What will you see here? Stuff. Probably worthless stuff. Maybe funny stuff. Maybe stuff that will make you mad, or make you think, or make you share it on social media...

Don't Go Here

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Half Full or Half Empty?


Attempting to categorize you as an optimist or pessimist, people often ask, "Are you a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty person?" 

I always say, it depends...I see it in terms of a process. If you're filling the glass, it's half full. If you're emptying it, it's half-empty. I suppose that makes me a pragmatist. 

But really, the pessimists have a point: they're never disappointed. Either things turn out poorly, and they're vindicated; or things turnout well, which is beneficial to the pessimist regardless. Glad to be right and glad to be wrong. But who wants to be gloomy all the time? 

As it turns out, I may have a practical answer to the glass question, but I tend to maintain a very positive disposition regarding the future. I am absolutely certain that everything will work out perfectly, eventually (<-key word).

But what if we asked a few famous folks the glass-half-full or glass-half-empty question What might they say?

  • Spock: It is not logical to debate the method of describing a glass with 50% of its volume occupied by water.
  • A Klingon: Water? I said bloodwine, you p'tahk!
  • Captain Kirk: There's...water...in...the glass.
  • Gollum: Precioussss. Will the glasseses leave a ring?
  • Darth Vader: Never underestimate the power of a glass of water. Join me in a glass of water, and together we can rule the galaxy!
  • Dumbledore: It's not the fact that you hold a partial glass of water in your hand, Harry; it's how you choose to wield that power. 
  • Federal government: I see you have some water there. I know where you got it. I know who you talked to about it. Give me a large percentage of that water!
  • Batman: It doesn't matter. This is the glass of water that Gotham needs.
  • Iron Man: Relax, ladies, there's plenty of water to go around...
  • Jack Bauer: It won't matter after I've drowned you in it. Now tell me what I need to know!
  • Barack Obama: Now, make no mistake, I didn't even know there was a glass of water until I heard it on the news. But let me be perfectly clear: this is the most transparent glass of water in history.
  • Indiana Jones: That glass of water belongs in a museum!
  • Hamlet: To drink the glass of water, or not to drink the glass of water...that is the question.
  • Elf: Does the glass of water have sugar in it? Then, YES!
  • Sherlock Holmes: Isn't it obvious? With that brain, how do you not simply die of thirst?
  • The Doctor: People assume that a glass of water is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... glassy-wassy... stuff. I mean, it wasn't even there yesterday, and it won't be there tomorrow. But to me, it was always and never there. Got any custard?

Feel free to add your own versions in the comments!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Go Ahead...Shop on Thanksgiving

No, really. I mean it. It's a (relatively) free country.

There's been a lot of bloviating nonsense floating around the web lately - people weeping and wailing and gnashing their childish little teeth about how wicked, evil, unAmerican and downright "godless" you are if you decide to pick up a few gifts on November 27th this year. While I appreciate the great deference being paid to my dear wife's birthday, I think the dramatic concern over who shops and how many people shop on Turkey Day is more than a little over the top.

Take, for instance, Matt Walsh, whose writing I appreciate and who I normally find remarkably reasonable and well-centered. A man grounded in common sense and dedicated to the balanced principles of political liberty and personal moral decency.

Well, today he's having a hyperventilating cow over this whole "Black Thanksgiving" thing. I  mean, yeah, as the king of online hyperbole, you might expect him to get his panties in a knot over...well, just about anything. But he (albeit hyperbolically) is suggesting that Thanksgiving shoppers be deported and that it's somehow morally wrong to hit the sales (and/or provide the sales) on that oh-so sacred day.

Well, Matt, thanks for taking the moral high ground and judging me for wanting to save some of my hard-earned money as I try to make life a little nicer for my family.

Sure, Thanksgiving is great - get together with lots of family (which is so super-fun for an introvert), eat way too much food, and if you like sportsing, I suppose there are some kind of sports things or other occurring on that day, too. Oh yeah, and be thankful.

Because, you know, it's important to remember all with which you have been blessed, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude during 1/365th of the year, while being sure that you don't commit the unforgivable sin of SHOPPING!

