Sunday, November 17, 2013

New Experience #98: Little Merry Sunshine Joins ChicagoNOW!

Image from ChicagoNow.com

Effective today, November 17, 2013, Little Merry Sunshine has joined ChicagoNow, the blogging platform of the Chicago Tribune Media Group.

Writer Jessica Gardner describes this move as an enormous honor and opportunity. "It has always been my dream to become a published writer and this opportunity to partner with ChicagoNow is the first step towards making that dream a reality. I am thrilled and honored to be associated with such a notable publication. Little Merry Sunshine will be exposed to a much wider audience and that presents endless opportunities."

As you may recall, Little Merry Sunshine has previously been recognized by the Chicago Tribune. In March 2009, LMS was named one of Chicago's Best Blogs and then appeared on the front page of the Tribune online on April 17, 2009.


These were enormous honors and and joining ChicagoNOW is the logical next step.

The original Little Merry Sunshine site will not disappear. The articles and all of your comments will continue on into perpetuity. New Little Merry Sunshine blog posts will appear at ChicagoNow.com/Little-Merry-Sunshine. Please bookmark the new site.

This will be the last post on the original Little Merry Sunshine blog. The first Little Merry Sunshine post on ChicagoNOW will appear on Monday, November 18th.

What does this mean for current Little Merry Sunshine readers?

  • If you receive LMS via email, your subscription has been moved to the new blog on ChicagoNOW. You don't need to take any action.
  • If you read LMS via a reader, you'll need to grab a new feed. You can do that by visiting the new site here.
  • If you read LMS on the website, please update your bookmarks and visit the new site.
  • If you link to LMS on your website or blog, please update your links to direct readers to the new Little Merry Sunshine.
  • And if you haven't done so already, please like Little Merry Sunshine on Facebook.
What does this mean for Little Merry Sunshine and me?
  • I still own all of my content. It will simply live on the ChicagoNOW site.
  • Being part of the ChicagoNow network means that I will be exposed to many more readers.
I make this promise to you: You've been a loyal reader since I began blogging on July 1, 2007. You've stuck with me during my down periods and times when I had no idea if I could write anymore. You have always come back. That means the world to me and I'm grateful for each and every one of you. I will not forget you and I will not let you down. 

Little Merry Sunshine will continue to be all the things you love. I'll talk about my 100 New Experiences, what inspires and/or amuses me, politics, sports, dreams, Sammy and Zoey, and much more. Hopefully, I'll continue to be funny sometimes. At least for a little while, however, I'll probably cut back on some of the more personal things I've written about here. At least until I get my footing.

I hope you'll follow me over to ChicagoNOW and continue the conversation.

BTW, that's 73 of 100 New Experiences completed!

I'll Have What She's Having

From Odds & Thens, "My National Film Registry Nominations"

One of my all time favorite movies is When Harry Met Sally. I love every single scene in it. I love how demure college co-ed Sally is at the beginning and the mostly confident woman she becomes throughout the movie. I love how obnoxious Harry is at the beginning and the way he softens, but never truly loses his over-the-top nature, by the end.

If you haven't seen the movie, I strongly encourage you to stop reading right this minute, stream the movie from Netflix, and then return to LMS when you're done.

By all accounts one of the most iconic scenes in the movie happens over a casual lunch between Harry and Sally at Katz's Delicatessen. To refresh your memory, here it is.


A couple of days ago, a comedy troupe in New York went back to Katz's Deli and recreated the scene, flash mob style.

WARNING: Do not eat or drink anything while watching this video. There is an increased chance of choking on it or spewing it all over your computer screen while laughing hysterically. I also hope you have strong bladder muscles.


Want some insider baseball on how the orgasm scene came to be? Read this.

Now can someone pass me a cigarette?

P.S. If you haven't done so already, please "like" Little Merry Sunshine on Facebook.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

PSA: Fun Trends in Computer Viruses: Ransomware!



I care deeply about each and every one of my readers and to show my love and affection for you, I always want you to stay safe.

In that spirit, I share with you what our Chief Information Officer shared with us this week.

