A little something called your computer’s history

You don’t have to be an IT expert these days to know about a little something called your computer’s history. Back when the Internet was first being explored by us commoners, the intricacies of our activity were tougher to figure out as we struggled to understand how connecting to our phone line can make pictures appear on a screen. Crazy!

Now it’s 2014. We have no excuse for not knowing what the history is. And we also have no excuse for not knowing how to clear it. Spoiler alert about the movie Don Jon: Joseph Gordon Levitt is a guy addicted to porn blah blah blah. He meets a girl blah blah blah. She goes on his computer to check his browsing history blah blah blah. She finds all the XXX sites he’s been to for the past ten days blah blah blah. Wait, what? This is where the record scratched for me. Not only was he so dumb that he didn’t clear his history of his more intimate indulgences but he had no clue what his history even was.

This should not be. This cannot happen. People, how would you feel if your history were made public one day? I, personally, would feel fine because the most you’re going to see out of me is that I read too much (yes, yes, I am aware of the numerous visits to Amazon and Barnes & Noble), make frequent visits to Irish travel guide sites (a dream as yet unrealized), spend way more time on Facebook than I should (who doesn’t?), and that I really, really like Marvel Comics (I am NOT ashamed).

Clearing one’s history is not only good advice to keep in mind for porn aficionados and e-voyeurs, but also surprise birthday party planners, gift givers, child stalkers (your own child, pervert, not other people’s!), Words With Friends cheaters, and closet Kevin James fans. Oh and if you’re going to be chatting it up with people you really shouldn’t be chatting it up with?  Yeah, it would be a good idea to delete that too.

Long story short, if you’re going to do something sketchy online you should really be better at covering your tracks. It’s really not that hard. Yet some people just can’t seem to grasp the basics.  Would you ever rob a jewelry store and not wear gloves? Websites have fingerprints too. All your movements leave a trail, but clearing history can wash away that digital DNA, at least off the surface. Use it or if you get caught I can only say to you, “I told you so.”

Of course there’s always the novel idea of not doing sketchy things to begin with.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Like that’s ever going to happen.

 

The Wailing Child

My neighbor has a daughter that’s roughly somewhere between three and five years old. Honestly, I’m not a good judge of age so I’m going to stop at that pretty wide estimate. She’s small, much like a kid around that age should be, but this girl has got a set of PIPES on her. Holy heaven she can wail like a banshee.

The other day the weather was so nice I decided to enjoy the breeze so I popped my windows open to catch some of the nice aromas of the surrounding wilderness. Piercing through the serenity of the great outdoors came this unnaturally loud bellow. It was the little girl, just letting loose everything in her superhuman lungs. She was standing maybe five feet from my bedroom window (where I was trying to relax) yodeling away. If she would have told me she was trying to communicate with life on another planet I would’ve found her volume level perfectly acceptable and understandable.

The real reason she was letting out this blood curdling shriek? She was calling—nay, screaming—for her friend who lived all of two doors down.  Let me step back for a second and explain that prior to the aforementioned assault on the senses, these two girls had had a loud conversation (also right next to my bedroom window) that centered round the one girl having to go home for dinner and that she’d be back later. The wailing child (aptly named) was apparently not thrilled with this plan. So. She waited all of five minutes to start the kind of howling that would make any banshee proud.

Maybe she wasn’t allowed to leave her yard alone, hence my guess at her young age. Maybe she was super lazy and didn’t want to walk the twenty seconds it would take to reach her friend’s front door and knock on it. Who knows? All I know is that after a half hour she had gifted me a fresh migraine and frayed nerves from all the yelling she did.

She was screaming so loud I couldn’t even tell what she was saying. Her volume was so high that the message couldn’t get through the deafening barrage of sound. I made out her friend’s name but that was it. Besides that, it was all gibberish. Extremely loud gibberish.

And there I am in my house, dumbfounded that she’s able to continue on like a raving lunatic for sooo long. Where the hell were her parents? I know I’ve written a few times about people who have questioned my parenting methods. Allow me to turn the tables and tell you all that I certainly think her parents could use a little tune up in the personal decency department. I would never have allowed my kids to stand out there and just randomly scream like that. It’s not exactly what I would call neighborly behavior.

