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Ian O'Byrne

We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the color of our moral character, from those who are around us. - John Locke In issue of TL;DR Newsletter: #identity


Ian O'Byrne

Managing your passwords

4 min read

One the first steps in discussing privacy and security in online spaces usually involves your passwords. The challenge is that far too many of us have awful passwords, or terrible systems to handle these passwords.

There are several things we need to assume as we work with digital tools.

  • You will be hacked
  • You have already been hacked and don't know it
  • You will have to change your passwords quickly when you are hacked
  • You will most likely have to change passwords often

Changing your passwords frequently is one of the simplest things you can do to protect yourself from digital threats. Now that we have that out of the way, let's consider how to effectively manage the situation. In this post I discuss using a password manager, and two possibilities for creating challenging passwords.

Use a password manager

Password managers are a smart way to keep track of your passwords. A password manager is a giant vault that stores all of your passwords and uses one master password to let you log in. Keep in mind that no system is perfect...even password managers. You have to trust the company controlling your passwords to let you know if they have been hacked.

I use LastPass. I know plenty of other people that use 1Password and KeePass. Each service provides different features that you can review. The benefit of a password manager is that they will often warn you about security breaches of services and recommend that you change your passwords. Password managers will also create meaningless, random passwords using a variety of characters, symbols, and lengths.

How I use LastPass

I install the LastPass Chrome extension, which is automatically synced across all computers that I use. When I sign in to my computer and start up Chrome, a pop-up will ask me to log in to LastPass using my master password. The LastPass Chrome extension works well on Chromebooks as well. 

I also use two-factor authentication with LastPass as well. I'll discuss two factor authentication in another post.

I also install LastPass on my Android phone/tablet as well as my iOS devices (iPad/iPhone).

Create challenging passwords

If you do have to create a password that you'll need to remember, I have a couple tricks to check out.

Use song/movie lyrics

Use a song lyric (or movie line) to create a challenging master password. Keep in mind that you should use this password once, or use it as your master password for a password manager. Pull out the spaces, add a random character or two, and add in some capital letters.


If you want to make it even more challenging, eliminate letters, or swap them out for other characters. Start with a line like:

Living off borrowed time, the clock tick faster.

Eliminate some of the letters and substitute the characters to get something a bit more random.


Create an algorithm

If the song or movie lyrics do not work for you, I recommend using a formula or set of rules for your password system. Once again, this might not be the perfect solution...but it should get you started.

To create your algorithm, identify a base layer of your formula. This could be an important name, birthday, or series of characters. As an example, you might use your dog's name, street you grew up on, and the year of your birth.


This initial sequence would be the base layer of your password system. From there, you would add the name or the product or service you're logging in to somewhere in the sequence. You'll just have to remember the rules of your algorithm.

If you are logging in to Google, your password might look like:


If you are logging in to Facebook, your password might look like:


Develop a system

One of the key takeaways from this is the need to be aware of your passwords and develop a system. One password for everything is not an option. You need to be aware of your passwords, or the system used to manage them. You need to be prepared to change any/all passwords at any moment. 



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Ian O'Byrne

Negotiating the positive & negative as a citizen of the world

3 min read

On the fifth day of Stoic Week 2016, we are asked to consider our relationships with others and society in general. The handbook and daily prompts for the week are available here.

Today's reflection comes from Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.1:

Say to yourself first thing in the morning: I shall meet with people who are meddling, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, and unsociable. They are subject to these faults because of their ignorance of what is good and bad. But I have recognized the nature of the good and seen that it is the right, and the nature of the bad and seen that it is the wrong, and the nature of the wrongdoer himself, and seen that he is related to me, not because he has the same blood or seed, but because he shares in the same mind and portion of divinity. So I cannot be harmed by any of them, as no one will involve me in what is wrong. Nor can I be angry with my relative or hate him. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work against each other is contrary to nature; and resentment and rejection count as working against someone. 

I take this to mean that we should remain linked to others and their actions, while at the same time remaining true to our own compass and directives. It is possible to focus on the two aspects in our daily interaction. We may also learn about oursleves as we interact and learn from others.

Marcus Aurelius details the opportunities to learn from these experiences in Meditations, 6:48:

Whenever you want to cheer yourself up, consider the good qualities of your companions, for example, the energy of one, the modesty of another, the generosity of yet another, and some other quality of another; for nothing cheers the heart as much as the images of excellence reflected in the character of our companions, all brought before us as fully as possible. Therefore, keep these images ready at hand.

