The Art of Packing

I’m flying to St. Louis today and will be there for a week on a business trip. So, naturally, part of this weekend was spent preparing and packing. As I was going through my normal routine, I got to thinking…I’m a really good packer. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but it’s one of those quirky little things that I take an unusual amount of pride in.

When I think about it, it doesn’t make any sense that I would be any good at it. I have a really bad sense of space and proportion. Ask me the best way to arrange a dishwasher, pick out the correct size tupperware for leftovers, or even choose the correct lid for a pot, and I’m rubbish. However, want to know if I can fit three pairs of shoes, a hair dryer, flat iron, five changes of clothes, and various toiletries, into a carry-on, and I’m your gal.

The best pack-job I ever did was probably the time I went to Las Vegas with a couple of girlfriends. I had my boots, two pairs of heels, flats, three club dresses, a pair of slacks, jeans, five tops, plus all the makeup, shampoo/ conditioner, hair gel, brush, hair dryer, flat iron, jewelry, and various necessary whatnots.

See, the key isn’t just about how much you can fit into your bag. It’s also about having the right combination of things in order to be prepared for whatever may come. For example, my best friend, R brought four pairs of heels to Vegas, but no flats. By the end of the week, her feet were absolutely killing her.

So, I figured I would do a little write-up on my method for packing, in case anybody else might find it helpful.

The first thing to do is to check the weather. According to Weather Bug, St. Louis is going to be sunny and in the 80′s for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. However, Thursday and Friday is going to be raining, and Friday’s temperature high is only in 50 degrees.

Traveling in the transition seasons can be more difficult because the weather is so unpredictable. To me, this means having a couple of different layering options in order to accommodate the changes.

Typically, I keep a few basic things stocked and automatically packed in my bag. I went to CVS and got a little package of 3oz. bottles to hold my shampoo, conditioner, and hair gel. It came in a pack of four and has a little zip-up case as extra protection against any leaks and spills. This also ensures that I stay within the TSA’s liquid limits.

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I put that into a large Ziploc bag along with my day and night moisturizer, dry shampoo, cover-up and deodorant. This bag gets put in the front zippered compartment of my suitcase, so it’s easy to grab and put into the bin through security.

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A few other things I always keep in my suitcase are a handful of extra tampons, a couple pairs of earplugs and a thing of brand new bobby pins. They stay in the inside zippered compartment of my suitcase. I also keep a small Ziploc bag for jewelry and an extra, empty bag tucked into the inside pocket- just in case.

Now, some people may be wondering why I bring a hair dryer with me when so many hotels provide one in the bathroom. My hair is super thick and takes an abnormally long time to dry. I need a dryer that is going to be strong and hot enough to get the job done sometime in the next century. Those little hotel dryers suck, in my opinion, and so I always insist on bringing my own.

Next step is to figure out what shoes I’m going to be needing. For ladies, I think there should always be at least one pair of heels and one pair of flats. The third pair is optional. For this trip, because I know it’s going to be colder and rainy, I’ve opted to bring a pair of ankle boots.

All the hard items get laid down in the suitcase first. This includes the hair dryer and flat iron, the ankle boots, and the heels. I’ll be wearing my flats on the plane. To save space, I pack my socks and stockings into my shoes and tuck an umbrella and a pair of glove in (just in case, 50 degrees is chilly.)

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Now it’s time for the clothes. Since this trip is a business trip, I need to keep things looking pretty professional, both for day and night. For this reason, I’ve decided to forego bringing any jeans this time.

Instead I’m packing two pairs of black slacks, two dresses (that can work day to night,) two camisoles, two cardigans, one long-sleeve black shirt, one button-down, and pajamas. Everything can be mixed and matched. I’ve stuck primarily to blacks with purple and gray accent colors.

Roll everything! (Don’t fold) Not only does this help save space, but it also helps to prevent wrinkles. I also always make sure to put my pajamas on top. After a long day of traveling, the last thing I want to do is dig through my suitcase, messing everything up just to find what I need to go to bed.

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Now, along with carefully considering what’s going in to your suitcase, it’s also important to choose your travel outfit wisely. Personally, I believe that you should dress a little nicer when you’re traveling. I know that others prefer to wear yoga pants and Uggs. However, I’ve always found that you get treated better through security and throughout the airport, rental car counter, and destination if you look nice.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable! My outfit for this trip will be a sleeveless cotton shirt, black skirt (slip-on, no zippers or hardware to cause discomfort or set the security off,) a cardigan (for the changes in temperatures in the plane cabin,) and flats. I always make sure to wear those little flat socks, so I can keep my feet covered, even when taking my shoes off for security.

