New Use for my iPhone: Depositing Checks

I’ve been a customer of ING Direct for a while. So I was really excited to discover that not only do they have an iPhone app but the app lets you deposit checks using the phone’s camera. It’s pretty simple, you just take a picture of the front and the back of the check using the application and it uploads them to the bank. You wait two days and then the money is in your account. Friends had told me about this service with their bank which made me jealous, now I can say that I too have joined the 21st century. My only complaint is that the phone does not yet print cash.

Connecticut Forum: Our Fragile Earth

Connecticut Forum Stage

I just got back from the Connecticut Forum on Our Fragile Earth. The panel was a great: Dan Esty, Michael Pollan, and Majora Carter. John Dankosky did a fantastic job as moderator. All three of the panelists were pro-environment and as a result I think that the discussion lost a little bit of flavor it could have had if someone was there advocating for the interests of business. I’m sure it could not have been difficult to find a construction worker or factory owner that was overburdened by environmental regulation. Though as Mr. Esty noted, many times there are places where the interests of business and the environment align and that’s the best and easiest way to create positive environmental change. 

The one large point of contention had to do with the issue of hydrofracking. Mr. Esty noted that New York was moving to regulate it and that hydrofracking could be fairly safe if done properly. Ms. Carter felt that leaving regulation to local governments would cause poorer areas to disproportionately host hydrofracking. While Ms. Carter’s concerns are real, I think she failed to consider that the people in these areas still have choices and can regulate hydrofracking in the same manner as the wealthy areas. Mr. Esty also raised the idea that the risk of polluted water in some areas might be worth the benefit of cleaner air that would result from the switchover to natural gas from coal. I was surprised to learn that Connecticut is a big pollution importer. Mr. Esty noted that with the pollution coming in from New Jersey and New York we already exceed emission standards without contributing our own.

When it came to tackling the policy issues the panel identified corporate contributions and influence as a major barrier to implementing effective policy. One panelist noted that it was the large agricultural firms receiving the best subsidies. I think that as a state we are still hurting from the Rowland era and Citizens’ United still sits in the back of our minds. I wonder if the cheers would have been as loud had the audience been from New York or New Jersey. If so, it is surprising that there is not an appetite in the United States Congress to tackle that issue.

Mr. Pollan focused on the issue of food. He laid out the principle that you should eat food with few ingredients and never eat anything your grandmother would not recognize. There was also some discussion of food deserts and agriculture policy. It was not clear to me how these tangents on food topics tied in to the environment until Mr. Pollan described some kind of enclosed greenhouse system where food was grown and fish swam. This greenhouse was warmed by compost and was designed to be a sustainable self-contained system. Though maybe the point of the food discussion circled back to the beginning where Mr. Dankosky noted that the Earth itself is not that fragile, but we are the fragile ones, and so it is important that we think about caring for ourselves as much as we think about caring for the Earth.

Overall the three-hour discussion generated many interesting ideas. At the end the panelists suggested if we want to do something then we should read more about the topic (I will add the book recommendations when I find them later), change something in our community, and change something in our own lives. By doing that we can take some small steps to protecting our fragile Earth.

Video of Simon Johnson at Connecticut Journal of International Law Financing Sovereignty Symposium

Someone came to this blog searching for the video from our symposium. Since I try and provide full service to my readers the link is here. You will have to skip towards the end to find Simon Johnson’s speech. If you missed the event and have a lot of free time you might also want to watch the full thing.

The Student Loan Rate Fight

Recently the Obama campaign and Democrats have been pushing the issue of student loan rates front and center. The issue is that if Congress does not act then the low interest on student loans will double to 6.8%. This is the same rate currently paid by graduate and law students like me. The difference in the interest rate is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of student loans many people have, and it is also important to note that in the last budget deal that subsidized loans for graduate students were eliminated. Meanwhile the tuition rates at colleges keep going up. Here in Connecticut UConn President Susan Herbst pledged to raise tuition 5% to 6% a year.

In the video above Obama seemed clear that as long as schools raised tuition their federal aid would go down. Yet it is not clear that anything has come of this pledge. In spite of all the rhetoric it seems that higher education exists in a bubble. The demand for seats at most schools remains strong, so there is little incentive for them to lower tuition. Unless the federal government takes the lead in fighting the rising cost of tuition, schools will continue to raise their prices and students will pay for them with easy credit. It’s sad to say that there is little boldness in this student loan rate fight. We need our leaders to do more to rein in the cost of higher education before the bubble pops.

Securing Your Computer

One of the things that most people seem to neglect besides backing up is computer security. Real security can be difficult to achieve, but there are some basic things you can do to make it better. If you are using a Mac computer like I do you can enable the full disk encryption known as FileVault 2. It takes a while to encrypt the drive but then it will be protected if someone steals your laptop. If you have a mobile device like an iPhone or iPad you should enable encryption and passwords on those as well. Instead of a basic passcode you should choose one that is eight numbers or some kind of phrase. The most important thing is to make sure you remember it.

Then for all your website logins you should use a password manager. I recommend and use 1Password. Beyond that both eBay/PayPal and Google offer additional layers of protection. PayPal offers a security key token that generates a random number that you have to enter when you login to your eBay and PayPal accounts. Google offers two-factor authentication using text messaging on your cell phone.

Finally you should keep your computer updated. Mac OS X and Windows both offer automatic updates; you should run them weekly. You should also use a modern browser like Google Chrome. By spending an hour to take these basic steps you can make sure that your data is secure and if your laptop or mobile device are stolen that your identity won’t be stolen as well.

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