Look, there's no commandment against transacting purchases on certain national holidays. Maybe Matt Walsh should be sparing all his righteous indignation for those who break the Sabbath. Or, maybe, he and others like him should just chill out and worry about what goes on in their own home on Thanksgiving.

As for those sniveling about those evil companies that are forcing people to work on that blessed Thursday...let me call the wahmbulance. Which I actually can do, because emergency services are among the MANY different occupations that work every day of the year, regardless of whether or not you think it should be a day reserved for stuffing your thankful face with turkey, mashed potatoes. and pie. For example, working in TV news throughout the '90s, I worked every single holiday (Christmas and Easter included) every year.

The world won't come to a grinding halt on Thanksgiving (no hospitals, no police, no gas stations, no TV programming, no sportsing, no electrical power - all operations that require people to work), nor should it. That goes for retail, too. And if I want to escape my over-crowded house and save a couple hundred dollars on a TV that day, I AM THANKFUL that I live in the greatest nation on earth and can do so if I choose.

Right after I eat my pie.





Thursday, October 30, 2014

BOO! to Halloween


Well, it's that time of year...time for me to be a Scrooge again. Yes, this rant will be very unpopular among a great many of you, to which I say...BAH HUMBUG!

That's right, I am NOT a fan of Halloween. I hate it. In fact, I would be perfectly happy if it went away and never came back. Wouldn't miss it at all. I would be quite content in a world devoid of this stupid "holiday."

To give you an idea of how I feel about Halloween - I like it even less than St. Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day, and you probably already know how little I appreciate those traditions. (Valentine's is irrelevant to me because I don't recognize the saints of other religions, plus it's 8 days before my Engagement Anniversary, which distracts from that truly romantic occasion; and Patrick's because I don't recognize the saints of other religions, and find it stupid that the color of your attire on that day suddenly makes bullying activities acceptable. Silly, nonsensical fabricated holidays.)

Anyway...Halloween. Aside from being pointless, and yet another day tied to religious observances that are irrelevant to me (All Saint's Day, Nov. 1st), I have specific issues with the tradition.

To wit; I see no value in celebrating the macabre. 

In a world of ever-decreasing light, why focus on and exult in the darkness? I am not perfect in this, but I do at least try to bring as much light into my life as possible. I have no desire to invite darkness into my realm. I see zero value in reveling in sick, twisted, disgusting, spooky, creepy, evil stuff. No, thanks. Don't want it; don't need it. Got no place for it in my mortal journey.

I am not a fan of horror movies, find no joy in blood and gore, do not find traumatic injuries funny, derive no pleasure from sorcery, black magic, or the occult. I would rather work on assisting my kindred dead (through temple work) than making a mockery of them by fooling around with "ghosts" and goblins, ghouls and specters. As a fiction writer, I can appreciate choosing to not live in the real world, but some things are too important to mess around with. There's a time and a place for everything, and I can think of no appropriate time or place for trifling with the sacred.

I cannot fathom why anybody would like Halloween: its promotion of darkness, its making a joke of dismemberment and murder, its focus on demons and wickedness - there is nothing redeeming about it to me whatsoever.

And the whole idea of sending our kids around the neighborhood to collect candy, while handing out treats to those who come knocking? Pointless. As much as I love fall, October 31 is the one blight on the season.

And to those who complain that early Christmas displays are crowding out Halloween? Please. If you're seriously offended that a zombie display is being encroached upon by the Savior of the world, that's indicative of some misplaced priorities, in my opinion. I'd rather celebrate Christmas year-round, personally.

The only reason I continue to observe Halloween at all is for my boy. I mean, who wants their kid to be "the one with the weird parents who don't let him celebrate Halloween"? Yes, that's right, I succumb to vicarious peer pressure - there's something to celebrate. But in our family, we at least stick to costumes of fun characters, and avoid the disgusting stuff. We don't need blood, guts, murder, or Satanic spirits at our home. Star Wars, Minecraft, etc. will have to do. And yes, we still give out candy. *eyeroll* Once the kids are grown, I'm moving to the country and turning off the porch light on October 31 each year.

But don't let my attitude put a dent in your fun. Go...have at it...celebrate the stupid macabre. Just know that I do not understand it.

I'm a fun guy. I like to laugh and be merry. That doesn't mean I have to like every foolish tradition that comes my way.