Over the past two weeks, 3 nefarious and increasingly virulent approaches to holding your computer data hostage, with requests for up to $300 to get it back have become.  Since this could impact not only your professional data but your personal data as well, please read through this note, including the 4 bullets under “details,” and (since not everyone reads every e-mail) please mention it to your team mates.  This is of high importance for everyone to know.

Bottom Line On Top: 
Whenever you use any computer (work or personal), only browse to safe sites and don't open attachments from people you don't know.

  • If you're at work and don't know if a site or attachment is safe, contact your IT Support department.
  • If you're working on your personal computer and don't know if a site is safe, make sure your antivirus software is updated and will tell you of potentially unsafe sites (McAfee does this). You can also scan attachments.
Details:
  • 3 "ransomware" scams have recently seen significantly increased activity:
    • An actual phone call from "Microsoft" letting you know that your computer is infected, with a "technician" willing to walk you through the process to "repair" it.
    • An "FBI virus" that tells you that you've been perusing smut, and letting you know that the Federal government needs you to take action.
    • And the worst of the lot: a "CryptoLocker virus" that poses as a US or FedEx delivery email notification encrypts the files on your PC (and any network you're on), giving you and the entire network 3 days before the data is lost forever.
  • Please do not browse to sites that do not receive a green check mark next to it from your anti-virus software. This example contains the different icons you might see next to a web search. The green checkmarks from McAfee indicate that the site is secure. The question mark indicates that the site is questionable. The red x indicates that the site should be avoided because it is dangerous.

  • Do not open any attachments or click on any links in an email that are not from sources you trust and/or which do not specifically relate to business you are conducting (either personally or professionally). 
  • If you're not sure if you can spot spam, take this short quiz my company put together last year. I promise the link in the last sentence is safe.
  • Finally, below is an email from a colleague of my CIO explaining some of these issues in more details.
Email received by my CIO from an IT colleague:

Subject: ✳Tech Talk: Give me $300 within 3 days or I'll encrypt all your files...

Tech Talk
Technology tips you can use, from people you can trust, in the 90 seconds you have.

Just when you thought the writers of viruses couldn't get any more evil, they do.

I'm talking here about computerized extortion.

The subject line of this Tech Talk describes a "ransomeware" virus called CryptoLocker that surfaced last month and has steadily spread. CryptoLocker will encrypt files on your computer and then pop-up a message that you have 3 days to send a ransom of $300 to the hacker. If the ransom is not sent, the files remain encrypted and the unencryption key is destroyed, rendering the files unrecoverable. CryptoLocker conveniently provides a countdown clock that shows how much time is left before the files are destroyed and provides detailed instructions of how the ransom is to be sent.

The virus is spread through something we've written about before called a "phishing attempt." You'll get an email from FedEx or UPS, or some other respected company that contains an attachment (a ZIP file). After opening the file, your computer is infected. Any USB drives, external drives and even the network drives the computer is attached to can be encrypted with the ransomware.

What Can I do?
Although this Tech Talk describes a particular virus, you can guard against it in the same way you can guard against other viruses - practice "safe" computing.
  • Be very cautious about opening email attachments. Large companies typically do not send out emails with attachments.
  • Make sure that you back-up all important files to an external drive (or if you're at work, save your work to your work network because your IT department regularly backs it up and can simply wipe your computer back to its original state with no important work lost.)
  • Run anti-virus programs at home and keep them up-to-date.
Want to read more about CryptoLocker? Here are some links:

Friday, November 15, 2013

NaBloPoMo - I'm Half Way There

NaBloPoMo November 2013

It's November 15th and that means I'm at the mid-point NaBloPoMo or National Blog Post Month.

In the past 15 days, I've shared stories about my plans to write daily, the Plank Pose Challenge (which I've had to take a break from this week, but I'll be back at it tomorrow), Calvin & Hobbes, menopause, my plans to buy Michael Jordan's house next week, the awesome shit my friends say that keep me in stitches, all that I'm grateful for, and five new experiences (here, here, here, and here), and becoming a multi-millionaire thanks to the kindness of a stranger in China.

