Freaky Friday News: September 30, 2016



ADL Puts Pepe The Frog in their Hate Symbol Database

This week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) added the meme character Pepe the Frog to their hate symbol database.  When I first heard the news, I felt shocked.  Pepe the Frog has been around for years, and the vast majority of the memes I've seen involving Pepe are not racist or bigoted.  So why include him in a hate symbol database?

I looked into it, and found Pepe the Frog's entry on the ADL website.  It's rather long, but at the end the ADL includes this disclaimer:
However, because so many Pepe the Frog memes are not bigoted in nature, it is important to examine use of the meme only in context. The mere fact of posting a Pepe meme does not mean that someone is racist or white supremacist. However, if the meme itself is racist or anti-Semitic in nature, or if it appears in a context containing bigoted or offensive language or symbols, then it may have been used for hateful purposes.
Ummmm,  yes?  Of course you need to use your brain to determine if something is bigoted or offensive.  That's because anything can be used in a bigoted, racist, or otherwise offensive manner.

Sonnenrad
After reading this disclaimer, I decided to look further into this hate symbol database.  You know what else I found?  More "symbols" that inherently have nothing to do with hate:
  • Thor's hammer
  • Several individual runic letters
  • Runic writing (not certain why they list both letters and runic writing)
  • Sonnenrad - a stylized sun pendant
  • WP  (which means "wordpress" in my world)
  • 14
  • 88

This doesn't list all of the not truly hate related symbols, just the ones I remember off the top of my head.  And most of them list the same disclaimer as Pepe the Frog.  This bothers me deeply, because the ADL is allowing white supremacists or other jerks to dictate how we as society view and classify various signs of written communication.

Just because someone decides to use a random symbol in a hateful message does not make that a hate symbol.


The 26th First Annual Ig® Nobel Prize Ceremony & Lectures

Yes, it's that time of year again when Improbable Research (from Harvard) awards prizes for some of the strangest, funniest research out there.  The winners this year include:

  • Reproduction Prize - for a study on how polyester, cotton, and wool trousers effect a rat's sex life
  • Economics Prize - on the perceived personality of rocks from a sales and marketing perspective
  • Chemistry Prize - awarded to Volkswagen for "solving the problem of excessive automobile pollution emissions by automatically, electromechanically producing fewer emissions whenever the cars are being tested."
  • Perception Prize - for determining if the world appears different when viewed bent over and looking between your legs
I suggest you head over to the Ig Nobel website and read the list of winners for yourself. 







Grecian Gambit: Chapter 1, Part 2

I float out of the office on an anxiety-filled cloud of adrenaline and stress. I swear, my fight or flight instinct is screaming at me to hit the front door and never look back.

Did Patti really hear Apollo’s voice? Or have I been speaking in a low voice and just thinking it’s my imaginary friend talking to me? Great, even thinking that question makes my brain hurt.

A cheer rises up from a large crowd as I walk into the main space of the bookstore. Wow, at least 80 people stand in the store, waiting for me to arrive. My social insecurities decide to show up at that moment, shoving me off of my cloud and almost stumbling into a shelf.

“Calm down, Cece,” Patti whispers to me as she grabs my arm to help me right myself. “These people are here to hear you read from your new book. That’s all.”

Remembering to breathe, I finish walking to a stool next to a microphone. Patti follows me, and takes the microphone before I have a chance to do more than seat myself.

“Attention! Attention, everyone!” Patti calls out over the sound system. People settle down rather quickly. “Thank you for coming here tonight. Without further ado, let me introduce you to Acorn’s very own Cecelia Lewis as she reads from her new book, Apollo’s Gift.”

Patti replaces the microphone as everyone claps for me again. I repeat “I can do this” in my head as I squash down all of my worries and insecurities. When the clapping dies down a bit, I move the microphone closer and begin.

“Hello, my name is Cecelia Lewis. I want to personally thank everyone for being here and supporting me tonight.” A smattering of applause greets my statement, and someone yells out “No problem, darling”. “As you know, Apollo’s Gift is the fifth book in my…”

I pause because the impossible just happened. At the back of the crowd, wearing torn blue jeans and a tight, white T-shirt stands Apollo, or someone who looks exactly like the man on the cover of my book.