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And, here’s the final result! I probably won’t be posting much this week (obviously…) But, will try to take a few photos in and around St. Louis. Hope I didn’t bore everybody with my little packing tutorial! Do you have a quirky super power you’d like to share?

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Irony Is…

Setting your blog to “Blackout” and breaking the site record for most hits & views in one day!

Thank you to my readers who have been patiently letting me vent my spleen about CISPA for the past few days. If you happen to also be following me on twitter, I will be resuming my usual, lighthearted and random tweets and promise to stop bombarding you with my CISPA- hate.

Although, rest assured, I WILL be tracking the bill through legislature. If I start pulling my soapbox back out, you have nobody to blame but those silly politicians who insist on trying to take our privacy rights away.

In the meantime, I think it’s time to lighten the mood around here, don’t you think? One could even say it’s time to “Levitate.” This dancer goes by iGlide. I think he could teach us a thing or two about the subject.

STOP CISPA

Stop-Cispa

There is a major vote coming up in the Senate about CISPA. The House has already passed it. If you use the internet in any capacity (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress, etc,) you stand to have your 4th amendment rights and privacy violated…and not even know it’s happening!

The Constitution must not end where the digital domain begins.

Would you let police or government officials randomly invade your home, record your phone calls, comb through your financial records, search and seize whatever interests them without a warrant or reason?

CISPA will allow them to do that to any and all information about you online. Not only that, but they don’t even have to let you know that they’re doing it. Oh, and they’re also allowed to use 3rd PARTIES in order to obtain the information. 3rd parties that then have access to your information and have very loose definitions and little-to-no oversight preventing them from using it for other means.

If you have been subject to this, and you somehow happen to find out about it, you will have no legal recourse to dispute their actions or their claims. So, if there is a mix-up or a case of mistaken identity, you could suffer these ramifications with no way of rectifying the situation.

This will also have international ramifications because CISPA can override any site’s Terms of Service. So, for example, CISPA would allow Canadian (or any other country’s citizens) online data to be available to the US government without a warrant.

Let’s talk about those loose definitions for a moment. CISPA, as it’s currently written, allows greater access to your personal information by the government. Here’s a quote from the bill defining “Cyber Threat:”

“Information in the possession of an element of the intelligence community directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or a network of a government or private entity.” (emphasis mine)

So, if you were to cleave to the letter of the law, the next time you tweet something negative about- let’s say AT&T’s customer service- they could say you were a threat to their business. See how such broad definitions in this bill could leave the door open for future abuse?

Okay, now let’s look at another part of their definition of “Cyber Threat:”

“Theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property or personally identifiable information.” (emphasis mine)

Intellectual property has been a hot topic for corporations ever since the internet was born. I believe in giving due credit to owner’s of intellectual property. I’m not a proponent of people who steal the hard work of others. (Duh, I’m a blogger! Cite me if you’re going to quote me, amiright?)

That being said, there have been many cases where corporations have taken things to the extreme. If they had their way, we would not have an iTunes. Justin Bieber would still be some kid singing in his basement (remember, he got his start on YouTube, singing cover songs of “intellectual property.”) We, as bloggers, would probably be getting sued left and right for mentioning companies, or sharing photos with an accidental logo in the background. Sites like Pinterest would never exist.

The point being, when you put “private entity” and “intellectual property” under the definition of Cyber Threat, you are setting a very dangerous precedent. One that opens the door for massive abuse. Now add to the fact that they can collect your private information secretly and then share it- all under this Cyber Threat umbrella- and you’ll never even know it is happening.

My friend, JRingo says:

“Most basically, this bill, as it reads in current format, allows for the suspension of all rights regarding the 4th amendment in terms of your online presence. As well, the bill removes all methods of legal recourse for the citizen if rights are found to be violated. While the motivation at present time may be pure (which I doubt knowing the history of military-industrial-security complex in this nation and their effect on legislation), the broad and ambiguous nature of the language presented in the bill leaves great room for interpretation further down the road.

Our rights to privacy are already at an all-time low, and this bill allows for a greater subjugation of one of the bedrock, fundamental rights afforded to us by the Constitution. While it may appear inconsequential now, the future could be quite bleak if we continue down this path.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Unlike it’s older sister, SOPA, the online corporations have not been as opposed to CISPA. This is because they are not being held liable for sharing your personal information to the government and 3rd parties. That means we, as citizens, have a LOT more work to do.

Please, take a moment and read up on this issue. Inform yourself about what you stand to lose. I have included a list of links at the bottom of the page. This issue should be particularly important to my fellow bloggers out there reading this on the WordPress and Blogger blogs. It directly affects you.

Then, after you feel comfortably aware, WRITE YOUR SENATORS and spread the word. If you’re not sure who your senators are, or how to contact them, then you can go HERE. They need to know that we will not stand idly by while they dismantle the 4th amendment in regards to the internet.