It's felt great to be writing regularly again because writing relaxes me. It helps me process life, even when I'm writing about completely inane topics, and it often forces me to question my own beliefs as I try to explain them.

I guess, in short, writing keeps me sane.

What do I have planned for the next 15 days?

Among other things, I've got a major announcement planned for Sunday, I'll be sharing details of my trip to Springfield and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a computer virus warning from my company's CIO, and many new adventures that I have yet to share with you. 

I hope you're enjoying NaBloPoMo as much as I'm enjoying it. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My Week Just Keeps Getting Better and Better

I just checked my work email (don't lecture me because you do it at night too) and discovered that I never have to work again.

It seems that I've come into a boatload of money. By boatload, I mean a boat the size of three aircraft carriers. I am about to be a $30 millionaire! That's right.

Now, frankly, this happens to me on a regular basis. In 2013 alone, I've been the recipient of at least three or four $10 million plus inheritances from complete strangers who have somehow come across my work email address. Most of them say they're contacting me because they believe me to be a Good Christian, but tonight's benefactor seems to be okay with the fact that I'm just a plain old sinful heathen. He just wants to give me this money.

And I'm perfectly willing to accept it.

Here's the letter I received tonight. Yes, it's perfectly acceptable to be jealous of my incredible fortune. I've redacted Mr. Chen's email address so you can't attempt to get your paws on any of my money.
Good Day, 
I found your email discreetly during my personal search for a reliable partner that can be trusted to have this transaction done with me,someone who can assist me in this great time of need, someone who can help me out with this transaction. My name is Mr. Chen Jiang, I am contacting you concerning a deceased customer and an investment he placed under our banks management. 
On November 6, 2003, a British Oil consultant/contractor with the Chinese Solid Minerals Corporation, Made a numbered time (Fixed) Deposit for twelve calendar months, valued at US $30,000,000.00 (Thirty Million United States Dollars) in my branch. Upon maturity, I sent a routine notification to his forwarding address but got no reply. 
After a month, we sent a reminder and finally we discovered from his contract employers, the Chinese Solid Minerals Corporation that he died from an automobile accident. On further investigation, I found out that he died without making a WILL, and all attempts to trace his next of kin was fruitless. I therefore made further investigation and discovered that he did not declare any kin or relations in all his official documents, including his Bank Deposit paperwork in my Bank. This sum of US $30,000,000.00 (Thirty Million United States Dollars) is still sitting in my Bank and the interest is being rolled over with the principal sum at the end of each year. No one will ever come forward to claim it. 
I would respectfully request that you keep the contents of this mail confidential and respect the integrity of the information, will be of great benefit for both of us, I will give you good update as regards this transaction as soon as you notify your interest. I hope to read from you, thank you. 
I will like you to provide immediately your full names and address so that the attorney will prepare the necessary documents and affidavits that will put you in place as the next of kin of USD $30,000,000.00 (Thirty Million United States Dollars). The money will be paid into your account for us to share in the ratio of 50% for me and 50% for you. 
There is no risk at all as all the paperwork for this transaction will be done by the attorney and my position as the Branch Manager guarantees the successful execution of this transaction. If you are interested, please reply immediately via my private email address: 
Awaiting your urgent reply via my private email address:  
Regards,
Chen.
Obviously, this is a fully legitimate offer*. I mean, Mr. Chen tells me that his "position as the Branch Manager guarantees the successful execution" of the transaction. So I sent off all my personal information immediately.

*This is definitely NOT a legitimate offer and should you receive offers like this, I strongly encourage you to delete them immediately. The old adage of "it sounds too good to be true" is completely true when it comes to emails like this. They are always scams. Never never never send these people your name and address. And under no circumstances whatsoever should you ever send them your bank account information. You will not receive any money and stand to lose whatever money you have with non-existent odds of getting it back.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's Been One of THOSE Days

If you read Little Merry Sunshine regularly, and you should, you'll remember what an incredible day I had yesterday - standing on the ledge of the Sears Tower, meeting Ben Bradley, and then dinner at Coco Pazzo after my work conference.

I don't say that to brag, it's simply a fact. On a scale of 1 to 10, yesterday was a 12.