He’s here. But that’s impossible. I drew the cover of my book; I draw all the pictures for my books.

“Cecelia, honey, are you okay?” Patti interjects as she walks back towards me.

I start a little bit. “Ummm, sorry, I thought I recognized someone in the crowd.”

I have to say something. Unfortunately, that is exactly the wrong thing to say.

People look around, and it takes less than a second before some young thing yells out, “OMG!! It’s Apollo!!!”

"Why, hello, ladies," Apollo says as he flashes a devastating smile.

Shrieking tears through the people as all the women try to rush over to where he is standing. I guess that this is good, because it means I’m not seeing things. On the bad side, I imagined this guy! What in tarnation is he doing standing here in real life?

A short stampede ensues.   A few women get into a hair-pulling contest trying to get to the front of the store.  Two older ladies in bright pink pantsuits and pearls whirl around and charge towards Apollo.  The lady on the left trips over something, or someone, flails about to catch herself, and manages to tip over one of the freestanding bookshelves.  Books tumble on top of women, including a Gothic-looking teenager, who jumps backwards to avoid the books falling on her.  But in her haste, the teen hits a small reading table next to the Westerns.  The old-fashioned oil lamp breaks, spilling the paraffin lamp oil onto the floor.  A collision I missed causes a floor lamp to crash down into the spilled oil.  The broken bulb sparks, lighting the oil and causing a small fire to break out in the Westerns. This triggers the automatic sprinkler system and the water from it hits the power strip for the microphone.  A large electric spark jumps out and hits my leg as all the lights in the bookstore go out from short circuits caused by the water.  Patti screams and I realize I never heard Southern at such a loud volume before.

Through the pandemonium, I hear Apollo as he laughs and says, “Ladies, ladies, please. There is enough of me to go around. Trust me.”




I FOUND A TYPO
That's awesome. Please don't point it out. Dedicated volunteer proofreaders will go through the section and correct grammar, punctuation, and copyediting issues. Thank you so much for your help. :)


Thursday Music: Bad Romance Fugue

100 Words of Comedy

I joined a new site called Imzy. Here I found lots of communities for writers, including one called 100 Words. Each week, they send out a prompt and then you can respond with 100 words related to said prompt. This week's prompt is comedy, and I like what I wrote so I decided to share.

Enjoy!


"Grandma! Get out of there!”

“Sorry, honey, but I need to see how comfortable this is.”

Celia hid her face in her hands. Why, oh why, had she agreed to take her grandmother on her errands today?

“Too hard,” Grandma Culpepper sat up as she rendered judgement. “I swear, you’d think people would be more careful and considerate about this stuff. Now, give me a hand, child.”

Celia helped her grandmother out of the black coffin. “Grandma, people in coffins are usually dead, and don’t generally care about how comfortable they are.”

“And that’s their mistake. I don’t want back problems in my afterlife. Here, let’s try this cedar one next.”

Wordless Wednesday: When the Internet Names Animals...


Book Review: "Magic Binds" by Ilona Andrews

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels, #9)Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I like reading book series, but too many times I stop mid-series because either:
- the characters stop developing,
- the main character devolves into a simpler version of himself/herself,
- the author clones the plot from one book to another,
- a book plot jumps the shark, or
- the author seems tired of writing the series and it shows.

None of those conditions apply to the Kate Daniels book series. In fact, Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews went beyond all my expectations. In this story, the authors show Kate struggle with her dark side while providing a new, unexpected story arc that continues from the previous eight books and leaves the reader wanting more story NOW.

The book begins with Kate and Curran asking Roman to officiate at their wedding, a scene where we catch a glimpse at just how powerful the laid-back, funny black volhv truly is. This next scene begins innocently enough, but ends with Kate learning that her father kidnapped Saiman, the demi-god who Kate once counted as a sort-of friend. The action, adventure, introspection, and intrigue burst into life here, as Kate runs around trying to figure a way to save Saiman, learn how to cope with the land she claimed, but most importantly save her family from the utter destruction known as her dad.

If you've never read a Kate Daniels book, you can start here but I guarantee that you'll go back and read the first eight. I suggest you get a copy of "Magic Bites" and go from there.

This book is definitely 5 stars out of 5, maybe even 6 stars out of 5 because the authors made a series continue to be entertaining well after the first three books.

