Saturday, December 29, 2012

Technology for Country Folk - Part 5 (The End)

While today's generation knows technological terms, at one point in time certain words and/or phrases meant  something else entirely.  For the record, these definitions come from "The Backwoods Guide to Computer Lingo" by Dave Nilsen and the illustrations are the creations of Dennis Cox at D. J. Art & Design.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Monday Humor

Okay, instead of discussing the world and all the accompanying sadness, today I share with you some College Humor, a YouTube channel that creates funny (or not so funny) sketches.  This is from one of my favorite series, Troopers.

Happy Christmas Eve!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"Christmas Eve Eve" by Paul and Storm

Happy Birthday, Dad!!!

Today is my Dad's 75th birthday.  In honor of today, and the fact that he always jokes that he was born in a barn, I wrote him a poem to commemorate his birthday.

Born in a Barn

In the middle of the night,
by the light of noon,
A rooster jumped up,
Started playing a spoon.

The hens joined in
On the old, rusty saw
Then the pigs jumped in
With a screech and a caw.

The horses stood up
And danced a foxtrot.
A fox sneaked up
To dance the robot.

Cows shook hands saying
“What a fine bloke!”
While the ox began
To play his yoke.

He put it to his mouth
To blow like a horn.
The farm celebrated ‘cause
Chris Yoder was born!

Happy Birthday, Dad!!!!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Technology for Country Folk - Part 4

While today's generation knows technological terms, at one point in time certain words and/or phrases meant  something else entirely.  For the record, these definitions come from "The Backwoods Guide to Computer Lingo" by Dave Nilsen and the illustrations are the creations of Dennis Cox at D. J. Art & Design.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Freaky Friday News: December 21, 2012

Welcome to the End of the World edition of Freaky Friday News!  Assuming that the world magically survives until tomorrow, I rashly gathered the funniest and freakiest news to share with you to read over the weekend.  Without further ado, on to the first story..

Golden Eagle Snatches Kid
Not really.  This video was created by four students in an animation class in Montreal as the final project of the semester.  While they put the video up as part of the assignment in a attempt to gather feedback, I don't think the students expected the viral explosion that boomed afterwards.  Several people thought the video was real, passing a link to the video around with warning about the golden eagle.  Local ornithologists even started to analyze the behavior of the bird, complaining because that type of eagle is almost never seen in Montreal.  Personally, I think the video shows talent and imagination from these students, and I sincerely hope that they got an A+ for this course.

Toilets Controlled by A Smartphone???
That's right.  The Japanese have done it again, creating a new type of toilet that accepts commands from an Android smartphone. (An iPhone app will be available soon.)  You can raise or lower the lid, raise or lower the seat, flush the toilet, start/stop the bidet, and pipe music from your phone to toilet's built-in speakers.  This toilet also lets you control the amount of water used by the bidet or when you flush, and it even can track your bowel movements.  

Here are the instructions for using the toilet.

These toilets will be available for sale in March of 2013.

For Those Without a Smartphone, How About Toilet Games?
In related news, earlier this year Sega has released the Toylet,  a gaming system that hooks up to a urinal, with a targeting spot and a video screen.  The urinal user selects which game he wants to play, then tries to hit the targeting spot with the proper force and volume.

Yes, I am saying that someone has turned peeing into a video game, with the urinal as the video game controller.

I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with imbuing more fun into such a necessary activity.  But I do wonder, who first thought to himself, "Hey, I'll bet I can play a video game with my urine."

If you want to purchase one (and you can read Japanese), you'll find all the information at the Sega Toylet website.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Comedy Break - "4 Chords" by the Axis of Awesome

A year or two ago, I heard a funny group sing a song about how most music hits are created with four chords.  The video was taken at a show, so the quality wasn't the best.  But I laughed at the song, and promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward until today - a new video shows up on YouTube's front page.  It's the official music video for "4 Chords".  I watched it again, laughed out loud, and decided that after all the tragedy in the news, maybe we need something funny.

