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Showing posts from January, 2013

Living in Denial (the Nile)

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I want to make a point today that will be unpopular.  After the Sandy Hook elementary shootings, people focused on gun control as the answer to the question, "How do we stop this from happening again?"  But the truth is, gun control is not the issue but it is easier to blame guns for the damage than to admit that we as a society screwed up, and those 26 deaths were the consequences.

Humans have the tendency to divide the world into Us vs Them, and we Americans lump anyone with a mental health issue as Them.  We ignore Them; we pay extraordinary amounts of money to keep Them in prison; we donate food to homeless shelters for Them.  But we don't want to talk about Them.  We don't want to pay for therapy for Them, even if that would be cheaper than prison.  We don't want to talk about Them or even acknowledge that anyone who is Them might be a wonderful human being with regular issues, just like Us.

Then we react with horror when one of Them responds to our treatme…

Dissection of a Gun

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Reading through anti-gun commentaries, I found a common theme that I find rather interesting.  While most people don't come out directly and say it, there's this feeling that gun are somehow alive and conspiring to cause harm.  People attribute intent and morals to guns as though the gun are self-aware, which to my knowledge guns are not.

Guns are machines that apply mechanical force to a bullet, causing the primer to light the propellant and send a projectile through the air at a large velocity.  (By "large", I mean that some projectiles fly at faster than sound speeds.)  That's it.  Now some guns have rifled barrels; some don't.  Some guns let you fire multiple bullets without needing to manually chamber the next round; some don't.  But in the end, modern guns work the same way.
Gun are no different than a TV gaming console, a motorcycle, kitchen knives, recliners, and other everyday objects.  Guns have no mystical powers; guns have no intent, good or …

Put Common Sense Back Into Gun Control

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These days, the topic of gun control fills news sources, opinion pages, blog posts, Tumblr rants, and a few odd dusty corners of the Internet.  But I find very little information or opinions that use common sense when referring to guns.  People either want to send armed guards to every public place, or ban types of gun as being "too dangerous".  It's one extreme or the other, but very little in the center.

But I'm a centered-type of gal.  I believe that moderation is the key to most of life.  So let me share with you my version of common sense gun control.

First, we need to define gun control.  According to Merriam-Webster, gun control is the "regulation of selling, owning, and use of guns".  Let's start with the first part - selling guns.  There are two types of people who fall into this category:  gun dealers and gun owners.  Gun dealers run a gun shop, work the gun show circuit, or otherwise make a living buying and selling guns.  Gun owners are ind…

Common Sense About Vaccines from SkewedDistribution

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While I flit around, reading articles and blog posts from hither and yon, there are a few blogs that I subscribe to and read on a regular basis.  SkewedDistribution is one such blog.  The author is an epidemiologist who works at a university, and provides scientific information about vaccines as well as her thoughts on the subject of vaccination.

Last week, SkewedDistribution posted a wonderful article examining the phenomena of "Us vs Them" that seems to infect all the anti-vaccination material I've read.  I asked if I could repost it here, so without further ado...

Vaccination fears: People Like Us vs. People Like Them Hi Reader,

If it weren’t behind a paywall, I would tell you to take yourself with haste over to Harper’s to read the incredible essay entitled “Sentimental Medicine: Why we still fear vaccines” by Eula Biss. But since it is, I’m afraid you’ll either need to pony up about $17.00 for yearly access to the archive (which may well be worth it), or just sett…

The Catastrophe of Mental Illness Treatment in America

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After the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, I decided to do a little research into the history of mental illness and society, specifically how society treats people with mental illness.  I found a long, quite dirty history that tells the familiar tale of people wanting to help and ending up causing potentially more harm.

Travel with me back to the first half of the 1900s.  I haven't found an unbiased source to explain the why, but the decision was made to put people with any sort of mental irregularity into permanent facilities.  By the 1950s, we had one bed per 300 Americans in these mental institutes or hospitals.  The good news was we had room for someone to go if he or she needed a bit of space and treatment.  The bad news was abuse and neglect were rampant in several of the institutes.  So the decision was made to close the mental hospitals and transition to a community-based treatment system.

That's were is all falls apart. The community-based treatment system required s…

Mixed Feelings over Recent Executive Actions

As you have probably heard, President Obama issued 23 executive actions yesterday related to the backlash after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.  Reading over the list, I felt... well, that's what I want discuss with you.  This set of executive actions falls into three major categories:
Brownian MotionPotentially Hazardous to the Bill of Rights and Civil LibertiesPotentially Beneficial Brownian Motion These executive actions appear to say, "See?  We're doing our job."  But none of them really change anything, other than granting the idea/law official White House acknowledgement.  I put the following orders in this category: 1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system. Doesn't this happen anyway?4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks. What does this …

Review: "Learning Town" on Geek & Sundry

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Last week, I received an email asking if I'd like to review a new show on Geek & Sundry called "Learning Town with Paul and Storm".  Squee!  I love Paul and Storm, going from complete ignorance of their existence to a total fan after seeing them open for Jonathon Coulton.

My first actual thought (besides the squee) was, "Can this be a kid's show?  I mean, Paul has a potty mouth."

It turns out that this is not a kid's show.  It's a comedy about two comedic musicians with a serious math/geeky bent who take over a kid's show who happen to be named Paul and Storm.  The first webisode covers the death of the show's previous host, a snappy parody of Meatloaf, and the introduction of the "villains".  (I have to put quotes, because I don't think that these characters have enough brains to be real villains.)

