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Friday, November 25, 2011

Screw it... Happy Holidays!

 I'm getting a little sick of the "Keep the 'Christ' in Christmas" and "I Won't say 'Happy Holidays' at Christmas" along with something that makes it sound American.

Is Christmas the only holiday people are allowed to celebrate? People are not "afraid" of saying Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or New Year's, or even (C)Hauna(k)ka if people ever finally agree on how to spell it. "Happy Holidays" is intended to unify the whole season, and take into consideration the variety that makes us human. It's almost like well-wishing others, and having goodwill toward... someone. It's a good spirit that at least one of these holidays should adopt.

 No one is trying to take away your gun cabinet full of American flags. We as a country are more than "people can only celebrate what I celebrate, and only for the same reasons I do.".  How is it wrong to want to include your fellow man just because he may not get you something for "Christmas".

 Besides, how embarrassed would Jesus be? Or do you think Jesus would also be spamming facebook with "He didn't come to my birthday party, he can't have his own party."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Do you REALLY want to jump the facebook ship for Google+? Actually, you might.

   Tired of change, and lists, and the ticker that facebook threw on you at once? Ready to go to Google+? You may be, just make sure you do it the right way.

Get used to lists.

   People mention facebook taking a cue from Google+, in that lists have become more dominant. Many people's frustration with facebook is not controlling who sees what. This is more obvious now, but it has always been an issue. It's just plain responsible, when you are in a few social circles, to separate groups of people. They don't all want to see your game posts. Maybe you don't want your creepy ex looking at pictures of your kids. Learn to use lists. Take control. Google+  makes that EASY. If I try to tell you how easy, it'll sound harder than it is. Try it in facebook. Sometimes control is all you need to feel bette.r

Don't admit defeat.

    Take a little time and sample the new features given to you. You may like some of them. You may not. No matter where you go on the internet, new features are an inevitability.

Change your browser.

    You don't even have to change. Download Firefox, install it, and when it asks to make it your default browser, say "no". Use it only when you want. Get used to it. IE is notorious for bugs and security flaws. That can ruin your experience anywhere.

Drop your toolbars.

    A toolbar is one of the worst things you can do to your browser. No matter where it's from, it intercepts code, tracks your browsing history, and steals money from sites you like.  Visiting a nonprofit that relies on advertising revenue? Not from you. Toolbars will take an advertising banner, and replace it with one of their own, on the page, without your knowledge. That .02 per click going to "Save Kids from Evil Clowns" is now going to the people who made your toolbar. Not to mention, there's nothing from keeping any toolbar from storing your passwords to sites you use, and spamming your friends.

Bottom Line:

    If you're not tech savvy, sudden change in unfamiliar territory is daunting. Take a look at your TV remote. Think of going back in time 20 years, showing it to your past self, and saying "This is what we'll need to watch TV.". Then tell yourself you can do anything. If you have a complaint or suggestion, use the site's "Send Feedback" link. Try Google+, but realize change will come there, too. Having all the control you can is important online. 

But you can do anything.

The New facebook. It's not as bad as you feared, but not as good as you'd hoped.

  We all use facebook. At least, enough of us use it so I can more or less safely assume that you use it. In the name of innovation, FB has updated some features, the layout, and it's confusing as hell if you're not prepared. Most people use it for a quick game or to check on people at a distance. There's nothing wrong with that. You just need a geek pal (like me) to help you when it gets too technical for your taste, or time contraints.

Ticked by the ticker?

  This is probably the single biggest source of complaints and fear. It posts EVERYTHING! How do I keep it from telling everyone everything I do? The simple answer: If you don't want people to see it, don't put it on facebook. 
    I'm not being as hearless as I may sound. The ticker updates anything you'd normally see on a friend's page. There's nothing new or scary about what's going on in the corner, so breathe a little easier. If someone wants to see what goes on in the ticker, all they ever would have had to do is click on your name.
    That being said, how do I rid myself of this new thing?

    1.) The easiest way - shrink it.
      There is a seperator bar at the bottom of the ticker that blends in so nice, you hardly know it's there. Click it, drag it up, shrink your ticker to ALMOST nothing. It's not perfect, but it may be enough for you.
The little bar can be slid up so as to make it ALMOST go away.

    2.) Plugins are your friends.
      Go to They make their plugin for Chrome as well as Firefox. I don't think Internet Explorer will allow it, however. Yet another reason to make the plunge! As of the writing of this, the newest version of Firefox is the fastest, most stable, and most lightweight browser - not to mention secure. Anyone who reads their windows updates will be bombarded by updates for IE that says "fixes a bug which could allow an intruder remote access to your computer." - ALL THE TIME. Ditch it!

      FBPurity will (once you refresh your newsfeed) allow you to completely remove elements from your facebook view. Suggested friends, pages, even the TICKER. Ooooooh.