When I got pregnant (both times) everyone told me “oh this will finally make you realize how great kids are.”  Yeah, my kids. They’re awesome. Other people’s kids? Not so much. They still haven’t rubbed off on me quite yet and probably never will if they keep on trying to raise the dead outside my window. Remember kids: Silence is golden.

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch

Smartphones are Eating your Brain — Or, Ode to “The Feeling of Power”

I was thinking today as I was out doing my round of errands…what did people do before smartphones?

Did they come out of a grocery store pushing their cart full of groceries, paying attention to their little children and not letting them run around willy-nilly wherever they wanted? Especially, let’s say, directly in front of another person’s cart causing that person to stop quickly or else run them over thereby tossing their precariously perched milk into the parking lot. I’m sure parents would’ve noticed this prior to smartphone days don’t you think?  Maybe?

Since their attention would not be riveted on a small square screen, did these non-smartphone owning parents put their groceries in the trunk of their car, while at the same time keeping track of the aforementioned little children so that they weren’t at risk of being flattened by cars driving up and down the aisle-ways (or whatever the technical term is for the driveway between the rows of cars)?

Did they put their children in car seats then take their cart all the way to a cart corral so it wouldn’t block someone else’s access to a parking spot or roll back into the aisle-way? Would they then get in their car, look in their rear-view mirror both ways before backing out of the spot, and then drive carefully out of the parking lot?  (You can sort of tell what kind of experience I had at the grocery store I suppose.)

Well, the answer to those riveting questions is no!  Ha! Surprised you there, didn’t I!?

The same people who are careless today with their smartphones are the same people who were careless even when they didn’t have smartphones to occupy their attention. Smartphones just make it worse.

Even without smartphones, grocery store parking lots (and grocery stores themselves) have always been hazardous and annoying places because of inconsiderate and/or oblivious patrons. And don’t even get me started on those people who leave their shopping cart in the middle of an adjacent parking spot, instead of pushing it all of ten feet into a cart corral! (I’m not joking. I can understand people who don’t want to walk 10 yards or so to a cart corral, but when it’s literally ten feet away and they can’t be bothered? What’s up with that!?)

So, smartphones are just another way for people who are already inconsiderate and careless about personal space to be even more inconsiderate and careless on many levels.

But there’s more to the insidious nature of smartphones than that…I’ve been considering this for a while.

There’s a rather famous Isaac Asimov short story – well, it’s famous if you’re a science fiction fan, anyway – called “The Feeling of Power,” about a society where people have forgotten to do math in their heads, because they always use calculators. (I don’t want to go into the whole story…suffice it to say that it takes place in a dystopian future where people have been supplanted by intelligent robots — of course, being Asimov).

In his autobiography, Asimov says that one of the magazine editors who read this story (he wrote it in 1958) scoffed at the idea that mankind could ever possibly forget how to do simple math in their head.

Well…in 2014 is there any doubt about it? It used to be calculators were never allowed in classrooms – students had to do all the math by themselves. By the 1990s, students were allowed to take math tests with their handy-dandy calculators by their side.

And it’s only gotten worse.

There are no calculators in classrooms these days, I don’t think… because they have been supplanted by phones which have calculators, cameras, and of course, the ability to text to people. And if students are asked not to bring their phones to school and text in class while the teacher is trying to actually teach, there is such an uproar that you would not believe it!

I admit – I personally can’t remember new phone numbers anymore. I don’t need to. They’re all programmed into my phone. People in general don’t need to keep anything in their heads anymore – it’s all in their phones.

And it’s amazing how many people are connected to their electronics as if they’re life giving umbilical cords.  If something ever happened to their phones, I think these people would end up staring glassy-eyed into the distance, drooling, not knowing what to do.

