Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Dangerous Ideas

As if the sane people in the world don't have enough to worry about.

A company in Minnesota has invented a gun that folds up to look like a cellphone.  That's right, a cellphone.  The inventor has said he got the idea because a kid called attention to the fact that he was wearing a gun while in a restaurant.

This thing is a very, VERY bad idea.  Not just from the perspective of the responsible gun owner, but that this will become a fast favourite of the bad guys.  We all know that criminals have their ways of getting better firepower than any law-abiding citizen could ever have.

What I fear more than anything in this world is the lack of education regarding things these days.  More power is everywhere, but nobody's really learning how to use it properly.  Then the paranoia sets in.  Somebody is going to pull their phone out of an inside jacket pocket and get shot for reading a text.

Also, what this manufacturer has done will make it that much more difficult for the police to do their jobs safely.  It is a gun?  Is it a cellphone?  How much time do the police have to guess correctly? Responsible gun owners have no use for this.  This "hide in plain sight" nonsense will get someone killed.

A friend of mine who is a responsible gun owner put it this way: "I much prefer open carry to concealed carry.  That way the person isn't hiding anything.  Yes, I have a firearm, and yes, you should maybe think twice.  That's straightforward.  With a thing like this phone gun, if you're packing this, as far as I'm concerned you have every intention of being a sneaky bastage or you wouldn't have it.  Period."

Monday, 28 March 2016

Ugliness Uncovered

People all wear masks.  We assume one persona at work, one persona at home, perhaps another while out with friends, etc.  Nature can also wear masks; snow is one of them.

Spring is approaching and most of the snow has melted, revealing the ugly detritus of a throw-away, uncaring society: crushed plastic water bottles, cigarette butts, broken kids' toys.

Not to mention dog poop.  Too many dog owners mistakenly think that it dissolves or decomposes under the snow, so they just don't bother picking up after their dogs.  Sorry, it doesn't, it just freezes where it was left.  Then after a thaw the rest of us have to dodge the remnants.

There are a number of dog owners nearby who allow their dogs to run around in their backyards, which is fine - but they don't pick up the leavings.  Some of these people even have young kids.  Who in their right mind would leave dog poop all over their yard?  That's mighty unhealthy for both the dog and the kids.

I've said before and I'll say it again.  It might be a good idea for prospective pet owners to take a course of some kind so that they know the rules and expectations of having said pet.  In the case of a dog, said owners and dogs would have to attend obedience classes.  That would solve many problems.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

If You Can't Say Something Nice

With all the terrible events that are happening around the world, is it naive to hope that people might actually pull together and be nicer to each other?  After all, this is the Easter weekend and the teachings of Jesus Christ supposedly included missives to be kind to one's neighbours.

Yet more and more, the media erupts with stories of people being downright horrible.  Yesterday a tweet was sent by a British man:

"I confronted a Muslim women yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said "Nothing to do with me". A mealy mouthed reply."

Many folks immediately reacted in a truly British manner by lampooning that tweet to the point of ridicule.  Eventually the man deleted his original tweet and sort-of apologized, but then he was arrested and held until hearing on the charge of "inciting racial hatred" under UK law.

Americans who were following the story had their own take on it:

"Too bad the U.S. doesn't have that or Drumpf would be behind bars."

"It's good that the U.S. doesn't have that stupid law. Some of us here enjoy our right to free speech."

"Umm, no. Freedom of speech doesn't mean you can go up to people and be a dick to them.  I think you guys need to reread the Bill of Rights."

"Hate speech isn't covered under Freedom of Speech.  Sorry, you'll have to spew your hatred of other races and genders in the privacy of your own homes.  FYI Freedom of Speech doesn't cover death threats for the President either, just so you know."

When I was in grade school, one of the things I was taught was "If you can't say something nice, say nothing."  The world would be a better place if people were able to swallow their pride, move past their prejudices, and just get along.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Role Playing

My friends and family all know that I'm a geek.  I'm knowledgeable in quite a few fandoms and I've played a great many video games and tabletop role-playing games.

