Remember Equifax?

Just about four months ago roughly 143 million people – pretty much every adult in the USA – fell victim to Equifax’s lax handling of highly sensitive personal information. While the initial outrage lasted in the media, everybody was eagerly trying to protect what they could – but by now it’s eerily quiet out there.

It’s not over, though. It will never be over. For the rest of your life you will have to watch your credit file, not just with Equifax, but with all three reporting agencies. Good for you, if you placed a security freeze on your credit file with every one of the bureaus. Once your accounts are “frozen”, identity thieves will have to find your PIN code to “unfreeze” them before they can cause you harm.

initial fraud alert on your credit file
Since I am a bit paranoid, I add an extra layer of protection by placing what is called an “initial 90 day fraud alert” with each of the credit bureaus every 100 days. That way, whenever anybody applies for new credit using your personal data, the creditor will have to call a phone number you supplied to make sure it is really you. Also, each time you place an initial fraud alert, you are entitled to another free credit report from that agency.

Now, these credit reporting agencies are not in the business of making your life easier, so they try hard to hide the place where you need to go to fill out their fraud alert form. I bookmarked those links for you, though. You’re welcome.
Equifax fraud alert
Experian fraud alert
Transunion fraud alert

Keep it simple – a brief Guide to Skin Care

My general approach to life is to not overthink it. I’m keeping it simple, easy, practical, just letting nature run its course, and going with the flow. I realize that this may not be the best way to handle all aspects of everybody’s life on a global level, but I believe it works very well for most of the situations I have encountered in my little niche of the Universe.

Usually I let everybody come to their own conclusions about how to handle things, I don’t give advice unasked for – but when somebody asks for it, I’ll freely share my opinion – keep it simple, don’t overthink it, doing less is often more.
So, when somebody asks me “What do you do to your skin that it looks so good?”, I will thank them for this lovely compliment – and then tell them: “not much.”

Actually, I do almost nothing to my face: I wash it twice a day with lukewarm water (absolutely no soap, or any other additives), and then I apply Nivea Creme lightly to the drier areas (on the cheeks, and around the eyes) without rubbing too much. When I spend a lot of time outside in the sun, I might apply sunscreen on top of that, or try to stay in the shade. I never use any kind of make-up, except during Carnival or Halloween to go with my costume.
German Nivea Creme
If you want to try it for yourself, make sure you get the original Nivea Creme, made in Germany. I import my supply for a year when I travel to Germany for vacation, but you can also order it on Amazon: original German Nivea Creme

Just make sure you are getting the genuine German product, really made in Germany – not Mexico, Thailand, or wherever else.

Thanksgiving Sweepstakes – a social Experiment

Facebook AdReaching the milestone of 50 sales in my Etsy shop was reason to celebrate, and give thanks to my audience. So I created a “Thanksgiving Sweepstakes” post on my ExxoPok Facebook page and ran an ad for it. My $30 marketing budget would be spread out over 27 days, until November 30th.

Instructions were simple: just comment on the post, telling me how you currently carry your cell phone.

The results are now in. Facebook congratulated me with a five star rating for exceptional relevance of my campaign – and told me to run another one now.

My boosted post received a total of 591 views, 45 organic, and 546 paid.
There were 55 clicks on the photo recorded.
I got 36 “likes”  for my post, and I gained 2 new followers for my page.

The big surprise for me, though, was that only 4 people actually read and followed my instructions on what to do to win that free ExxoPok – by telling me how they currently carry their phone!

So I decided that all four participants deserved a prize. I messaged them all, telling them that they are winners, and would they please let me know what kind of phone they have, what color of leather they would like, and tell me their address so I can send them their free ExxoPok.

One person responded immediately. With all the information I had asked for, thanking me for my generosity. The second person answered a few hours later, saying what a great idea my ExxoPok was, but giving absolutely no answers to my questions. It took four more messages to find out what phone to make the pouch for, what color leather, and where to mail the finished product. My third winner replied late in the evening, picking a color for the leather, specifying a phone model that doesn’t seem to exist, and giving no address. I haven’t given up on that one yet, still messaging. The fourth person hasn’t responded yet.

In the meantime a new order came in from my Etsy shop, somebody wants an orange left side ExxoPok for his Moto Z2 Play.  I’ll be busy on the weekend, making at least three phone pouches. Life is good.

Can’t even trust “Made in Germany”?

Some companies don’t seem to hesitate when it comes down to maximizing profits. Consumers’ health doesn’t matter. You have to be vigilant, continuously expect to be taken advantage of, even with – or especially with – something as innocent looking as gummy bears.

Some of you may know that I am a huge fan of Haribo gummy bears. While I still lived in Munich, I used to go through a pound of those per week. Then we moved to Fort Wayne, and my initial joy about finding “Haribo Gold Bears” in local grocery stores was immediately stifled when I realized they tasted very different. Reading the ingredients list on the package, I noticed that these Haribo gummys sold in the USA contain artificial colors you shouldn’t eat. Things like yellow #5, red #40, or blue #1, are nothing I would want to consume daily.

made in Germany for sale in Germany
original German gummy bears

So I started to search for sources online. When I learned that Haribo produces gummy bears for the US market in Turkey, where regulations aren’t as strict, and consumers aren’t as “picky”. I thought that simply checking for “made in Germany” would be the safe way to go, if I wanted to keep eating Haribo’s gummy bears. I started ordering my beloved “Goldbären” on eBay and Amazon, paying about $15 for a pound of gummy bears, directly imported from Germany – no artificial colors involved.

made in Germany for sale in USA
Haribo gummy bears made in Germany, for the USA

Today, however, I found out that simply looking for “made in Germany” is not sufficient anymore! A colleague brought a bag of Haribo gummy bears into the office to share, claiming that they were the “real thing”, made in Germany. The label did really say “made in Germany” for Haribo USA. But the ingredients where the same as that stuff they make in Turkey. Apparently, if you produce candy for the USA, you can now get away with using harmful chemicals, even if production happens in Germany.

From now on I’ll be extra careful when buying Haribo. Not just “made in Germany”, it has to be imported from Germany, sold in Germany, and without artificial ingredients.

Cubed, but not squared away

After seven months of high productivity and a feeling of purpose, sitting in a quiet office with a real door, to be able to complete a highly important project with an extremely tight deadline, I have been relegated to my prior workspace in a cubicle.

cubicle While about 40% of US office workers sit in those contraptions invented in the late 60’s, 93% of those workers wish they were somewhere else.

The reasons have been researched, they are obvious, everybody knows – an average of 70 interruptions on any given day, 29% lower productivity compared to workers in an office with window and door, lack of focus, lack of privacy.

Now, like most people I can’t pick where I sit when I do my job – but I can decorate my cubicle, organize my desk, and bring some of my own tools to work.

My latest find on Amazon is called a “privacy panel”. I call it “the ultimate do-not-disturb sign”. Now, if I could just learn to tune out noise, chatter, and other people’s phone calls, I’d be almost as productive as somebody with a real office.