has done in the name of combating terrorism. Amnesty International's US branch is running a campaign. Go, see what you think, see if there's something you'd like to do. At the least (what I've managed so far), you can pass the link on.


There's also a petition to close Guantánamo Bay:


(Just signed up. W00t! I'm #93,000!)

(Though, in truth, I'm not certain how much that'd really accomplish. But it'd be a step in the right direction. As long as they didn't just move everyone to another, more secret location... *sigh*)
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Nov. 16th, 2007 09:29 pm)
Long-overdue announcement...

Two Whom It May Concern;

Calling it "zest" does not change the simple, inescapable fact that orange rind is not edible.

Thank you.

P.S. Coating it in chocolate is a violation of the 11th Commandment*.

*The Eleventh Commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Waste Chocolate" or "Thou Shalt Honor The Chocolate And Keep It Holy," was not given to Moses because the descendants of the Israelites would not encounter actual chocolate for several thousand years. Giving the commandment at that time would simply have caused a lot of confusion, probably having to do with carob, which would just be sad. Instead, the commandment was hard-coded into our genetic structure, left as instincually obvious for those who would later encounter the real thing. (This is why you should never trust anyone who does not like chocolate.)
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)


( Jul. 16th, 2007 08:43 pm)
A family friend just discovered that someone stole his SSN and has been using it for the last four years. In looking into how to help him, I ran across AnnualCreditReport.com

Now, if you're in the US, you've probably heard all those ads for freecreditreport.com. That gives you a free credit report... if you enroll in their fraud protection program. There are a few other companies that do the same.

This site is the official one maintained by the three credit reporting companies in the US - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Once every 12 months, you can log on to the site and get a free look at your credit report. They don't give you your credit score (that's $8 extra), but they do let you check everything over to see what's been reported about you. You can check for fraud, identity theft, reporting errors, etc. You can even see who's been looking at your report (most likely a whole lot of credit card companies getting a brief overview to see what kind of junk mail offers they'd like to send you).

You'll have to give them some personal information - name, address, SSN, possibly some account numbers - but it's okay. The sites check out clean and secure. These are the credit reporting companies. They have all that information already. Collecting it is their whole reason for existing. They're asking you to fill it in purely for identity verification, since your full credit report includes all of your debt accounts (credit cards, bank loans, mortgages, collection agencies, etc.).

A couple of things to note:

They'll ask for your email address. You don't have to give it to them if you don't want to. If you do, they'll send you a reminder when 12 months are up (so you can check your report again) and send a couple of offers to enroll in credit protection programs.

As mentioned, you have the option to get your credit score (which may vary from company to company). It costs about $8. You don't have to if you don't want to, so keep an eye out for the option to skip or say "no thanks." However, it may well be worth it, especially if you've never seen yours. It's a small one-time fee, and it can be handy/nice to know where you stack up.

To verify your identity, they'll sometimes ask multiple choice questions about accounts you may or may not have had. Don't let it confuse you. If you don't have the account they're asking about, click the option for "None Of These."

So go take a look. It's free, takes about 10 minutes, and could help you avoid some major problems.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Jun. 16th, 2007 08:29 am)
For those interested in such things...

Privacy International is a UK-based privacy watchdog group. Perhaps an overzealous one, perhaps not. To be honest, I don't know too much about them. Hadn't heard of them before today, when I came across a thing about Google privacy issues.

Seems PI (now there's an ironic acronym) released the preliminary findings from its ISP privacy report earlier this week (click the "interim rankings" link for actual company ratings), and Google was at the bottom. The only company to get a "Black: Comprehensive consumer surveillance & entrenched hostility to privacy" rating. Even Microsoft did better (though they say that's only because they've started to shape up a bit in the last year or two).

Linked off of that is a slightly less than professional open letter to Google in response to some of their supposed smear tactics, which also includes a link to their legal complaint (in the EU) against Gmail (due to Google's targeted advertizing, which reads your incoming and outgoing email to search for keywords, their vague privacy policy, and some equally vague worries on PIs part regarding a possible Google-dominated future).

Not sure how much any of that is really worth, but I found it to be an interesting read. What's nice is that LJ got one of the highest ratings. One of the few to get the "Blue: Generally privacy-aware, but in need of improvement" ranking, the highest PI gave out. (There was a green level, but no one earned it.) Compare to Bebo and MySpace, which were ranked yellow (one below blue), and Facebook, which got the red.

So... I don't know. Despite my early resistance to the Evil Google Monster, I've kind of found myself sucked in of late. It is easy to use. Oh yeah, and they ate up and killed HotBot. I sure as heck am not going to use Yahoo (which also got red, only one step up from Google's black). Many sites, like Answers.com, use Google to power their search functionality. What reasonable alternatives are left?

Oh well. Nice thing about the Internet is that there are so many millions of other people to track and investigate and whatnot. You guys keep 'em all busy, okay?


hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)

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