For the uninitiated, a role-playing game or RPG is a game where a player often uses dice to help determine the statistics for a character they want to emulate.  Play is done in a group headed by the Game Master, who controls the story and presents the players with challenges they need to overcome.

A discussion on a Facebook roleplaying group got me thinking about all the games and RPGs that I've played over the years... so just for fun, here's a list (that's not necessarily comprehensive).

Dungeons and Dragons (multiple editions)
Hero System
Role Master
Vampire The Masquerade
Mutants and Masterminds
Marvel Universe RPG
Heroes Unlimited
Big Eyes Small Mouth
Sailor Moon RPG
Doctor Who RPG
Starfleet Battles

I've been gaming since I was a teenager, and now I'm teaching our daughter the basics of Dungeons and Dragons.  Fun times.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Can it Be Stopped?

Today my local news station interviewed an educator who studies religion and radicalization and the host asked him whether the attacks in Brussels could have been prevented.  He cited deep divides among the various ethnic communities in the city as well as lack of communication among the different branches of law enforcement and security.

There are many factors that are conducive to radicalization: poverty, ethnicity, and isolation being the biggest ones.  If the people are being treated badly they will either leave or strike back in unforeseen ways.  Quebec saw that in 1969 and 1970 with the FLQ terrorist bombings - which ironically led to the rise of Quebec separatism and the mass exodus of a large percentage of the English-speaking population.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Now we have young Muslims who, unsatisfied with their positions, have chosen violence to justify their existence and make their views known.  For the same reasons.

We will never truly be able to stop terrorism but the situation can be changed if there is the local and political will to do so.  Work more closely with ethnic communities and address their concerns so they won't feel left out.  Put measures in place to help combat poverty and stimulate job growth at the local level.

Not to mention, be very careful about getting involved in another country's business unless specific measures have been requested by the country's legal government.  Nobody likes a butt-inski.

Monday, 21 March 2016

More Writer's Block

There's so much going on the world right now to talk about: politics, the environment, the state of the local sports team, etc.  What does one do when one sits down at the computer and discovers that there are no coherent sentences forming?

A funny image I saw on Facebook a few weeks ago went something like this.
Driving to work - Comes up with perfect plot
At lunch break - Comes up with perfect characters
Driving home - Comes up with an amazing ending
Sits at keyboard - whut are werds?

I think just about everyone has gone through that at some point.

Many of my stories were written in a stream of consciousness manner and then edited later.  I tend to self-edit brutally - the kind of scene that took place in my head might not be the same as the one I wrote down.  What makes sense to me probably wouldn't make nearly as much sense to someone else, especially if they aren't familiar with the particular show or concept that I happen to be writing about.

A great many of my ideas don't even make it into finished stories at all because they're simply too far-fetched to be believable.  I have many notebooks and text files filled with plots, scenes, and paragraphs that were never expanded upon or posted.

Now if only I can get the drive to continue on that book I wanted to write this year.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Women in Social Media

I read an article today on Reddit by a man who set up a fake female profile on a dating site because he wanted to see for himself how women are treated on such sites and on social media in general.  The results were not pretty.  He hadn't even completed the profile when he began to receive messages that became increasingly strange and/or vulgar in nature.  Polite responses of "thanks but no thanks" touched off a storm of name-calling and abuse.  He ended up deleting the profile after two hours.

Blogger Alexandra Tweten commented in one of her own articles on the subject: " comes to the conclusion that women can't win if they are not interested in certain men.  Under their logic, we are supposed to entertain any man who is interested in conversation or a date just because we exist on a dating site.  Which is completely ridiculous."

It's unfortunate that some women deliberately flaunt what they have in order to attract attention or to incite controversy: think Miley Cyrus' "twerking" or Kim Kardashian's naked pictures.  All this does is make things worse for the rest of us, because sadly there are many men out there who assume that all women should be that way.

