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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Slaying the Dragon (aka Facebook)

Many years ago, before it was at its peak in popularity, I created a Facebook page. This was mostly so that I could keep up with what my daughter and sister were doing, share pictures, etc. Like I said, this was before it turned into the monster that overtakes and complicates lives, which (in my opinion) it is now.

Before I moved to Greenville, SC in 2011, I deactivated my account. By then, I was growing weary of it anyway and just didn't want to be distracted by it anymore. But once we were settled in our new place and there were pictures to share, I reluctantly created a new page. This was my first mistake.

At the time I deactivated the old account, I didn't know there was the choice to either deactivate or delete a Facebook profile. I just assumed that it would disappear after deactivating. WRONG. It stays out there forever, giving you the chance to reactivate it years later if you so choose, and also giving hackers the modus operandi they need to steal your info. I now know I should have just reactivated this account rather than creating a new one after we moved.

So last fall, in an attempt to simplify my life, I deleted my Facebook account. It was an unnecessary distraction in my life and I was and am glad that it's gone.

But then, a few months ago my sister texted me, asking if I had reactivated my account. When I said no, she said someone must have "hacked" an old account, because ads for products such as electronics and sunglasses were being sent with my name and an old picture. What? How?

That's when I knew the original account had never just disappeared and it was back to haunt me.

So the first thing I needed to do was get the old account deleted. I didn't have the password, and the email attached to the account was closed so I couldn't receive the email from Facebook in order to change the password. I even went as far as contacting the company that provided the old email account, requesting the account be reopened temporarily so that I could get access, but they said it was gone and there was nothing to access.

Wouldn't you think that with all the technology that Facebook must possess, that their system could figure out when an email is being sent to a closed email account?

After many tries to guess the password (the hacker must have changed it), many attempts to contact Facebook online (they make it very difficult if not impossible to do so), and messages on Twitter, I resorted to sending a certified letter "snail mail" and requested a signature upon delivery. Yes folks, I was willing to take this to the nth degree, if necessary.

But lo and behold, about a week after the letter was received by them, I received an email from Facebook Community Operations. They wanted me to reiterate the problem (assuming because they wanted to ensure it was me who sent the letter) and then in a second message asked for a picture of a government issued document, such as my driver's license. Once this was done and verified, they said they would delete the account.

What they did was change my email address on the account and the password, which allowed me to go in and deactivate, then delete the account. Strangely enough, Facebook makes it very difficult for you to delete your profile. I had to Google it to find out how to do it.

And it worked. I'm so relieved.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it was to me. The thought of someone using my name, and all the info and pictures associated with the page, just really bothered me. There were tons of people I didn't know on my friends' list, and all kinds of junk had been sent out in my name. I did get a lot of pleasure thinking about the hacker trying to log in to the account and finding out that it was gone!

Maybe it just comes with getting older, but I'm going to be so much more careful going forward where and with whom I share my personal info.

So, let this be a lesson. In this day and time, there are so many smart people out there using their time to do bad instead of good and it's too easy to have your identity stolen. Close and delete any unused open accounts be it credit or otherwise, and don't use your debit card online (another lesson learned previously). And if you have a Facebook page, add a second source of access to retrieve your password, such as by text on your cell phone.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Smart Moves

When I was 14, I got braces on my teeth for the first time. And they weren't the tiny ones that glue onto the front of your teeth; they were the big ugly ones that wrapped all the way around each tooth and literally had to be hammered on. And I had to wear those things for over three years. (They are even in my senior picture!) My teeth were in pretty bad shape, but by the time the braces came off I had a great smile I was proud of.

So now, some 35 40 years later, I've noticed how much my teeth have moved, especially in the front. One of my two front teeth has moved forward, and through the years has continued to protrude farther out. My bottom teeth have also crowded up and protrude out, which is pushing the top front tooth out. My husband is not much into details, but even he has even noticed how much my smile has changed.

I usually don't think twice about doing things for myself such as hair appointments, massages, and pedicures, but having my teeth done again was not something I'd thought seriously about until a couple of months ago. Since we don't have orthodontic insurance, it would be an out-of-pocket expense. So I started adding up the cost of those pedicures and massages (!) and thought, since it's an issue that's only going to get worse, that money would be better spent investing in my teeth.

