Pro tip to those conducting interviews in these days of Zoom…look at the person you’re talking to.

Not the representation of them on the screen, the real them you have to look at your web cam to see. It’ll feel weird at first, but the trust and connection you make by showing them the whites of your eyes will go a long way towards fending off the Zoominess of the whole affair.

Bonus tip - do not look at your second monitor that’s somewhere off to your left so the only part of you the interviewee can focus on is your right ear lobe.

This is not what you want them remembering. Trust me on that one.

Context Matters

Something that keeps crossing my consciousness is the importance of context.

Ironically it's been appearing across contexts.

First, over the last couple of weeks I was working on a whitepaper based on an SME (subject matter expert) interview where the expert mentioned the important role of context in cybersecurity research (the paper ended up just shy of 5,000 words and is out for stakeholder review).

Then, in my own research into social engineering I’ve now encountered 1/2 dozen expert comments on the importance of context when assessing risk.

And third, I'm reading a bio/memoir of sorts (Stephen Batchelor's Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, it's quite good). Batchelor was an ordained Buddhist monk for more than a decade, with many years being spent in a retreat center in a small Swiss town. He talks about how conspicuous he felt there and contrasts that with the years he spend as just one of many robed monks at the monasteries where he trained.

Edit: some time between starting this draft and finally getting it touched up to publish, I found myself sitting through a meeting about adaptive MFA (multi-factor authentication) and what do you know...the importance of context formed an entire segment of the presentation.

So, what do I take away from all this, other than the sheer, unadulterated excitement that is my day-to-day? Simply that context matters. I mean, I already knew that as a writer, but having it driven home in areas as diverse as life as a buddhist monk and cybersecurity was eye-opening for me.

The SME I was interviewing made several interesting comments about the role context plays in his job when designing the systems that assess whether a login attempt is legitimate or not. For example, there's something called "the impossible travel scenario" that the product the company I write for makes uses when determining how to use MFA (hence the 'adaptive' used earlier). Say you live in Seattle (I know, quite a stretch coming from a Seattleite), and the last 12 logins to your account were from the same IP assigned to your local ISP. Then, 5 minutes after your last login, there's an attempt made from Paris. Since there's no way for you to have hopped continents in 5 minutes, that's impossible travel and the system throws up a CAPTCHA or prompts a text message to verify ID.

Context.

In the world of social engineering — which blends roughly equal amounts of psychology, technology, and espionage — context is absolutely crucial. Whether in terms of situational awareness when spotting someone trying to piggy-back into a secure office space or in terms of double-checking the "sent from" address for typos to help spot phishing emails. It astounds me how many data breaches could be cut off at the knees if just one person had noticed just one thing that didn't look right.

Take the Twitter hack last year. The kid who just pled guilty called took advantage of the work from home situation to call Twitter employees pretending to be internal IT and told them he needed their passwords in order to work on an issue. Had these employees stopped and assessed that request, they could have used the internal IT systems to verify that it was a legit request (it wasn't), coming via an approved medium (it wasn't), to work on a known issue (strike 3). Instead, this clown made his way into multiple high-profile accounts and used them to run a cyber currency scam.

Context.

Situational awareness is a term that comes from the military, but has multiple uses in the civilian world. That's especially true in security. A relative spent some time helping out an executive security firm locally during their interview process. She's a very average looking white woman in her 30's, so in no way does she stand out in a crowd around here. Her job was to turn up at 4 locations the interviewee was supposed to be protecting the executive at and just...hang around, acting suspicious. Out of 12, not a single one picked her out. They saw her in 4 different, random places over a short period of time, and not one realized it. Pattern recognition failed them and not one was hired.

Context.

Steven Batchelor writes about how after he de-robed, married a former nun from his order, and moved back to England, he was reflecting on the path that brought him to that point. As an academic, he was tasked with translating several ancient Pali texts along with some writings of his own teacher that were in Tibetan, into English. That meant spending most of his waking hours locked in study on the grounds of his monastery, surrounded only by other monks. Then, he was tasked with accompanying his teacher as he set up a new retreat center in Switzerland. This plopped him down in a purely western town, surrounded by all that entails, and for the first time since taking his oath, making him feel extremely exposed and out of place.

Nothing about him had changed. Nothing about his teacher or others at the center had changed, they were all still robed, shaved-headed monks just like before. But the context around him had changed dramatically, and his interactions with those around the center showed that difference quite starkly. Ultimately, he de-robed but has remained a Buddhist scholar and teacher based in France.

Context.

I'm interested to see how this new level of awareness of context will translate to my own day-to-day. I'm someone who is already acutely aware of some aspects of context, mainly around pattern recognition and other people's emotional state. If you're aware of the idea of someone being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) that you have an idea what I mean. If not, that's for a whole 'nother post. Or series of posts. Or maybe a book. In the meantime, I'm going to keep my eyes open for how context interacts with my daily live and will report back.

Maybe you do the same and let me know what you discover?

Barefoot season is almost here. Time for Jesse to STUB. ALL. THE. TOES.

Off to a roaring start, 3 in one trip upstairs to refill my water bottle.

What the actual eff…?!

Sigh.

Time to ice. My toes.

Anyone in Microland have experience working at an early stage startup? And if so, any chance of an offline conversation? I have a potential opportunity in the works and limited if any experience in this world, therefore I have questions. Thanks in advance!

Watching a helmet cam video from a ride last weekend. Once I stopped listening to music, which my camera/bluetooth com unit pipes into the video, all I could hear was my own breathing.

And nearly incessant sniffing.

And why did nobody tell me how funny I sound on camera!?

Why am I asking you fine folks, who only know the text version of my snark.

Seriously, the only things I said out loud were to call a driver a putz for slow-rolling a turn without signaling, and another driver something more colorful for cutting me off. Then slow-rolling a turn without signaling.