View all my reviews

U.S. National Voter Registration Reminder Day

Today is the U.S. National Voter Registration Reminder Day.  So I'm doing my part by reminding you that it is very important to vote, but you have to be registered first.  Technically, I think you can register on voting day and use a provisional ballot.  But not all provisional ballots get counted due to more reasons that I want to talk about right now, so it's better to just be a registered voter.

If you don't know how to register, John and Hank Green on YouTube created a set of videos on how to vote in all 50 states and Washington D.C. as well as videos for people in the military, living overseas, or living in unincorporated territories.  I've included the links to these videos below.

Happy registering, and happy voting!



Alabama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ragLS...
Alaska: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZd7R...
Arizona: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1fKo...
Arkansas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfCrw...
California: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTF5o...
Colorado: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YbN3...
Connecticut: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj3Ug...
Delaware: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8wwn...
Florida: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlNCO...
Georgia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap0e_...
Hawaii: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n6xA...
Idaho: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9Rgu...
Illinois: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8msQE...
Indiana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E2Wh...
Iowa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEN3W...
Kansas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwsEL...
Kentucky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLarf...
Louisiana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtPU6...
Maine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1gdY...
Maryland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClBtY...
Massachusetts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uZyw...
Michigan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_pk2...
Minnesota: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtXyb...
Mississippi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOUNG...
Missouri: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YU-Il...
Montana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLAUF...
Nebraska: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8Y56...
Nevada: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2_lH...
New Hampshire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8nJ9...
New Jersey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDEaY...
New Mexico: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RKCG...
New York: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K5a_...
North Carolina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14AJJ...
North Dakota: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFJ5q...
Ohio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCvdj...
Oklahoma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPY6d...
Oregon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI8D_...
Pennsylvania: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMJQ5...
Rhode Island: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NN5NL...
South Carolina: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83XBc...
South Dakota: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pduL3...
Tennessee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6fYH...
Texas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWas4...
Utah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpFw9...
Vermont: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdVjz...
Virginia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ogth3...
Washington: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju1ma...
Washington DC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caPj8...
West Virginia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GidAH...
Wisconsin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8Uek...
Wyoming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZropU...
Military & Overseas Voters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg5Qh...
Unincorporated Territories: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwMyf...

Odds & Ends: The Ping of DEATH!!!



This week takes us back to the 1990s. First, you need to understand that the Internet has been around a lot longer than most people realize. It began back in the 1970s. And before we had fancy user interfaces to maintain the networks, we used command lines to do... well... everything.
One of the most useful tools for someone back then was ping. Ping is part of the TCP/IP protocol suite, and it works similar to a submarine ping, where someone sends out a signal and wait for a response. Only, network pings send out a series of short messages to the target computer and then wait for the appropriate responses.
You can try this out right now:
  1. Go to a terminal window on Linux, or a command prompt on Windows.
  2. Type in "ping google.com"
  3. Stop the ping using Ctrl-C.
You'll get a response that looks like this:
[katp@Werewolf-Den ~]$ ping google.com
PING google.com (216.58.218.14) 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from atl14s39-in-f14.1e100.net (216.58.218.14): icmp_seq=1 ttl=55 time=21.2 ms
64 bytes from atl14s39-in-f14.1e100.net (216.58.218.14): icmp_seq=2 ttl=55 time=21.0 ms
64 bytes from atl14s39-in-f14.1e100.net (216.58.218.14): icmp_seq=3 ttl=55 time=20.9 ms
64 bytes from atl14s39-in-f14.1e100.net (216.58.218.14): icmp_seq=4 ttl=55 time=20.5 ms
64 bytes from atl14s39-in-f14.1e100.net (216.58.218.14): icmp_seq=5 ttl=55 time=24.0 ms
^C
--- google.com ping statistics ---
5 packets transmitted, 5 received, 0% packet loss, time 4005ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 20.573/21.603/24.086/1.276 ms
With me so far? Good.
Someone discovered that it is possible to send extra data along with a ping, and that some operating systems didn't handle the extra data well (coughwindows cough). A ping with extra data ended up at best writing over working memory and crashing the computer. At worst, malicious code got passed in that ran on the operating system before crashing the computer.
The best (or worst) part about this? There were no clues left behind as to why the crash occurred. The memory overwrites caused a variety of problems that had nothing to do with the ping. Plus, pings weren't typically recorded in event logs; and if they were, pings are anonymous.
Bwahahahahaha!!!
The idea of sending a message to screw with someone else is still around. Only last year (2015), it was discovered that you could send a specific text message and it would reboot an iPhone.
Makes me wonder what will happen next....