Of course there are times when we do not agree with, or can learn from our colleague or neighbor. Within these interactions, we may find a common thread that binds us together. Marcus Aurelius expands on this in Meditations, 4.4: 

If intellect is common to us all, then so is the reason which makes us rational beings; and if that be so, then also common is the reason which prescribes what we should do or not do. If that be so, there is a common law also; if that be so, we are fellow citizens; and if that be so, the world is a kind of state. For in what other common political community can we claim that the whole human race participates? 

This points to the idea of "citizens of world" in which we all generally feel affection for others in a deep and natural way. We may be citizens of a specific country or region, but we also carry dual-citizenship and in the end are all fellow citizens in a global community.

In closing, Seneca expands on this notion of cosmopolitanism or our dual citizenship:

Let us take hold of the fact that there are two communities — the one, which is great and truly common, embracing gods and humans, in which we look neither to this corner nor to that, but measure the boundaries of our citizenship by the sun; the other, the one to which we have been assigned by the accident of our birth.


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Ian O'Byrne

Living in agreement with your personal nature

2 min read

In an earlier post, I provided some guidance on how to have a good life and be happy.

These materials are influenced by my reflections as part of Stoic Week 2016. The handbook and daily prompts are available here.

In this post, and my earlier post on examining your impressions, there is an understanding that you should regularly and iteratively review and problematize your assumptions. 

To help you in this capacity, the following exercise detailed below is adapted from the guide from StoicWeek 2016.

First, use these questions to clarify your core values:

  • What’s ultimately the most important thing in life to you?
  • What do you want your life to ‘stand for’ or ‘be about’?
  • What would you most like your life to be remembered for after you’ve died?
  • What sort of thing do you most want to spend your time doing?
  • What sort of person do you most want to be in your various relationships and roles in life?

In examining the fourth bullet point, you might consider your role as a parent, friend, at work or in life generally. You could also ask how far your own core values match what the ancient Stoics meant by ‘virtue’, especially character traits such as wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.

Second, look at all your answers to the first set of questions and ask how far your real actions on a day-to-day basis match these core values. If they do not match completely, think about ways in which you could bring the two closer together. Keep in mind that you're not assessing or evaluating how much these two match or disagree. You're just trying to understand yourself.

Think of one specific activity you could be doing that would help you develop towards expressing your core values or which would enable you to express them fully.

Finally, this exercise could be part of a daily journaling process as you start your day.



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Ian O'Byrne

Stoic reflections on life as a project and role models

3 min read

Thank you to friends Doug Belshaw and Eylan Ezekiel for pointing me to the events for Stoic Week 2016. This year's theme is on "stoicism and love." You can review the handbook for the week's materials here. 

The website is full of materials if you're interested in exporing stoicism and possible impacts on your life. I was most intrigued by the self-assessment they provide as you begin this journey. I'll share more on this later.

I start my day with a period of meditation, exercise, and then some reading and journaling. The events of stoic week 2016 will consist of a daily meditation and some written reflections throughout the day.

The iniitial prompt for today is the following:

From Maximus [I have learnt the importance of these things]: to be master of oneself and not carried this way and that; to be cheerful under all circumstances, including illness; a character with a harmonious blend of gentleness and dignity; readiness to tackle the task in hand without complaint; the confidence everyone had that whatever he said he meant and whatever he did was not done with bad intent; never to be astonished or panic-stricken, and never to be hurried or to hang back or be at a loss or downcast or cringing or on the other hand angry or suspicious; to be ready to help or forgive, and to be truthful; to give the impression of someone whose character is naturally upright rather than having undergone correction; the fact that no-one could have thought that Maximus looked down on him, or could have presumed to suppose that he was better than Maximus; and to have great personal charm. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 1.14

The intent of this prompt from the organizers of Stoic Week is to have us consider our life as an ongoing project, and the journey of ethical self-development. 

For me this is an important element of my life as I try to understand, or at least make room for the thoughts and habits that make me who I am. Meditation has helped me to quiet (at times) much of the noise of self-doubt and anxiety. By resetting each morning through meditation and reflection, I try to learn more about myself and who I would like to be.

Learning is a fundamental part of my philosophy and action. Through the aquistion of new knowledge I believe that we can understand and hopefully "change" most anything in our lives. 


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