But it's a clutterf$@!k! (see that pun?)

    This may be the simplest, yet most involved fix. Change your browser. Google Chrome(tm) users will notice a lot more clutter in the center of the screen, the old chat thumbnails on the left in addition to the chat sidebar on the right. I was so very confused when I woke up to facebook ablaze with comments about how different, and how messy the new look was. I didn't see it. I use Firefox.

A friend of mine had an open debate with me - something other than "It's new, it sucks" that I try and drown out. I got to thinking Chrome uses a different Java(tm) engine. I checked. I almost threw up in my mouth a little.

This is what Chrome showed me:
It's safe to click if you want to see it bigger.

This is what I had been browsing, nonchalantly, in Firefox:
Click. Make it bigger. Compare.

If you make the leap from Chrome to Firefox, but don't want to sacrifice the comfort of Chrome, take a look here. A small upfront time investment, you have CONTROL over your browsing. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

By the way, if you're make the leap from Internet Explorer to Firefox, and don't want to panic, go here.

Take a tip from Santa. Make a list, check it twice.

    This may seem like a daunting task to the uninitiated. It's not that bad, and it gives you the privacy control you so greatly want, and deserve. 

    This is something you should do if you have a lot of friends in any case. You can control who sees what. Even in the ticker. If you don't already deal with lists, there is a LIST section on your left-hand column now, with some suggested, pre-made lists. Play with those later. Click the "MORE" that comes up when you move the mouse over the word LISTS. You can create a new list by clicking the button I pointed to.

A window will pop up asking you to give the list a name. Whatever you want. Then, a screen to select your friends for this list. Select, for now, the people you want updated every time you do something. That's it. you have a list. You can go back to the lists menu and change it anytime. Ooooh, power. Are you dizzy with it yet? Just wait.

NOW, on the top blue bar, by your name, and home, there's a little down arrow. Click it. Select "Privacy Options". You will be brought here:
Magic. It really is.
We are changing your default posting preferences here. Click the dot under "Custom", select your list, and then, unless you say otherwise, those people will be the only ones who see what you do, even on their ticker.

   You are welcome.


  Change, especially in the digital age, is inevitable. It's how we progress. We don't have to like every single change, though. We do what we can with what we have, and I'll share anything I can to make things easier on you.

    It's why I'm here. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Copy and Paste if you agree! Use your own words if you have them!

If you read my posts on any social networking site for a certain amount of time, you are sure to get my opinions on copy-and-paste status updates. I think I should explain, so I don't just sound like a dickhead. I may still, but not "just" a dickhead.

Most any time someone writes a message to copy and paste, they don't care about a cause. They want to see people re-posting the message that they originally wrote. It makes them feel special, I guess. Copying and pasting words that aren't even your own - "Even for one hour!" - Is rubbish.

A lot of times, it's in good fun - "send me a number I'll post something I think about you" or any number of lighthearted thingies, is NOT what I'm concerned with. CAP (copy and paste) messages don't help spread cancer awareness. Who is going to read facebook after all this time and HAS NOT been affected in some way? Will someone read and say "Wow! I didn't realize cancer was actually a problem!". It doesn't happen.

We have ALL lost loved ones. Any of us with children know what it's like to love your kids with all your heart. Posting someone else's words is not only inflammatory - by implying your "true" friends will blindly copy and paste, but it's disingenuous. You love someone soooo much that died horribly from cancer, at war, you name it, and you can't even take the time to formulate your own thoughts about it before you go back to Farmville?

I've lost my mother to cancer, my grandmother to a stroke, my grandfather to smoking. I have very good friends I worry about daily because they are in the military. I have not reposted a single thought by anyone else about any of this.

Remember Jesus? I do. I read the Bible. I can't say I'm a Christian, but a lot of these facebook sites shouldn't say they are either. A true test of faith is not clicking Like because a post says "If you're a true Christian click like! Let's see how many TRUE christians are on facebook!" If you've read the New Testament and are NOT offended, re-read.

You want to be a Christian? You want others to be, too? Be a better person. Be an example.

The same applies to the messages people copy and paste. They mean well when they do, but It's hard to take you seriously when from post to post you go from "Kill our black leader because he said the same stuff I said before he was elected!" to "I'm eating sushi" to a message that isn't even heartfelt, but copied, and pretty much calls everyone else a dink.

You want to do something to help cancer? Volunteer. Donate. Join a group. Put something IN. You have a kid with autism? Awareness is needed, but everyone who knows you on facebook probably knows something about autism. You want to help put awareness on facebook? Put up something unique. Something from the heart. Something that makes your story personal.


