Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Back for Seconds: Why Burglars Will Hit The Same House Twice

In 2015 more than 8 million property crimes were reported to the police, according to data reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI cites that property crimes include larceny-thefts, burglaries and car thefts. These crimes resulted in $14.3 billion in financial losses. A burglary can happen to anyone. Even if you’ve experienced one already. Here’s how you can protect yourself and your home against brash, back-for-seconds, criminals.

Secure Your Entire Home

Many homeowners will take precautions to alarm their homes, but some only secure the front of the home. Only securing the front of the home leaves the back of the house vulnerable to quick-thinking thieves. Gates that lock and deny access to thieves, movement-triggered lighting systems, window and door locks and security cameras can keep not only the front of the house, but the entire home protected against burglars. Lorex technology, a well-known brand in the home security industry, offers a wide variety of security cameras for the home. From weatherproof night vision cameras to high definition styles, you can sleep better at night knowing your home is protected with a security camera system.

Get a Home Security Check

In many areas, you can get your local law enforcement team to stop by your house and perform a home security check. During a home security check, local officers will come to your home and walk the entire house and around your property to identify any weak points in your home security. This service is underutilized but highly suggested. Whether you’re a new homeowner or if you’ve lived in your neighborhood for decades, scheduling a home security check can not only give you a sense of your home’s security, but peace of mind, too. The officers can also give you an idea of the types of crimes that are common in your area, so you can better prepare.

Store Your Outdoor Items Appropriately

You might think that there’s no harm, but items left out on your home’s property can lure thieves looking for "easy pickings." Bicycles, children’s play equipment, yard tools, expensive lawn mowers and other yard accessories are easy targets. And these items can also give thieves a good idea of what’s inside of your home, too. Police officers strongly advise storing these items in a locked shed or secured garage to avoid theft rather than keeping them visible to criminals in your yard.

Use Deterrent Strategies

Investing in a home security system is just one way you can protect your home and assets from thieves. However, there are a handful of additional methods that you can install around your home and property to prevent theft. From placing alarm company, Neighborhood Watch or Operation ID stickers on your doors and in your windows to planting uninviting bushes underneath windows, such as rose bushes or other thorny plants and even having a family dog, can make your home less of a target for criminals. And if you have a home security system, keeping a yard sign advertising that fact can help deter thieves.

Control Your Keys

While it may seem convenient to provide keys to friends, family and others who frequent your home, security experts advise against doing so. You never know whose hands your home’s keys will end up in. And while it may seem logical to provide a set of keys to your babysitter, maids or even contractors working on your home, don’t. Additionally, authorities cite to never leave your keys in your mailbox, underneath your doormats, a rock or other common hiding places around your property, as your keys can easily be found. Some of these may seem like common sense, but people still do these things all the time. If you really need to provide a key to someone, a temporary lock box is often a good compromise since you can bring the lock box back inside when the other person no longer needs access.

Is Your Garage Door Opener An Easy Way In?

One method thieves can use to access your home is to break into a vehicle that contains a garage door opener, use that to open your garage and enter your home that way. Even if the interior door is locked, they can close the garage door and brute force the inner door without worrying about being seen. If you have a garage remote control, either ensure it is not visible from the outside of your car or bring the remote with you when you leave the vehicle. Additionally, if you live in an area prone to break-ins, you may want to rely on the "standalone" garage remote rather than programming your garage code into the garage door opener that is built into your vehicle (note that some newer car models won't open your garage if the key is not present, but older vehicles often function any time you press the button).

These are just a few ideas to help you make your home more burglar-resistant. What do you think? Do you have more ideas?

CardNinja is a great minimalist tool

As the year begins, I am looking for ways to move gradually toward a more minimalist lifestyle. I recently ran across an item that can help - it's called the CardNinja and it is designed to add a wallet-like pocket on the back of your smartphone so you can slim down what you carry.

The CardNinja attaches to the back of your phone (or directly to your phone case) with some strong, yet safe adhesive. It holds fast, but can be removed without damaging your phone or leaving behind a sticky residue.

CardNinja has a flexible (stretchy) pouch on it and will hold 6-8 cards and some folded cash without interfering with the use of your phone. The profile is slim, so you can still put your phone in your pocket or purse and barely notice that the CardNinja is on there. Check out my gallery for some pictures.

I started out with a sort of teal-colored version and just ordered a black one so it will blend in a bit more in a business environment (there is a wide variety of color and designs to choose from).

It you're looking to slim down what you carry and possibly do away with your wallet, check out the CardNinja.

Hey - it's the future! Is it what you expected?

In the second “Back to the Future” film, the three central characters played by Michael J. Fox (Marty McFly), Christopher Lloyd (Doctor Emmett Brown) and Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells) travel to October 21, 2015 in aflying car to save Marty’s kids from potential disaster.   Except for a few key oversights (the internet, mobile phones) and some rather ambitious future predictions, aspects of the world dreamed up by the writer Bob Gale are not far off reality.

OK - it is now October 21, 2015. It's the future - is it what you expected? What’s reality and what’s not? Check out this handy graphic for a taste - this is a great analysis, courtesy of Reed Elsevier's SciVal Trends Module:

Prosperity & Security: Growing Wealth & Protecting It

Financial independence is true independence. You work hard, but what does independence mean if all your wealth is tied to an office job or you have no flexibility to stop working? I've been thinking more and more about what happens "next" beyond a career, what kind of legacy building I want to strive for, and so on. There is no magic wand, but here are a few ideas that may help for growing your prosperity — and a few for holding on to it.


Wait, isn't retirement the opposite of building wealth? While it may seem counter-intuitive, a mini-retirement or sabbatical has the potential to increase productivity when you come back refreshed. Companies in many sectors encourage sabbaticals.