Freaky Friday News: September 23, 2016

Say "No" to Codeine for Kids

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report this month asking doctors and parents to stop giving kids codeine.  When I read this, I know my first question was - they give codeine to kids??  

Yes, yes they do.  Codeine is used as a pain reliever and in prescription strength cough syrups.  So if a kid breaks an arm or a leg, sometimes doctors prescribe codeine.

The problem with codeine is that not everyone metabolizes it to the same extent.  You see, codeine is an inactive form of morphine that one of the body's hepatic enzyme systems activates.  This enzyme system is genetically encoded in 70 different alleles, each of them with three states: full on, half on, and off.  This means that there is a huge variance in how the enzymes work, and how codeine is metabolized.

On one side, you have a large number of people who don't metabolize codeine well, and therefore don't get relief from the medicine.  On the other side, you have people with ultra-metabolizing systems, who get more effect from codeine that expected from the dosage.  

Either way, doctors and parents need to find other medications to solve the problem of pain or help a bad cough, because codeine needs to be out of the picture.

Public Service Announcement:  Yahoo Breached

Yesterday, Yahoo announced that two years ago, hackers stole data from at least 500 million accounts.  And by data, I mean usernames, passwords, birth dates, telephone number, email addresses, and more.  This is the largest data breach in the history of the computers.    

But wait, it gets better.

In the announcement, Yahoo officials stated that they think a "state-sponsored actor" pulled off the breach.  In regular English, that means another nation sponsored the hack.  That means some stranger or strangers out there in another country, potentially part of a foreign government, have had this information since 2014.

If you have a Yahoo account and have not changed your password since 2014, you need to change your password.  Also, if you used the same password for more the one account, you need to change all of the passwords.

People Not Offended by Honest Mistake

I know that this doesn't sound like news, but it is.  Next month is the Jewish new year.  Every year, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv sends gift to Israeli groups to honor this holiday.  This year, the groups included in the gift giving include one called Peace Now, whose purpose of establishing peace between Israel and Palestine includes disapproval of the Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Unbeknownst to officials at the embassy, the gift baskets this year included a bottle of wine... made by a winery in an Israeli settlement on the West Bank.

When they heard about this particular mistake, the people at the embassy apologized.  And the people at Peace Now?

They accepted the apology, accepted the gift basket, and returned to life as normal.  Let's hear it for people deciding to forgive an honest mistake.

Singing Fish: Another Reason to Visit Australia?

Scientists at Curtin University in Perth, Australia have discovered a new underwater marvel - singing fish. Not just any singing, mind you, but choruses who hailed the dawn in a fashion similar to birds.

In a paper published this year, Miles J. G. Parsons, Chandra P. Salgado Kent, Angela Recalde-Salas & Robert D. McCauley discuss how they deployed sea-based noise logger to listen in for 18 months to the coast off of Port Hedland. They cataloged the sounds of several fish species, and noted a pattern of several fish singing together at certain times of day: dawn and dusk.

There isn't anything life changing about this news.  Honestly, I just like the thought of how many patterns we discover in nature, and how much more alike things are than we previously thought.


The Grecian Gambit: Chapter 1, part 1

6:47pm

I have 13 minutes.

I shake my hands and look around the back office of the bookstore, Wit and Wisdom. Thank goodness the owner, Patti Oglethorpe, let me wait here before the book signing. Pastel sea green walls surround me, at least where there is room. A built-in case covers one entire wall, sectioned off to contain special order items, items too valuable to display on the floor, and a collection of the Patti’s favorite novels. I spy my first two books, and I wonder if Patti really likes them or if she’s playing to my ego.

