Thursday, December 20, 2012

Student of the Month-November: Mary Ghahreman

Mary has been an SSS participant since the summer  of 2011. She is currently working towards completing the pre-requisites for Anoka-Ramsey’s RN program and doing very well, as her 4.0 GPA indicates.

Aside from her studies, Mary leads a busy home life, taking care of two children while her husband works and attends college.

Mary always has a positive attitude regardless of what roadblocks arise and she frequently comes in for help when needed.

Congratulations, Mary!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Skidding In a Winter Wonderland

It looks like winter is here to stay. Here are some tips to help you stay safe...

Be careful when burning those great-smelling candles...and get a carbon monoxide detector......
  • Home fires are more prevalent in the winter months than any other season. Cooking is the leading cause of all winter residential building fires. Other winter fire hazards include space heaters, fireplaces and candles.
To see a startling video of how fast a (real) Christmas tree can burn, watch this video---the tree is completely engulfed in 30 seconds---
  • The cold weather increases your chances of getting frostbite or hypothermia. Between  the years of 1999-2004, an average of 647 people died each year from hypothermia.
  • In 2009, over 16,000 Americans were treated for head injuries in emergency rooms because of accidents while playing winter sports (skiing, sledding, snowboarding, snowmobiling). 
  • Fatal crashes were 14% more likely to happen on the first snowy day of the season than on days following. It takes drivers a few days to regain their sense of driving in this weather. 
  • According to the CDC, most carbon monoxide poisonings happen in January; the second most in December. Carbon monoxide detectors save lives, but less than one-third of American homes have one installed.

Drinking does not warm you up; in fact, it will make your body colder. If you have been drinking and/or using, have someone sober walk with you or drive you home. Every year we hear stories of college students wandering off and dying needlessly in the snow or in a lake or river, because they got disoriented and fell asleep outside.

It's said all the time, but we'll say it again: Be absolutely sure the ice is safe before you walk on it, skate on it, and of course when you drive on it. If you're in doubt, don't go out.

Even ice that looks perfectly fine can be deceptively thin:

And now to safety in your car in the winter.......

Avoid letting your car run close to Empty. Cars use more gas in the cold weather, and you may find yourself stuck in traffic, which will also cause the car to use gas-- even though it's idling. 

Be sure your windshield washer fluid is full, and get new wiper blades if you need them. Have a scraper and brush with you and when it snows, clean all your windows and lights off thoroughly, as well as your license plate. It will take a little extra time, but you need to see as well as possible on the road.

It's always good to carry jumper cables with you, especially in winter weather. Ask someone to show you how to use them, too. Here's a video showing you how--but READ all the instructions as well).

Consider checking the charge on your car battery: Do you need a new one? Better to get it before you need it!

Leave extra cold-weather gear in the car: extra gloves or mittens, hat, scarf, weather-type snow boots, even socks. You may be caught on a fashion-forward day without these items. A blanket, some snacks, and water for drinking is also smart. A bright bandanna or a piece of bright cloth will be good to tie on your antenna if you're stuck. Keep your cell phone charged, especially in winter.

If you are taking a longer trip, let someone know your planned route and when you expect to get there. That way, they will know where to look if you don't show up.

Consider having some cheap kitty litter or a couple of old floor mats in your trunk. You might be able to place these under your tires to get enough traction to get out of your situation. If someone offers to push your car, thank them, get in, and keep on driving once you get going---don't stop to say thank you again.

What if you get stranded in your car?
The National Safety Council gives this advice: 
Do not leave your vehicle unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help and are certain you will improve your situation
  • To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the vehicle a safe distance away
  • Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna
  • If you are sure the vehicle's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending on the amount of gas in the tank
  • Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia; use woolen items and blankets to keep warm
  • Keep at least one window open slightly as heavy snow and ice can seal a vehicle shut.

    Stay safe and warm this winter!!!

    Thursday, December 6, 2012

    TRIO SSS Student of the Month: Jayme Pronger

    Jayme is pursuing a career in the field of rejuvenation therapy and cosmology. Currently, she is focusing her efforts on completing the admission requirements for the 2-year Associate of Science degree program in Nursing at Anoka Ramsey Community College.  The primary reasons she has been selected for recognition by TRIO are her commitment to achievement, her ability to embrace responsibility and the resilience and strength she has shown when faced with difficult life challenges. Her dedication and drive to achieve have earned her a 3.68 GPA.  She currently holds a responsible position in the health care field, and has been recognized and promoted at work for her efforts. Jayme became a TRIO program participant in August of 2010 and has used TRiO’s program resources and advising services to navigate through college.  In order to enhance her success, she has taken advantage of college and TRiO tutoring services. Consistently, Jayme has demonstrated problem solving skills and a positive mindset that are so necessary when effectively balancing the demanding roles of holding a professional position, raising a young daughter as her sole parent and mastering college level courses. We have been impressed with her caring and engaging personality, strong personal initiative and willingness to embrace responsibility in all arenas of her life.  Jayme highly deserves this recognition.                                      

                              CONGRATULATIONS, JAYME !!!

