Freaky Friday News: November 30, 2012

Popocatepetl, Mexico (from earlier this year)

Volcanoes!  They're Not Just for Breakfast.

This past month has seen interesting volcanic activity in Mexico and Central America - that is if your definition of interesting is "Oh, god! Oh, god!  We're all going to die!".  Six volcanoes have seen various level of activity, from continuous tremors to bursts of ash and smoke:

  • Popocatepetl (Mexico) 
  • Santiaguito (Guatemala)  
  • Pacaya (Guatemala) 
  • Fuego (Guatemala)
  • San Cristobal (Nicaragua)
  • Masaya (Nicaragua)
As of this writing, no one has issued evacuation orders. 



From Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

All I Want for Christmas is my... Wait!  Is that a Robot?

Why, yes!  Yes, it is.  

This week, artist and inventor Kogoro Kurata unveiled the Kuratas robot, the manifestation of his childhood dream to have a cool robot like the ones he watched on television (think Robotech).   At 4 meters in high and weighing 4 tonnes, the Kuratas robot is a bohemoth that travels up to 10 km/hour with its human driver.

That's right - you can ride inside Kuratas and use a controller to steer, open and close the hands, and fire either the guns or the rocket launcher.  Okay, so the rocket launcher only fire plastic rockets filled with water and the guns only shoot B.B. pellets and plastic bottles.  But the thought of having a robot I can ride in that shoots anything makes me happy.  It's a geek fantasy come true!

Sadly, it costs about $1.3 million to make one, so I think I'll just look at the demo model for now.


iPhone 5 Prank in Amsterdam

Just a quick post - some humorous young men in Amsterdam got their hands on an iPhone 5 and super-glued the phone to the ground in the middle of Amsterdam.  Then they hung around and watched as pedestrians attempted to pick it up.  The resulting video is quite amusing - I especially like how most people start laughing when they realize it's a prank.


Facebook - Oh, the Irony!!!

Last weekend, I officially ended my relationship with Facebook.  There are a multitude of reasons for the break-up, but the straw that broke the camel's back was the mass emailing in which Facebook announced policy changes that I found untenable.

It seems as though I am not the only person who found the policy changes untenable.  Over 19,000 people commented on their unhappiness over the upcoming policy changes, and even the Electronic Privacy Information Center asked Mark Zuckerberg to withdraw the policy changes in this letter.

And Facebook agreed.  Sort of.

Now, Facebook is following their own public policies and putting the matter up to a vote.  Of course, I doubt that Facebook will be publicizing the vote, because people might actually vote against these policy changes.  But at least the new policy changes will be put in place properly.

I am still not returning to Facebook.

There is too much water under the bridge.  And I find myself not missing Facebook at all.  But I want to let my readers know that Facebook is, perhaps, doing the right thing.  Or at least doing the least painful thing that lets them still get their way.

Au revoir, Facebook.

Wordless Wednesday: Thanksgiving in Kindergarten

Here is my precious daughter at her Thanksgiving feast in kindergarten.
That was five years ago, but I think she's even more beautiful today.

Review: Logitech H390 USB Headset

From www.Logitech.com
A headset! A headset!  My kingdom for a headset!

That's how I felt last week, when my kids wanted to play Torchlight 2 with me co-op online, but I needed a headset for that to work properly.  I ended up using my husband's headset, but that gets old very quickly.

I would like to say that I ran out the door and got myself a new headset, but I didn't need to.  While I played with the kids, my husband walked out the door and drove to Micro Center, where he bought me a brand-new headset - the Logitech H390 USB Headset!

I've used this headset since last Friday, and I must tell you that so far I absolutely love it!  I needed to stretch the headband a bit, to keep it from pushing against my glasses.  But otherwise, no problems whatsoever.  I have used the headset to game, to listen to music from YouTube and Google Music, and to make phone calls.  That's right - now I can use Google Talk to make phone calls directly from my computer.

Bwahahahaha!!!

I spoke to my friend, Ann, yesterday for over an hour on the headset.  No headache, no problems hearing her, and no problems with her hearing me - a complete win situation!