And Halloween is one foolish tradition that I most certainly do NOT like.


[NOTE: I selected the Ghostbusters logo for this post because it represents my sentiment of "NO GHOSTS" - as for the movie itself, it did have its funny moments, for sure...an 80s classic...but I consider it much more of a comedy than a horror film. Still, given the themes, and the limits on my time, I am uncertain whether I will ever bother to watch it again.]

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fallacious Arguments

Okay, time for what will likely be considered a "controversial" post. Note: this is not an argument for or against homosexual relationships, it is just me pointing out a really bad argument.

I am sick of the false analogy that is constantly trotted out by those who think homosexual products and/or services should be required to be provided by all businesses: they say it's the same thing as denying a black person a seat at your lunch counter.

Um...no.

For a host of reasons. But I'll only focus on one here.

The key problem is the conflation of patrons with products. It is a failure of reasoning to confuse a product with the person who wants the product - and that's why it is a mistake to say that people are "refusing to serve homosexuals" when all they are doing is refusing to create products and/or services that homosexuals demand.

If a black couple wants to sit at my lunch counter to share a ham sandwich, they are not demanding I give them a "black seat" and serve them a "black sandwich." They want the same exact thing that everyone else is getting - stuff that is available on my menu for all patrons. To tell them they can't have it because they are black would be wrong (and illegal).

If a homosexual couple wants to sit at my lunch counter to share a ham sandwich...no problem - they want the exact same thing that everyone else is getting - stuff that is available on my menu for all patrons. To tell them they can't have it because they are homosexual (which I probably wouldn't even know anyway - shouldn't what people do in their bedrooms be their own business?) would be wrong (and illegal).

HOWEVER...if this homosexual couple wants me to create a double-pickle sandwich smothered in fudge - a product I don't make - I'm free to tell them they'll need to go elsewhere to get what they want. NO DISCRIMINATION HAS TAKEN PLACE! I'd tell a heterosexual couple the same thing!

Likewise, a homosexual couple demanding that you bake them a cake with two male cake toppers, or offer your services in officiating over their form of "wedding," is demanding things of you that you do not give to anyone else, and they'll have to go elsewhere to get it. This is not discrimination!

Further, if a homosexual man wants to marry a woman and receive those associated products and services, I doubt there would be a business in the land that would turn them away - because the customer is only asking for the same exact thing afforded other customers...and because the business owner was never discriminating against the customer to begin with, only refusing to provide a product or service that is not on the menu.

The business owner is not within his rights to say, "Sorry, I don't serve homosexuals." But he is entirely within his rights to say, "Sorry, I don't offer that particular product or service."

Unlike the utterly fallacious analogy of the refusal to serve black people lunch, here's an analogy that DOES work: businesses aren't allowed to refuse to serve someone because they are handicapped, but business are not required to sell wheelchairs. That would be absurd...just like these homosexuals demanding that businesses offer the products and services that they want, and (what's worse) trying to get the government to force the businesses to do so under the heinous guise of anti-discrimination laws.

It's time they gave up on this annoying and fallacious argument.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Keep Your Laws Off My Donuts

...or, "Big Government, Big Data, Healthcare, and You."

A news item from one of the many sources these days that provide really terrible journalism and writing, Bloomberg News, discusses how certain aspects of ObamaCare are resulting in hospital systems using consumer data to target individuals for proactive health management...to wit, the idea is that if your data shows you buy donuts every day, you'll end up getting a scolding call from your doctor.

Poor journalism notwithstanding, the article raises some interesting points that inspire contemplation of what the future may hold in this brave new world of big technology, big data, and big government.

The story of this story really starts before the story. That is, the foundation for where we are going was laid in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (you know, one of those crazy huge "stimulus" spending bills). ARRA contained among its plethora of pages (in Title XIII) something called the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act - oh, they are so clever, aren't they?). Part of that act (called "Meaningful Use") basically requires medical folks to switch over all their record keeping to what's called an EHR (electronic health record), and incentivizes that conversion with tax dollars (as well as penalizing non-compliance). Seems pretty innocuous, right? I mean, I'm all for going paperless in all businesses. Who isn't?