    Monday, December 3, 2012

    Psst...What's the Password?

    I would imagine you've heard it before, but it bears repeating: How secure are your passwords?

    We need passwords, it seems, for virtually everything: ATM, voice mail, logging in to your computer, visiting some websites, online shopping, shopping in person, opening your email....and the list goes on. Every time you open any sort of new 'account,' even if it's just to receive advertisements or information about  your health insurance, you need a new password.

    What kinds of passwords are easily guessed by hackers? Below are some examples of commonly used passwords that are a hacker's bread and butter, so to speak:

    123abc --even if you like the Jackson 5 song, bad choice
    Qwerty (the top left row of a keyboard)
    Repeated words, such as kittykitty.
    Spelling your name backwards, such as htims instead of Smith or auhsoj instead of Joshua
    Using your birthdate such as susieapril2593
    Consecutive letters on a keyboard, such as asdfghjkl or wertyuio
    Using your actual name and birthdate (Yes, some people do that. Not good!)

    You get the idea.... simple to remember for you, but also simple to guess.

    Some sites don't require you to make up an especially secure password: they just want to start sending you email and they're not going to bother making it difficult. However, to be really secure, passwords should:

    • Have at least 8 characters--letters, numbers, and/or symbols-and don't forget underlines, periods, commas, semicolons, and colons can be used
    • Contain upper and lowercase letters
    • Never be the same for multiple purposes-use different ones for each.
    • The symbols should not be at the beginning or end of the password: zquroe*ff9Now is going to be harder to hack than  !Furrydog2.
    • Be a made-up word, not one you can find in the dictionary, such as prastical, bendelay, or drofows
    • Be something you can remember, but still obscure. Try the first letters of the first line of a favorite song: rrr7ybgDts is "Row, row, row, your boat gently down the stream" with a 7, three characters in.
    • Instead of "Love2playHalo" use L2pHen/wf+sNx (Love to play Halo every night with friends plus snacks)
    • Even if the site isn't asking for a longer and more complex password, make yours that way.
    • Some people create new passwords more often by going to the website and pretending they've forgotten their password. They then let the site send them an email to re-set it with a random one to make it harder to hack.
    • Deliberately spell words wrong.
    The next one is not commonly known:
    • When the site asks you to set up security questions, remember: the site doesn't know the answers---and you're 'talking' to a computer, not a person. If the question is, 'What was your favorite pet?' you can answer anything you want, such as "aardvark," or "cream of wheat" or "Harlem Globetrotters." As long as you know you did that, you can answer the question if asked and unlock your account. If hackers have gotten partway into hacking your account and run into a security question such as What's your father's middle name?, and you answered your security questions with the right answer, that information is not hard to find online. The site doesn't care-and won't correct you- if you say your father's middle name was "Cranberrysauce," anyway.
    • Use a life event such as your wedding: groom20minlate or myMILcrazy, then add a number, a symbol, and an uppercase letter: groom20Min$late or my+MILcra7zy.  How about school-related: toomanyteststhisweek becomes 2many2tests2thisweE)k  or ihatebiology becomes iHate4biology)(#  --something you can remember but not too simple.
    • Make your password very long-this makes it hard to hack, also. Just remember the rules about not using consecutive numbers or letters. Some people just hit random keys on the keyboard, copy it and paste it to a word document or somewhere else where they can retrieve it, and enter that as the password. Example:wpof[ghj3e9t=-sjdeoowpfdjgoeperlgfj . Take that, hackers.
    • Again: Super Important: Never use the same password for multiple purposes.
    And what are those wavy words you are sometimes asked to type in, to access an account?

    This is called a 'captcha,' which stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart".  Hacking is usually done by someone who has set up a way for his computer to 'read' your passwords in automated fashion. Words printed in this wavy fashion are usually impossible for a computer program to 'read.' In the above case, the line through the words also makes it hard for a computer to scan. Although we find sometimes the wavy words are hard for humans to read, also, it is a tool that can be used to try and prevent someone from getting into your account.

    There are mixed reviews as to writing down any passwords. You might write them down, putting letters or numbers every three letters for instance, so you know to remove them in order to get the actual password. Alternately, you could use a made-up word that you write down, but don't write down the numbers you use with it. The hackers are highly unlikely to come to your house looking for a document with your passwords, but it doesn't hurt to keep this in a secure place. Don't put a title at the top, "Joe Jones's password list," though.

    If you have a trusted friend, print a copy and give it to him or her so in a dire emergency, you could call and retrieve your passwords that way. There are online 'vaults' in which to keep passwords, but it seems like a less than intelligent place to have them, since the whole point is online security.

    Review your passwords and change some of them today. Make it harder for hackers!