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Showing posts from September, 2012

With Great Art, Comes Great Fun!!!

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Our local elementary school has a program called Great Artist, where a parent volunteer goes into the classroom, presents either an artist or a type or art, and then the kids get a chance to make their own work based on the artist or type of art.

Yesterday, I went to my daughter's class and discussed Giuseppe Arcimboldo.  Arcimboldo was an Italian artist who lived in the 1500s.  He worked on stained glass and tapestries as a young man, then he began to paint portraits of people and ideas using found objects.  He worked in the courts of three different emperors before dying in 1593.

Now comes the twist in the story.  Most of Arcimboldo's paintings were captured/stolen by the Swedish Army during the Thirty Year War, leaving Arcimboldo lost in history until the early 1900s.  That's when artists in the Surrealist movement found the paintings (I don't know the story of the finding).  One of the artists was Salvador Dali, who studied and was influenced what we call The Arc…

Game Review: Torchlight II

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Last Thursday, Runic Games released Torchlight II - an  action RPG that follows in the footsteps of Torchlight.  As a big fan of Torchlight, I prepurchased Torchlight II months ago on Steam and then forgot about the game instead of checking everyday for the announced release date, which was my first impulse.  But I could try and put it out of mind, ergo outside of the compulsive wondering zone, because Steam announces new releases loudly, so I knew that I would not miss the date.

Not only did I not miss the date, but I finished the main quest line of the game two days ago.

I love this game!!!  The creators of Torchlight II managed to carry over the great gaming aspects of Torchlight while changing the few elements that needed changing (an open world to walk around and explore, different character types, more pet types,...)  The best part is that even though I finished the main quest line, the game offers significantly more gameplay; I am not even close to finishing the game.  How, y…

Wordless Wednesday - "Sweet Home Alabama"

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Okay, so this is a music video instead of a picture, but I just had to share this with you.

Happy Wednesday!!

Book Review: "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis

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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must admit - I am not a huge baseball fan. I went to several games growing up; living in Ohio we rooted for the Cincinnati Reds. After moving to Tampa, I watched the New York Yankees farm team play. My baseball roots actually go back to my great-Grandfather Yoder, who was both a business partner and a friend to Mr. William Wrigley Jr. My great-Grandfather occasionally drove to Wrigley field with a truck full of popcorn, which he gave away to the fans. I like thinking about baseball back then, before the free agent business began and the world of baseball became the world of money ball.

But in "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game", Billy Beam remembers that the game is about playing well, not paying the most money. The book follows Billy from his unsuccessful playing career to his very, famously successful career as the general manager for the Oakland As. Along the way, the…

The Amazing Apple Maps App! (Not Really)

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I am a Google person.  I own an Android phone, an Android pad, and my website is hosted by Google.  So I generally ignore announcements from Apple or news about Apple because they just don't apply to me.

But even I have heard about the very BIG mistake Apple made in iOS 6 with the introduction of their own, homegrown map application. In case you haven't heard, Apple Maps is more likely to lead you astray than to give you either an accurate map or accurate directions.  The maps are wrong in multiple ways that are more amusing then informative.  For instance, in the above picture, Berlin is listed in Antarctica.  But that's better than the fate of Mumbai and Gutenberg, which just don't exist anymore.

Here are some of my favorite mistakes:




I pulled all of these images from The Amazing iOS 6 Maps - but there are literally hundreds of more images.  If you visit the blog and listen very carefully, you can hear Google laughing.



Freaky Friday News - September 21, 2012

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Tuesday of this week, our Internet mysteriously went away.  (I blame space aliens and solar flares, personally.)   Now that it's back, I apologize for the break and present to you.... Freaky Friday News!!!
Leading up this week's Freaky News is an updated on the Ervin McKinness story.  No, this is not the beginning of the zombie apocalypse; he's still dead as are the passengers in his car.  I personally expected this to be the end of the story, but now a much smaller controversy popped up.  Who was really driving the car?  Whomever took over Mr. McKinness' Twitter account started making statements saying that Mr. McKinness was a passenger in the car, and not the driver.  When I first heard this, my exact response went, "Seriously??? Who cares!  They're all dead anyway!!!" Then I realized who cares - the insurance companies.  So now people are arguing over who is responsible for the tragedy, potentially dragging a somewhat innocent person's name through…

On Monday, If the Sky is Blue, I find I have a thought or two...