Facebook is (gasp!) a social networking site. Be social. Enjoy the friends you have. Share what you need to, read and learn about what your friends might be going through. If you just want to [CTRL+C], [CTRL+V] so you can act like you care and get back to asking people for imaginary nails, just go to the imaginary nails.

No one will think less of you for enjoying your time.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Some of my All-time Favorite Apocalypses.

  "Where's the 'kaboom'? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering 'Kaboom!'!" -Marvin the Martian, Looney Tunes.

  The "End of the World" has come and gone many many more times than I want to count, according to prophecies. Some people get upset at each one, but no one seems to believe them all. Then there's a part of us that wants to believe outwardly, because it's exciting and we get to see it. Inwardly, we know it's not happening. That's why people can live their daily lives when they think everything's coming to an end.

  Once in a while, mass hysteria becomes mass stupidity.


  If you know me at all, even if you didn't then, you expected this on my list. The theory was that computer clocks had a two-digit year, and no room to go after 99. People (none of whom understood how electronics worked) further speculated that if the clock's calendar were off, the device would fail to even power up. They went FURTHER to put forth all types of scenarios: power grid goes off line, nuclear reactors shut down and fail, and planes fall out of the effing sky. 

  I can't even begin to overstate the absurdity of the scenarios. Anyone who has seen any kind of two-digit counter knows that the digits start over. Anyone who thinks about it should understand that the calendar is not even a part of the computer's power-up process. Electronics don't care what the date says. They don't compare to yesterday and say "Heeey... I'm not doing anything until you explain why we're starting over!" - That kind of technology is still years away.

  I happened to be in a job involving a lot of electronics and computer repair. I was the one customers were sent to to ask questions about y2k. There was an interesting thing: people were stockpiling food and water, and making sure their devices (including one who asked about her toaster) are Y2k compliant. That became the biggest selling point of VCR's, Vacuum cleaners, lightbulbs, you name it. Which begs the question: if you think the power grid is going to fail and civilization is ending, how do you use your Y2k compliant VCR?

  Interestingly enough, people "in the know" said computers year counters would reset to "00". This was a big warning flag. The truth was, a computer's CMOS(what has the calendar/clock) had default start dates of Jan-01-1980 or Jan-01-1984. The second still makes me smile. So orwellian.

  The date came and went, people in general pretended they didn't just participate in that lunacy, and pretended they were never worried.

The Jupiter Effect

   As a very young child, I remember hearing about a day when all nine planets were aligned. People I witnessed firsthand decided this would herald the start of a new age, hence the term "New Age" that's slapped on hippie stuff.

  Whenever there's an alignment of any sort, people get all fidgety. What does it mean? In reality, nothing. In people's heads, THE END OF THE WORLD.

  I'm glad it didn't end there. The date was March 10, 1982. I would have my seventh birthday and watch the premiere of "The Greatest American Hero" 8 days later on our family's 13" Black and White TV. Provided someone wanted to go outside and turn the antenna just so.


  The first big one that really got a kick from the Internet. Again, March. The year:1997. A comet was visible to the naked eye (Hale-Bopp comet) for 18 months. That was kinda neat. Some amateur astronomer spotted a companion object in the comet's tail. People on the internet took some surreal twist of logic to conclude it was a spaceship, and Earth was to be obliterated. The Heaven's Gate cult committed mass suicide because they thought the spaceship would take them to paradise if they left their bodies behind.

Hometown Pride!
  This one is my favorite. The town I grew up in, Farmington, Maine, was to become the "New Jerusalem". God had apparently said no one within the town lines would ever get sick again, and all ills would be healed. So glad God respects local regulations.

The original prophecy sign rented out.
  This woman, who happens to be a Quaker, claims to channel Christ through her body. She says she sleeps, and Christ takes over, giving her a prophecy, even a novel.

  Her original date of 06-06-06 came and went. The sign changed:

No caption needed.
  I really like this one, though. It's the only "End Times" prophecy that is remotely hopeful, and if you read what the woman wrote, she seems very sincere. Of course, the town will always be special to me. MY hometown.

Honerable mention:

  Honerable mention? Yep. There is no "Mayan Doomsday" prophecy. People were learning about the Mayan calendar, and posed a question as to why it ended on that date. Speculation from doomsday freaks or people writing books to get some quick cash decided to answer the question.

  Meanwhile, while people who actually did research realized the Mayan calendar counts backwards, and the date given is simply "New Year's Eve" by that calendar. It is also only one of five countdown calendars the Mayans used.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Space Travel: Where do we go from here?

"Where do we go from here
Now that all of the children are growing up?"
                                           -Alan Parsons Project "Games People Play"

I saw the shuttle liftoff for the first time when I was 6. Little did I know that it was the first shuttle liftoff. I'm at the age in which the shuttle has always been the way to get to space, And seeing old Apollo launches with more traditional rocket-shapes brings thoughts of old, bad sci-fi movies. In July, the last-ever shuttle launch and the end of an era is upon us.

