Virtual Monopoly

2 May

Over the years Facebook has come in for a fair amount of stick over its privacy policies and settings. Some of it with a certain amount of justification, some not so much.

To me, one of the real problems with Facebook’s privacy settings isn’t one that people would necessarily think of. It speaks to the ways in which people interact with their friends on Facebook and the tools they use to do so.

In your Privacy Settings, under “Apps”, you have a series of check boxes for “Apps others use”.

According to Facebook (quoted on May 2, 2013, in case it changes in the future) “People on Facebook who can see your info can bring it with them when they use apps. This makes their experience better and more social. Use the settings below to control the categories of information that people can bring with them when they use apps, games and websites.”

I understand that people may want to be careful what they let their “friends” see but an unhappy side-effect of this is that locking down the above setting means that your information only shows up on the Facebook website and the official apps. No-one can see what you post if they’re using a social network aggregator like Hoot Suite, or if they’re using a third-party mobile app like Friendcaster. This a pain. At least it is for some of us. The Facebook android app has got better over the years but I still don’t necessarily like to have to use it to make sure that I don’t miss something important. Similarly, I’d be happy enough to be able to keep up with what everyone is posting without needing to go to facebook.com.

Yes, be careful what you let people see on Facebook but let’s not be overcareful. This option ties people into Facebook, creating a virtual monopoly (pun intended).

Where did the Hollywood monsters go?

14 Feb
Still from Nosferatu

Don’t panic! He’s only delivering a box of Milk Tray.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, vampires were widely believed to look like this, or this, or even this. Far from being nice, they were the kind of creatures you would not wish to bump into in a dark alley, and you certainly wouldn’t have wanted to wake up to discover one had crept into your bedroom because he wished to be your boyfriend. Then a few years ago, someone decided it would be far better if, instead of being amoral, bloodsucking creatures of the night, vampires were emos, who sparkled – how scary is that?! Okay, not very.

I have learnt to live with this. If Hollywood had decided vampires should be about as scary as an English Lit. student with a bad case of unrequited love, that was okay, because in other parts of the world film makers were producing such films as Let the Right One In, which is both touching and disturbing. Meanwhile, television (surprisingly) does a great job of supplying more traditional horror options*. But now, this apparent quest to make completely non-menacing movie monsters has gone a step further.

Warm Bodies is a love story about the relationship between a zombie and a living person. Yes, that’s right: a zombie who wants to win your heart not eat your brains. Bless. The film has a pretty good rating on the IMDB, maybe it’s great. I don’t know. I won’t be watching because it’s just wronger than a very wrong thing indeed. This is a zombie, would you want to snog him?

What’s next? A werewolf film that features a character who, every full moon, turns into a cocker spaniel who sits in front of the fire licking his bum? And who might be a bit grouchy, but wouldn’t dream of ripping anyone’s throat out ’cause he prefers cuddles. Or a film about a poltergeist who does the housework, and organises the home owner’s book collection according to the Dewey Decimal System?

While I appreciate the idea of subverting a genre – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman do this brilliantly in Good Omens –  it is annoying that this is being done at the expense of more serious films that would appeal to genuine horror fans. Of course, those more serious films are being made, just no longer in Hollywood, which is sad because the horror film industry there was once vibrant and ground-breaking. However, now it seems to be focussing on horror for people who don’t actually like horror, and would really prefer a nice rom-com starring Jennifer Aniston. Maybe, that will be next on the agenda: a funny, heart-warming movie starring Jenn as a succubus who just wants to find Mr Right …

* I mean, Being Human’s Mitchell versus Sparkly Twilight Boy? There is only going to be one winner. No?

Space Ritual

12 Feb

I’m not a great lover of Apple products. To me, they’re an over-priced triumph of style over function. Now, I appreciate that not everyone shares that view and they’re entirely entitled to their opinion. You can’t knock that kind of success, right?

Bearing that in mind, I was surprised that a recent announcement from the Cupertino Kids caught my eye. In fact it made me very happy. Having started this waffle off by saying that I’m not an Apple fan I have to admit that I own an iPod. The iPod Classic. No, I didn’t buy it, it was bought for me as a gift and the fact that the most efficient way to manage music on it is through iTunes causes me great pain. You try iTunes for Windows – it’s a horrible piece of software. Anyway.