Technically, this headset is not circumaural (unless you have exceptionally small ears) - the headphones sit on top of the ear.  I like this because if the headphones go around my ears, then it sits directly on top of my glasses.   The microphone moves up and down smoothly, and does not pick up on most extraneous noises.

Overall, I give this headset 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars.

(Sorry, but I haven't got the graphics worked out yet on the new Blogger template.)

Site Under Construction

So, I decided I need more experience playing with templates on Blogger.  I looked around for new templates to use, and vióla!  A new look for my blog!!

Of course, I haven't work out all the bugs yet, or set up every link yet.  So for the moment my site is kinda sorta under construction.  I will be back tomorrow with a regular posting and a (hopefully) fully functioning blog. 

Goodbye, Facebook! So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Well, the time has come.  Last week, Facebook sent out a mass emailing explaining to its users how the policies and procedures are changing.  Basically, the people at Facebook decided that we don't need a voting system to approve or disapprove policy changes.  Instead, they will implement policy changes and leave us a suggestion box to use if we don't like the changes.

A suggestion box - with no guarantee of an answer, any answer to suggestions.

Sigh.  They are also changing more things, but I quit reading after I deciphered1. the first bit of text.  It's fairly obvious that Facebook doesn't care what its users want, and that we are not on the list of priorities.  I am not that surprised - Facebook did start as a website to rank college girls.   It just happened to turn into a social network.

But now I must cut ties to several people in my life.  I have a step-daughter with a new baby boy who I don't hear from other than through Facebook.  I have several cousins (I'm looking at you, Craig!) who I hear from consistently through Facebook.  High school friends, college friends, even people I've met along the way - all of them I connect with through Facebook.

But ...  I value my information, and I am tired of making Facebook money when I get treated like a second class citizen.  Maybe even third class.

Fair thee well, my Facebook friends!  I hope to hear from you on Google.


1I use the word "deciphered" because the email and supporting website are written in purposefully deceptive terms, and it takes time to read what's there.

Freaky Friday News: November 23, 2012



Welcome to the Toilet Museum!!

No, I'm not joking.  A man in South Korea donated his toilet house, pictured above, to become a toilet museum.  It's become a tourist attraction. *smacks hand on forehead*

If you want to know more, I suggest you watch this slideshow on Reuters.




This week, a man in Surrey, southern England, found a dead pigeon while cleaning out a disused fireplace.  Amazingly, the dead pigeon turned out to be a carrier pigeon from World War II, and it still carried an encrypted message.  Sadly, no one alive today can decrypt the message, because no one knows which code was used to encrypt the message.

Picture by Tad





A Thanksgiving Gift - Grandpa's Corn Casserole

While I still feel a bit cynical about Thanksgiving, I want to share a Thanksgiving gift with you.  It's the recipe my father makes every Thanksgiving for an easy, delicious corn casserole.  By "easy" I mean that kids old enough to use the oven can make it.  Or, kids not only enough to use the oven but old enough to open and stir - say, 5-6 years old - can make it.
From The Daily Gazette


Grandpa Yoder's Corn Casserole

Ingredients:
1 16 oz. can of creamed corn
1 16 oz. can of whole kernel corn
1 8 oz. container of sour cream
1 box of Jiffy Corn Bread Mix
1/4 c. of melted butter.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a casserole dish (or use non-stick spray).
  3. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
  4. Pour into the casserole dish.
  5. Bake 45 - 60 minutes, or until lightly brown on top.
This is a family favorite - my daughter loves Grandpa's corn casserole.  I hope that you and your family enjoy this.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wordless Wednesday - Werewolf Android

Designed by Andrew Bell, sold at DeadZebra.com
My lovely, wonderful husband bought me a werewolf Android for our wedding anniversary!!!!!  Sweet!!!!!

I'm Thankful for... Emperor Justinian I

Yes, this does not sound like something most people would be thankful for - a pre-Middle Ages emperor of the Byzantine Empire who died in 565 AD.  But the ideas that this man, this son of a shepherd, put forth have influenced the world even to today.

