Friday, July 31, 2015

I bit the bullet and upgraded to Windows 10. For the most part it was smooth but there have been bugs.

I upgraded to Windows 10 on Wednesday. My previous operating system was Windows 7 Ultimate, and I felt like it was time to make the jump even though there was technically nothing wrong with my computer and the way it was running. I did reserve a copy of Windows 10, but I didn't want to wait for my upgrade prompt. If you happen to be one of the few that are still waiting (or just never received one) you can go HERE to download and install Microsoft's Media Creation Tool. You'll launch it when you finish. To be clear, this is only for people making the update and not doing a clean install.

And before you upgrade, you'll want to have your Windows 7 COMPLETELY updated with all Microsoft patches. I've done this on several computers now, and the update screws up if your computer has any malware on it or if you are missing some critical updates. For example, I just installed Windows 7 on a computer and made the jump to Windows 10 thinking that it would be quicker (rather than waiting for all of the updates to install) and instead a weird bug caused the "Settings Applet" to keep crashing. This wouldn't be all that important, however, the "Settings Applet" is now where the Windows Update utility is located. If you can't launch the Settings, you can't get important updates pushed out by Microsoft. So yeah, that didn't work. Lesson learned. Update the old operating system completely before making your migration.

Once Windows 10 is installed on your computer, there may be bugs (Microsoft did not put out a perfect product--big surprise, right?). Some that I've experienced are that my Norton Security Suite and Cyberlink Power DVD appear to have issues. There's an update for the Cyberlink Power DVD that I use to play Blu-Ray movies on my computer, but it costs $50.00, and I assume it's compatible with Windows 10. The old version I use (version 11) has some issues where it won't shut down once the app is launched and you have to restart the computer. I think I'll look online for a free Blu-ray player that has Windows 10 support (not that I use my player much these days as Netflix has everything that I watch). If you know of any, please let me know in the comments :). As for my Norton, it's offered free through my Xfinity subscription. Since it's so buggy, I just downloaded the uninstall tool and uninstalled it. I'm using Windows Defender now which actually seems to be pretty good and has no bugs at all (being a Microsoft product).

Then there's a strange bug that's happening with my Motorola cable modem. It sometimes loses its internet connection when I restart because it can't get an I.P. address issued from the computer and shows as an unidentified network. If I do a complete shutdown and then start up the computer cold, it will start working again. I'm not sure if it's some kind of compatibility issue with the new operating system or if I should see if there's some updated firmware available through Motorola. It's not too much of a big deal because when I upgraded my computer a year ago, I bought a Haswell system with a motherboard that included wireless and bluetooth capabilities. So when the ethernet goes down, it just automatically logs onto the wireless signal.

All the drivers updated to the new system pretty easily. If you don't know what drivers are, they are what make all of the hardware on your computer work. So when a driver isn't working, it's trouble for your pc. Gripes I have about Windows 10 include the following: 1) because Microsoft's servers are overloaded with people downloading and upgrading, your own computer automatically gets enslaved to the Microsoft botnet so that critical files can be downloaded to other people's computers (you can turn this off), 2) Microsoft saves your old version of Windows as a temporary file that you need to find and delete (mine took up 32 gigabytes and I don't need a backup because I got one on an external hard drive), 3) Microsoft trademarked "Windows 365," which means that they probably intend to eventually move Windows 10 to a subscription based model.

If you don't know what subscription-based software is, then think of Microsoft Office 365 with a recurring cost of around $10 a month. It's my opinion that there will probably be ads on the operating system at some point in the future if you don't pay. Either that or some features may not be available (like automatic updates). It disturbs me that every company is moving to subscription-based service because recurring costs are essentially like interest. You can't ever get rid of them and they will keep you in the poor house if you don't find a way to control all the subscriptions. Personally, I think recurring costs are the death of wealth. More and more we are a society where upward mobility is becoming increasingly impossible as corporate forces keep pushing us down.

If you are still hesitating upgrading from your trusty old Windows 7, keep in mind that Windows 10 has far better security and loads faster. It also has better multi-monitor support (which is fantastic).

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The fact that America's rapist Bill Cosby continues to lie seems like pretty typical American behavior

A now famous image of all Bill Cosby's victims. 
As I page through the online stories of Bill Cosby assaulting woman after woman, drugging them, taking advantage of them with his fame and then pressuring them into silence through intimidation, I am reminded of the hours and hours my mother spent in front of the television watching "The Cosby Show" in the late nineties.