The great thing that the iPod Classic has going for it is the amount of storage space it has – 160GB on the model I own. It’s about 3/4 full, all music, and has just over 14,000 songs on. When you consider that this includes 30 or 40 minute versions of things like Space Truckin’ and No Quarter (Google them if you don’t know them!) then that’s a lot of vibes, man. An entire music collection that 30 years ago would’ve taken a small room to hold, stored on something that’s about the size of a pack of 20 cigarettes. Do I need to carry 14,000 songs around with me? Am I going to listen to all of them before I get back home again? Obviously not. Don’t be silly. The point here is about choice. I don’t want to sit at home in the evening and load songs onto a low-capacity player, only to get onto a bus the next day and find that I fancy listening to something that’s not on there. If I own music ranging from Abba and Bach to Yost and ZZ Top why should I have to pick and choose in advance?

I hear you – “Spotify“, you cry. “Grooveshark“, said someone. There’s more than a few people there with Amazon Cloud Player placards as well. You can keep ‘em. Cloud storage is all very well but it presupposes that I have constant access to some kind of internet connection and that if it’s not a Wifi network that I have a device with a truly unlimited data plan. That’s not always practical, possible or desirable. Internal storage. That’s what I want. Space.

Which brings me back to Apple and my iPod. If you’re looking for a high-capacity media player then your choices are limited. Just check. Go on, do some research. See? The iPod Classic is pretty much your only choice if you want to carry a shitload of music around with you. Fine, so I like that my iPod has deep pockets. The trend recently has been to the cloud. This is why I was so pleased to read that Apple has announced a 128GB version of the fourth generation iPad. Am I going to buy one? Hell, no. I wouldn’t want any kind of tablet computer. My point is that if a major player like Apple (and I’ll concede that that’s what they are) are launching a version of one of their flagship devices with that amount of onboard storage then there’s a fair chance that some of the others might just tag along. There’s a market there, clearly. It ain’t only me!

So, on this occasion, yay for Apple. Now someone bring out a 128gb micro-sd card that’ll go in my phone and I’ll be laughing.

Bipedal Universe?

16 Apr

I love sci-fi.  I am not a total sci-fi geek, but pretty darn close. The idea that maybe we are not alone in the universe is an intriguing topic. I used to think that it was completely idiotic that in most sci-fi movies and programs that all, or most, of the aliens were bipedal and have  2 arms, eyes, etc. In other words, they looked relatively human. However, now that I think about it, it makes sense. Let me explain.

I had this discussion with The Boyfriend while we were watching Farscape …again… (love that show). We started discussing how we were tired of seeing human looking aliens, then it hit me—duh, if the missing link in our evolution came from the sky then this would totally make sense. Let’s take this from different points of view, shall we?

If we look at it from the stand point that an all powerful being created the universe and all that is in it; that we come from said all powerful being, then we are alone as the bible makes no mention of extra-terrestrial life and we know that everything in the bible is true  :-/   Also, the idea that others are out there defeats the idea that we are unique. “God” created us in his image…US, not them. If we believe this, then we are alone.

If we believe that we crawled out of the primordial fluids and evolved then this also makes us pretty unique. The right circumstances created us. After watching one too many Discovery Channel programmes on “our universe”, I have learned that our planet is in the the right zone, the right placement in the orbit around our sun to create “life”. One little placement either left or right means no life. One little tilt on our axis either way, no life. The odds of this happening again? Well, have you heard about other planets being found in “the right zone” and life being found on them? yeah….

However, if we believe that the missing link to us evolving from ape to man was alien (which is a theory), then this could have ramifications beyond this planet. This could mean that we are, in fact, not alone. This could also explain all the  sci-fi creators’ lack of imagination . Granted not all aliens would look exactly like us.  Differences in  skin colour, eye colour, fingers, height, even tentacles could have developed over the years for them to adjust to their environment just as we have developed to adjust to ours. However, most of them, according to the creators of sci-fi characters, are, mostly, bipedal and for me this makes sense. To think that we came directly from apes leaves much to wonder about, even if they think they found the “missing link“. Even with that, there are still tons of questions.