The back wall has two white boards, a large wall calendar, a bulletin board, and a small set of cubbies; all sitting in front of Patti’s delicate white desk. Funny posters and signs cover the third wall; I especially like the firefighters holding puppies calendar. I look at it a few times, because the half naked men clash with my opinion of Patti. But the oak table by the door with a teapot, a selection of hot teas, and a small fridge with milk totally matches what I expect to see here. It’s universally know that Patti needs at least two cups of tea in the morning before she’s coherent. I stand up from one of the two padded chairs sitting in front of Patti’s desk and start to pace around the room. The soft carpet cushions my bare feet, and I silently thank Patti for the use of her private space while I wait and try not to panic.

6:48pm

12 minutes. I try to make fists with my toes in the carpet; I heard somewhere that this helps with stress or tension? I can’t remember where I heard that piece of advice, but the action does help me focus. I mentally review the situation. In 12, no 11 minutes, I will walk out to the floor of the bookstore and talk to whoever shows up about my latest book.

Gods, what if no one shows up?

People will show up, Cecelia. Don’t worry.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Apollo,” I mumble to myself, trying not to feel silly talking to the imaginary male voice in my head. I don’t know if other authors have this problem, but I hear my characters in my head when I write.

What if it’s not normal? What if I have some weird mental disorder that means my brain is imploding and

Seriously, Cecelia. Relax. You don’t want to throw up 10 minutes before you introduce me.
Ten minutes? I look at my watch again.

6:51pm

“No, it’s nine minutes,” I answer out loud again. “And I’m not throwing up. I’m just… well…”

My apologies.  It's nine minutes. Stop pacing this office like a tiger in a zoo enclosure. Don’t worry. You look fine. You will be magnificent. You got this.

“I got this.” At least I hope I got this.

I jump as someone knocks on the door. I turn around in time to see Patti sweep into the office. At 5’ 6” I don’t normally feel tall. But next to Patti, who’s 4’11”, I feel like a giant, even when she wears her 3” heels. She’s a short, silver-haired, blue-eyed Southern Lady, founder of the Acorn Red Hat Society, lead town gossip, and overall grandmother-y type person who still calls everyone ‘sugar’ or ‘hon’.

“Cece, sugar, you look so lovely in that blue sundress, with pearls on your neck and curls in your hair. Now, what shoes will you be wearing?” She walks around me as she judges my outfit to be fit for showing.

“None, Miss Patti.” I sigh as I answer. Here it comes…

“Look, hon, I know you don’t fancy wearing shoes, but other bookstores won’t”

“I’m not going to other bookstores, Miss Patti,” I interrupt before she gets going. “I’m only doing one book signing, right here.”

“Isn’t your publisher worried that you’re not going on a big book tour?”

“My publisher agreed to one book signing near a major city. Since Acorn is in Atlanta”

“Hon,” Patti now interrupts me, “Acorn, Georgia is not in Atlanta.”

“You’re right,” I agree. “But we’re close enough to get people from Atlanta. At least, that’s the plan.”

Patti sighs now. “Yes, and thank goodness it’s working out. Time to go please the masses, Cece.”

“What?” I glance down at my watch. “Oh, no! It’s already seven.”

Showtime.

“Yes, hon, it is showtime,” Patti laughs. “Though you might want to take a sip of water before you talk.”

But… but I didn’t say showtime. The voice of Apollo did.

Wait, did Patti hear that?

Crap.



I FOUND A TYPO

That's awesome. Please don't point it out. Dedicated volunteer proofreaders will go through the section and correct grammar, punctuation, and copyediting issues. Thank you so much for your help. :)

Movie Review: "The Lobster"


Released in 2015, "The Lobster" billed itself as a love story, which is technically true.  This story takes place in a dystopian society, where every adult must be married.  At the beginning of the movie, the male protagonist, David (portrayed by Colin Farrell), finds himself single after his wife leaves him.  He goes to this creepy hotel where he has 40 days to find a mate or be turned into an animal of his choice.  He chooses to be a lobster if he can't find someone.

The movie itself is a bit creepy, as the director, Yorgos Lanthimos, explores humans, relationships, and commonalities.  The creepiness starts with the character names, or lack of them.  I think the only person in the entire movie with an actual name is David; everyone else is referred to by either their job or some prominent characteristic.  For example, one character is a man who limps, so he is called the Limping Man.  The lack of names forces you to focus on the people more, making each character more anonymous but more sympathetic.  I think it's easier to see yourself or your friends in a person with no name to get in the way.