Asimov predicted this in 1958….but he was ignored.  I imagine that not too long into the future we’ll not only be amazed by anyone who can remember how to do simple arithmetic or recall a phone number on command, but perhaps going further, we’ll have a Wall-E kind of existence. Just sitting on floating barca-loungers, computer screens planted right smack in front of our faces with no idea whatsoever of what’s going on around us.

Read Mr. Asimov's short story here

Read Isaac Asimov’s short story here

 

Wall-E

Wall-E

Warranty (Or how I foiled the evil-doer)

The cats in my house are treated very well. Always a full food dish. Ample water. Toys abound. They should never complain of being bored with all the games and distractions I’ve spent money on specifically for their enjoyment. Yet this one cat…this one cat…well, let’s just say I’m reminded of Ralph Kramden’s “One of these days, one of these days…POW! Right in the kisser!”

Trust me, this exclamation of promised violence is not unprovoked.  Because for all that I do to keep them occupied, this one cat is hopelessly and helplessly addicted to eating headphones. Every single chance she gets to gnaw away on the expensive cords she takes with unabashed glee. They’re never my headphones mind you (I don’t use them). They’re my daughter’s.  The one person in this house who ensures the safety of all the four-legged creatures within…and this cat chooses to destroy her things. Who ever said cats make sense?

Oh and let me tell you, she knows she’s not supposed to do it, but like most cats, she simply doesn’t care. She lays in wait for the perfect moment to strike and makes the most of it when it comes. Sarah will leave the room for, literally 30 seconds, and when she comes back in, there’s Holly grinding away on the cord of the latest pair of headphones mistakenly left on the coffee table.

I swear it’s like she’s trying to crack walnuts with her teeth she’s so devoted to the task. We try to keep them out of reach but she knows where they’re stored. You’d think that if they’re placed way up in the top drawer of a high dresser they’d be safe right?  Well you’d be wrong.  Holly just scales up the dresser and tries to open the drawer to get at them.

I’m a woman of simple means. I can’t be going around buying a new pair of $15 headphones every two weeks. Sarah is great about putting them up out of harm’s way when she’s done with them, but quick trips to the bathroom are sometimes overlooked. And there’s no hope of rehabilitating my cat to break this destructive habit. I’ve tried. Oh how I’ve tried.

Thankfully, the last time I went to Radio Shack to buy yet another pair of headphones, the girl behind the counter told me that for an extra $3.99 I could get a warranty that includes damage of any kind. Any kind. Even damage caused by an annoying, obnoxious cat falls under the warranty (I asked).  Why oh why didn’t they tell me about this before!?  Damn right I want the warranty! Ring that sucker up! I don’t get the super hoighty-toighty noise cancelling Beats headphones or anything fancy like that but taking into consideration how many pairs of the cheap brands I’ve already had to replace, the $3.99 warranty was a steal.

Would it actually pay off or was this just a clever ploy by Radio Shack to scam a few extra dollars so they can stay in business just a little bit longer? Lo and behold just two days…two days mind you…I was right back at the Radio Shack picking up a new pair of headphones cost-free because the last one’s cord had been neatly sawed in two. So was it worth it? Most definitely.  Oh and the replacement pair I got for free?  Yep. They’re under warranty too. So take that Holly! Your dastardly deeds are foiled!

 

evil-doer

evil-doer

Sharing vs Taking

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you have probably run across an entry or two that talks about my parenting methods and my views on parenting in general. You have also probably gotten the idea that I’m not exactly what many would define as a “traditional” mother, what with the swearing and tattoos and all. There’s an article I read several days ago that grabbed my attention because it describes another woman’s ideas on child-rearing. It’s sure to inspire lively debate because she puts forth the idea that maybe teaching your kid to share isn’t as good of an idea as it has been made out to be.

Check out the article here for the author’s own words: http://www.sunnyskyz.com/blog/365/This-Mom-Perfectly-Explains-Why-She-Does-Not-Teach-Her-Kids-To-Share#K30Up3rQsEbSfM3r.01

I’m sure we all have our own takes on what she has written. It’s not a black and white issue and I certainly stand right smack in the grey area. I completely agree that your child shouldn’t feel like it’s his or her obligation to share toys that they own with someone they may or may not know if they don’t want to. That’s not how things work in the real world. If it was, a stranger could take a peek over your shoulder when you’re at the Starbucks “working,” and demand to use your laptop, right? It’s your computer, but they want it so you’d have to give it up. How much sense does that make?