Since I've already had the metal kind, I thought Invisalign would be the way to go. (I was willing to go for the tiny metal ones if the cost was unreasonable.) After doing some research online, I called my dentist's office before moving forward. I trust them, and wanted their opinion on how I should proceed, and to also get a referral for an orthodontist they recommend.

As it turns out, their office offers a new procedure called Smart Moves. It's like Invisalign, but not as intensive or costly. It's mainly for straightening anterior (front) teeth, and like Invisalign, not appropriate for everyone. Since my issues are mostly in the front, I was hoping I'd be a good candidate. After a consultation and finding out this procedure would work for me, and then finding out that the cost is at least half of what Invisalign would have been, I felt like this was the way to go.

After impressions of my teeth and then a couple of weeks for the lab to make my aligners, I returned to my dentist to be fitted. He had to file some space in between a few teeth to give them room to move, which was mostly pressure and not too bad. After that, they popped right in and here's what they look like:



They do take some getting used to. The first set is called a "hard-soft" material. I slur a little when I talk, and my tongue and sides of mouth are a bit raw in places from some sharp edges. I've been more self conscious about them than I thought I would be. I feel the need to explain, especially when I'm talking directly to someone.

After the first day, I felt my teeth moving. I'll get my next set of aligners in 2 1/2 weeks, which will be made of a harder material. I'll get a new set every two to three weeks after that for six months, and my dentist guarantees my satisfaction, which is reassuring.

An added benefit will hopefully be some weight loss. With these in my mouth I'm less likely to mindlessly snack, and I'm mostly drinking water because I have to take them out to drink anything else or to eat.

I've been getting up in the morning and taking them out and leaving them out until after my coffee, giving my mouth a bit of a break, and then brushing and putting them back in. Overall, I'm wearing them at least 22 hours per day. They are not hard to keep clean. Toothpaste is abrasive, so I'm just using warm water and a toothbrush in the morning and at night, and I take them out several times a day to refresh with cold water and pop back in.

Wish me luck! Stay tuned for updates and more progress photos...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Feast and Famine

As a transcriptionist, I've always been blessed with an abundance of work. I've seen comments on the internet about other transcriptionists who were not as fortunate, so I knew I was lucky. Over the past few months it was to the point to where the hospital system couldn't accommodate the number of transcriptionists needed to finish the work, and, along with the doctors who were constantly dictating, the TAT (turn around time) was suffering. I knew changes were ahead.

A couple of weeks ago we were notified that hospital was changing to voice recognition. This means the doctors are dictating into the new system and, instead of a human (me!) transcribing the reports, a computer is transcribing them. This type of change usually leads to layoffs as transcriptionists are no longer needed, but the hospital instead chose to transition us into voice recognition editors. Editors take the computer reports and proofread and edit them as needed, and then return them to the doctors. It is a different procedure on a newer system and it doesn't require as much typing, so this was good news. After some anxiety about all the changes, I was looking forward jumping in with both feet.

Well...as it turns out, I haven't had much of a chance, as most of the doctors are now editing their own reports. I know this has come as a huge surprise to the company I contract with, and to the hospital. I'm sure they are currently at a loss as to how to proceed since they don't know if the doctors' enthusiasm for the new system will last.

So, where does this leave me? Right now, I am still working my part-time shift. Most of the time there are "no more files available". A few jobs will trickle in here and there - on the new system and the old. Right now I am still paid an hourly "downtime" when there is no work, so it's just basically staying close by and monitoring the system every 10 minutes. I know this will not last much longer. The hospital will not want to continue to pay us to sit and wait.

But right now, the silence from the powers that be is palpable.

Even before this happened, my husband and I had been praying for direction with both of our careers, and for help in seeing open windows of opportunity. I am starting to think about what I'd like to do going forward if it's not transcription or editing work. At one time I thought about going back into an office setting, and at another I considered a position at our church. But having worked independently at home for almost 13 years has left me lacking in confidence to do anything other than what I'm used to. Starting over at 53 would be daunting, but not impossible with God's help. All the more reason to stay aware of His direction for me.

Just maybe it's the start of something new and better than I could ever imagine...