And then today began.

After kind of a fitful night of sleep that resulted in a migraine this morning, I woke up about 6am to discover this tweet from Ben Bradley. Seriously, how incredibly gracious is he?!

Honestly, how in the world could my day improve after that tweet? I was certain that today had peaked at 5:15, before I was even awake. Because of the migraine, I decided to go back to sleep for a couple of hours.

I got to work about 9:10, still on Cloud 9 from yesterday's awesomeness and the early morning tweet, and a number of my coworkers wanted to hear all about it, so I got to relive it all again.

Fast forward to 2:30 when I took a call resulted in the achievement of a 4 1/2 year dream and goal (New Experience #???). I can't tell you what it is just yet, but all will be revealed on Sunday, November 17th, so mark your calendars now.

I've shared the big news with a select group of friends, so if you know, please don't spill the beans. I'm trusting you. And please don't guess in the comments or on Facebook. Just trust me, this is big.

Finally, tonight, I achieved another goal when I became a Deputy Voter Registrar (New Experience #131). So if you or anyone you know wishes to get registered to vote, you live in Illinois, and you're a U.S. Citizen, let's talk.

This is the Deputy Voter Registrar Oath I took and signed tonight.

That means today, I had two more New Experiences and I've now got just 27 to go to meet my new goal date of December 31st. And on a scale of 1 to 10, today was a 15.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What a Day! New Experiences #26, 141, and 143

I attended a conference in Chicago today that ended about 3:30, which left me with two free hours before I was scheduled to meet up with my friend Amy for dinner. With this incredible amount of free time on my hands and the clearest day in Chicago I can remember in ages, I knew there was only one thing to do: stand on the ledge of the Sears Tower.

It was time to overcome my fear of heights and, quite literally, step out on faith, 103 stories about Chicago in the tallest building in North America.

Now before you point out that the Sears Tower is now the Willis Tower and that today some snotty committee with a strong New York bias declared the new World Trade Center is the tallest building in  the United States, let me just say that I do not care about either of those things, although the news about the Second City once again being the Second City does sort of come into play in this story.

Because it was 3:30, I knew that I had to hustle if I was going to make it to the Observation Deck before sunset at 4:32 p.m.

As I arrived at the Sears Tower, the first thing I saw was the ABC7 news truck sitting outside the building. I immediately wondered if my secret crush Ben Bradley (who is NOT the grandson of Ben Bradlee as I believed for too many years) might be in the near vicinity, but quickly forgot about it as I was so focussed on my goal and on not being nervous, which I was.

I hustled up the Sears Tower and not at all disappointed. Now I remember visiting the Tower when I was a kid, but somehow, it was always a bit hazy and visibility was limited. But not today. Looking southeast, I could see all the way around the curve in Lake Michigan through Indiana and into Michigan. When I looked straight east over the lake, I could see Michigan. Looking north, I'm fairly certain I saw Wisconsin, although there's no sign marking the air border.

Finally, it was time to head over to the west side of the building and face my fear head on. I had survived a faster than a speeding bullet elevator ride up 1,353 feet into the air and I would not be stopped.

And then I saw Ben Bradley. He was obviously there to file a live report about me overcoming my fears, my 100 New Experiences List, and how I was going to squeeze 32 new experiences into the next 7 weeks before December 31st.*

Ben Bradley reporting on my 100 New Experiences. Or maybe that whole World Trade Center vs. Sears Tower thing.

As he filed his initial reports on air, I took some pics and video and then stepped out onto the ledge. I'm telling you, it was truly one small step for this woman and one giant leap for womankind (apologies to Neil Armstrong). Sure, I had some anxiety and needed to take a few deep breaths, but I did it. I also got to see a gorgeous sunset from the ledge.

As I step out onto the ledge. Look at those buildings below me.



 See, I'm really standing ON the ledge. Those are my boots.

 Proof that I did it! New Experience #69. (On the list, it's #26)

Then I walked over to be interviewed by hear Ben file his report about the tallest building in North America decision on Channel 7. When he was done and packing up, I was able to get his attention and tell him what a fan I am. Surprisingly, I was even coherent. He was super nice, introduced himself and shook my hand. So I asked if he'd take a picture with me, to which he said of course.