For Emperor Justinian I believed in justice and the law; he created a uniform Roman law (based on previous laws) and wrote it down in Corpus Juris Civilis. (Okay, he probably had his officials write them down under his orders.)  This work has been and is the basis for most civil laws from Justinian's empire until today.  He offered scholarships to anyone who wanted to study the law (not just from the upper classes).

While Emperor Justinian I contributed much to his time and posterity, I believe the following ideas are his
 greatest contributions:
  • The law applies equally to everyone in the Empire, not just the common people.
  • Studying the law helps man to get a greater understanding of the law - jurisprudence.
  • Previous judgement should serve as guides for current cases - precedence.
  • A man is presumed innocent until proven guilty. 
Now, Emperor Justinian I also build a few monuments, won back parts of Africa, Italy, and Spain from invading forces, consolidated the empire, and married a woman with an unsavory background (showing a distinct lack of concern where social norms stood on such matters).  But the concept that a person is innocent until proven guilty, that outweighs everything else in my opinion.  

Human nature is to assume someone is guilty if that person is accused of a crime, unless there is overwhelming proof of innocence.  To overcome this internal prejudice, we have to consciously assume someone is innocent, and have that notion pressed upon us in times of a jury selection or of a trial.  But without someone in power who enforces this assumption, without someone like Emperor Justinian I to write down this idea, codify it and enforce it, I do not believe we would be the same world.  We would live in a world that believe it's better for an innocent man to go to prison then for a guilty man to walk away free, which contradicts my belief that it is better for a guilty man to walk free then for an innocent man to go to prison.

As for the first three ideas, they all contribute to making the law fair for everyone and to remove the influence of money and riches over the judgement of the courts. I realize that money and power still influence the court system, even today.  But think about how much worse this could be without Emperor Justinian I.

Crows are Smarter Than We Think

Here's a short video clip of Betty, a very intelligent crow, using tools to get food.



Do you think that the crows will inherit the earth after humans? Or do the dolphins have first dibs?

And... She Still Doesn't Get It

Photo by Marvin Fong/ The Plain Dealer
Shena Hardin - a name for history, if history decides to record human selfishness and stupidity.  This woman rode up a daycare entrance ramp to drive on a sidewalk to go around a stopped school bus picking up a handicapped student.  When a police officer pulled her over to give her a ticket, somehow Ms. Hardin ended up in front of a judge.  Now I don't live in Ohio, but I assume that Ms. Hardin could have just paid the ticket.  That's how traffic tickets work in every other state I've lived in.

But let's give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe Ms. Hardin had no choice but to show up in front of a judge.  The judge, in a moment of extreme common sense, ordered Ms. Hardin not only to pay a fine, not only to lose her license for 30 days, but to hold up a sign for an hour during morning traffic.  The sign needed to say, "Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus."

Now, I've talked about this before.  But I wanted to go over what happened, because now we're on the other side of Ms. Hardin's judgement.

The important question to me is - did Ms. Hardin learn her lesson?  Did she learn that it's important to follow the law, at least around school buses?

Sadly, I think the answer is "no".  The first day of her sentence, Ms. Hardin leaned on her sign while smoking and texting.  The judge made a few comments about how unhappy she was, and Ms. Hardin's lawyers basically told her to hold up the sign.  The second day, Ms. Hardin got out of a car (driven by someone else), and held up her sign.  Reporters surrounded her and asked her questions.  A man stood next to her in solidarity - something I really do not understand.  This man talked to Ms. Hardin for several minutes before she bothered to respond.  And what words of wisdom did Ms. Hardin utter?
"I don't owe anyone an apology." 
She went on to admit she would apologize to the students, but since she was standing on a corner during school hours, that was just ...lame.

She doesn't get it.  Ms. Hardin missed the fact that her needs are not more important that everyone else's needs, that obeying the stop sign on the school bus meant respecting the students and the community and that stopping isn't optional.  Ms. Hardin doesn't understand that she hurt the community, and that she owes everyone an apology, or at least an admission of guilt.

Of course, this is only over in the technical sense.  Ms. Hardin now has to live in a community where everyone knows what she did and who she is.

So I ask, do you think that Ms. Hardin will ever learn?  And what do you think she'll learn? 