The set contributes to the movie's atmosphere.  Even at noon, there is a pale gloom over every scene.  After watching the movie, I learned that the director had no lighting.  None. Nada.  All the light in this film is from the sun or the moon outside, and regular lights inside.  The hotel feels like it belongs in the 1950s or 1960s, even though the movie takes place in the present day, with dated wallpaper, older furniture, and worn carpets.

Finally, the actors bring home the creepiness and raise it to uncomfortable levels.  An air of desperation surrounds everyone, regardless of their relationship status.  The married people put effort in appearing compatible and happy.  The single people slowly crumb away as their time runs out.  Well before the end of the movie, I stopped seeing the actors and only saw the characters.  Their stilted speech, odd twitches, clumsy movements - all of it melded into a seamless whole of brittle people in a terrible situation.

As for my opinion of the movie, there is no simple way to describe my feelings.  On one hand, the acting, directing, and writing is superb; and I found myself viewing the foibles of humanity in a different light after watching "The Lobster".  On the other hand, I found the movie viscerally disturbing; I had a few nightmares afterwards.  That is not normal for me.

Do I recommend this movie?  Yes.  No  Maybe?  It depends on what type of movie you want to watch.  "The Lobster" will mess with your world view and cause you discomfort at times.  But maybe it's good to get outside of our comfort zones sometimes.

I linked the trailer below.  Decide for yourself.



Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day!!!!


New Blogging Schedule

Greetings, Earthlings!

As 2016 rages on, with climate change, the weirdest/longest/meanest/stupidest presidential election, the Syria war, refugee crisis, overly eager police shooting people, ISIS attacks, terrorist attacks in Europe, ...  To be brutally honest, I have avoided blogging lately because it's just too damn depressing to look at the news.  Or even glance out of the corner of my eye at the news.

I even refuse to turn on NPR unless I'm certain it's not a news program.

So I did a bit of introspection and gave myself a pep talk, 
"Kathryn, just because 2016 sucks doesn't mean you can't write a blog. You like finding the quirky and/or happy news for Fridays. Just find something other than the regular crap to discuss the rest of the week."
I decided that I'm going to try a new blogging schedule:

  • Monday:  Odds & Ends - I recently joined a site called Imzy, where I started a writing community/personal blog.  In it, I discuss interesting factoids and other food for plot bunnies.
  • Tuesday:  Review Day - I will review books, movies, video games, T.V. shows,... 
  • Wednesday:  Wordless Wednesday
  • Thursday:  The Grecian Gambit - My daughter loves all things Greek, especially stories about Greek gods.  One day, we discussed a fun story about a writer accidentally calling/conjuring a Greek god.  This is that story, written one part at a time.
  • Friday:  Freaky Friday News
I don't have anything definitely planned for the weekends, but I hope to find a funny picture to pass along.
My wonderful daughter, six years ago

Odds & Ends: A Quick Explanation of the Darknet



cue villainous music
I found you hiding place, my dear, because one of the lovely detective recorded this address and I accessed it through pause for dramatic effect the darknet.
end scene
Okay, I assume you have heard of the mysterious "darknet" (or "dark net") but you're not exactly certain what it is. Let's follow the advice of Julie Andrews and start at the very beginning.
The Internet is a global collection of computer networks connected using the Internet Protocol (the IP in TCP/IP). When you type a URL in your web browser, your computer contact a Domain Name Server to find out where to route your request. Think of domain name servers as the address books of the Internet.
The darknet is the same thing as the Internet except you need access to different domain name servers, or address books. And you need special software, such as the Tor browser, to access these alternate domain name servers. The darknet also allows you to browse anonymously, and have access to different information. For the record, it is not illegal to run a Tor browser.
Now what you may not have heard of is the deep web. There is a multitude of websites, servers, and whatnot out there that is not searchable through any of the available search engines. Sometimes these places hold member-only data. Sometimes these places hold classified data. No one knows how big the deep web is, or what various people do there.

Freaky Friday News: September 16, 2016

There is No Harambe McHarambeface

Last week, online newspaper and other media outlets carried a story about a Chinese zoo attempting to name a baby gorilla.  This zoo supposedly held a poll and asked the Internet to suggest and vote for a new name.  The overall winner was... Harambe McHarambeface.  The Chinese government decided to use a different name for this baby gorilla's Chinese name, but allowed Harambe McHarambeface to be its English name.