 For years I was disappointed. People walking on the effing Moon were before my time. Why are we spending our time in orbit? Then came Hubble. My dreams weren't limited to seeing people on the moon, or on Mars, or even where people go entirely. The universe, and how much we can learn, and how amazing what we learn is, were the boundaries of my dreams.

 Hubble was a miserable failure. They went back to not only fix it, they made it better. We can now see the edge of the Universe. The beginning of all existence. The images weren't as pretty as our more local Nebulae, But the beauty of what it means to be seeing the edge of the Universe. People have an innate need to know Why am I here? along with other questions people like to write nonsense that sounds good for now about. Seeing remnants of the Big Bang, the singularity from which everything came, helped me understand hippies. I felt like I was at one with everything. That goes along way toward having an understanding of our place in things.

  Technology exploded. Things got smaller and more impressive, in part from things learned from all these experiments in space no one every bothers to know about. We can see smaller. We've got subatomic things on film, breaking laws like the speed of light and time travel. At a certain size, the laws of  physics break down, and new ones take over. You can be in two places at once. You can be doing different things at the same time. Things only become "real" when observed. This lead to even more bizarre erratic behavior when you go smaller. The smallest point of existence is a quantum string. These can vibrate 6 ways in our three perceivable dimensions, plus apparently 8 others. (11 dimensions). This lead to the edge of understanding the nature of existence, and it blows my mind:

  The basis of everything is tiny strings that vibrate in certain patters. Exactly like our musical notes. The universe, time-space, everything, is an amazingly intricate Symphony of incredibly epic proportions.

  Understanding how small we are didn't make me feel insignificant. Every moment of our existence is a note in a Symphony of nearly infinite complexity, and no one note is more or less significant than any other.

  Humans have really stepped it up for one of two things: Exploration and Competition. We've advanced tons just in my own lifetime as our world and our part in it change. As a species, we like to know more, to add to our own lot in things. We find more of what there is so that we in turn have more, or we compete with others over what's there. Wars, the ultimate competitions, force us to improve and adapt. Just as much of what we take advantage of in our lives is from military research as it is the space program. Competition and Exploration, respectively.

Where am I going with this?

  The next step in space has already started. The privatization of space travel and research. People taking what's there for research, and improving on what's there for efficiency, driving the cost down to where space travel can be sold as a commodity. SpaceX winning the first ever "Space Prize" made me realize that we are on the edge of something big. There is even competition. Two companies.

  Normally, I'm not rooting for "The Corporations" any more than I am "Tha Gummyment". The government can get things done on a big scale, but they are criminally inefficient. Big companies want big bucks. This leads to bad things, but I think only when they run out of ideas. Space is so huge, there is going to be no end to improvement and new research to out-do the other guy, as much as make their own products more accessible and profitable. That's a motivation that will force at least these guys to do for the consumer for a loooong time.

  I see SpaceX and Virgin Galactic one-upping each other on what their ships can do, and NASA continuing development of the space elevator. You heard me right, at least if you read out loud.

  Graphene is a super-strong, super-light, nano-engineered form of carbon. There is to be a platform in fixed orbit around Earth, attached to the ground by a material like graphene. There will be an elevator that can ride this tether all the way into space, cutting costs from thousands of dollars per pound to about $150. Launching to space from the orbiting platform will be much easier and cost-effective.

  There's a huge amount of what we don't know out there, it's amazing just to learn some of the stuff we never even realized we didn't know.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Powerful Dream.

My middle child, Campbell, taught me what it's like to love someone so much it hurts. Her smile and laugh make me believe in magic, and one can't help but feel happy when she does.

She was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, and as of yet cannot walk, or speak. She has, over the last year and a half, started having seizures. There is nothing more painful than watching her seize... She doesn't understand what is happening, and the look of fear on her face absolutely kills me.

She loves holding my hand. If she's napping, and wakes up scared and disoriented, she'll wrap her fingers around mine, and look at me for comfort. That I can do that for her makes me feel like Superman.

Recently, There have been breakthroughs in Rett Syndrome, including reversal of Rett Syndrome in lab mice. Human clinical trials are starting as I write this, and I'm chomping at the bit.

That's what you need to understand to get why this dream was so powerful.

I dreamt she had been accepted into the first phase of the trials, where all the children get the drug to see how well it's tolerated. In the dream she had been in the trial for three months, and was showing more control of her muscles. It was my turn to inject the drug. The needle was cartoonishly huge, and I had to inject it deep in her leg. It looked like it would go all the way through.

I winced as I drove the needle into her tiny little leg, expecting her to cry out in pain - I wanted to. She apparently understood the drug was helping her, so she made a little face at the initial injection, but gave me a huge, comforting smile.