The show both was in some ways exactly what I expected and in some ways exactly not what I expected.  I like how Storm and P…

Manic Monday: January 14, 2013

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I apologize for not posting as much lately, but I have the flu.  Not the worst flu ever, just a baby flu.  But it is seriously kicking my butt. Since I missed Freaky Friday News, I'm doing a later edition called Manic Monday.  Here are some tidbits from around the Internet that you might want to know about.

Beware of Photo Copiers! I know that this sounds crazy, but modern copiers and printers have hard drives that store everything that you either copy or print.  This is a bonus if you find yourself with some document that is deleted from your hard drive and the only available copy is left on the printer.  But this is bad when your company decides to replace its copier/printer, and your private documents are now available to whomever gets the old machine.

YouTube has a good video explaining this problem...



Beware of Java! Photo copiers are not the only thing you need to watch out for these days. Over four months ago, a security firm in Poland identified a serious security bug in …

Zombie Houses? No, This is Not A Joke...

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...though I wish it was.
For those who are still blissfully ignorant, a "zombie house" is a house where the owner vacated the premises due to a foreclosure order, but then the bank simply did nothing past evicting the owners.  In the current system, the owner's name is still on the house so the owner still has all the homeowner responsibilities, but  doesn't know it because the bank never informs the owner about cancelling the foreclosure.  That means the houses typically get ripped apart from scavengers, built up property taxes, utility bills, and other maintenance bills.  Sometimes a house falls into such disrepair that it violates local housing code.  At least 15 houses blew up in the past year due to the gas being left on.

And the owner is left to pay for the entire mess.

I learned about this mess reading "'Zombie titles' haunt victims of home foreclosure", then I did a little research as to what is being done about it.  Currently, well.. the …

Movie Review: "The Last Airbender"

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Every Saturday, we have a family movie night, when the entire family sits down, watches a movie, and then discusses the movie.  This past Saturday, we watched "The Last Airbender"  again.  Since I've seen the movie before, I used this viewing to understand my feelings. You see, the first time I watched the movie, I both liked and disliked it.  But I couldn't put a finger on the why.

Now, I understand.

Each scene in the movie, taken individually, is quite good.  The actors portray the characters in a fashion true to the original cartoons.  The special effects flow seamlessly with the actors' motions, adding to the story line positively.  The director even managed to generate and sustain a sense of urgency throughout the story.

But as someone who watched the original series, I felt disappointed by the omission in the plot.  This movie covers the entire first season of the show, and it does a poor job of it.  The conquest of the Great Library is at least three epis…

Freaky Friday News: January 4, 2013

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Today is a day for rejoicing and a day to ridicule the ridiculous.  But first, raise your glass and shout "Huzzah!" for... Happy Birthday, Dr. Rush!!! Today would be the birthday for Dr. Benjamin Rush, a little remembered man who was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Dr. Rush signed the Declaration of Independence, served on the Continental Congress, opposed slavery, opposed capital punishment, and helped mend fences between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

He also was a writer, a physician, an educator, a humanitarian, and a professor of chemistry.

I urge you to take a few minutes today and learn a bit more about this person who influenced history itself.
Malala Yousafzai Discharged from the Hospital In our second "Huzzah"  for the day, Malala Yousafzai has recovered from her gun shot wounds to be discharged from the hospital.  Malala is the young, 15 year-old girl from Pakistan who wrote about life under the Taliban, including how she just wante…

Book Review: "Cold Days" by Jim Butcher

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Cold Days by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My husband got this book for Christmas, and we both have finished reading it. Yes, the book is that good, that engaging, and that... well, for lack of a better word, that awesome.

Spoiler Alert: If you have not read through the end of "Ghost Story", please stop reading this review.

Okay, for everyone else, Harry Dresden is most definitely not dead, though he feels that way in the beginning of the book. After being in a coma for several months, Harry needs some time to recover. It's a rather strenuous recovery, though, because there is trouble building up that needs attention from Harry. Pronto.

Jim Butcher has revived Harry Dresden from the clutches of certain doom (otherwise known as jumping the shark) in the reading universe. Up until now, every book introduced newer, tougher, smarter, and more powerful villains, until it felt to me as though Harry only won through luck and trickery. Or if felt like a contrived win…

Reading Challenge for 2013

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It's no secret - I love to read.  I read young adult books, adult books, fiction, nonfiction, biographies, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and poetry.

As soon as I learned about the website Goodreads, I joined and started to track my reading habits.  If you haven't heard, Goodreads lets you keep track not only of what books you've read, but also your opinion about them.  I also get a lot of good recommendations about new books to read.  I never would have picked up a book by A. Lee Martinez if not for Goodreads and a book review written by my friend, Tara.  Now, this man is one of my favorite authors - I just bought two more of his books with some Christmas money.

Goodreads also holds a yearly Reading Challenge.  It's quite simple, you put in the number of books you want to read during the year, and it keeps track of all the books you mark as "read"  during the year.  Last year, I signed up to read two books a month, or 24 books in the year.  I hit my ma…

Happy New Year!! Some Advice and Ramblings...

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Happy New Year!

The older I get, the faster time seems to fly.  I realize that's because as a little kid, a year was a significant percent of my life.  But as a mid-40s woman, a year just isn't that long, comparatively speaking.

I know a lot of people make resolutions this time of year, but I wonder how many people think about the word, "resolution".  The denotation is that you publicly state your resolve to accomplish a task.  But I think that the connotation of this word has evolved over the years to mean something different.  When I hear people talk about resolutions, the conversations have a feeling of procrastination about them.  Maybe I've watched "Star Wars"  too many times, but I feel very Yoda about things.

Do or do not; there is no try.

So someone who says, "My New Year's resolution is to try to lose weight/save money/pay off credit cards/get into shape..."  I wonder why try?

I do have a few things I will do starting right no…