A little background: I come from a kind of sad little family. It is likely that neither my brother nor myself will have children, and I think my parents knew this when "The Cosby Show" reruns were still popular about ten to fifteen years ago. My mother was hit especially hard (emotionally) because she had a longing to be a grandmother long after every single one of her friends got grandkids aplenty. But I'm not here to bitch about how life forks for different people, and how some people are never presented with the opportunities that others have. Rather, I'm here to talk about how "The Cosby Show" actually made my mother laugh and cry at the same time. The laughing is easy to explain if you've seen even a single episode of the Emmy winning program. But the crying? That requires a little psychology and how humble bragging can actually make those who live without just a wee bit depressed. Think of it as the "Facebook effect" long before Facebook made it possible for people to post the best moments of their lives on a news feed so that you can feel shitty about your own life. It happened because she (this little Japanese woman) bought the illusion that NBC shoveled to the masses. She believed that this was a "normal" American family and inevitably drew sharp contrast to our own dysfunctional one. And as for Bill Cosby? My mother thought he was a great American.

But behind all the glitz and magical humor of "The Cosby Show" lurked what headlines now call America's rapist...a man who knocked out more people than Sugar Ray Leonard so he could get down to his amoral business. From the perspective of 2015, "The Cosby Show" looks like nothing but a huge lie to me now. And the older I get, the more poisoned I've become to the idea that there is actually anything out there to respect. When I was young, I could look at the well-dressed people heading off to Sunday church and think, "how sharp and respectable they are." But then came the shattering illusions of my self awareness which was then shorn piece by piece away through the acts of society: the most popular couple in my high school separated because the boyfriend was beating his girlfriend in private, the clean scrubbed game store owner and returned LDS missionary was a pedophile, the local entrepreneur driving new cars and living large in a great mansion on the hill was a crook and running a ponzi scheme that destroyed people's retirements, and the new friend I just made really only wants me as a friend so that they can beg for money and share the link to their "Go Fund Me" account on Facebook.

Lies. Deception. More Lies. All to preserve the image of something that's wholesome and altogether a fiction. I guess what really makes me upset is the utter hypocrisy in presenting to the world an image of perfection while utter rot lurks just beneath the surface. Why do people feel compelled to lie so much? Just show your inner monster. If you're a bigot, admit it to the world. Gnash your teeth together in hatred so that we can have a real fight. For example, I actually am amused and respect Donald Trump for saying whatever the hell comes across his mind. I'd never vote for that racist bastard, but it's refreshing to see someone just tell it like it is. How about the guy down south that owns a hardware store that hung a sign that said, "No Gays Allowed?" I kind of respect the courage to wear your hatred on your skin like that. And what about Bill Cosby?

Well, he's being a coward. He should come clean, set the record straight, pay reparations and offer to go to prison for the rest of his life for the things he's done. Wear his monster instead of being a coward. It's practically the only thing he could do at this point that could possibly earn back any respect for who he is. But will he do that? My opinion is "probably not."

After all, my mom said it right. Bill Cosby is an American and that more than likely means, "Liar."

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why is The Strain's apocalypse so underwhelming when it should be the best thing on television?

I like pretty much anything science fiction. This weekend I watched Lavalantula and Two Headed Shark Attack. I thought Three Headed Shark Attack was threatening to overdose me on The Asylum's particular brand of terrible movies, so I'll spare you a review. And let's face it, it was all just filler for the normal Sunday night shows that I indulge this time of year: True Detective, Falling Skies (on its last season), and The Strain.

Aside from arguing with my friend Adam over who is the "True Detective" of season two, our other conversations tend to circle around "The Strain." This season, the vampire apocalypse has full on struck New York City. Vampires wander the alleys and streets in packs doing "The Master's" bidding while our would-be group of heroes from season one are cooking up a "strain" of their own that will infect vampires and essentially kill them.

Guillermo del Toro's handiwork is evident in the exploration of vampire biology which ends up being intriguing enough to stick with the show week after week. We are also fed nuggets of information about the vampires. We've learned there is more than one master, and they are not fond of one of their number going rogue. We've learned that Abraham is 94 years old and sustains his youth by turning the vampire worms into a boiled down cocktail that he injects into his eyes to give him the strength of someone thirty to forty years younger. And we've also learned that no one in New York City really seems to care that people are dying everywhere.