There is also an internet blackout scheduled for 4/22/13 to make our protest really visible. I encourage anybody reading this to participate! Change your avatars on FaceBook and Twitter. Put a post up on your blogs with the NO CISPA logo and get more people aware of this bill. Write a post about CISPA yourself. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, I am encouraging anybody who reads this to link back to this post, tweet it, share it any way you can.

This is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. This is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. This affects everyone. Sign the petition. Write your Senators.

Resources:

For a copy of the bill in its entirety: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/113-h624/text

How CISPA Would Affect You (faq)

CISPA is Back: FAQ on What it is and Why it’s Still Dangerous

CISPA passes U.S. House: Death of the Fourth Amendment?

The CISPA Government Access Loophole

CISPA is Back

An America Without Privacy

Why CISPA is the Worst and How You Can Help Stop It

CISPA Supporters List: 800+ Companies That Could Help Uncle Sam Snag Your Data

Let them know you vote! Stop CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act)

cispatakeaction

Boston Marathon

NBC still image taken from video shows an explosion at the Boston Marathon

When I first moved to Massachusetts (nearly seven years ago now) I didn’t know what Patriot’s Day was. I’d never heard of it before and was surprised to find that it was a big, highly celebrated Massachusetts state holiday that commemorates the anniversaries of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Those two battles were the first battles that started off the American Revolutionary War and our struggle towards freedom and independence  There are annual reenactments of the battles in the morning in both Lexington and Concord. There’s also a ride down the same path Paul Revere made on that fateful day, calling out his famous warning, “The British are coming! The British are coming!”

Students are out of school and many people in Massachusetts have the day off. For MOST people in Massachusetts, Patriot’s Day marks the day for the Boston Marathon. People come from all over the state and the world to line up along the 26 mile path and cheer the runners on.

It is the world’s oldest annual marathon. It attracts people from all parts of the Earth to compete, either with each other or with just themselves. It’s open for both professional and amateur qualifying runners. Meaning, it’s democratic.

Tens of thousands of regular everyday people run the course in any given year, many of them for specific charities or personal causes.

And yesterday, somebody decided to set off two explosions at the finish line.

So far, the morning after, there are 3 dead and over 100 injured. There are photos of people with their legs and limbs completely blown off. There are sidewalks awash in blood and gore. Images of people fleeing, cheeks tear-streaked, clad in athletic gear and running shoes.

In horrific and senseless moments like these, I try and look for the silver linings. The fact that there were so many first responders on hand to jump into immediate action and start saving the people who had been caught in the blast.

The fact that Massachusetts is known for it’s world class medical hospitals all within a short distance of the explosions, specifically geared towards traumas like these. Those are things we can point to and be thankful for.

I was inspired by the photos of regular race watchers running up to the fences and barricades that had fallen on people and helping lift and pry them apart with the policemen and official volunteers.

There was a Google document passed around twitter offering thousands of displaced racers food and shelter from Bostonians wanting to help. Remember, a lot of these people are not only visiting from out of town, but from out of the country.

After the explosions went off, the whole place went into lock down and was cleared out. Many of the racers and people couldn’t get to their cars or hotel rooms. Some didn’t even have access to their keys or cell phones being held by loved ones. They basically were stranded in the middle of a foreign city with no resources and unsure of where to go or what to do.

This is an international event. Our world is so interconnected now that this can’t simply be seen as an attack on Americans. That’s one of the things I think whoever did this doesn’t understand (among many.) Things are not as delineated as they once were. We are Earthlings, first.

One of the images that’s burned into my mind are the flags from all around the world streaming in the wind that the explosions made, then falling to the pavement. All the flags representing the world, being trampled on by people who hastened to help and rescue. Country colors muted, lying there, in the blood and debris.

Coincidentally, about a day and a half ago, just a day before this tragic event, I added a flag counter to my website. You can find it on the right-hand side-bar. In a little less than the 48 hours it’s been up, I’ve already collected 29 flags.

There’s a forum site that supports this seemingly simple little widget. On it, you’ll find people from all around the world asking to exchange flag clicks. I’ve visited many of their sites, giving them my +1 US flag. In doing so, I’ve found beautiful photography, music, art, food recipes, posts on life and love. All the usual and everyday things that people care about. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.

I don’t know who perpetrated this attack on us. It makes me sick to hear of some of the conclusions people are so quick to jump to and the amount of hate and vitriol that can come from something like this. Hate and vitriol is what leads to events like this.

I do know that whoever has done this attack has greatly underestimated the resiliency and the goodness in most people – and of the American people, specifically.

Remember, the Boston Marathon commemorates and marks the beginning of our Revolutionary War. We have known struggles like these; we have conquered them before.

Together, we will again.