Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Daily Ramblings: August 27, 2014

Last week, I learned of two different Hollywood stars who basically did good just because they could.  In the midst of all the bad news, I thought I'd share this with you today.

Last Wednesday Chris Pratt, star of the movie "Guardians of the Galaxy", arranged for a special screening of the movie at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles.  He then went around in costume, visiting the children who were too sick to go to the screening, letting them try on his coat, giving away toys, and generally being an awesome person.

Aaron Paul also earned an awesome person award for his response to Aaron Hill's beating and #JusticeforAaron.  In the beginning of August, police in Okeechobee County, Florida, found a 16-year-old autistic boy named Aaron Hill lying by the side of the road.  They took the poor child to the hospital, where he received medical treatment and the police gathered evidence because he was obviously beaten.  As the story unfolded, we learned that the accused is an 18-year-old named Andrew Wheeler, who admits he beat Aaron.  Of course, he posted a video of himself beating Aaron Hill which went viral and that, according to witnesses, he asked to be recorded.  I guess he wanted to watch himself beat up a relatively helpless kid.

Anyway, Aaron Paul heard about this and offered to take Aaron Hill and his family to Disneyland once the kid feels better.

Wordless Wednesday: Steampunk Tendencies Costume

Monday, August 18, 2014

Removing Windows Updates

Last week, Microsoft released new updates to Windows 7 and 8 in their monthly Patch Tuesday.  Sadly, five of the updates can cause problems, including the famous Blue Screen of Death.  To fix the problem, Microsoft wants you to remove these updates.

That begs the question: How do you remove updates from Windows?

To help out, I'm providing you with hopefully detailed enough instructions for Windows 7.  If you need help with Windows 8, let me know and I'll do some research.

Fig. 1 - Control Panel Close-up

  1. Open up the Start Menu.
  2. Click on "Control Panel."
  3. Click on the "System and Security" heading. 
  4. The fourth heading down is "Windows Update".  Under that heading, there is a list of options.  Click on "View installed updates".
  5. Now you are on the screen that lists all the installed updates.  In the upper right corner, you will find a search box with "Search Installed Updates" in grayed out text.  Click in the search box and enter the following:
    • KB2982791
    • KB2970228
    • KB2975719  (Windows 8 only)
    • KB2975331  (Windows 8 only)
  6. After you find the correct update, right click on the update and select "Uninstall".  Windows will ask you to reboot after each uninstall, but I suggest you  wait until you finish with all the uninstalls before rebooting.
Figure 2 - Screen shot of the page where you view installed updates.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Freaky Friday News: August 15, 2014

In Response to Shark Week...

Facebook Users Lose More Privacy...

because Facebook clearly is not earning enough money, with nearly $3 billion in revenue earned in the second quarter of this year.  That means Facebook earned almost $3 billion in three months.

So why do they need to milk more money out of their users' private interaction?

In this year alone, privacy concerns include:

I'm not saying that Facebook is a greedy company who cares more about making money that making happy users.  I'm just sayin'.

Surrey B.C. Pastafarian Trying to Get New Driver's License

Obi Canuel, a regular Canadian guy and ordained minister for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, has been trying for the 10 months or so to get a new driver's license.  The problem?  Obi wore a colander on his head for his picture, in respect to his religious beliefs.  Despite officially not discriminating against anyone's religion and allowing religious headgear that does not interfere with facial recognition software, the Canadian government is refusing to grant him a new driver's license unless he takes a picture without his religious headgear.  After attempting to work out the issue through standard channels, Obi decided to take the problem public with a video on YouTube.  Here's hoping the government decides to follow its own regulations.

And This is Why I Will Never Live in Russia...

Racism is Alive and Well in America

Last Saturday, an unarmed, innocent black man was shot and killed by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then, the city and the county police forces have acted in such a way as to make them look guilty, shooting tear gas at peaceful assemblies and bringing in armored vehicles. The police department refused to release the name of the shooting officer until today - it's Darren Wilson - and attempt to sway the public by releasing a video tape where they allege the victim, Michael Brown, participated in a robbery Saturday morning.