I work for a large and successful healthcare system comprising about two dozen hospitals, 180+ clinics, and a health insurance company - and this non-profit system is internationally known as a model for delivering the best care at the lowest cost. As part of "meaningful use" compliance, we have in place a program called "Shared Accountability," which basically means that people are encouraged to live in healthy ways as a preventative measure. Under ObamaCare, the fee-for-service model is changing such that it is better for hospitals and doctors to NOT have to see patients - which means trying to help them be healthy in preventative ways.

Again, that all sounds great - why not reduce costs and utilization by just keeping people healthy, rather than waiting until they are really sick to treat them?

But...as with pretty much everything in this world, there are always two forms of counterbalance to a decent idea: unintended consequences (that is, accidental bad results) and deliberate abuse (intentional bad results).

Possibly falling under the latter is this idea of doctors checking up on your lifestyle - a result of combining the data-juggernaut EHR of "meaningful use" and the busybody good intentions of "Shared Accountability." When it's in the best financial interest of your medical professional to butt into your personal life...there is suddenly a potential for conflicts of interest (that is, the interests of public health and doctors' livelihoods with the interests of personal freedom and privacy).

A couple of random thoughts on this whole idea:

First, let's remember that all of this - ALL OF IT - is the result of the government getting involved in things which it really has no Constitutional business being involved in (dubious SCOTUS rulings notwithstanding).

Second, it's easy to imagine a number of slippery-slopes resulting from this. With the government holding the purse strings of your healthcare, you can be coerced into behaviors "for the collective good," a situation that is antithetical to the philosophies of liberty on which this nation was founded. That's a fancy way of saying, "Dagnabbit, I got the God-given right as an Amurrican to eat as much bacon as I dang-well please!"

And whether that is a healthy idea or not, it is, fundamentally, true. And that truth is important, because you may not like bacon (weirdo!), but maybe you like something else that the government deems an unacceptable risk for the collective. The question eventually becomes, "where do we draw the line?" And the answer will inevitably be, "somewhere WAY back there...but it's too late now, because we relinquished the right to draw lines WAY back there."

Third, more slippery slope, in the form of "deliberate abuse" of a good idea: with all the data available on you, and all the power that knowledge gives to others who have access to that data, what's to stop someone with such power from controlling you in unrelated ways, such as for political or other ideological purposes? Well, nothing but their good intentions. (Heaven help us!)

Finally, the idea that a healthcare professional might call you up because you buy donuts every day is pretty ludicrous, given the fact that there's no way (yet) to know who is consuming what. If my wife buys me donuts each day, why should she get a call, when she's perfectly healthy? So, if they want this to work, they're really going to need to get more data. Not that that's out of the question...thank you NSA!



Monday, June 2, 2014

What Kind Are You?

What kind of tree are you?
Which color of the rainbow are you?
What kind of dog are you?
Which Family Ties cast member are you?
Which 1980's fad toy are you?
What is your special gift?
Which body part are you?
Which Gilligan's Island character are you?
Which mental disorder are you?

Seriously, I have actually seen that last one on Facebook. And some of the other ones.

What I don't understand is why anyone would waste their time with such useless pursuits? These "personality quizzes" are built with all the scientific rigor of a horoscope, with results that are equally as malleable and just as useless to your life.

Letting a crudely-programmed algorithm categorize you has to be one of the silliest things you can do on the internet, when there is so much useful information available instead. Yes, yes, it's just entertainment. But it's stupid entertainment.

I know, I know, I am such a Scroogy McBuzzkill. I know, because I took the "Which Dickens character are you?" quiz...


P.S. No offense to anyone who likes these quizzes...they're just not for me. Life is too short. :)

Monday, May 12, 2014

There Oughtta Be a Law...

NO THERE SHOULDN'T!

We do NOT need more laws...especially not dumb ones, unclear ones, ineffective ones, senseless ones, or ones that erode our liberty and lead us down the slippery slope to a police state.

And the new Utah "distracted driving" law that takes effect tomorrow is all of the above, and worse.

You can read about it in this horribly-written Deseret News article.