A potential financial benefit of taking a sabbatical is that stepping away from the daily rush of the job can help you focus in on your values and what you need to build toward retirement. Brian Stoffel at the Motley Fool describes how his mini-retirement reshaped his family's financial life--for the better.

The mini-retirement led him to realize that consumption was not the key to financial strength or personal happiness. At Financial Mentor, Todd Tresidder frames it this way: You must control your spending so that your lifestyle lags behind your income. This will create available capital for your investment activities.

Leveraging Currency Exchange Rates

The dollar is stronger now than it has been for years. While this can be great if you're about to take that European sabbatical, what does it mean for the risk-reward ratio in leveraging currency exchange rates? Overall, individuals always take big risks when entering the world of currency exchange, so caution is warranted. As attractive as this sounds, this is probably one of those "don't try this at home" areas for most of us.

Investing in Gold

Over the years, you've probably heard a lot about this, including debates about whether gold trades more like a currency or a commodity. Fads in investing come and go, and yes, sometimes the price of gold goes down. Forbes contributor Henry Lo recently advised that its current low makes now a great time to jump in to the gold market--especially if you're taking the long view.

Unlike many other commodities, gold's ultimate value is intrinsic. While our cultural image of gold is one of opulence and decoration, gold has many uses in electronics, medical technology, and industry. It has unique applications that mean it will never become worthless, so it can serve as a bulwark against the vagaries of the world economy.

There are good ways and bad ways of investing in gold, due to the way laws work in many countries. If you want to invest in gold, I suggest consulting with an experienced financial advisor.

Avoiding Identity Theft

Regardless of the path you take to build your wealth, keeping your identity secure goes hand-in-hand with financial security.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014. People in all demographics are affected, but among racial groups, the BJS found that white people experienced identity theft at higher rates than all others. The process of rehabilitating your credit score can take time, and out-of-pocket monetary loss is not uncommon.

  • In the analog world, you should have a paper shredder and never put financial documents in the trash. But now that so much of the world has gone digital, what’s the equivalent? Unfortunately, technology changes at such a fast pace that it’s hard to know what’s coming. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving new strategies that threaten your wealth.
  • Investing in a service like LifeLock to monitor your data is crucial to ensure maximum identity theft protection. Stay up-to-date on the latest cyber security news and tips by following the LifeLock on social media as well.
  • Don’t want to be a victim? Make sure your home computer has its firewall on, and always be sure to update your software — criminals love to exploit bugs in software that hasn't been updated.

Planning and Getting Help

If you don't know where to start, start with goals - what age do you want to retire, what kinds of things do you want to do after your career, etc. This approach will help you determine what your needs are, so you can determine what kind of nest egg you need to build.

When seeking help from professional advisors, I suggest using a "fee only" financial advisor - this is an advisor that doesn't sell products, doesn't get a commission from any of the things you invest in, etc. In other words, they are compensated by you which means their allegiance is to you, their customer. In the US, organizations like the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) can help you find fee-only financial advisors. Your Credit Union may also have a good, objective advisor on their staff.

The main point here is to steer away from free financial advisors - if you aren't paying, you're no longer the customer, you're the product.

What about you? Do you have any advice to share? Please leave a comment below.

Understand Jargon to Be a Smarter Consumer


Every community has its jargon, but when you are entering into a new world of products and services, it is important that you understand the lingo so that you don't end up purchasing something you don't want or need. Many consumers are prone to making impulse purchases without thinking. In fact, 75 percent of Americans have made impulse purchases and 16 percent said these purchases were over $500, according to a survey by Being knowledgeable about what you are dealing with makes you a smarter consumer. Here's a look at some jargon you need to know:

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing and data storage isn't just for businesses — it helps you preserve and save precious photos, videos, and other data from being lost. However, much of the terminology is new and confusing. For example, you probably want to look for a “consumer cloud” service, which includes popular services like Dropbox. If you want to save as much money as possible, advertising-based pricing models tend to be cheaper. But if the idea of having to look at ads to run your apps turns you off, don't use this type of discounted plan. Consumption-based pricing models refer to services that charge you based on the amount of data you use, rather than a subscription that has set limits and prices per month. Now that you understand some of the technical terms, decide which type of service is best for you.

Surround Sound

If you've ever been wowed by the dynamics of surround-sound systems in movie theaters or home theater stereo systems, you may want to have a system of your own installed. Understanding how surround-sound systems are labeled is essential if you want to get the right one for your home. For example, what does 5.1 surround sound refer to? Well, the five refers to the number of channels: two in the front, two in the back and one in the center. The one refers to whether or not the system has a subwoofer; a one means it does, a zero means it does not. The Dig points out that surround sound comes in a variety of set ups, such as 7.1 and 5.1.2 (which means there are two height variable stereos that add depth to the front soundfield). There are countless variations on this formula, but when you understand what the decimals stand for, you have a better chance of getting what you want and not spending more than you need to.


Biking is a popular way for people to get around in urban areas or add some exercise to the daily routine. Some biking terms can be counter intuitive, though, so make sure you understand them before you buy one. For example, clipless pedals refer to a style of pedal that actually has clips that attach to your shoes to hold your feet in place. The type of pedal with a strap is referred to as a “toe-clip,” so clipless is a reference to them not being this style of pedal. This is the sort of thing that confuses many new bikers (I know that first-hand, since I started cycling a couple of months ago), so it helps to know the jargon before you go into the store. For more of this sort of jargon, Road Bike Rider has an extensive glossary.

One other comment on jargon - don't be shy about asking what these things mean. Sure, you run the risk of some body trying to make you feel dumb, but most of the time I've found that people are willing to help you understand their jargon. For example, bike shop employees should be willing to explain the differences between a Schrader valve and a Presta valve - if they give you a hard time, find another bike shop.