Now, I am not saying that I think we came from space (so put down the phone and the straight-jacket), although, how cool would that be? Somewhere, out there in the big universe are “people”, somewhat like us, but much more technologically advanced. But what happened to them? Why haven’t they contacted us? Honestly, if I had to 100% believe this theory, I would venture to say that they have been observing us and due to our constant fighting, our lack of understanding, our lack of imagination, our lack of sympathy to our fellow humans, our lack of technological advancement, the fact that we can’t seem to go one day without killing each other, they don’t want to risk revealing who they are or they have given up on us because of these things. Maybe they have died out…boy, that would sad. Or maybe, and I like this one, we were a prison colony that was forgotten about, the prisoners mated with early “humans” and now we have grown beyond our captors wildest nightmares. When they came back and saw what had happened, they fled, leaving us on our own. *sad*

Maybe we are just a molecule in a sea of experimental goo in some alien laboratory? I dunno, but I can say that I don’t believe an all powerful, all knowing being created us. If we are in experimental goo, this experiment has gone too far and I want to be in the control group. If you are reading, please transfer me to the petri dish that hasn’t  been poked and prodded or been hopped up on experimental drugs. K? Thx!

Ebonics dis here

29 Aug

(This post contains language which may be offensive to some readers. In other words, I say fuck. Deal.)

What a sad, sad state the US has come to when they have to hire people who are fluent in Ebonics to help nab criminals. I mean, fo’ real tho, sheeit. How fucked up is The States that they now have to have people who speak this “language” (notice the quotes) in government business? That is some whacked out shit, but I have complete and total faith in the US. I mean, if any country can fuck up a language, the US can, you got to give them that.

(fade into a memory)I remember walking through Atlanta airport, asking someone for directions and not only did this lady have the most unreal hair I have ever seen (it was shaped like a weaved hat) but she spoke some fucked up version of English (must have been Ebonics) and I told her, “Sorry, but could you repeat that, in English(and yes I emphasized it like a smart ass, would you expect any less out of me?) and she got mad (fade out of a memory).

Sorry, but if you are working with the public, then the public needs to understand you. Gawd, I sound racist, but you know what, I don’t give a crap because this is how I feel. Why do people feel the need to butcher a language to the point that they are completely incomprehensible. People need to understand you and when you speak like you don’t have any common sense or any grasp of the English language, not only do you look dumb, but you make your race (what ever it may be), your nationality (whatever it maybe be) and your employer look  ignorant.

Personally, I think it is a poor excuse for not paying attention in school and not grasping even the simplest part of the language—proper pronunciation. As far as I know, there isn’t a form of Ebonics in any other language. It is called “Black English”, “Black vernacular”, “Black dialect” or, my personal preference and therefore my favourite name for it, “Substandard English”.
Yes, substandard.

(dramatic pause)

All I have to say is this: it says something about the “language” Ebonics when the job opening is for the DEA.

Awesome!

Remind me not to move to Atlanta.

Ready?! Aim! FIRE!

19 Jun

Ronnie Lee Gardner is Dead exclaimed one newspaper. What shocked me, was the method which was chosen by the condemned: firing squad. According to the Guardian, he told his daughter that the reason he chose this method was “I lived by the gun, I murdered with a gun, so I will die by the gun.”

For me, this method brings about images of the old west. The condemned standing in the middle of town. The unwashed towns people watching as 5 men raise their rifles and fire.
No mercy.
No sympathy.
How it works is normally there are 5 shooters, one armed with a blank round so everyone can take comfort in the fact that they may not be the one firing that lethal blow. However, sometimes (rarely) a 6th shooter is required to administer the final shot to put the accused out of their misery.  While this method is not the most technologically advanced, let’s look at two positives of it. It preserves the organs for donations—well, other than the heart and it is the cheapest form of capital punishment.