The shooting officer stated that he had no idea about the alleged robbery; he stopped to harass Michael Brown for walking in the street.

That's correct, folks.  The chief of police tried to lay groundwork to protect his officer, when in reality the man shot someone for walking in the street.

For the record, the population of Ferguson is about 65% black, but its police department is over 99% white, and according to the Missouri Attorney General in Ferguson:

  • 86% of all traffic stops involve black drivers
  • 93% of all arrests after traffic stops are black
  • 92% of all searches afters stops are black
  • 34% of all white people stopped have contraband
  • 22% of all black people stopped have contraband
Looking at the last two facts, it becomes obvious that white people with contraband are not arrested as much as black people with contraband.  Sadly, the police in Ferguson join those in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and other cities as paramilitary racist bullies.  But the racism goes beyond police departments.

The media reflects the underlying social racism.  Huffington post wrote a wonderful article on this, and I encourage you to read it.  Basically, media use negative terms to describe black victims and positive terms to describe white suspects.  I wonder how much of Trayvon Martin's jury was influenced by the media.

Even more, the show "What Would You Do?" tried an experiment with bike theft.  They set up a white guy, a black guy, and a pretty young lady with a planted, locked bike and tools to try to steal the bike.  The response from the public is appalling.  The white guy gets a few questions, but no hassling.  The pretty young lady not only gets no harassment, but one man helps her unlock the bike.

But the black guy?  The public runs him off, calling 9-1-1 and verbally harassing him.

All three participants answered inquiries with similar answers to avoid language bias.  They parked the bike in the same position, and gave the people the same tools to use.  The drastic asymmetry in the public reactions highlight how racist American still are.

Personally, I find the entire situation embarrassing and terrifying.  Embarrassing because I had hoped that America would have lost more of its racism by now.  Terrifying because the violence perpetrated by the white establishment on black citizens will only lead to more distrust and ultimately more violence.

When will we grow up and realize that the extremely minuscule genetic difference between white skin and black skin mean nothing else?  That people are people regardless of skin color?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams is Dead

Robin Williams 1951-2014
I cried this morning when I learned about Robin Williams' death, as a part of my life went away.  No, I never met the man, and I typically don't consider myself a fanatic about actors.  But Robin was different.  He made me laugh, even on days when I didn't know how to laugh.  He brought tears to my eyes as well; the movie "What Dreams May Come" haunts me to this day.

From all accounts, Robin was a down-to-earth, friendly, happy man.  But if this truly is a suicide, those accounts refer to a facade, and not the real man.  The problem (probably) is everyone expected him to be happy, and so he acted happy.  Sadly, Robin Williams is not the only person to do that.  Someone in my area committed suicide earlier this year, with the vast majority of people none the wiser to her internal struggles until it was too late.  It's the same story heard over and over; someone becomes so depressed that he or she commits suicide, surprising everyone in their life.

We have this expectation that everyone needs to be happy; only teenagers dressed in black are allowed to be otherwise, and even then society rolls its collectives eyes.  We complain about politics and the weather, we moan about needing money, but the entire time we maintain a minimum level of happiness, at least in public.  But people don't accept a person who walks around depressed; we tell people to suck it up, put on their big boy pants, and just get over it.

Only you can't just "get over" depression; no one can.  Depression changes a person's brain chemistry, requiring real intervention to undo those changes.  That intervention can be therapy, support groups, and/or anti-depression medication.  But without outside help, a person succumbs to the depression cycle.  A little depression leads to a little changes in brain chemistry, which lead to more depression, which lead to more changes in brain chemistry,...

We need to remove societal stigmas about using anti-depressants, remove the stigma about classifying depression as an illness and not a mood swing, and allow people to openly admit their problems so that they can openly get help.