But if the toy doesn’t belong to anyone in particular (it has been provided by their pre-school or Chuck E. Cheese for communal use for example), sharing should be required after a reasonable amount of time. The real world tends to agree with this logic, too. Take the gym for instance. If all the Stairmasters are in use, it’s considered poor form if someone rocks out on it for an hour. In fact, most gyms have a 20 minute maximum use time if machines are busy just so everyone can get a fair turn at something that everyone has the same amount of ownership in.

Personally, I think that the author has confused “taking” with “sharing.” Unfortunately, I also think that she’s far from the only parent that’s guilty of this inversion of definitions. A child shouldn’t just think they can point to something, have it given to them no questions asked, and call it “sharing.” I think this concept is what is driving the author’s intrepid new non-sharing platform. The outcome? To her—or at least this is what I get from what she has written—it’s possible that the old model where parents force their children to share is why society is in the state that it’s currently in now.

I would offer the suggestion that maybe parents like her who don’t believe in sharing is the reason our society has gone downhill. As adults, we no longer help the poor, the homeless, or even our neighbors. “To hell with them” is the attitude most people take these days. It’s my money/food/stuff, to hell with them we say as we hold onto our “stuff” with a death grip. Back in the day, the phrases “Gotta look out for number one” and “You do you, I’ll do me” didn’t exist. Neighbors were quick to share resources, food, time, help. Now… not so much.

Of course I’m not talking about every individual person, but as a whole we’ve become by and large a closed society that shuts strangers as well as friends out unless there are seriously extenuating circumstances.

Sharing vs. taking. Don’t get them confused. This blog is just sharing my thoughts. You don’t have to take them, but hopefully it is an idea you will at least consider.

 

BRAINSSSSSSSSSSSS

If you’ve had the TV on anytime in the last month you’ve probably seen commercials for the new Luc Besson movie Lucy. In it Scarlett Johansson plays a woman who accidentally ingests a new wonder drug that allows her to access 100% of her brain. The same general concept has been done a few times before, the first one popping into my mind being 2011’s Limitless starring Bradley Cooper. The only real difference between the two is that Bradley Cooper’s character takes the drug voluntarily, whereas in Lucy our heroine has it forced upon her.

That’s all beside the point. The point is, they unlock the key to the vast expanses of their cerebral capacity where the mysteries of the universe dwell to redefine the meaning of life, spirituality, and awaken the subject to a new, uncharted level of humanity. As a result, hilarity ensues.

Imagine, if you can, if this happened to you. Someone walks up and presents you with a blue pill and a red pill. Take the blue pill and the story ends, you wake up in your bed and have the same brain power you had when you went to sleep yesterday and the day before that and the day before that and so on. Take the red pill and your brain becomes your Wonderland and you get to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Wouldn’t it be horrible if after all that hype of opening up the billions of neurons in my brain I decide to take the red pill or get struck by lightning or whatever and I can’t do any of the incredible things they have in the movies!? Scarlett Johansson is levitating bad guys. Bradley Cooper is cracking open stock market patterns. Keanu Reeves is stopping bullets. John Travolta is learning Portuguese! (1996’s romantic fantasy Phenomenon, you guys).

If I ended up only being able to finally understand Algebra, I’d be livid (and slightly embarrassed). All I’m saying is that if I ever get the full power of my grey matter it better deliver. If I can’t figure out an easy way to rob a bank without breaking a sweat, then something’s not right. Not saying I’d do it, of course. It’d just be nice to know the option is out there.

Smells and Memories

Recently I was at the grocery store and noticed an extra glow about the place; a sort of fluffiness that I don’t normally associate with the local Acme outlet. It took a couple of minutes but I finally noticed that the place was teeming with fresh lilies. Maybe the management bought too many, maybe a customer bailed on a pre-arranged large order.