This is one of the things that I thought I Am Legend captured so wonderfully in those snippets of all hell breaking lose that we saw through Will Smith's flashbacks. Maybe Fear the Walking Dead (which is supposed to premiere in August) will show how an apocalypse exploding in real time should happen, i.e., widespread panic and people screaming while buildings burn to the ground. Everyone in The Strain just seems so damned calm, and it's weirding me out a bit. "Oh there's a vampire apocalypse? Let's just break into this spa, kill some vamps, and then have sex in the pool." "Oh there's vampires eating people by ejecting six foot snakes from their mouths? No worries, I still need to see your I.D. to get into this place and there's going to be a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new food bank down the street." As far as I can tell, it's business as usual in New York with people going to their jobs and kids attending school. All I can say is...really? Have you not seen the vampires eating your neighbor? Why is traffic on the streets not gridlocked with people trying to get the hell out of New York City?

Anyway, my criticism aside it's not going to make me stop watching. I just am a little flummoxed at this particular representation of an apocalypse.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Bones and Sleepy Hollow crossover is happening and I'm mad as hell about it.

I don't watch the show Bones anymore. It used to be one of my favorites but they killed Vincent Nigel Murray so that he could leave to go play in the doomed SyFy series, Alphas, and I declared myself, "done with this show." In the years since I abandoned it, I'd heard that Boothe and Dr. Brennan got married (yay...glad I missed that) and that Dr. Sweets (a character that I absolutely loved) also got killed off so he could leave for another show. Quite frankly, I'm glad I stopped watching.

So it really pisses me off that Fox is ramrodding a crossover of Sleepy Hollow (one of my favorite supernatural thrillers) with that of Bones. This reeks of desperation to me. Bones is losing viewers by the droves because the story jumped the shark a long time ago and they killed off too many beloved characters and/or had the characters on the show treat them like shit. Dr. Sweets rarely if ever got any kind of respect from the scientists in the show.

But one of the things that I liked about Brennan's character was her atheism, and her level headed-ness in the face of all things supernatural. I remember an episode where a voodoo priest tried to scare her with his curses and she poked him in the eye and said something like, "People aren't so scary when they get poked in the eye." Her belief in things that can be proven was like finding my fictional soul mate. When asked about her beliefs, Dr. Brennan said, "I believe that this coffee is warm because the molecules are racing around in it. I believe that the sun will rise in the morning because it has several billion years to go before its nuclear fuel is depleted" and on and on and on. Dr. Brennan is incredibly grounded in science and a crossover with Sleepy Hollow is going to suggest that Brennan doesn't know everything, which is wrong because SHE PRETTY MUCH DOES KNOW EVERYTHING. Brennan's IQ is off the charts. She's smarter than the crack of Indiana Jones's whip.

So now Abbey and Ichabod are going to cross paths with Boothe and Brennan? Give me a break. Ichabod is 250 years old...this can't/shouldn't exist in Brennan's universe. The first two seasons of Sleepy Hollow were about the Book of Revelations and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse which Brennan views as FICTION in the same vein as Harry Potter. It makes for a great story. But mixing these worlds MAKES BRENNAN wrong about everything she believes in. Why does FOX even think that this is a good idea?!

In a week full of outrage, I guess this latest insult from Fox makes me want to ask, "Et tu Fox?" But thanks to Shakespeare, we all know how that ended.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Horizons reached Pluto and all mankind should stand up and celebrate because this is an incredible achievement.

Fran Bagenal demonstrates how we should all feel about New Horizons and
seeing Pluto up close and personal for the first time in history.
A lot can happen in nine years. When the New Horizons spacecraft launched, Pluto was still a planet. However, it was relegated to dwarf planet status by the International Astronomical Union in October 2006. It went from being this thing we all learned as the ninth planet to "a celestial snowball with a surface of methane ice 3.6 billion miles from the sun." But like all good stories, the story of Pluto does not end there.

New Horizons didn't actually have to travel the whole 3.6 billion miles. It got to travel just over 3.26 billion miles because Pluto is one of those strange astronomical things that every once in a while, invades Neptune's orbit like the rogue it is. And when NASA switched New Horizons into data gathering mode for the encounter which took place yesterday, it started to receive images like the one below that you may have seen on NASA's instagram:
Pluto has a heart shape on it almost as if it were welcoming New Horizons to its special corner of the universe. This also isn't a picture that was snapped at its closest approach. So more images are to come which will probably be mind-blowing-ly awesome.