Other than the slight risk that one of the 5 bullets will not hit the heart (meaning someone is not as accurate as they are supposed to be), there is little risk that the shots will not be deadly. The same can not be said for other forms of execution. According to the Associated Press, “University of Colorado law professor Michael Radlet has been tracking botched executions in the U.S. and found some 42 cases that went wrong between 1982 and September 2009. Of those executions, 30 were lethal injection, 10 were electrocution and two were from asphyxiation after exposure to lethal gas.” Who says technology is always good? 4 bullets, aimed at the heart. Fire. Death. What could be simpler? We try to hard to make everything humane but we forget to look at why these people are on death row to begin with. Murder. The taking of a life. An innocent life, usually. And in our attempts to make the execution more humane we actually make it more difficult (which is usually how any government works anyway).
Let’s take lethal injection.  It has the guise of being humane because it is a “medical procedure”. However, if the needle is not placed correctly in a vein, which has happened, or if there is difficulty in finding a vein, the pain can be extreme. Humane ? Cost of lethal drugs? $86.08. However, the overall cost including salary of the people involved, the phone in the room, the supplies for the drugs, etc…$30,000 +/- (from a few different sites dealing with the cost of executions).
Okay, electrocution. Sometimes a jolt of between 500 and 2000 volts doesn’t work the first time and only after the victim is checked to see if there is a heart beat do they do it again. I have been shocked. We all have. Can you imagine having that voltage running through your body more than once? And to top it all off “...the prisoner’s eyeballs sometimes pop out and rest on [his] cheeks. The prisoner often defecates, urinates, and vomits blood and drool. The body turns bright red as its temperature rises, and the prisoner’s flesh swells and his skin stretches to the point of breaking. Sometimes the prisoner catches fire….Witnesses hear a loud and sustained sound like bacon frying, and the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh permeates the chamber. (Ecenbarger, 1994)“. Humane ? Cost of this? $14,000-$16,000. (again, approximate from many sites).
Now the cost firing squad is harder to find mainly because only three people have been executed by firing squad since 1977, but presumably the cost are negligible. I mean, really, how much do bullets cost? Also the blood is funnelled into bags placed near the entry site so there is no messy clean up.
The idea of capital punishment is like, to put it rudely, fucking for virginity. We are killing someone because they killed someone to prove a point. Seems a little off to me. It is like teaching your child not to bite by biting them. Also, the idea of a humane form of execution is absurd. Were their actions humane to their victims?
I can’t say that I am for or against capital punishment. I don’t believe that if we are punishing people that it should be torturous. That is just lowering ourselves to their standards. It really shouldn’t cost a lot since it will be the taxpayers footing the bill. Cheapest is the best. Should it be humane? Well, yes, to a point, but should it be painless? Naaah. After all, what does capital punishment actually serve but our sadistic impulses.

It’s like heroin, baby

17 Jun

It’s all over the news. The oil spill. More like an oil deluge. We all feel bad. We all sit at our desks, working, typing away while watching the latest news unfold about it. We shake our heads and place the blame—BP.  “This is their fault.” “They need to do something about it.”  We say things like “what a tragedy” and go on with our lives. The world watches and places more blame. From Obama to the little guy trying to do his job to fuel the world. To the people who lost their lives. We all place the blame. But we don’t stop to think who is really to blame:

OURSELVES

That’s right. You heard me. We are the ones to blame. Our big SUVs, trucks, cars, the constant need to drive everywhere even it is just down the street.  We have become dependent on oil. We consume it like candy.    It is our drug of choice. We spend money for it. We buy accessories for it and spin around in parking lots for it. We drive on sunny days for hours to show off.  We defend the use of it. We are even killing for it—each other, animals, the environment. It’s the worlds drug of choice.  We are addicted. It’s like heroin. We need more and more. We can’t get enough. Eventually, it will kill us. We reject the rehabilitation plans. We don’t think there is a problem. We think Ed Begley, Jr. is a nut case because he drives around in an electric car while we freely give our money to the the drug lords. We worship at their feet and beg for more.  We accept their excuses for price increases because we need their products

As much as I want to blame BP and other companies like them, it isn’t just their fault.  So go ahead and place the blame if it will make you sleep better at night. If it will help you forget about the lives that have been lost, the animals that are dead,  the environment that is ruined. If it will help you forget about the oil guzzling machine you drive 3 blocks to work. Just remember,  when you get in your big ass SUV and drive home from work or to the grocery store; that mess in the gulf? It’s your fault too.

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