Meeting ABC 7's Ben Bradley. New Experience #70. (On the list, it's #141)

After we took a couple pictures, I explained that he would be featured on my blog tonight and that he was Experience #70 of my 100 New Experiences this year. He thought that was cool, asked me to tag him, and then said about being Experience #70, "don't tell my wife." If you ever have a chance to meet Ben Bradley, I highly recommend it. He could not be more gracious.

Sunset from the Sears Tower. Not too shabby.

During a completely delightful dinner with Amy at Coco Pazzo (New Experience #71. On the List, it's #143.), I tried three new foods: Octopus, Clams, and Pistachio Mousse (New Experience #15, parts 15-17).

The best part of my year of 100 New Experiences? New friends.

29 New Experiences left to go.

*Ben Bradley was not at the Sears Tower to file a live report on the ABC 7 News about me stepping out onto the ledge, conquering my fears, completing my 100 New Experiences List, or how I was going to squeeze 32 new experiences into 7 weeks. Although, how damn cool would THAT have been? He was there to file news reports on the farce that was the decision about the WTC being taller than the Sears Tower.

Monday, November 11, 2013

100 New Experiences: 7 Month Update

I've been working on my 100 New Experiences list for exactly seven months today and I've had 68 new experiences so far!

WOW.

So I have a new goal: 100 by December 31st and 150 by April 10, 2014.

Yep, you read that right. I've upped the ante 50%. Not to worry, I've got a plan.

By November 17th, I'll reach 73 New Experiences:

  • Reupholstering my dining room chairs (#29)
  • Hiking Lake County (#97)
  • Become a Deputy Voter Registrar (#131)
  • Apply to become a Notary Public (#132)
  • Build a futon (#138)
By November 24th, I plan to reach 76 New Experiences:
  • Workout everyday before work for 1 week (#80)
  • Visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum (#56)
  • Get my personal Inbox to ZERO (#66)
By December 1st, I will have had 81 New Experiences:
  • Complete the Plank Pose Challenge (#125)
  • Complete NaBloPoMo (#126)
  • Visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum (#46)
  • Try acupuncture (#107)
  • Open an Etsy store (#69)
By December 7th, I will reach 85 New Experiences:
  • Make curtains for my guest room (#119)
  • Move Little Merry Sunshine to its own domain (#98)
  • Pay off someone's layaway at Walmart (up to $100) (#77)
  • Climb an indoor rock climbing wall (#99)
By December 14th, I will reach 90 New Experiences:
  • Visit Zoolights (#109)
  • Visit the Chicago Cultural Center (#127)
  • Stand on the ledge at the Sears Tower (#26)
  • Find 2 more new experiences for this week
By December 22nd, I will have had 95 New Experiences:
  • Visit the Milwaukee Art Museum (#103)
  • Dine at the Hob Nob Supper Club (#60)
  • Have dinner at the Heartland Cafe (#136)
  • Visit the Field Museum (#35)
  • Have one more new experience this week
By December 31st, I will reach my goal of 100 New Experiences:
  • Ice skate at Millennium Park (#102)
  • Go to the Green Mill (#115)
  • Serve dinner in a soup kitchen (#41)
  • Visit the Museum of Science & Industry (#30)
  • Sing karaoke (#19)
And there you have it. That's my game plan for the next 6 1/2 weeks. Want to join me on any of my adventures? Let's team up!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Experience #130: Visit Santa


Yesterday after my annual Christmas lunch at The Walnut Room in Marshall Field's (don't tell me it's Macy's because it's not) with Tony, Christopher, and Lyletta, I did something I haven't done since I was a kid.

I stood in line and had a one-on-one chat with Santa.

I should have known things weren't going to go well for me. The signs were everywhere. Notice that Chris and Tony are on the list, but my name is missing.


No matter what the List said, I had a few things to discuss with Santa.

First, I asked about the Easy Bake Oven he promised me when I was 5. His reply was that now we cook with microwaves and why in the world would I want an oven that runs on a lightbulb. Not the point, old man.