While this is a nice, lovely story, it never happened.  Someone just punked the media by publishing a fake news story in a fake newspaper.  And instead of checking out this story, people simply passed on the fake news.

*sigh*  And they wonder why people don't trust media these days.

Russia Bans Pornhub??

The Russian media watchdog agency Roskomnadzor announced this past Tuesday that it is banning Pornhub and YouPorn.  Mind you, they didn't ban all porn sites, just these two.  I have yet to find a real reason for this particular ban.

If this was in the U.S., I would get it.  We have a bad case of religious poisoning when it comes to sex, gender, and anything related to sex or gender.  At this very moment, there is a religious campaign to stop people from masturbating, using such lovely quotes as "You can't climb the ladder to Heaven if your hand is full of penis".  Or by stating that a girl who masturbates isn't a virgin.

The idiocy of the entire campaign blows my mind.

But I could at least understand a ban against pornography here.  Of course, I also believe that the religious freedom fighters would get rid of the ban faster than you can say "pornography" because a plus for living in America is freedom of speech.

Anyway, Russia is now trying to ban these websites.  The way this works, a court will review the ban and either approve of it, keeping PornHub andYouPorn banned, or disapprove of it, allowing PornHub and YouPorn to be seen again.

from The Moscow Times

A Moral Porn Website

Alexis Arquette, a transgender woman, died of HIV-related complications this past Sunday.  On Monday, a piece of slime offered up a private sex tape of Ms. Arquette to the highest bidder.  But before someone could publish this tape online, in comes xHamster.com!  xHamster to the rescue!

xHamster.com is a smaller porn website, but one with a working conscience.  They spent $25,000 to acquire all copies of this sex tape, and then destroyed them all.  Why?  Because the people running the website liked Ms. Arquette as an actor (Pulp Fiction, The Wedding Singer), respected her LGBTQ activism, and thought only a scumbag would attempt to cash in on someone's death.

Rest in Peace, Ms. Arquette.  We've got your back.

Last Day of War


Russian YouTuber Dima Fedotov created this haunting short called "Last day of war".

It seems appropriate to share this today.

Freaky Friday News: September 9, 2016

North Korean Bans Sarcasm

Yes, you read that correct.  This week, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un decided to ban sarcasm because he worried that people only agreed with him ironically.  That is "according to reports" because we all know that he would never admit to such a thing out loud.

I'm caught between laughing and cringing at the absurdity of this latest edict.  It can be hard to tell the difference between sarcasm and sincerity so I wonder if this is just justification for killing more people.  I mean, it's not like people have a sign saying "Sarcastic!" pop up whenever they say something sarcastic.

This also reminded me of an early scene in the movie "Roxanne".  I included it here because, well, it's funny.



Donald Trump Might Get Kicked Off the Ballot in Minnesota

Okay, I did a double take when I read this headline.  But it's true.  You see, Minnesota requires political parties to elect presidential electors and alternate presidential electors at the state convention.  The Republican party elected 10 presidential electors at the state convention, but failed to elect the alternates.  After someone noticed this oversight, a group of state Republican went behind closed doors to decide the alternate presidential electors.

Now, the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman Ken Martin is attempting to remove Donald Trump from the state's ballot using this error as his lever.  Mr. Martin filed a petition with the State Supreme Court asking for the Republican nominee to be eliminated from the ballot.

I have no idea what the State Supreme Court will rule; in all honesty the Republicans did not follow the law.  But I wonder if Mr. Trump will use this as "proof" that the national election is rigged.

Another New Parasite Named after President Barack Obama

This past month, the Journal of Parasitology published an article about a new type of parasite found in black marsh turtle and southeast Asian box turtle -  the Baracktrema obamai.  Thomas Platt, one of the article's authors and a now-retired researcher from St. Mary's College, admires President Obama and wanted to honor him.

The Baracktreme obamai joins the following other animals named after our current president:




Aptostichus barackobamai holotype



An Act of Kindness

I don't know if you either heard of this incident or remember it, but last year a camerawoman from Hungary kicked and tripped Syrian immigrants running across a field.  She kicked at a man, actually connected with the leg of a young girl (she looks to be around 10 years old), and then tripped a man carrying a child, causing the man to fall on top of the boy.