[Side note: what is the deal with the Deseret News? Their journalism standards have taken a precipitous nosedive lately. Not only do they constantly push an annoying agenda that matches the likes of CNN, MSNBC, and the NYT, but it seems that most of their articles are now being written by barely-literate college interns. Case in point: the linked article contains contradictory information, a lousy interview, zero opposing viewpoint, and several misspellings (such as "your" instead of "you're" twice). Maybe there's some connection between the new editorial slant and the infantile grammar - after all, we know what kinds of citizens academia is cranking out these days...]

Anyway...as I was saying.

Here are a few reasons the new law is atrocious:

1) If you're going to enact a totalitarian, liberty-eradicating, nanny-state law - at least do it right. This law allows a host of activities that are equally as "dangerous" as the ones it ostensibly prohibits. If you want to really clamp down on freedom with an iron fist of tyranny, why not just outlaw any and all use of mobile devices in vehicles? [Note: I am in no way suggesting that is the right thing to do, only that it makes more sense than this law if you really do want to *try* to control people.]

2) All of the activities (allowed and disallowed) by this law look exactly the same to any observer (especially those who will be enforcing the law). Thus, you can be certain that, as a result of this stupid law, you will be pulled over for doing absolutely nothing wrong or illegal.

3) How does that play out? Let's say you're using your phone and you get pulled over. The officer will ask you what you were doing on your phone.

     A) You were using GPS - which is still legal - and you tell him that. The officer either has to believe you and send you on your way (no doubt with a huge apology for wasting your time - NOT!), or he calls you a liar and confiscates your cell phone as evidence under probable cause jurisprudence. Now you have 4th and 5th Amendment issues.

     B) You were in fact texting (shock, horror!) but you decide to lie and say you were using GPS. The officer either has to believe you and send you on your way, or call you a liar and confiscate your cell phone as evidence under probable cause jurisprudence. Now you have 4th and 5th Amendment issues.

Hmm. Can you spot the difference? Didn't think so. Now, simply having a cell phone with you, and using it in any manner, will have the de facto result of ticketing and/or confiscation (or the unlikely opposite of no enforcement at all). Or some random combination of the two that has nothing to do with consistency, law, order, safety or liberty.

4) This law is legislative overkill if ever there was such a thing. It addresses a virtually non-existent problem that has been hyped to the extreme by people with an agenda who care nothing for facts.

Let's take a look at the facts, shall we?

Here's a look at the causes of crashes in Utah:

     Property damage only, or "PDO" crashes:
     Caused by texting = 0.0006% (23 total)
     Caused by cell phone (other) = 1.2%

     Injury crashes:
     Caused by texting = 0.0008% (14 total)
     Caused by cell phone (other) = 1.7%

     Fatal crashes:
     Caused by texting = 0.01% (2 total)
     Caused by cell phone (other) = 1.5%

     All data for 2012, from the Utah Department of Public Safety.

That's correct: other causes unrelated to the use of mobile devices account for 98.6% of all of the 50,600 crashes in 2012. Take note: 99.9992% of accidents are NOT caused by texting. The "problem" this law addresses is not a problem. It's barely a statistical blip on the radar. Facts matter.

Put it another way: of all distraction-related crashes, cell phone use accounts for only 5.0% of those "distracted driving" crashes, with texting specifically only accounting for 0.36% - that is less than one percent - of ALL the distracted-driving crashes. This means that other passengers, the radio, eating, applying makeup, etc. - all massively outnumber texting or other cell phone use as a cause of distracted driving crashes. For example, the radio causes 8.3 times more distracted driving accidents than does texting. Where's the outrage? Why no bans on radio use in the car?

I've not been involved in a reportable traffic accident in over 28 years of driving. Do I use my cell phone on the road? Of course I do. Responsible drivers, those who know their abilities and limits, and who are doing nothing wrong, should not be penalized by this ridiculous law. This law will not do anything to increase road safety, because cell phones and texting are not the problem.

However, what this law will accomplish is getting everyone used to the idea that there's "nothing wrong" with regularly pulling over and harassing law-abiding citizens, on the pretense of "public safety."

It's another brainless baby-step toward tyranny and I do not like it. Playing on fears of a non-existent epidemic in order to impose Draconian restrictions on the citizenry is not the job of our lawmakers. Shame on you, Utah legislature.