Second, I asked about the Man I asked for in 2007. He acted like he wasn't familiar with my written request. I really should have brought my letter, but I forgot it. I swear to you, he must be getting senile.

After we took some pictures, I got down to my real business. I explained how good I've been all year and when he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I had no problem telling him.

1. A job promotion;
2. A salary increase to match the promotion;
3. A husband;
4. A man for Chris (but not the one who will be my husband);
5. The Easy Bake Oven I have waited 37 years for; and
6. A pony.

He told me he couldn't help me with items 1 through 4, but he could bring me a My Little Pony or a unicorn. And then he gave me a button.

REALLY?

So what Santa basically told me was that I have a better chance getting a mythological horse with a horn sticking out of its forehead than a husband. Awesome.

Although the chat didn't go exactly as I'd imagined, I'm glad I had a chance to visit with Santa.

My favorite part of the whole visit came when I was flipping through the pictures later last night and realized that the picture above looks almost identical to the picture of Santa and me when I was four and he showed up at my Christmas party. I sat on his lap and counted off my Christmas Wish List on my fingers, after walking right up to him and declaring, "Welcome Santa! I just want to shake your hand!" Yep, I was a little precocious. I'll have to get the pic from my mom's and then you'll be able to see how 38 years later, not much has changed in my life.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Today I'm Grateful For . . .

This has been a crazy week. There's been a lot of work drama. I've lost count of the people I've personally known who have died this week or people I'm close to who have lost someone significant. I'm working through some tough personal stuff.

Through it all, however, what I'm focussed on is all that I'm grateful for. The list is long, so you might want to get comfortable.

I'm grateful for the ability to laugh at the outrageous. Sometimes the options are to laugh or cry and I find myself choosing "laugh" more and more these days.

I'm grateful for the Affordable Care Act. Because of it, mental health care now has parity with physical health issues. What does that mean? Your insurance company can't set crazy lifetime limits on care or say that you can only seek a certain number of treatment sessions if you're depressed. Treating mental illness is not "one size fits all." Thanks also to the ACA, women's health care now includes guaranteed coverage for reproductive care. This is a huge step forward.

I'm grateful for my health. Yes, I have hypothyroidism and yes, I've got a certain amount of weight to lose, but in the overall scheme of things, I'm healthy. And when I get ill, I can go to the doctor and not worry I'm going to go bankrupt or choose between paying medical bills and my mortgage.

I'm grateful for my family. Well, most of them. I'm grateful for my mom, my dad, my brother, and most of my extended family. They're pretty awesome and supportive. Hell, I'm grateful for the rest of them too. I'm grateful that they taught me what love is not.

I'm grateful for my friends - the new ones and the ones I've had for years. They love and support me all the time. They are witty and keep me in stitches. They are fun and adventurous and never let me take myself too seriously. These are the folks who make sure I never get too big for my britches.

I'm grateful for Sammy and Zoey. There's just something about pets that brings about immediate calmness. I give them full credit for my blood pressure remaining constant in the healthy range. Without them, the crazy Type A side of me would win.

I'm grateful for Betsey and Ross before them. They taught me how to love unconditionally. They broke my heart when they died, but I needed the lesson on how to recover from it, in that moment. Without it, I would never have survived the Summer of 2012.

I'm grateful for my job. Each day is an adventure and interesting. Today was one of the really good days.

I'm grateful for my presentation skills. They say that one of the greatest fears most people have is public speaking, but I've never been afraid to present to groups of people. I freak out about preparing my presentation, but actually presenting doesn't faze me in the slightest. That played out today . . .

I'm grateful for the mentorship my friend Tim has given me over the past six years. He's helped me grow into the alumni relations professional I am today by challenging me at every step and always demanding better of me. We've known each other for almost 25 years and he's always believed in me and seen more in me than I've sometimes been able to see in myself.

I'm grateful to be able to finally see myself through the lenses my forever friends have been looking through for many years.

I'm grateful to finally be learning how to better handle my stress and anxiety through yoga, mindfulness, journalling, and therapy. It took me 42 years, but I finally figured out that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.