Whatever the reason, these flowers were lining the walls of the store turning it from a sterile shopping depot into a slightly more lovely place to blow my money…what with the floral decorations lightening things up. I could look at lilies all day, I thought. What sort of bugs me is their smell. I am not a fan. One whiff of their aroma and I’m swiftly transported back to funerals I’ve attended and a melancholy mood washes over me. A major headache soon follows.  That’s a powerful reaction just from a smell which got me thinking about how sensitive my nose is to all the different odors that swirl invisibly through the air.

I’m far beyond questioning my motivations at this point, but somewhere along the line in my life I thought it’d be a brilliant idea to not only have kids but also add multiple pets into the mix. They’re all a joy to me, truly, but my poor nose has been put through the ringer. Add in the fact that I hate…HATE mind you…bodily functions of any sort and well, there you have it…that’s my life.

As far as my olfactory system is concerned, children and pets are nothing but rumbling balloons filled with gas that leaks out haphazardly as the day goes on. Each balloon has a buffet of options to choose from when it needs to excrete a stench, all of which make me gag. Never have I smelled a gas that has come out of my dog and thought, “Well, isn’t that just a lovely scent you got there?” No. Questions float briefly in my mind as to what I did in my life to have things come to this. But besides these toxic cloud attacks, not all smells are so bad.

Take the smell of baking bread for example. There’s nothing like it. You know what I’m talking about. Everyone succumbs to this. I don’t know what it is about hot yeast, but when I pass by a bakery and they’re pulling out steaming loaves of French bread from the ovens, I’m euphoric. The smell envelopes me with wave after wave of happiness and comfort.

Consider the following scenario: Mommy or Daddy bathes Baby nice and clean, dusts a little powder on the bum, and makes the baby smell so fresh with the scents of cleanliness. This heavenly aroma clings to the baby’s onesie which probably makes it a bit easier for the parents when their child turns into a raging demon spawn and is up screaming until the sun breaks over the horizon. Mommy and Daddy can pop a clean onesie onto that bugger, inhale the aroma and all the love will come flooding back. It can certainly make up for the “gag” smells. And I speak from professional experience.

As most of you probably already know from watching Bill Nye, of our five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste – smell is most closely connected to our memory, which I find fascinating. The sense of smell doesn’t get as much credit as some of the others, yet I don’t think it’s any less important to the survival of animal species. Smell can tell us just as much about danger as any other sense. The eyes let us know when it’s safe to cross the street. Ears pick up cries of someone in trouble from far away and keep us vigilant of areas around corners or on other levels of our house. Touch lets us know when something is too hot or too cold. Taste picks up poison. Smell, possibly the least popular of our sense, does just as much. Most of the things we use our nose for are practical. Does the baby have a dirty diaper? Is there smoke in the house? Is this milk spoiled?

It even helps us in the propagation of our species. It lets us know—dare I say it?–does that guy smell sexy? That’s an important question, people. I’ll need to do some research, but a close friend once told me that love at first sight is more often than not triggered not by how a guy looks, but how he smells – or rather, how the pheromones he’s secreting smell!

Every person you know and love has their own personal scent just like they have their own fingerprint. If I were to put you in a room with three of your closest friends, I bet you could sniff them and know exactly who they were even if you had ear plugs and a blindfold. How many of you have worn the shirt of a loved one or have lain on their pillow to help ease the pain and loneliness when they’re away? It’s much different than looking at a picture of them. There’s something about smell that goes deeper. It’s in your bones.

The strong connection between smells and emotions is a primary reason why aromatherapy is so popular. Some scents, like lavender, relax us. Some scents, such as musk, arouse passion. Scents can literally guide our actions by planting subconscious cues in our brains. Our sense of smell is so important because it has the ability to help us remember people or places from the past, comfort us, and even help us fall in love.

So next time you go for a walk, take deep breaths and see where the scents lead you! Hopefully it will be somewhere pleasant and not, for instance, a landfill.