Oh, my point. At one stop light, a dad ran by pushing a double stroller being followed by like a 5 year old on a two-wheeler. Little dude was rocking that two-wheeler. As they passed, he looks at me and says, “nice ride.” Complete with the dude-bro head lift. You know, when the chin lifts quickly just as they say “nice…”

All I could do was laugh and return the complement. Then laugh some more, it was truly adorable.

I'm going nuts.
This should not be this hard.
All I'm trying to do is get a new blog up and running.

I want to:

  • own my content
  • expand to a newsletter/memberships...eventually
  • manage my own site without coding skills.

Any and all input is GREATLY appreciated!

Earworms as memory triggers?

Is anyone else's earworm kind of an asshole? After having the intro to a particular Grateful Dead song (not going to name it for fear of it making a repeat performance) on repeat for nearly a week, I started to think about how certain songs can come to be tied to very specific memories, complete with all sensory recall.

This particular song was the set 2 opener the last time they ever played Seattle, and I was there so it conjures up some very specific memories for me. Everything from the smell of pot smoke (no, before you ask, I don't) to what I was wearing to the late day light playing off the trees that surround the venue (Memorial Stadium) — it's all connected in my brain. I can't hear the song without seeing the sights and smelling the smells.

The other powerful example from my own life is the song "I Want To Know What Love Is" by Foreigner. I don't like this song, at all, but it will forever be connected in my brain to ski lessons when I was 7. There was only one radio station that came in all the way to the local ski area, so that's what we listened to in our '82 Honda to and from lessons. I hear the song, and I recall the way the heat felt hitting my face when I adjusted the registers on the dashboard. I smell the hot cocoa my mom got me from the lodge after lessons. And I see the steam rise from my warm self after finishing up for the day. I even remember how the strange, almost Corduroy-like fabric felt against my face as I dozed off on the way home.

Give me a second and I can come up with at least half-dozen other examples from my youth and youth-ish times.

But why?

Why do songs connect so strongly with memories? And why, for the sake of your deity of choice, do I remember the seat fabric of my mom's '82 Honda?!

So I did what I do. I read. A LOT. And what I found out is absolutely fascinating. Well, to me and any of you out there who geek out over neurological anomalies and psychological weirdness the way I do.

This is going to be a brief version of the 10,000 ft view on this topic, mostly because I'm far too knackered to even hope to form that many coherent sentences tonight. It turns out that the brain region responsible for retrieving autobiographical memories (not where they're kept, mind you, just the part that retrieves them from long-term storage) is the same area where we process tonal shifts. For you neuro-nerds it's the dorsal region of the medial prefrontal cortex, right behind your forehead. It also happens to be the latest region to develop after we evolved into Homo sapiens.

Since things like songs are stored primarily as tonal shifts, the whole "ear worm jogs loose a memory" scenario is starting to make more sense.

Music triggers many other regions of the brain as well, of course. Centers of motor activity/control, emotional regulation, and creativity light up like a Christmas tree, especially for those songs that resonate strongly. But here's the part I find truly fascinating — the prefrontal cortex area lights up just as strongly, if not more so, than the others when it comes to songs we associate with memories.

But which way does it go? Do more salient memories trigger stronger associations with songs? Or to songs we love trigger stronger associations with memories of when we first heard them?

Turns out the scientists doing this research don't know. Yet. The focus of their work is actually on developing possible treatments for Alzheimer's patients, since the prefrontal cortex is one of the last areas affected by this degenerative condition. At the moment, all they can say for sure is that the connection is real and they can point to it on fMRI scans. The rest is open to interpretation.

For now, the fact that songs and memories can strengthen the same areas of the brain is enough for me. Now if I could only get this song out of my head...

“Leap and the net will appear.” Not today. More like,“leap and you’ll hit your head on the ceiling fan.”

February photoblogging challenge | Day 21 | Colors

I love the shades and hues this time of year, for me they’re better than any range of colors.

February photoblogging challenge | Day 20 | Weather

This is not normal weather for Seattle, from last week.

February photoblogging challenge | Day 16 | Erudite

When one wishes to become erudite, this is always a good sign:

February photoblogging challenge | Day 15 | Reflection

I love the special way wetlands reflect their surroundings. The added foliage, downed trees, etc add so much character.

February photoblogging challenge | Day 14 | compassion

My sister's fuzzy children. The border collie has precisely zero compassion for the plight of her sibling. Now throw the damn ball.

February photoblogging challenge | Day 12 | Sporg

From a year ago, when I sporged (or is it sporgged?) my shoulder.

February photoblogging challenge | Day 10 | energy

Forrest is a grand master at the art of conservation of energy.

This piece is a fascinating look at aphantasia from the perspective of someone in the ~2% of folks who don't have a mind's eye. The brain and how it affects the human condition never ceases to amaze me.

Couple additional iPhone shots from my drive into the hills last weekend. As I mentioned previously, I had intended to hike Rattlesnake Ledge, but my knee has been most displeased with the cold weather that finally hit so I stuck to where I could wander near the car...

Yes, that's snow flurrying by...

I don't know what it is about this tree, but I really want to get back up there while the water level is still high with my Fuji and get some good shots of it. Especially with the bleak lighting this time of year...it's just so moody.

February photoblogging challenge | Day 9 | Muddy

Today's post brought to you by the last month of ridiculous rainfall amounts (for Seattle, at least). This is the parking strip in front of the house, it should NOT be 2" of muck.

Hey all Micro.blog Carryologists! I have one of these Tom Bihn Cafe bags I'm looking to rehome. It's pretty much new, only reason is I upsized to a Maker bag. If you're interested, I'll send contact info and we can work out the details.