So, without further ado, here is the Axis of Awesome!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mass Shootings In America

I want to discuss the shooting at the elementary school today.  When I first heard about the shootings, I wondered about the fallout for society.  Would politicians try to use the situation to pass more gun control laws?  While I support gun control, I felt like this would not solve the problem.  

Then I thought, but what really is the problem?  There is a feeling that mass shootings are on the rise, and this is the problem.  But contrary to popular sentiment, mass shootings are not on the rise.  If you look over the past 30 years, we have a few sporadic bubbles of mass shootings, but generally there are either 0 or 1 a year.  Sadly, this year contains a bubble, but chances are exceptionally good that we won't have any next year.

Is the problem a lack of security in the school systems, workplaces, or public areas?  No, we have reasonable security everywhere so far as I can tell.  If anything, some areas security has become obnoxiously invasion.  But I will stay off my TSA soapbox for now.

Is the problem violent video games?  I would say no, since there have been no scientific studies to support this claim.  Before you start commenting, “But Kathryn, I read this study...”  I do know that there have been a few small study cases that find a correlation with aggression and violent video games.  But to the best of my knowledge, there have no large scale studies (important because a larger scale removes the researchers’ bias more), and there have even been a few studies that show how a video game is played can change the correlation.

Is the problem gun control laws? While I do believe in reasonable gun control, I don't think any specific changes in the current gun laws would have stopped Friday's shooting, or any of the other shootings for that matter.  For one thing, the majority of the guns used in the shootings, over 80%, were obtained legally, with the vast majority begin semiautomatic handguns.  For another thing, the shooters are not sane, and you cannot legislate for insanity.  Even if none of these people could get a gun, they could have chosen to drive a car over people to kill them.  They could take a sledgehammer, baseball bat, or other blunt object and gone on a rampage.  Everything can be used as a weapon, if someone wants to, so removing guns from the equation will not solve the problem.

That bring us to what I think the real problem is - mental health.  Specifically, I think that we, as a society, ignore people with mental illnesses at the best, and condemn them as freaks at the worst.  We, as a society, are willing to let an individual with mental illness suffer in their life; we are willing to stand by and let someone fall, until it is too late to stop the catastrophe.

Mark Kelly, husband to Gabby Gifford, put it succinctly when he wrote:

We are a people who can watch a young man like you spiral into murderous rampage without choosing to intervene before it is too late.

I read a study done by Mother Jones about mass shootings in the past 30 years.  Of the 61 incidents, there are records of mental health problems for 38 of the shooters, and 42 of them, or just over two-thirds, committed suicide during the shooting.  This begs the question, how many of the remaining 19 also suffered from mental illness, but no one bothered to help them?

My statement about not legislating for insanity is only currently correct, because I also believe that social change engineered through legislation is the only viable solution.  We need to remove the social stigma associated with taking prescription medication for mental problems.  We need to offer real support services for those born with mental illness, to help them cope enough to live.  But we also need to find a way to help those people who were not born with a mental illness, but acquired problems in their childhood.  I’m talking about child abuse, both physical and emotional.  We as a society need to find a way to end child abuse.

I have no idea how to do this, especially considering how private and secret most child abuse is.  But if we really want to stop the mass shootings, we need to get rid of the real causes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why I Left Facebook...

A friend of mine asked me why I left Facebook, and she wanted more information that I previously posted.

Here's the deal.  Facebook set up an arrangement that allowed its users to vote on policy changes, with the vote only counting if enough people participated.   Then Facebook announced that it was breaking its own rules and removing the voting system, as well as making other privacy changes.  When enough people pointed out that this was a bad idea, Facebook backed down and let the users vote on the policy changes.  I don't know what happened after that, because I stopped following the story since I left Facebook before then.

First, I never knew that I could vote on policy changes on Facebook, and I am the type of person who keeps track of that type of opportunity.  The first time I heard about the voting system was the email from Facebook telling me that the voting system was going away.  If Facebook has the resources and wherewithal to send out an email explaining the demise of the voting system, why didn't it let the users know about it beforehand?