UPDATE: In fairness to those who represent me...in the House, Rep. Curt Oda did vote against this law, and in the Senate, Sen. Jerry Stevenson did not vote (absent). So, I have no one to whom I can complain. But to the rest of the legislature: I am disgusted.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

ST vs SW


With lots of news percolating regarding the new Star Wars movie (slated to open 12/18/2015), I thought I might delve briefly into the whole Star Trek - Star Wars phenomeon.

In my experience, there has been a long and storied history of antagonism between Trekkies and Warsies (or whatever they're called). 

For my own part, having seen the Star Wars movies, I always appreciated SW as a good fantasy tale with endearing characters and a nicely-constructed universe with sweeping themes of the great Manichean dichotomy. That said, I never really "got into it" to the level of frequent rewatches of the films, or reading the books or comics, playing the games or collecting the paraphernalia. I was satisfied, for years, to simply "like" Star Wars. I knew the original trilogy by heart, but that was about it.

I did, however, consider myself a true Trekkie/Trekker (let us just use "Trekkie" and forego the definition debate inherent in those two labels). I watched TOS in syndication in the 70s, and I liked it then, even as a young kid. I saw the ST movies in the 80s and liked them. When TNG started, I was skeptical and did not jump on the bandwagon; in fact, I didn't even watch it until about the fifth season, when I started watching it in syndication. I quickly grew to love it, and devoured all the episodes I could get my eyes on. I remember watching the final episode ("All Good Things...") as it aired - it was a real "event." I also watched DS9 largely as it aired, and VOY and ENT, too. I was pretty devastated when ENT ended and there was no new Trek on the air for the first time in close to 20 years. I have rewatched all the movies and every series multiple times. Also, in 2001, I started reading the novels, and read 54 Star Trek books over the following five years, and loved them. I even wrote stories in that universe (my first ever novel was a Star Trek book - that was before I knew how publishing works and that you can't sell fanfic in the Trek universe unless you like being sued). For the last three ST films, my wife and I have hosted a party and been there opening night. I have lots of ST related t-shirts and memorabilia, even some games. I went to the Star Trek Experience in Vegas on my honeymoon, and have dressed in ST attire for Halloween. I have an unfathomably vast amount of trivial ST knowledge taking up valuable storage capacity in my brain. For that which won't fit in my head, I have Memory Alpha in my browser bookmarks. So, yeah, I am a Trekkie. I appreciate the great, thought-provoking storytelling. I love the characters and the relationships among them. The writing and acting is often superb - top-notch fiction. Great standalone stories and engaging longer plot arcs. Amazing character development. Lots to contemplate and ponder. Good humor, and deep emotional impact. Love it.

But...

When my (now 8.5 year old) son got into Star Wars a couple of years ago, I found it to be a better fit family-wise. The themes of good-and-evil are pretty straightforward, with little of the secular humanist nuance found in ST. I think that kids more naturally understand and enjoy the basic fairy-tale approach to storytelling found in the SW universe, where the bad guy wears black and sounds all breathy and sinister. Now, I don't mean to oversimplify the fiction found in SW, because it also encompasses some great nuance and more complicated thematic elements - especially if you watch the Clone Wars series with its intricate political maneuverings, or consider the basic character concept of Han Solo, a criminal-turned-hero. But what a great story of redemption (albeit deathbed repentance) we see with Anakin's story arc. Yes, he spent a couple of decades being a mass murderer, but the point is, people can change! In SW, we learn the importance of faith (believing in things we can't see or scientifically explain/quantify), such as the Force (ignoring, for the moment, Lucas' awful midi-chlorian retcon). In ST, faith is always given short shrift and explained away by the "enlightened" secular humanists (with the quasi-exception of the Bajorans' faith in the Prophets - a.k.a. "wormhole aliens"). SW is built on "the hero's quest" story foundation, which is an important structure for kids to understand because so much of great Western literature is based on that structure, which is, of course, based on the concept of Christ.

I've heard my boy quoting certain "Jedi" moral lessons he's learned while watching the Clone Wars...I have a hard time imagining him gleaning such wisdom from the world of Star Trek. 

