Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mr. Know-It-All: Retrieving Your Porn-Filled Laptop From Your Friend's Kid

I recently gave my old laptop to a friend's 9-year-old daughter. Later, I remembered that I had left some risqué material hidden in an obscure folder. Should I ask for the laptop back or just hope the kid doesn't discover my stash?

Never bet against the inquisitiveness of a child. It might be next month, it might be next year, but eventually the girl will stumble upon your copy of Fondling Sarah Marshall. And when she does, her father may come looking for you with a tire iron. You needn't debase yourself in order to avoid such unpleasantness. "I think it's quite OK to say, 'Gosh, I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but I really need the computer back for a day— I left some important files on there,'" says Syndi Seid, founder of Advanced Etiquette, a San Francisco-based training company. Chances are your pal won't press the matter and ask about the nature of those files. If he does, just say they're "work related." He may see through the fib, but he'll likely let it slide — why embarrass the guy who graciously provided his daughter with a free (and soon-to-be porn-free) computer?

Next time, though, do a full hard-drive wipe and OS reinstall before donating your laptop. It's so easy to forget that Grinding Nemo is lurking somewhere in the Drivers folder.

I own a restaurant that just got panned on Yelp. The reviewer called my food "worse than off-brand gruel." I suspect it's a longtime foe with an ax to grind. What should I do about such a fraudulent slam?

Hell hath no fury like a restaurateur scorned, so your inclination is probably to demand that Yelp kill the review. But before you up the ante against your nemesis, consider the consequences of giving in to anger. Because, as Yoda taught us, anger ultimately leads to suffering—or, in your case, to more bad publicity.

No one enjoys being raked over the coals by a pseudonymous commentator, especially when the attacker is motivated by hostility rather than honest dissatisfaction or disagreement. But don't credit your detractor with too much influence. You need to trust in the sophistication of online-savvy consumers—specifically, their ability to see the big picture and factor out aberrant comments. "A single review won't make or break your business," says Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp's cofounder. And that's doubly true, he adds, if the offending one-star viewpoint is offset by a slew of four- and five-star raves. That "off-brand gruel" wisecrack, though nasty, is unlikely to cause your eatery any real harm—unless you are serving off-brand gruel.

Not sufficient comfort? You may still want the review deleted on principle. Yelp, like many other sites with user-generated content, has an appeals process designed to weed out truly malicious postings. If you succeed in expunging the slam, however, your enemy will know he got your goat. And when a bully finds a weakness, he exploits it. Another mean-spirited takedown will surely follow, and then another, and another.

Now's the time to nip that vicious cycle in the bud. Mr. Know-It-All recalls an ancient adage about turning the other cheek. Was that also Yoda? Smart guy.

Illustration: Christoph Niemann

Is it OK to Photoshop my wedding pictures before I post them on Flickr? I just want to do something about my crow's-feet.

As long as you don't go overboard with the improvements, tweaking your soon-to-be-Flickr'd pics is perfectly copacetic.

Professional wedding photographers, after all, regularly blot out blemishes. "I touch up photos so people look as good in their photographs as they did in real life," says Scott Kelby, editor of Photoshop User magazine, who has shot dozens of weddings. And while such modifications might be verboten in the ethics-constrained world of photojournalism, your nuptials aren't exactly front-page news—no matter what your mother says.

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World now has 10 million millionaires, report says

NEW YORK – Add an extra zero to the ranks of the millionaires club.

The number of people around the world with at least $1 million in assets passed 10 million for the first time last year, according to a new report. And their bank accounts are growing even faster.

The combined wealth of the globe's millionaires grew to nearly $41 trillion last year, an increase of 9 percent from a year before, Merrill Lynch & Co. and consulting firm Capgemini Group said Tuesday.

That means their average wealth was more than $4 million, the highest it's ever been. Home values were not included in asset totals.

"The growth of their wealth is outpacing the growth of their population, and that's a trend that's going to continue in coming years," said Ileana Van Der Linde, a principal with Capgemini.

The ranks of the wealthy are growing fastest in the developing economies of India, China and Brazil. The number of millionaires in India grew by about 23 percent.

The United States still reigns supreme when it comes to fat wallets, though: One in every three millionaires in the world lives in America. Combined, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America account for just one in 10.

All told, there were about 600,000 more millionaires in the world in 2007 than in 2006, for a total of about 10.1 million. That's a 6 percent increase from the previous year.

Ten million may seem like a big number for such an elite club, but it still represents less than one-fifth of 1 percent of the world's 6.7 billion people.

The rarefied group of the superrich – those with at least $30 million in assets – got richer, too. There were 103,000 of them around the world last year, 9 percent more than the year before, and their wealth grew by nearly 15 percent.

The 600,000 new millionaires was unsurprising to Brian Bethune, an economist with Global Insight, who said inflation and the expansion of the world economy accounts for the growth.

Besides, $1 million isn't what it used to be. One million dollars in 1996, the first year the report was issued, would have been worth about $1.3 million last year, Van Der Linde said.

Steady growth powered economies worldwide in the first half of 2007, but more mature markets were hammered in the second half by the U.S. housing and credit crises. Emerging economies were largely unaffected, the report found.

The downturn started catching up with emerging economies in the beginning of 2008, Van Der Linde said.

Already, the report found, the millionaires club wasn't expanding as fast as before. From 2005 to 2006, the group swelled by more than 8 percent. The club has grown every year since the report was started.

Because of the economic slowdown, the wealthy tended to shift their money to safer investments such as bonds and money-market savings accounts, and away from less stable investments such as real estate, the report found.

Cash deposits and fixed-income securities accounted for 44 percent of the assets of the world's millionaires, up from 35 percent in 2006.

The wealth of the world's richest is projected to reach almost $60 trillion by 2012, the report said.

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My Headphones Almost Killed My Cat

I purchased a new set of headphones at Best Buy. Mine died of natural causes. I am one of those people that cannot work out unless I am listening to something so it was imperative that I got a new set before my next workout. I thought I had it planned out perfectly. I would buy the headphones, run home, get my gym stuff and be ready to rock and roll!

I found a cool pair that I liked. I got them home. Everything was going as planned. I guess I never really noticed or thought about the fact that they were enclosed in this big thick plastic case. The kind that need to be opened with a phaser or a Jedi light saber. No big deal. I would just get the scissors out and I am ready to go. There were no scissors to be found.

So here we go… I ripped it with my hands, stomped it with my feet, tore it with my teeth, fed it to my dog, fed it to my cat, stabbed it, jabbed it, prayed over it and cursed it. It just smiled back at me laughing, still snugly encased in its plastic kryptonite home. Where is Superman when you need him? Finally it a fit of rage, I took a knife and wildly stabbed at. I completely missed it and impaled my hand. I screamed loudly and throw the package across the room. I heard my cat scream. I looked over and it had sliced off the end of her tail.

After I bandaged my hand, I picked up the cat and the headphones and headed for the vet. On the way to the vet I look at the headphones and they were still in their plastic case laughing at me. I decided that I would have the last laugh and tossed them onto the highway to face a gruesome end by tire squash.

I got my cats tail re-attached. I got my hand stitched and headed home. I was stopped at a red light and out of the corner of my eye I saw a homeless guy wearing my headphones and petting his cat. He was obviously smarter that I was!

I missed my workout……

Question to ponder? What is the point of these “kryptonite cases”? Medieval Chastity Belts were probably easier to break into. Somebody please tell me who invented it so I can send him or her my vet bill.

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