I'm a fairly private person and I'm careful about what I post online.  However even I have received a few friend requests and private messages from total strangers on Facebook saying that I'm pretty and they'd like to talk to me.  Hello - look at my profile, it says I'm married.  That should be a BIG sign that I'm not interested in that.

There's a saying in the gaming world: if you can't respect your fellow players, stay out of the sandbox until you have something worthy to contribute.

Same goes for social media.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

You Can't Go Home

There's an old saying that you can't go home again.  Well, it's true.

Feeling nostalgic, I decided to look up some of the places at which I spent parts of my younger years, using maps and satellite imagery.  It turned out to be a huge mistake.  I didn't like what I saw.

My maternal grandfather owned a large piece of property in a community known as Lower Saint Mary's, New Brunswick, and had built a two-story Cape Cod style house for his wife and family.  As I child I'd spent summer and winter holidays there.  I remember there being a 30-foot tall pine tree at the back of the house that my grandfather had planted, which was the resting place for my mother's favourite dog.  When Granddad died, my mother reluctantly sold the house and property.  The couple who bought it kept it up pretty much as it had been for years.

However, the property must have changed hands again recently.  Now the house has a double garage on one side and a large extension in back, covering the area that once had been Granddad's vegetable garden.  The pine tree no longer appears to be there.

My late aunt, one of the kindest and wisest people I knew, moved from the city of Toronto to a former farmstead near a tiny village called Erinsville.  After renovating the log farmhouse, she lived there for over 25 years.  I visited her there many times and became familiar with the animals she kept.  When she became too elderly to manage on her own she moved into nearby Tamworth and sold the property to "people who had been kind" to her.

Whoever lives on the property now seems to have been far from kind to the land.  The place was almost unrecognizable to me.  The original farmhouse is still there but it has been added to, and another house twice its size has been built right next to it.  Outbuildings have been moved from their original foundations, and the yard was cluttered with who knows what.  Cedar log fences that had once kept the neighbours' cattle away from the house were gone.

My relatives would be rolling in their graves if they knew how their beloved homes were being treated.  And my special memories have been sullied.

Change is inevitable, and it's not always good.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Unintelligent Programming

Isn't it just crazy?  You get interested in a show and then after you see a few episodes it disappears.  That seems to happen to me on a regular basis.  I'd been watching a program on Thursday afternoons called Nightwatch which followed the first responders of New Orleans on the overnight shift.  Suddenly it vanished and I couldn't find it anywhere on the schedule.  One can view the episodes on the A&E web site but it's not the same.

In any case, A&E is a shadow of what it once was.  The weekly schedule is dominated by multiple episodes of Duck Dynasty, The First 48, and Criminal Minds.  The potentially more interesting shows (to me at least) have been relegated to Sunday nights which is not conducive for viewership.  I really miss the old Breakfast with the Arts show which featured art and classical music on Sunday mornings.

There has been a similar trend for what used to be specialty channels.  The History Channel doesn't show much history; it's mostly reality-based programming and M*A*S*H* reruns.  TLC isn't really The Learning Channel any more.  And so on.

Even the mainstream networks don't keep good shows on very long.  Shows that do turn out to be well written, popular, or both, end up being quickly replaced by clones of other shows that appeal to the lowest common denominator. (My personal favourite, Person of Interest, has been left hanging by CBS and nobody knows when or if the next season is going to be broadcast.)  It's little wonder that viewers are flocking to direct streaming services like Netflix, because the programs there are worth watching.

It's unfortunate that the network execs just don't get it.

Here are just a few other shows that I became interested in before they were axed far too soon.

The Flash, 1990, CBS
The Critic, 1994, ABC
$#*! My Dad Says, 2010, CBS
No Ordinary Family, 2010, ABC
The Chicago Code, 2011, Fox
Young Justice, 2011, Teletoon