Some have criticized Star Wars as not being very believable, with story issues and muppet-like aliens, but all fiction has plot holes and such, and SW is no different. Meanwhile, how many times has ST used ridiculous story tropes (holodeck-goes-haywire, anyone?) or deus ex machina denouements in order to wrap up a story in the required 44 minutes? And yes, I just mixed Latin with French. I do that sometimes.

Both universes are deep and rich (especially if you include the now-non-canonical EU)...but somehow, for me, ST just feels kind of cold compared to SW. Of course, comparing a sci-fi show to a fantasy show is problematic on its face, and is likely the root of most of the tension between the two fandoms. There really is no need for such a rivalry between them, when you get right down to it, because it's apples and oranges: why not just enjoy each for what it is? They serve different purposes. Star Trek offers up insights into scientific mysteries in a somewhat sterile universe where we can contemplate the meaning of personhood, sentience, individuality, and other deep philosophical questions confronting dozens of species that are mostly differentiated by various forehead ridges. Star Wars allows us to observe a grittier, messier universe filled with odd creatures who are almost all aware of the mystical Force and must choose sides between the darkness and the light. Both franchises provide an examination of war, politics, relationships, loyalty, courage, humor, and family. Plenty to enjoy for everyone, in different ways.

And now that my son has got me more interested in SW, I own some Star Wars t-shirts, and have been to the official con (Celebration 6). So you could say my conversion to the Dark Side is complete! (Though I still love Trek!)

I'm so complicated.

Either way, I am looking forward to new movies in both universes! Which is YOUR favorite, and why?

</end geekiness, for now>


Monday, April 14, 2014

Heartbleed

I suppose you've heard about the latest and greatest internet hack.

“Heartbleed”? Who comes up with these virus names, anyway?* The Bad Guys need a better marketing department… perhaps something like “Web of Doom” or “ElectroKill” or “Password Pilferer” or "End Game” would be more menacing. And marketable. Or maybe even...AssassinWare.

And, don’t you think that if you had the computer programming chops to be able to exploit the vulnerabilities of a half million websites, including many bank and financial sites, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Dropbox, Twitter, Yahoo and Tumblr, that you’d be able to use that genius to make much more money as a legit IT guru than you could ever hope to steal via some virus?

And are virus dudes the most successful criminals EVER? I mean, who has ever heard of one of these guys getting caught? Are there virus dudes sitting in virus jail somewhere? Or did they all escape after exploiting the holes in the prison’s security system?

What’s the low-down on hackers, anyway? I think they belong in the same sociopathic category as vandals, graffiti "artists," and people who throw broken glass onto the bike path near my house (I hate that!). Oh, and those miserable subhuman scum who stick razor blades on playground equipment, or poison Halloween candy. Sick people, all of them.

Heartbleed. *smh*

Gotta go change my passwords now...idiots.

*I know, I know, Codenomicon named the virus. Still.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bubblicious

Back when I was a kid, and still liked gum, I preferred Hubba Bubba over Bubblicious. My eyes would zero in on that brand at the grocery store, because that's what I liked. Now, computers can do the zeroing in for us, placing us in our own custom-crafted information bubble.

I recently read this interesting article about the way the web (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, etc.) use automated algorithms to filter what we see, based on our personal web use history. This is nothing we didn't already know - we've all seen how well Amazon shows us suggestions based on other stuff we've bought (or even looked at).


Although the retailer algorithms can be handy, we have also all seen how they can be stupid. For example, last week I searched pretty extensively for a new backpack for work - a purchase my employer would eventually make on my behalf. For many days after, I kept seeing ads for backpacks, even though I had never intended to make the purchase myself, and even though I already had a new backpack now. Obviously, automation has its flaws.


But, as the above-linked article (and the embedded TED Talk at that link) suggest, the flaws of a personalized web go far beyond mere retail annoyances. The customized internet experience actually has a perspective-narrowing effect, and may in fact cause us to be more polarized because we exist in more and more of a philosophical echo-chamber.


This is also something I have noticed as I've perused my Facebook feed, as I am in the habit of paying attention to trends and consciously seeking out opposing viewpoints. I call it competitor research. I need to know what kind of crazy things the opposition is saying, just to get a better contextual analysis of the big picture. I'm not afraid of hearing their ridiculous opinions, even if they are often so aggravating. It's useful information, for the most part, and I want to at least have the option to be exposed to it.