Dawn to Dusk: Video of Hurricane Sandy

NASA released this video of Hurricane Sandy from first light until night on October 28th and October 29th. There is no sound in the videos, but I find it interesting to watch the hurricane as it spins and moves. I hope you find this interesting, too.



Why I Say, "Bah, Humbug" To Traditional Thanksgiving

In less that a week, the vast majority of American families will get together, eat a huge feast, watch football, watch parades, and give thanks for their lives.  A few will discuss the story behind Thanksgiving that we all learned in elementary school.  But I feel like we as a country have not only forgotten the lesson of Thanksgiving, but I wonder if anyone really got it at all.

Why?  Because we, the new Native Americans, do not welcome people into our country with open arms.  We don't help others live, and we definitely don't share a large percentage of our food with strangers in a show of harmony.  What we do is persecute people who want to come to the United States; we greet people with suspicion and lots of questions.
Do you have a job or a visible means of support?
Do you have an education?
Do you have any sexually transmitted diseases, or any other communicable diseases?
Do you have family in the U.S. to help you out?
Are you bringing family with you?
If yes, how many?  Who are they?
Maybe we can blame our reluctance towards new people on the fate of the original American Indians, since history shows that nothing good happened to them after the Europeans arrived.  After helping the new settlers, more immigrants sailed over and began to kick the Native Americans out of their territory.  We brought over the flu and other diseases that acted as plagues.  We brought over alcohol, and destroyed lives with it.  We wiped out most of the Native Americans, stole their land, and polluted the environment.

In general, Thanksgiving marked the rise of the colonists and the downfall of the Native Americans.

So what are we celebrating when we eat Thanksgiving dinner?  Are we celebrating the success of the colonists to serve in the New World?  Even though those same colonists contributed to the virtual genocide of a native people?

Sorry, but I must say "Bah, humbug" to that Thanksgiving.

But I still have a Thanksgiving dinner.  What I celebrate is the ability of humans to share, to learn together, and to be kind to one another.  I celebrate the times when we rise above ourselves to help each other, to put another person ahead of ourselves and do what is right - to become the people that we want to be, if only for a moment.

Wordless Wednesday: Swans by Salvador Dalí






Dalí loved to paint scenes with multiple images; in this piece, the swans reflect as elephants in the water.  I'm sharing this today to remind everyone that sometimes life isn't as it seems - look for what's hidden.

Or maybe I just really like Dalí's paintings. :-)

Keeping Your Online Information Private

Throughout history, gold, silver, salt, precious stones, and fancy pieces of paper have all at one time or another acted as currency, or mediums of exchange.  But at any point in time, the wealthiest of men had something more valuable than the possession of currency, because real wealth comes not from the ground.  Real wealth is based on real power, and real power is based on knowledge.

Today knowledge, power, and wealth are based on information, as data brokers make billions of dollars selling information about you.  And yes, when I say "you" I mean the person reading this article.  The nine largest data brokers have accumulated over 500 million detailed records on everyday people.

Five. Hundred. Million.

Recently, Congress asked these companies how and where they are getting this consumer information, and to whom they are selling.  But none of these data brokers answered the questions directly.  Instead they hemmed, hawed, basically refusing to name their sources.

When I learned about this, I decided to do the only thing I could do.  I spent yesterday morning removing myself from as many data aggregators as I could.  I started by reading "How to Remove Yourself from Background Check site BeenVerified.com"  This post gives detailed instructions on how to remove yourself from several intrusive websites.  Only WhitePages.com have changed how to opt out; now you must make an account and then update your information to hide it all and refuse to allow them to sell it.  This is also how to opt out on People Smart - you need to go here and sign up for an account to remove yourself from their online searches.

I strongly recommend that you google for your name and location, and see what comes up.   The amount of data available on me surprised me, and I expected to find some of it.  Then think about removing your data from the data brokers.  It might not seem to make a difference, but if enough people do this, we just might impact the world in the long run.



Zombies Wars!