Second, if Facebook randomly breaks its own rules at will, then what guarantee do I have that Facebook will follow the rules the rest of the time?  The selling of people's information is a billion dollar business, which seems to me to be more than enough incentive for Facebook to ignore its privacy policies.  Before I had relative confidence that Facebook wouldn't do that.  Now...

Third, Facebook continuously changes its privacy policies.  While I expect a certain amount of turbulence, the constant changes make me wonder what Facebook is doing.  I know that I am reading nefarious purposes here, but so be it.

So those are the three reasons I decided it was time to leave.  The advent of Google Plus as a viable alternative also contributed to my decision, though I still would have left after Facebook attempted to break its own rules.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

How Not To Be An Internet Troll

While I've written a post or two about how to deal with trolls, it occurred to me that maybe a little public education would help the situation.  In other words, maybe some trolls are really just misguided people.  To that end, I've created guidelines for how not be to an Internet troll.

  1. Stay on topic.  This seems simple, but it is quite easy to read a post that mentions either someone or something that triggers a strong emotional response.  Then acting on that response, you post your opinion on that someone or something, even if your opinion is not really on topic.  For example, locally there was a big, public debate about the school calendar, with certain board members vocal about opposite sides.  For several months after the debate, if a news article mentioned the name of one of the school board members, there was inevitably one or two comments that ranted about the school calendar regardless of the topic of the article.  Do you know how annoying it becomes to read an article about renovations approved by the school board, only to find the comments sections overrun with the same arguments about the school calendar?  The trolling leaves no room for appropriate discussion.
  2. Keep it impersonal.  This means no name-calling, no insinuations about someone's intelligence, bodily functions or origins, and no comparisons to either inanimate objects, bodily parts, or other animal species.  Yes, I realize that someone just made a comment that only a dim-witted, Justin-Bieber-loving rock fart would say, but you  really shouldn't call that person a dim-witted, Justin-Bieber-loving rock fart.  It just isn't nice.
  3. Corollary to rule 2:  Sarcasm is all right, as long as it's not personal.  If someone accuses you of attempting to cut them out of a conversation, ruin their life, or some other insane sounding accusation,  try responding with "After years and years of research, trying to determine the best way to remove you from the conversation, I find your comments validating.  Thank you."  
  4. Don't needlessly soapbox on a thread.  By "soapbox", I mean don't simply repeat your current rant even if what you are posting on might be appropriate.  No one likes to be preached at.  
  5. Don't act like every conversation is a contest for who scores the most points.  
  6. Be nice.  I know that this sounds a bit simple, but if you always try to be nice, chances are you won't accidentally be a troll.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Technology for Country Folk - Part 3

While today's generation knows technological terms, at one point in time certain words and/or phrases meant  something else entirely.  For the record, these definitions come from "The Backwoods Guide to Computer Lingo" by Dave Nilsen and the illustrations are the creations of Dennis Cox at D. J. Art & Design.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: "I Am Number Four"

Imagine that you are from another planet, hiding out on Earth with your own guardian, waiting for these killers to find you and kill you.  This is the premise behind the movie, "I Am Number Four".

Small spoiler alert:  In the beginning of the movie, you learn that nine children from the planet Lorién escaped to Earth after the Mogadorians invaded their planet, killing everyone.  Now, the Mogadorians are on Earth, tracking down and killing the remaining Loriéns before moving on to invade Earth.

I find myself pausing, attempting to describe the movie without giving away an already thin plot.  This movie is a combination chick flick and action movie, ready made for a teenage date.  The Bad Guys are Bad Guys, there is no confusion there.  The protagonist, John Smith, sounds like an alien James Dean from "Rebel Without a Cause", only here it would be "Alien Rebel With a Cause".  Henri, John's guardian, is Stoic Man, able to confront any situation with extreme calm.  Sarah Hart, the Love Interest, is the former Shallow Girl who Found Herself.  And Sam is the Classic Geek who gets bullied by the football team and wants to find UFOs when he grows up.