Pluto has several satellites. One is a moon called Charon (750 miles in diameter) which if you know anything about Greek mythology actually makes sense as Charon was the boatman to the River Styx while Pluto was the Lord of the Underworld. As you can see below, the distance between Pluto and its moon is so wide, you could fit one whole Earth between them. I like how there's a disclaimer of (Earth just for scale, it's not really there). I guess some people might have been confused It's other moons are Hydra, Kerberos, Nix, and Styx.
Some of the tidbits that NASA has shared with us are:

1) Pluto has a much younger surface than it's battered moon Charon. This makes scientists think that there could possibly be tectonic activity on this distant dwarf planet.

2) New Horizons has gathered so much data on Pluto that it will take 16 months to receive it all.

3) New Horizons is powered by plutonium, which is actually named after Pluto. The nuclear battery transforms heat into electricity, and will keep the probe in power until sometime in the 2030's. Until then, it will just keep sending back information.

4) It has a methane and nitrogen ice cap on its north pole (at -223 to -233 degrees Celsius). It's so cold that the ice wouldn't even be slippery.

5) NASA knows its awesome: yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first image sent back from Mars.

6) It's surprisingly bright on Pluto which should give you new respect for the power of the Sun. You can actually go to this website for Pluto time so you can go outside at the time of day when it would be the equivalent of high noon on Pluto (Hint: It's not dark). My mind is blown thinking of how a ball of fire could light up something so completely from so incredibly far away. Then again, on one hundred degree days I've often thought of how immense and powerful the sun is to make it that unbearable from 93 million miles away--that's one hell of a heater.
People, we are living in amazing times. Mankind is finally beginning to chip away at the vastness of space. We've discovered thousands of planets out there, billions of galaxies, and I just recently heard that NASA is going to Europa because they think there's a liquid ocean on Jupiter's famous moon, and they want to find out if that's true. I think we should all take a pause from our latest outrage (choose your flavor of the week: Confederate Flag, Iran Deal, Greece Bailout, Serena Williams has been body shamed, Atticus Finch is a racist, Donald Trump thinks all Mexicans are rapists) go out after dark, and just turn our eyes upward at the stars and think about how much we have to learn and how far we have come. Maybe if everyone did this, we could develop a sense of community as a species and manage to treat one another decently for a little while and stop ruining our planet.

Monday, July 13, 2015

MTV looks like they spared no expense on the Shannara Chronicles that is set to begin in January 2016

Last week at SDCC, MTV aired its first trailer for the Shannara chronicles that starts up in January 2016. I gotta say, from the looks of things they spared no expense. I'll be watching it for sure. Thoughts on the trailer anyone?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Mr. Robot is probably a figment of Elliot's mind and Tyrell is a combination of everything I liked about Christian Grey and everything I hate about Francis Underwood

Christian Grey is "Mr. Robot" who is probably a figment of Elliot's mind
(pictured behind the monitor in front of Mr. Robot).
I've watched three episodes of Mr. Robot now. Wednesday's episode was called Eps1.2d3bug.mkv, and if you haven't watched any of these, you should probably be warned that the narrator is very unreliable. Elliot's a genius software developer/engineer that regularly uses morphine and other drugs and when filtered through his point of view, his employer simply becomes "Evil Corp" instead of "AllSafe." I get the impression that "Allsafe" is probably some stand-in for "Google" or for "Apple" (the two largest tech companies in the world). As far as I'm able to tell, the hacking and coding seems to be about as close to reality as anything I've ever seen, which doesn't necessarily mean much since I'm no expert. It becomes obvious to me though that USA in this latest series is taking great pains to be as authentic as possible.

Christian Slater is the telltale "Mr. Robot," and I'm pretty sure that just like in "A Beautiful Mind" and in "Fight Club" that this particular character is a figment of Elliot's imagination. His loud comments never get remarked upon, which lend credence to this theory. Mr. Robot has a plan that reminds me a lot of Tyler Durden's. He wants to crash the global financial system by wiping out all debt owed by individuals so that everyone is finally free. It'll be interesting if the series actually follows through with that premise, and it's probably very popular with everyone right now as every country and most citizens seem to be drowning in debt these days.