Part IV, A NEW HOPE 

It is a period of civil war. 
It is the Election Season of '12.
Zombie lovers, striking from hidden ballots, have won their first victory 
against the evil Living Empire. 
During the election, zombie spies managed to infect dead politicians,
 getting them elected by a pathetically unaware general public.
Now pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, 
Earl Wood and Charles Beasley races home 
aboard two decked out RVs, 
custodians of the zombie political hope,
the only thing that can save their people 
and restore freedom to the dead….

This is a dark time for the rebellion.
Although the zombies won local elections in Florida and Alabama,
Living troops still pursue zombies through swamps and forests.
A third member of the Zombie Party rose up during the elections,
Charles Darwin, the scientist behind the Theory of Evolution.
He won more than 4,000 votes in a Georgia federal contest.
but Darwin lost to Representative Paul Broun.

Can the Zombie recover and get elected to the Federal government in 2014?

Or will the Living Empire crush the Zombie Rebellion forever?





A Little Music Break

Here's a song in Breton.  For all the Elder Scrolls fans out there, the young lady singing the song lives in northwest France, in an area called Brittany.  Back in the 1500s, this area was considered a Celtic country, and the locals teach their own language, Breton, as well as teaching French.  Personally, I squealed when I learned about Breton, since I like playing a Breton in the Elder Scrolls games.


If you want to learn the lyrics, click "show more" on the uploader comments. She has the lyrics in Breton, French, and English. For more information about Brittany, read this article in Wikipedia.

Freaky Friday News: November 9, 2012

Judge Orders Crazy Driver to Publicly Advertise Her Crime

Last week, I saw a video where a woman driving a silver car drove on the sidewalk to avoid stopping for a school bus.  That's right - a woman drove up a daycare entrance and onto the sidewalk next to the daycare to go around the stopped school bus and around any other cars who stopped for the school bus.

The bus driver caught her sidewalk driving act a few times on his cell phone camera before contacting the school district.  The school district called the police, who sent an officer to watch the bus pick up kids and catch the idiot driver.  It worked; the video ended with a police car waiting for the woman, who received a ticket (and hopefully a lecture on safety).

 Now we know that the woman is Shena Hardin, from Cleveland, Ohio.  We also know that last week a judge found her guilty of driving past a stopped school bus and of reckless driving.  The judge fined Ms. Hardin $250, revoked her driver's license for 30 days, and.... ordered her to stand on a busy intersection between 7:45am and 8:45am wearing a sign that says, "Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus."

I'm not certain if she cares about the money, and I am almost certain that she will continue to drive even with a revoked license.  But I hope standing on a corner with the sign will make a big enough impression to keep her from doing such idiot driving stunts in the future.

Lessons from the Election

Now that the entire election is finally over, I believe there are several lessons here for anyone willing/wanting to learn.
  1. Be yourself.  Barack Obama remained Barack Obama throughout the campaign.  He did not suddenly change his beliefs or stances to fit someone else's ideal.  But Mitt Romney went from a moderate Republican able to work with the Democrats in his state to an ultra-conservative nut job, from pro-choice to anti-abortion, from compromising to unwilling to listen, from the Mitt Romney the Massachusetts governor to Mitt Romney the Tea Party-enticing, hate-spewing candidate.  Now, I have heard the argument that Romney was doing what he needed to do to get elected.  But consider this - some of the biggest gaffes Romney made on his campaign were at times he wasn't being himself. For example, when asked about NASCAR, instead of admitting that car racing just isn't his hobby of choice, Romney talked about knowing the owners.  More to the point, the strategy did not get him elected.

  2. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.  Both Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock both said things that weren't nice.  Neither man got elected.  Enough said.

  3. Someone's private life is just that - private. In an win for the history books, Tammy Baldwin is now both the first woman elected to the Senate from Wisconsin and the first openly gay politician to win a seat in the Senate. This victory shows that the American public is finally growing up and letting a person's private life stay private.  Our next big hurdle will be not even mentioning whether or not a person is gay, but I think that will be a long time coming.

  4. A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link.  I'm looking at you, Republican Party.  All of the ultra-extremists that you seem to love and cater to are not loved by the vast majority of the nation.  They are your weakest link, and you would be wise to rid yourself of the association before the next set of elections.

