Thursday, February 28, 2013

Movie Review: "Dark Shadows" (2012)

Disclaimer:  I love the actors Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Helen Bonham Carter.  I think they are actual artists, playing a variety of believable characters in differing genres. 

It was with a feeling of happy anticipation that I began watching "Dark Shadows", though I never saw the TV series that this movie is based on.  While I had no preconceived notions about either the characters or the story, I did watch a movie trailer, which made the movie seem like a comedic fantasy.   In fact, it's hard to classify the movie.  It tells the story of a man and the woman he turned down, a woman who just happens to be a practicing evil witch.

Overall, I felt rather "bleh" at the end of the movie. The actors and actresses in the movie provided outstanding performances, matching the over-the-top feeling of the movie, while he house made me wish to build my own secret passages.  But the surrealistic feeling of the movie detracted from the story, instead of adding to it.  And the last few scenes felt out of place, using deus ex machina to take care of the big, bad witch, help Victoria with her ghost problem, and give Barnabas a happy-ever-after ending.

So while I laughed at Barnabas confusing the McDonald's sign with Mephistopheles, I can only give this movie 3 stars out of five.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

And The Winners Are....

Vulcan ... 

and Cerberus!!!

Yes, the results are in!  According to, Vulcan garnered 174,062 votes while Cerberus gathered 99,432 as the new names for Pluto's two newest moons, P4 and P5.  Now, the names need to pass through the official approval process with the International Astronomical Union, and I'm not sure which moon gets which name.  

Thank you to everyone who participated in this little adventure!  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Netiquette Primer: Part 1

Last week, I read a blog by a friend of mine where she lamented the lack of manners and grace on social media sites.  After reading and commenting on her post, I began to think that despite the myriad of posts about Internet etiquette, otherwise known as netiquette, the concepts behind netiquette haven't permeated through society.  So I decided to add in my two cents worth.

The first rule of netiquette:  Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in real life.

Most people think that this rule means "Be nice".  But this rule really means "Be yourself".

If you would criticize someone in real life over a comment/topic/whatever, then doing so online fits who you are.  But if you would not criticize someone in real life, then doing so online does not fit who you are.  I know that being online promotes a feeling of anonymity, but you are not anonymous.  People read and remember what you write, even if you never knew they read it.

Picture this situation.  Two women know each other through the local elementary school and become friends on a social media site, such as Google +, Facebook, or CafeMom.  The two women sit on the same PTA meeting, then woman A goes online and complains bitterly and extensively about the meeting.  Woman B reads her complaints, surprised because woman A seemed happy and excited at the meeting.  How much do you think woman B will now trust woman A?

The answer is not at all.  In fact, woman B will probably avoid woman A now because she doesn't want to read a rant about herself.

Interestingly enough, while a person who is nicer in real life and meaner online will get a reputation of either being two faced or hypocritical, the reverse is not true.  If you are more careful with your words online and more aggressive in real life, people don't see that as either two-faced or hypocritical.  In fact, I recommend being less critical/complaining/rude online, because you don't have the immediate feedback that a real life conversation has.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Madness Under the Gold Dome

As the Georgia Congress began their newest session,  I began the annual review of what's happening.  For anyone who lives in Georgia, the Georgia PTA has a fabulous website, Capital Watch, to help you find out what legislation is being heard and where a bill is in the process to becoming a law.

So, I began my search with looking at any legislation that targets children.  After reading and researching the list of 10 bills, I felt like I needed to shower my brain.  The bills fall into three categories:  potentially useful, baby-kissing/netural, and potentially terrible.  Sadly, the smallest category is the potentially useful, which only had one candidate, a bill that requires private insurance to cover kids with cancer or autism.

The baby-kissing/neutral category includes bills that plays into the current set of public concerns, such as concussions from sports and the fear of child abuse in daycare centers.  I cringe at these bills, because people are wasting time reading and discussing issues that aren't really issues.  Yes, families and players need to know that getting hit in the head is bad, but do we really need a law for that?

But what has my head spinning are the bills that accomplish nothing except make life miserable for law-abiding folk.  One bill is to "urge Congress"  to require identification for minors on airplane flights as a supposed way to stop human trafficking.  First, why urge Congress?  Why not do something directly to stop human trafficking?  Second, who seriously thinks that people who coordinate and manage a human trafficking network can't get fake IDs?  But this will inconvenience everyone else.  All of us law-abiding citizens will now have to jump through hoops just to let your children fly, knowing all the while that all the headaches and hassles still will not stop human trafficking.

The second bill that is negative deals with drunk drivers.  Bill SB 15 would requires first time drunk driver offenders to get a functioning certified ignition device installed and keep the device installed for at least six months.  Second and further offenders need the device for 12 months.   This device requires the driver to pass a breath test before the car will start, and asks for periodic checks while driving.

While on the surface this seems like a good idea, what happened to simply removing the person's license for six months?  If we, as a society, want to stop drunk driving, then we need to stop letting drunks keep their license and keep driving.  The information on the ignition devices includes how the designers try to anticipate the ways around the device and what they do to counteract all the cheats that they think of.  Well, if a person doesn't have a license and maybe not even a car, then they don't have to worry about how a drunk person will attempt to drive.