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Here are the random thoughts of the day:
On September 2, aspiring rapper Ervin McKiness tweeted about driving drunk at 120 mph, justifying the action with "yolo"  (you only live once).  A few minutes later, he died. What strikes me about this news story is.. that it's a news story!  I mean, I expect someone drunk driving at those speeds to crash into a large, stationary object on the side of the road, potentially dying himself and those in the vehicle with him, which is exactly what happened.  That's not news, that's physics and common sense.I read another article where someone ranted about getting the U.N.   For those petitioning to  "get the U.S. out of the U.N", please read your history books.  The U.S. started the U.N. It's our creation, started after World War II to prevent World War III.  That's why the headquarters are in New York, NY.A baby panda was born at the National Zoo yesterday.  Squee!!!!Today is the 225th anniversary of the signi…

The Battle for Our Future

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Unrest in the Middle East, potential economic breakdown, bank foreclosures on family homes, wobbly unemployment numbers, abortion, gay marriage- these topics dominate headlines these days as the presidential election goes into its final weeks.  Which candidate will help the economy the most?  Which candidate will strength the U.S. position in the world more?  Which candidate will protect the moral fiber of our country?  Which candidate will help me the most?

Romney or Obama??
Obama or Romney???
CHOOSE OR DIE!!!
Okay, that might be a bit overly dramatic, but that's the feeling generated by the media these days.  And yet, I believe the biggest threat lies not in the Middle East, nor in Asia, or even the U.N.  The biggest threat lies not in the Democratic party or their so-called "socialist" agenda.  The biggest threat lies not with the Republican party or their fiscally conservative ways.  (I would put "so-called" here, but real Republicans are fiscally conservat…

xkcd: ContextBot

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xkcd is one of my favorite web comics, so I thought I'd share it with you.

The Conundrum of Racial Profiling

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I must start out by saying that I, personally, have never been a victim of racial profiling. In fact, I might have benefited from reverse racial profiling occasionally since I'm white (for the record, my genetic makeup is over half Germanic, with Scottish and Irish thrown in for good measure). I believe racial profiling hurts everyone in a community, which is ironic since the people who use racial profiling firmly believe that the practice helps communities.

First, let me provide my own internal definition of racial profiling:
racial profiling:  the practice of law enforcement to use a person's ethnicity or race to determine whether or not to engage the individual (e.g. traffic stop) I have a friend, Tiffany, who lives in a nearby community, Acworth, GA.  Tiffany and her brother get stopped by the local law enforcement about 2 dozen times every year for the same crime - DWB.

Never heard of DWB before?  Then chances are that you are white, because DWB stands for Driving W

Wordless Wednesday: Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright

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Book Review: "Commitment Hour" by James Alan Gardner

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Commitment Hour by James Alan Gardner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Commitment Hour" by James Alan Gardner explores a special day in the life of Fullin, a resident of Tober Cover. The residents of Tober Cove switch genders from birth until Commitment Day in their twentieth year, when they choose male, female, or both.

The story begins the night before Commitment Day, with Fullin and Cappie separately sitting vigil in the surrounding area, attempting to reason out which gender each wants to choose. Two strangers arrive and the world as everyone knows it implodes.

The author explores several concepts in the book, such as gender roles and sexual identity, without getting bogged down in either details or answers. He wants the readers to think about these concepts as well, and come to their own answers.

I love how each character grows, gains depth as the events unfold. I must admit, two different times towards the end of the book I felt surprised/shocked by what was happening. The…

Beware!! Math Ahead!!!

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(Or A Proof for Password Security)
Here's a quick mathematical explanation on password security.  First, let's define some terms:
U: the set of possible passwords
||:  denotes the size of a set
a: the available character set
n: the length of the password
The formula for determining the possible set of all passwords is U = {a}n

For example, if you can only use the last three letters of the alphabet for passwords, and you have a password length of 2, then
U = {x, y, z}2, or U = {xx, xy, xz, yy, yx, yz, zz, zx, zy} Therefore, the size of U is the number of elements in a raised by the length of the password, or
|U| = |a|n Therefore, the more elements you have in a and the longer n, the larger the size for U, or the more possibilities you have for any given password.

How does this relate to password security?

Most hackers use a guessing algorithm to attempt to guess a user's password.  If you only use letters or numbers, you severely limit the possible password set and make th…

Chrome App Review: Password Hasher Plus

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Every week, it feels like I read a new story about new schemes to get user password, or a new story about how a hacker got a password and heavily damaged someone else's life.  A few months ago,  I decided that I needed a new method to create and remember passwords.  Even though I followed the rules to create strong passwords and I kept a local password file, I didn't like it.  What happens if someone gets the password file?  What if I need a password but I can't get to the file?

First, I decided on my requirements.  I wanted an application that helped me create password using the following rules for creating a strong password:
Do not use all or part of your username as a password.Do not use dictionary words as a password.Use the maximum amount of letters allowed by the website for a password, not the minimum.Include numbers and special characters if the option is available.Do not reuse passwords across multiple websites.Do not use your real name, nor the real names of anyo…

Freaky Friday News

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When I began to write today's post, I realized that several bizarre news stories broke this week.  I tried to pick one that I liked or disliked the most to investigate and write about; then I decided I would tell you about all of them and let you pick which ones you want to learn more about.