It's too late for Robin Williams.  It's too late for Amanda Todd and Traci Birmingham.  It's too late for the more than 30,000 people who commit suicide every year in the U.S.

I hope we make these changes, so it's never too late again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Movie Review: "Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters"

At my house, we have Family Movie Night on Saturdays. This past weekend, we watched "Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters" for the first time.  While the story in the movie only followed the main story in the book, as is wont with movies, the actors portrayed their characters well enough  that if I ever see who played Grover in another film, I will still consider him Grover; as with Clarisse, AnnaBeth, Percy, Luke, and Tyson.  Overall, I enjoyed the movie.

But a large part of my opinion comes from the fact that I read all of the books at the same time my children did, years ago.  When I discussed the movie with my husband, who never read the books, I discovered that his opinion was quite different.

The movie seems to assume that you, the viewer, know parts of the story ahead of time.  For example, AnnaBeth's life was dramatically changed by a group of cyclops, causing her to carry a blinding hatred of all cyclops around with her.  When Tyson (Percy's half-brother cyclops) shows up, AnnaBeth instantly hates him and wants absolutely nothing to do with him.  If you have read the book, the hatred is understandable.  But for those who haven't read the book, the hatred clashes with her established personality.  Partway through the movie, a quick flashback shows why AnnaBeth might not like cyclops, but the movie never really explains the situation.

Basically, the movie does not necessarily make sense to someone who has not previously read the book.

If you have to pick one, I suggest reading the book.  I admit, I am a bit of a book snob, preferring books over movies or other forms of media (e.g. graphic novels).  But the book covers the material in a more cohesive manner, making it the preference here hands down.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Addams Family Living Room

Due to the nature of black and white filming, pinks turned out to create the correct shades of grey.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Book Review: "Angels' Blood" by Nalini Singh

Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter, #1)Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Angels' Blood" begins another one of my favorite series by author Nalini Singh. The Guild Hunter series occurs in another universe where angels not only exist, but basically rule the planet.

 The hierarchy goes:
  • Archangels
  • Angels
  • Older or stronger Vampires
  • Humans
  • New or weak Vampires
Angels Make vampires; and I purposefully use the capital "M" here. The process of changing a human to a vampire is top secret; no humans know how it happens, only that the angels carefully screened candidates and not everyone is eligible. Also, a vampire agrees to a 100-year period of indentured servitude to the angel who Makes him. That's where are story begins.

Our protagonist, Elena, works as a vampire hunter for the Guild. The Guild licenses and manages the only legal vampire hunters in the world. They work for the angels, returning vampires who decide that they don't want to uphold their end of the contract and try to skip out on their masters.

Elena is the best vampire hunter out there.

While normally this would be good, her competence caught the attention of the archangels who rule the world - the Cadre of Ten. Now, Raphael, the Archangel of New York and ruler of the North American continent, needs Elena to do a private job - track down a rogue archangel.

The book moves quickly along, taking the reader down the rabbit hole and into a world of secrets and feathers. The relationship between Elena and Raphael grows as they work towards finding the rogue archangel, going from employer and employee to lovers. But hunt for the rogue does not live in the shadow of their relationship; contrariwise, the reverse is true. I felt the urgency of the hunt, needing to find the rogue before more innocents were hurt. Ms. Singh carefully intersperses short chapters from the point of view of the rogue, bringing him to life.

The book moves quickly along, taking the reader down the rabbit hole and into a world of secrets and feathers. The relationship between Elena and Raphael grows as they work towards finding the rogue archangel, going from employer and employee to lovers. But hunt for the rogue does not live in the shadow of their relationship; contrariwise, the reverse is true. I felt the urgency of the hunt, needing to find the rogue before more innocents were hurt. Ms. Singh carefully intersperses short chapters from the point of view of the rogue, bringing him to life.

Ms. Singh weaves a beautiful story here, creating a wonderful new world and populating it with believable characters. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good fantasy.

View all my reviews

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...