I would love to see our politicians pass a law that says, "First time offenders lose their driving privileges for six months and perform 100 hours of community service..  Second time offenders lose their driving privileges for a year, pay a fine to cover the cost of having their car impounded for a year, and perform 500 hours of community service.  Third time offenders lose their driving privileges for two years, pay a fine to cover having their car impounded for two years, and do 1,000 hours of community service. Fourth time offenders permanently lose their driving privileges, forfeit their car, and do 5,000 hours of community service."

Let's hope that the rest of the bills up for consideration show more backbone and less politics.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Voting Time! Help Name Pluto's New Moons!!!

Hubble Discovers a Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto
First Photos of P5 - Isn't she cute?

In 2011 and 2012, NASA discovered the fourth and fifth moons of Pluto.  Up until now, these moons have the wonderful names of P4 and P5.  But the time has arrived to give these celestial bodies new names.  The SETI Institute has set up an online survey to allow everyone a chance to vote on the names.

Every day, you can go to Pluto Rocks! and vote on two names, one for each moon.  Or, if you have an alternate that you think is better than what's listed, you can use the write-in form to submit your idea.  The current list pulls names from Greek mythology related to Hades, such as "Persephone" and "Styx".  But the name "Vulcan" is also on the list, so some Trekkie has clearly done a successful write-in.

I urge you to go and vote on whatever name you like.  Rarely do we, the public, get a say in matters such as this.  So enjoy your new influence and spread the word!

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Aunt Garnet Died Last Friday

Garnet L. Barre
April 15, 1920 - February 8, 2013
Last week, a wonderful woman died - my Great-Aunt Garnet.  She was my Grandmother's sister, and she was lovely to be around.  I am not sad for her, because Aunt Garnet was almost 93 years old and more than ready to die.  I am sad for all of us left behind, for the people who never met her and now never will.

Aunt Garnet was a character, in the best sense of the word.  The last time I saw her, she told me a story from her childhood.  As a little girl, Garnet loved to play with imaginary animals, particularly imaginary dogs.  She would bring them water, play with them, and take them on walks.  One day, a stray dog appeared at the side porch.  A real stray dog, not an imaginary one.  Garnet went to the kitchen and asked her Mother for a dish of water for the dog.  Her Mother agreed, and got her a dish.  Garnet took the dog the water and petted it for a bit.  Then she went back inside and asked her Mother if she could keep the dog.  Her Mother agreed, and told Garnet that she could keep the dog.   Aunt Garnet told me that she was certain that her Mother didn't know it was a real dog, but that her Mother let her keep the dog anyway since she agreed to it.

Aunt Garnet married a widower named Glenn, who had two sons from his first marriage.  She told me that she always felt like their Mom and that she considered them to be her sons, though she knew that she could never take the place of their Mother.  Aunt Garnet didn't want to take the place of Glenn's first wife, she simply wanted a place of her own in the boys' lives.  When I married a man with a son from a previous marriage, I understood what Aunt Garnet was saying, and I knew I had someone to talk to who would understand that part of my life.

So I dedicate my blog to you today, Aunt Garnet, to your smile which you readily shared with the world, to your willingness to help, to your knowledge and understanding.  I hope that I live and die as gracefully as you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Superbowl? Not So Much

I learned to watch football with my Dad.  We'd sit on the couch on Sunday afternoons, talking about the plays and watching either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (back with the ugly orange uniforms) or the Chicago Bears (How 'bout them Bears!), or anyone else if neither team was on.  The games were fast moving, the cheerleaders appeared only in the background or in the change of sides, and the fans were insane, but in a good way.

These days, I avoid watching football games, in case ocular bleeding occurs due to the brain hemorrhage caused by wanting to watch someone actually do something.  The games drag on forever and ever, cheerleaders seem to get more airtime than the players, and the largest part of any game is the commercials.  I recently read a statistic - that out of a two hour game, only 11 minutes were spent in actual play.

Eleven.  Minutes.

The Superbowl is even worse than a regular game, because the next day I hear and read more about the commercials, the halftime show, and the fans than about the game itself.  


While I feel like an old fart for saying this, but whatever happened to football the way they played it when I was a kid?  What happened to playing the game, instead of whatever else they show?

On a deeper level, I wonder if the changes in football reflect a change in our society towards more commercialism and materialism.  Regardless, I now spend Superbowl Sunday like I do every other Sunday - not watching football.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Greetings from Monday

Hello.  I apologize for not posting last week at all and rather randomly the week before.  I've had the flu with some complications, so I decided to save you for my ill ramblings.  While I recovered and recuperated, I played a lot of Sid Meier's Civilization V on Steam, since this was the most complex task I could do.  I learned a lot playing this game, which I will share with you now:

  1. It's important to help the people in your life with happiness.  This does not mean that you are responsible for another person's happiness, only that you should do your best to not impede their progress towards happiness.
  2. Culture helps you grow.
  3. Some people pretend to be your friend only so long as it suits them.  Then they stab you in the back.
  4. Some people honestly don't like you.  But they tend not to stab you in the back.
  5. Being too aggressive only gets you trouble.
  6. Being too passive also gets you trouble.
  7. Being Goldilocks is usually the best course of action.
  8. Battleships are awesome...
  9. ... but still not as awesome as Stealth Bombers.
  10. Don't start a war unless you can win.  
  11. Even then, sometimes it's best not to start the war.
  12. Be fair when you trade.
  13. Winning by brawn is more expensive than winning through brains.
  14. Sometimes you win just by hanging in there until the end.

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...