  5. Campaigning should not take longer than the average pregnancy. 

Victory Video

Okay, I have avoided talking about the election, since there are more than enough talking heads online.  But after yesterday's election, I want to share a video from 2008 that I personally think it very cool.



Congratulations, Mr. President, on winning a second term.

Wordless Wednesday: The Kitty Song

My family loves to watch "The Big Bang Theory".   The fact that my husband and I are both geeks with two aspiring geek children just make the show that much funnier.  So when I found this picture on Pinterest, I had to share it.

Enjoy, and happy Wednesday!!!!



Election Day: A Story of Our Future

Excerpt from "New America:  History of Our Great Nation", (C) 57
The beginnings of Our Great Nation lie in the swollen muck pile of the old United States of America.  That country, once a world power, sunk into the fetid abyss of money and power until the average person slaved for a mere pittance while the so-called leaders lounged on the broken backs of the bony workers.  Hope attempted to rise several times, but each time Hope turned False and the Common Man suffered for wanting to Dream, for wanting to have his Fair Share.
Historians argue whether the rich propaganda machines, called political parties, pushed the public into vacuous complacency, or whether the public simply gave up.  We have evidence for both sides, but what matters is not why people abandoned their civic responsibilities, only the fact of the abandonment.  
In Year Zero, the people had the chance to vote for their leadership.  Historians agree that the top leader was called "President" though most areas had slightly different candidates for this position.  Also, other positions seem to be present on most ballots, though we found little consensus what this other positions represent.  
At the end of that vote, less that half of the people actually fulfilled their civic duty to cast a ballot.  Less that half  - a number so low that were it not for ample evidence no one would believe it.   
 What followed is not up for debate, since we have first hand accounts starting the day after the voting.
Our Founders waited until the day after the voting, until the lack of care or concern was certain,  to make their move.  Starting in the old capital, Washington D.C., they seized control of the government, using fear to ensure cooperation from the surrounding locale.  From the capital, they spread, first going north and east in the Great Battle of New America, then south on the Trail of Blood, and finally west to fight the Battle of Useless Liberty.  These battles are detailed in the next six chapters, while the theory behind how the Founders triggered the San Andreas fault to destroy the West Coast is covered in Chapter 20.
After The War, the Founders began their campaign to reeducate the populace, teaching them how to work smarter, to respect each other, to respect themselves, and most importantly, teaching them about their civic duties and social obligations.  The Reeducation Process took several years, but in the end Our Great Nation surfaced from the chaos to be the land it is today. 
 **************************************************

Please don't let this become our future.  Please vote.

Thank you.

Internet and Responsibility: A New-ish Moral Conundrum

With the passing of Hurricane Sandy, both in real life and online, a new problem rears its ugly head: the lies spread by anonymous people, and the lifting of their anonymity.

In other words, some jerk maliciously spread lies during the hurricane, thinking he would remain anonymous behind his Twitter handle, @ComfortablySmug.  But someone discovered his real name and wrote about it.  Now the man has quit his job as the campaign manager for a New York congressional candidate and apologized online for his behavior.

Some people think ComfortablySmug should be protected by the First Amendment, and that no one should have outed his name.  Other people want to know why (a reasonable question, in my opinion), and think that ComfortablySmug should be charged for any damage he did.  Either way, the question remains - how do free speech, anonymity  and the Internet go together these days?

I don't have a definite answer to this question.  I know that in some countries, people need anonymity to protect themselves, because their government would arrest or persecute them for dissenting beliefs, thoughts, or ideas.  Even in the U.S., a person who lives outside the societal norm might want or need anonymity to protect their job or reputation.

For instance, ViolentAcrez was a Reddit user who likes looking at very young woman (16 or 17), likes incest,  promotes violence against women, and made a name for himself as a creepy old man Internet troll.  A journalist for Gawker figured out that ViolentAcrez is really Michael Brutsch, a 49-year-old software programmer in Texas with kids.  Since being outed, Mr. Brutsch lost his job.

Now, I personally think that Michael Brutsch deserves whatever he gets, because he spent a lot of time combing through Facebook and other places to find pictures of teenage girls and then repost them without getting permission.  He also started a subreddits called Rapebait, Choke a Bitch, Rape Jokes, and Pics of Dead Kids.