The footage of her behavior made the rounds on media, she got fired immediately, and now the Hungarian government is indicting her.

But that's not what this post is about.

You see, Miguel Ángel Galán in Spain watched this clip and looked into who was tripped.  He learned that the migrant man with the child is Osama Abdul Mohsen, and that Abdul Mohsen was a soccer coach in Syria.

In an act of kindness, Miguel Galán offered Abdul Mohsen a job at his school, Cenafe Academy.  Shortly thereafter, Abdul Mohsen and his two sons arrived in Spain, a job available to support a work visa and refuge promised by the Spanish government.

Amidst all the hate, racism, alcohol-fueled crimes, election muckracking, chemical weapons, and international strife, one man decided he could make a difference and help out.  Mind you, in the grand scheme of things, offering a job to one Syrian refugee and his family amounts to very little.  But for that one man, it changes the world.

So many times, I look around and feel helpless to do anything.  I see problems with the basic structure of American society, with the Syrian crisis, with how our government works, and I get depressed.  Sometimes I think I know what to do to fix, well, something.  But I don't have the power to accomplish these big changes.

At times like that, I remind myself that it is possible to help out.  That there are good and kind people in the world, and that as long as we have hope, we haven't lost.

I hope you have a wonderful day.

Wordless Wednesday: Topiary?


Justice is not Truly Blind

Photograph:  Stephen Lam, Reuters

Brock Turner, the rapist from Stanford University, was released after serving three months of his six month sentence.  Yes, I said he only had a six month sentence, even though he was found on top on an unconscious woman he'd dragged behind a dumpster.  For the entire sordid story, go to BrockTurnerRapist.com.  

What I want to talk about today is the concept that justice is blind.  This didn't make sense to me as a kid because I always wondered how Justice could see the criminals if she was wearing a blindfold.  But as I grew up I realized that Justice needs to be blind not in the physical sense of not seeing, but in the sense that everyone should get treated the same way regardless of gender, race, economic level, sexual identity, sexual preference,...

But Brock Turner, as well as the Ethan Couch, the "affluenza" teen who killed four people while drunk driving, show that Justice is not as blind as we'd like her to be.  These young, white, heterosexual males got a pittance, a slight slap on the wrist, for committing horrible crimes. While people debate whether or not a cop has the right to shoot at young black men for lessor crimes, or even no crime at all, young white men get told "Naughty, naughty.  Don't do that again."

This is the extent in which racism and wealth have corrupted our legal system, allowing white and/or rich people to follow different standards from the rest of society.  Justice is not only not blind, but she now takes notes about you and your various statuses before contemplating what to do next.

The big question is - how are we going to fix this?

No Drinking Problem Here


Men in Suits


Death, Disaster, and the American Psyche



Ten days from today, a majority of Americans will be remembering the horrific events of September 11, 2001.  Media outlets will recap the events of the day in words and pictures; some might even provide a "where are they now?" segment to catch up with the people who survived.

I wonder how healthy this is for American society.  I understand how people who experienced loss first hand might continue to mourn on Sept. 11.  I have a friend who was talking on the phone to someone in the Twin Towers when the conversation suddenly ended;  her friend didn't survive.  I understand why my friend gets unhappy around this time every year.  I even understand why most people in New York City might continue to mourn, considering the magnitude of the event.

But the rest of the country doesn't need to reopen the wounds every Sept. 11.  Or on December 7 - Pearl Harbor Day.

American society seems to focus on disasters that end in death, celebrating these horrible events and creating holidays dedicated to them.  Have you ever considered that Memorial Day celebrates all of the men and women who died protecting our country?  Why don't we have a federal holiday to celebrate all of the people who are currently protecting our country?

On individual levels, people track the day that someone dies for more reasons that just genealogy.   Some people can them "angel dates", or the day that someone they loved became an angel.  They hold memorial services annually, feel depressed and angry during that time of year, and talk about what would have theoretically happened if that person was still alive.

Why do we both as a society and as individuals cling to death, hold it near and dear?

I don't have an answer to this question, but I do wonder this time of year if we can learn to let go and focus on the future.  Learn to not let the past poison the present.

Anyone have any ideas?

Unicode: A Worldwide Standard for Encoding Characters