There's also a villainous bisexual named Tyrell Wellick. He's incredibly handsome (think Jamie Dornan in "Fifty Shades of Grey"), and I'm a little disappointed in this choice. When I see him pick up this guy named Anwar just to slip a bug into his phone, I'm reminded of the "secret homosexual" as a sign of amoral and sexual deviancy from a couple of decades ago. But maybe he just knows how to capitalize on his looks to get what he wants and wields his beauty like a tool. Beyond his sexuality, Tyrell is complex: his wife is pregnant and likes him to tie her up (again like "Fifty Shades of Grey") only it's clear she's in charge. He also pays a homeless guy to allow him to brutally assault him under some train tracks. It's like Tyrell is a complete psychopath in a way, and it oddly seems to fit in what I think of corporate America: that being that only the psychopaths make it all the way to the top to claim the golden chalice of "C.E.O." or otherwise.
This is Tyrell in front of a mirror prepping his speech to advocate for himself
being appointed the new "Chief Technology Officer" of  Evil Corp. So you can see
what I mean about his character being a cross between Jamie Dornan's Christian Grey
and Kevin Spacey's Francis Underwood, below is a still of Christian Grey from the
hit 2015 movie. Tyrell's got about the same moral character as Francis Underwood
from House of Cards. If you've watched it, you know what I mean.
Mr. Robot is a show that I'm probably going to watch on a regular basis. It's characters are just too compelling really for me to let go, and I gotta know if Elliot's imagining everything and what the hell is going on with Tyrell and his wife (who have obviously got one of those "House of Cards" arrangements to support each other ruthlessly). I could imagine the pitch session for the Tyrell character: "He's a combination of Christian Grey and Francis Underwood all rolled into one." How could you go wrong?

Are you watching Mr. Robot? 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Deep Blue is the name of one gargantuan great white shark and it's just stunning to watch these guys high five it

I love Shark Week. I've been watching the programming (including Shark Week After Dark), and I've seen megamouth sharks, goblin sharks, bull sharks, and of course great white sharks. For me, it's all about size and these guys filmed the largest great white shark ever recorded on film. It's name is "Deep Blue" and they measured it using a buoy called "Chewy" and discovered it was 22 feet long. It's also got a MASSIVE girth meaning it's pregnant with somewhere in the neighborhood of ten five foot long sharks. I have to say, these guys that do the filming are insane. One of the divers high five's "Deep Blue" as it calmly swims on by. It's a huge contrast to how I'd expect a white shark of this size to behave. It's basically like an enormous docile hippo just out for a swim. It makes me think that maybe all this time that sharks have been eating people, maybe they've just been hugging people with their mouths in a kind of "welcome to the ocean." 

Monday, July 6, 2015

If you love Game of Thrones you've got to watch what happens in this Seth Meyer skit.

If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, I think you'll love this skit from Late Night with Seth Meyer in which Jon Snow is invited to dinner. It really makes me realize how crummy Jon Snow's life really has been. Best line? "Jon, this is why you don't have any friends."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

If any of us feel like there's little to no acceptance for whom we are and what we create at least there's solidarity in this community of writers

Today is July 1st, and it also happens to be the first Wednesday of the month. Most of you who read my blog know that this means it's Insecure Writer's Support Group day. Alex sent out an email saying that there's a t-shirt now. and it can be purchased HERE. Additionally, the actual IWSG list can be found HERE, and the July 1st co-hosts are:

1) Charity Bradford.
2) S.A. Larsen.
3) A.J.
4) Tamara Narayan.
5) Allison Gammons.
6) Tanya Miranda.

This last weekend, downtown Salt Lake City played host to the annual art show in its usual 100 degree heat. The art show is one of those places that (had I the room) I might be more excited about because (at least in my mind) I would pick out a painting that would go great in the house that I  have yet to buy.

A few years ago, I remember walking around the tents and looking at all the sculptures, paintings, and photographs that locals have for sale and thinking, "This looks great" and "That's interesting but not for me." However, things I liked my friend Meg possibly didn't like, and it occurred to me that this is a lot of what it means to be a writer. Really, at the end of the day, all we are is a person occupying some booth having concocted some story that we would like someone to appreciate, right? We are just an artist at a trade show of words.

The realization is this: it takes a thick skin to bear our insecurities. As each person comes in through the door and examines what we have and passes, while at another table, people start circling around something that you might think isn't all that special, it's no wonder our community abounds with insecurity, envy, and pride. If anything, the bag of emotions that we all happen to have starts running amok with this thought: "What does that piece of art have that mine doesn't?" It's a question with no one answer. You might as well ask, "What is the meaning of life?"

For me, life is about competition. We compete for friends, we compete for jobs, we compete for mates and partners, we compete for benefits, and we compete for resources to survive. Competition really only ends when we die. And like it or not, the things that we write or create are a reflection of ourselves. If any of us feel like there is little to no acceptance for whom we are and what we create at least there's solidarity in this community of writers.

And I suppose, today is as good a day as any to celebrate it, so celebrate it I shall.

Have a great Wednesday :).

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