First up is the worst way to propose marriage that I've ever hear of.  Alexey Bykov wanted to propose to his girlfriend, Irena Kolokov, but he also wanted to be sure she loved him.  So Alexey hired a film director, stunt men, a make-up artist, and other people, then he staged his own death.  Irena showed up to meet Alexey only to find a supposedly horrible car accident that killed her boyfriend.  Upon seeing his "dead" body, Irena burst into tears.  That's when Alexey recovered and proposed marriage.  Irena, first angry, actually agreed to marry Alexey.

The worst part?  Alexey told Orange News, "I wanted her to realise how empty her life would be without me and how lif…

Revelations about Organic Food??? Not Really.

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Stanford University released a study this week, in which researchers there correlated the data from about 240 other studies on organic versus non-organic food.   The good people at Stanford discovered that organic foods do not provide a nutritional advantage over non-organic;  but organic produce does test for approximately 30% less pesticides that traditionally grown produce.

While I read several opinions of shock over the finding, personally I think it falls in the "no duh" category.  The amount of sunshine and water plants receive, as well as soil quality, determine nutritional value of fruits and vegetables; pesticides... well, not so much.  The chemicals keep bugs and such off the plants, but don't really add or subtract anything otherwise.

So why do so many people think that pesticides change the nutritional content?

I have no answer to that question.  Maybe the belief stems from our removal from the growth process; generally speaking people don't grow their o…

Wordless Wednesday: Moraea Loubseri

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I learned about this beautiful flower from a friend of mine who happens to be Johan W. Loubser's daughter-in-law.  The flower grows in the southwest Cape, and was thought to be extinct sometime in the mid 2000s.  But then last year, someone found two specimens!  Hopefully, we can keep this beauty from extinction for a while longer.


New High School Graduation Requirements in Georgia

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Last week, I received an email inviting me to review the new, proposed high school graduation requirements.  From the accompanying introductory letter, I assume that the current graduation requirements do not satisfy the current legislation (Georgia Code O.C.G.A. § 20-2-140 and 20-2-159.1 through 20-2-159.4).  These will effect anyone entering ninth grade in the 2013-2014 school year and beyond, which translates to both of my children.  After reading the requirements, I had the option to fill out an online survey where I could enter my opinion about the requirements.

After reading the requirements document, I not only filled out the survey, but I also called the office of Pamela Smith to speak with someone.  Why?  Because I have several issues with the proposed graduation requirements, starting with the idea of a "Capstone Project".

Basically, the new requirements include having all seniors do a Capstone Project, which is:
a final and in-depth project that allows a student …

The Battle Over Digital Content - Who Owns It?

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I assume that you've heard the Big News this weekend; Bruce Willis is bringing a lawsuit against Apple for ownership of his music collection.  According to the terms of service, Apple retains ownership on everything and purchasing a song on iTunes merely allows the purchaser listening rights.

When I read about this, my first thought was, "Woohoo!  Go Bruce Willis!", because we need someone with the clout and the money to start the fight.  My second thought was about how much time and money I've put into buying digital content - books and music mostly - and wondering if I own the things I assume I own. Instead of worrying, I checked.

The answer saddens me.  According to the Amazon.com website, books and games sold for the Kindle do not belong to me because, and I quote, "Digital Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider."  Basically, all the books on my Kindle that I assumed I own I don't really own.  They are merely "licensed …

Civil Rights Alert: New Police Device Can Extract Your Cell Phone Data

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I know that technology offers brand new ways for the average Joe to interact with the world, but sometimes a new piece of technology comes along and I have to wonder why.  Why did someone make this?  What were they thinking?

This weekend, I read an article about a new piece of technology that falls into that category:  the Cellebrite UFED Touch Ultimate.  Created by the company Cellebrite, this box of goodies lets any local law enforcement officer hook up to just about any mobile device - cellphone, smart phone, tablet, e reader - and extract all the data inside said mobile device.  And by "all the data" I mean emails, passwords, text messages, contact information, account information, even items that you previously deleted!

Now, I understand that such a device is more than useful for the police when investigating a crime.  But I object to regular police officers, driving around doing traffic stops, carrying these devices with them.  The police need to have a warrant to get…

Sunday Musings - Drunk Driving

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Strange, it's Labor Day again, but my sense of time seems to have left me, for inside it still feels like the middle of summer.  Perhaps that's because we had no real winter last year - my sense of time has been off since January.  Or perhaps that's because this summer went by so quickly.

The very first Labor Day weekend that we spent in Georgia was sadly memorable.  My husband worked at The Weather Channel for a nice guy named Scott.  Late Saturday morning, Scott was riding his motorcycle into work when a car struck him.  The driver was a very drunk woman - amazingly drunk considering the time.  Scott left behind a wife who needed to wear a wig to the funeral because she was on her third bout with cancer, and a daughter about the age of 10.  Considering the wife's bad life expectancy, I hope the daughter is okay.  But we had a new baby, our own 8 year old, and a new house to set up, so I never knew what happened to her.

Fast forward six years, and I'm at home wit…