That's something I've noticed about my Twitter feed - I intentionally have a much more diverse set of people I follow there than I do on Facebook. It's easier to take the drivel in 140-character chunks, I guess. And Twitter seems so much more impersonal. I can lurk a-plenty without engaging very much (at least, that's the way I use it...YMMV).


That said, I endorse the general tenor of the link above, with the following minor disagreement: the author laments the decline of TV news viewership and newspaper readership, while I applaud it. Google "spoon-feeding" me personalized results is preferable to being spoon-fed a bunch of crap from a handful of MSM sources. At least with the web, I can still find opposing viewpoints if I search hard enough. Not so much the case with the legacy media.


Anyway, I find this all very interesting, and in some ways, a little scary for those not paying attention to the big picture. After all, ones and zeros cannot think, and should not be given free-reign to do all our thinking for us. Nor should the programmers behind those ones and zeroes, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be.









Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The 7 Most Annoying Blog Post Features Ever

Have you noticed how many blog posts these days have a click-bait headline that fails to deliver? There's always some number of incredible things that will help you succeed at something or other. It's usually 14 shocking things, or 22 amazing pictures, or perhaps even "17 videos banned from the internet" - whatever that means. It may be a series of images that are promised to be the funniest thing you have ever seen, or be guaranteed to give you "all the feels." They might be 16 essential do's or 9 absolute don'ts. Perhaps it's the 25 best this or the 20 worst thats. And so often, the list is somewhat lame, or woefully incomplete.

Well, this list is not full of shocking facts, nor is it complete, and you are certain to be able to live without it. It won't change your life, get you a better job, or even get you more "likes." But this list does contain some of the most annoying blog post features around:

1) A headline that fails to deliver on its promise. As I said above, nobody likes to be oversold and under-delivered to. After a while, people will get fed up with your crying wolf and stop linking to your pathetic waste of time blog posts (I'm looking at you, LinkedIn community). Tell them what they'll get; be honest about it. If the content can't stand on its own without an overblown, fake, hyped-up headline, maybe it's not really worth posting about. Yeah, I know, you have a quota. But you can do better than that. Isn't that what makes blogging cooler than the MSM?

2) Stating the obvious. So many of these hyped-up blog posts just end up telling you what you already knew. With the incredible glut of information readily available these days, why add to all that noise? Before you post, think about it: does my blog post really contribute in a unique and meaningful way to the topic, or am I just posting to add my voice to the chorus because I like my own voice?

3) Stating the obvious in a boring way. Okay, fine, so maybe your content has been said before, and maybe it is common sense, but maybe your particular audience if full of young, innocent, naive noobs who could actually benefit from your not-so profound wisdom. Great. At least say it in an interesting way. Rehashing old knowledge in a dull way is a great way to make people regret clicking on your miserable link and wasting their precious six minutes. And it's a great way to ensure you don't get your blog post shared.

4) Offering a list of 30 things that require you to click through 30 pages. These slide show things that make the page reload every time you advance to the next slide make me want to claw at the screen like a rabid animal. I don't care that your advertisers want to get on the refresh rotation with every item on your list. Stop it! I do not have the time or the patience for it. Give me everything upfront on the same page, or forget it.

5) Ads with audio and pop-ups. If I open your page, and some little video on the side bar starts automatically playing, with sound, it's unlikely I will bother reading your blog post. Same goes for pop-ups. I didn't open your site to get assaulted with an audio-visual message; I came to read. Knock it off with the intrusive ads. I get that you need revenue; do it without attacking me, please.

6) Unexpected profanity. How many times have I happily started reading a blog post, only to be suddenly hit with f-bombs and the like? Yes, I understand you have a grown-up vocabulary and you like to use all of the words in it, because you're so tough and sophisticated and enlightened. Fine. But how about an up-front warning? In a world where we are kind enough to post spoiler alerts and MPAA ratings and "explicit content" labels, can't we have the decency to let someone know what kind of language they're in for if they keep reading your blog post? Despite your fashionable worldview, there are still many, many people who do not appreciate vulgarity. Giving a heads up is just good etiquette.

7) What would you add to this list? (See what I did there?)