But after Gawker outed Brutsch, several Reddit users called foul, claiming that somehow Brutsch's activities fell under Free Speech.  Well, if Brutsch is covered by Free Speech, so is the article outing him.

Yet, ViolentAcrez and ComfortablySmug are the extreme cases of a person using the anonymity provided by the Internet in a way to do harm.  What about the moderate cases?  What if someone wants to complain about a boss at work, but doesn't want to get fired?  What is a student doesn't like a teacher, but feels scared to air his or her feelings?

When does being anonymous help a person and/or society, and when does it allow for criminals and miscreants to do harm?

(BTW, you can watch CNN interview Michael Brutsch here.)

Funny Safety Video from Air New Zealand



I love this video!!!!

Happy 5th Birthday, Android!!!

Five years ago today, November 5, 2007, the Open Handset Alliance announced their goal of creating a new software platform for mobile devices - including an operating system, middleware, and applications - that would enhance the user experience (for those of us who remember, until then getting a tooth drilled out was about as much fun as using a mobile phone).  The name for the operating system was... wait for it... Android!!!  Yeah - welcome to the world, you cute, green robot!!!

Just shy of a year later, September  23, 2008 to be exact, the first Android devices appeared on the market.  Approximately 700,000 Androids sold from September to December of 2008.  The next two years, you grew up, as the number of Android sold increased an order of magnitude every year, until by the end of 2010 over 78.8 million Android devices had been sold worldwide.

But then, dear Android, you really took off.  In 2011, 243.4 million Android devices sold worldwide, taking yourself from the position of cute underdog to solidly the Top Dog on the mobile market.  Last week, IDC released the numbers for third quarter, 2012.  And you know what?  You did it again, Android, taking 75% of the smart phone market.  That means of the 181.1 million phones shipped from July 1, 2012 to September 30, 2012, 136 million were Android phones.  The runner-up was Apple iPhones, with a decent 15% of the market (26.9 million).

Overall, 658.8 million Android smart phones have sold from that fateful day in 2008 until now - over half a billion devices worldwide!

So congratulations, Android, on your rise to the top.  I hope the next five years are even more entertaining and fun that the past five years have been.

Footnote:  The Open Handset Alliance is made of 84 corporations and institutes related to mobile devices, from carriers to manufacturers to software companies.  Click here for a list of the members.

I got my data from IDC, the International Data Corporation.  The IDC tracks sales statistics to get an accurate picture of the worldwide marketplace.  I've included a tracker from IDC that graphically shows the dominance of Android over the smart phone market.  For more information, please read this article.


My 1st App is Running on Google!!!

Yes, you read that right - I have a small app running on Google's App Engine!!! Woot!

Okay, it's not much.  I wrote a ROT13 translator.  ROT13 is a substitution cipher where you take any letter of the alphabet and substitute the letter that is 13 places away.  Since our alphabet is 26 characters long, that means ROT13 is special in that you can run the same algorithm to encrypt and decrypt a message.

If you want to try mine out, go to http://kat-helloworld.appspot.com/rot13.   Enter text in the box and hit the "Submit" button.  Vióla!!  Instant secret message!

I will be adding to my app soon; I'm thinking about putting up a few simple games.  Any suggestions???

The Pendulum Is Swinging Back!!!

If you follow my blog, you know that I am a believer in the free range kid movement.  I think that society focuses on the rare, statistical anomalies in terms of horrible events - "horrible" defined as kids getting kidnapped, murdered, tortured, neglected, or otherwise treated badly.  Crime rates are down from when I was a kid, significantly down in some areas, and today's kids have a bigger chance to get hit by lightning then  get hurt by strangers.

I noticed something this past week.  The fear mongering seems to be going away.  Yes, the media played up that poor girl in Colorado who disappeared, but people still take their kids to the park.  This past Halloween, I saw several groups of  older kids (8+ years old)  walking around without parents.  For younger kids, the parents dressed up in costume and walked with them from house to house.  No one drove their kid around and no one seemed stressed out.