The acting in the movie is good, within the limit of the movie. There are a few two-dimensional characters, but they tend to show in only a few scenes.   Between the action scenes and soliloquies explaining the plot, there exists only  a limited amount of screen time for character growth.  My favorite character, by far, was Sam, the UFO geek.  I don't know if it's because I can relate to his geekiness in general or I can admire his passion despite heavy criticism from everyone around him, but Sam strikes me as a survivor and a nice guy.

On the other hand, the special effects in the movie rock!  I like a good alien throwdown.

The movie is based on a book by the same name that's part of a series, Lorién Legacies.   While I wouldn't pay theater prices to see this movie or its sequel, I do want to read the book and see what I think.

Overall, I give this movie 5 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: "The Accidental Spaceship" by Gene Hunt

The Accidental SpaceshipThe Accidental Spaceship by Gene Hunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What would you do with your own spaceship? That's the question asked in "The Accidental Spaceship". The story begins with an slight error in a shipping company; a spaceship destined for the 31st century gets send to the 21st century instead. It lands at a farm with the 13-year-old twins, Vernon and Junior Smith. The author, Gene Hunt, spends exactly the right amount of time introducing the boys, losing the ship, and then having the boys figure out what to do with the ship. Mr. Hunt even includes an antagonist, though to say more would be spoiling it.

I loved reading this book. The plot felt simple in that there are no secrets or multiple threads of story, but the plot didn't feel thin or skimpy. I like the characters in the story, how they interact with each other, and how they think. And while the story felt finished at the end, my only complaint is that I want more Vernon and Junior stories to read.

Overall, a smashing success for a first-time author.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review: Cogs, A Steampunk Puzzle Game

Game Name:  Cogs
Game Type:  Puzzle
Created by:  Lazy 8 Studios
Platforms:  Android, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Netbook, Steam (on PC and Mac)
Ratings:  E for Everyone
(This is my own ratings for the game.  There is no violence, nudity, sexual references, drug references, or bad language.)
metascore:  73/100  (from metacritic)
My Score:  90/100

I love puzzle games.  I love having to logically figure out the answers to problems, and Cogs has enough spatial problems to consume several afternoons-worth of time.

The point of the game is quite simple.  Move the gears...

or the pipes...

to make the creations play music, turn one or more gold gears, fill balloons, pop-up clowns, or just fly.

I must warn you, though, that the puzzles get harder as you go.  The first puzzles take a little time, as you learn the interface as well as solve the puzzles.  In fact, I earned every gold star on every puzzle for the first 10 or so puzzles.  Then, I hit the wall and BLAM!  I found myself cursing at the screen, wondering how to move the whatchamacallits fast enough to get the thing-a-ma-bobs finished.

Speaking of stars, the game scores each turn in four ways.

  1. You earn a gold star if you complete the puzzle.
  2. You earn a bronze, silver, or gold star if you complete the puzzle in a given time.
  3. You earn a bronze, silver, or gold star if you complete the puzzle in a limited number of moves.
  4. If you get a gold star for completion, time, and moves in the same turn, you get the Master Mechanic gold star for that puzzle.
While the game does not contain offensive materials, I would not recommend it to people who can't handle frustration, or to kids who need some help with fine motor skills.  Or maybe kids with fine motor skill problems need a game like Cogs to help them practice.  I don't know - I supposed that depends entirely on the kid in question.

I played this game on my PC, on my Android phone, and on my Android tablet.  The game feels the same on every platform, and I find myself enjoying solving puzzles that I already solved on a different platform.

Overall, the game has so far yielded tens of hours of fun, and I expect it to yield more in the future.

Freaky Friday News: Unicorn Licenses

Los Angeles County Gives a Young Resident a Unicorn License Last month, a resident of Los Angeles county, Miss Madeline, sent a handwritte...