I hope that this is a sign of better attitudes to come.  I hope that parents will realize kids need to run around outside, that kids need some unsupervised time so that they can learn to manage their own activities.  Kids also need to learn, on a gut-level, that they are okay without their parents.

Has anyone else noticed the shift?

Free Ranging and the Internet: Boy, Do We Have It Wrong

Every week or so, I read another article on the Internet for parents, explaining how to spy on their kids through technology and justifying the behavior with stories of bullied children or teenagers gone wild.

To all of those article writers, parenting "experts", and helicopter-enablers:  I call bullshit.

We, as parents, spend time every day teaching our kids what we consider right and wrong from the moment they are born.  Unless you are in the military and have been deployed the entire time your child has lived, you have role-modeled appropriate behavior for your kids, from putting away your shoes to how you use the Internet.  If you play video games, I guarantee that your kids will love video games.  If you read book, your child will most likely be a book lover.  And I must admit, I love how much my kids want to spend time together talking about life, playing card games, and going on walks.

But at some point, you need to let go.  That means trusting in your own parenting skills and trusting your child.

Trust means that you don't install apps on their computer, tablet, cell phone, or smart phone to track your kid's movements both on line and in real life.  Trust means that you don't read your kid's Facebook page, blog, or other online persona unless you are willingly invited to.  Even then, I would decline the invitation to show that you know your child can handle himself or herself.  Trust means you don't look through the web browser's history to see what web pages your child visited.

Otherwise, you are NOT trusting your child.

In fact, if you look over your child's shoulder in any of these ways, you are telling your child that you do not think he or she is trustworthy.

Period.

Trust is binary - either you trust your kid or you don't trust your kid.  There is no middle ground, no "well, maybe..." in this equation.  Once your kid is old enough - around the age of 10-13 - you have the choice to either reinforced your kid's self-confidence by trusting her, or the choice to treat her as a sneaky, no-good, low-down, dirty liar who simultaneously will break every rule ever given her while forgetting how to protect herself to become an instant victim.

Do you really think that way about your own child?

If you do, then I suggest therapy, for both you and your family.  If you don't, then think about the message you send when you install iGuardian Teen, an instant spy tool for the discerning parent.  The message is "I have no trust that you will obey traffic laws, so I must be aware of every move you make so that I can criticize correct how you drive."

Or the message you send when you install MinorMonitor.  "Personally, I think I did a poor job of raising you to handle the real world.  You clearly will never notice when you get bullied, and if you did notice you would never tell me since I close down lines of communication every chance I get.  So I am monitoring your Twitter and Facebook pages to keep you safe, since you are unequipped and unable to do that yourself."

If you worry about your child's online safety, might I suggest the radical idea of talking to your child about your fears and then listening to him respond to your fears.  Maybe your child already has a strategy to handle online bullies.  Maybe she knows how to distinguish a pervert from a nice person.  And if your kid does not have these skills, then chances are neither do you and the two of you can learn them together.

Before anyone gets upset and starts down the "but I know my kid will see porn/violence/bad stuff", I am not saying that your kids won't see what you consider inappropriate images or "bad stuff".   In fact, finding such bad stuff is a way for your kid to internally begin the emotional break from childhood to adult. Looking at nude people or violence might even help your kid define her own definition of "bad stuff".

So suck it up.  If you ever want your kid to grow into a functioning, healthy adult, you need to act like an adult now and let go.

November is Picture Book Month!!!

Logo by Jan Wan

PiBoIdMo 2012 - I'm In!!!

Created by Ward Jenkins
Thank you!!!
Picture Book Idea Month is back - and I am ready to go!!!  I heard of this wonderful event from a friend of mine, Teresa, and I decided to try it out.  At first, I found it rather easy to come up with a solid idea for a picture book, but by the end of the month I scraped the bottom of the barrel for ideas.  I learned that coming up with a thoughtful, entertaining story for anyone under the age of 8 is not as easy as it sounds.

So this year, I'm doing it again. Every day, I will read the post from Tara Lazar, the wonderful lady and author who began this insanity, then I will attempt to do the improbable and come up with a new picture book story idea.

So, is there any one out there willing to try this with me?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?