Random Thoughts: Mayim Bialik/Frozen, Pina Colada Song, Doctor Who, and Pirates

Posted by TechyDad on September 19, 2014 under Disney, Doctor Who, Music

random_brainI sat down to write my next blog post and there were a couple of topics swirling about my brain.  None of them seemed enough to constitute an entire blog post, so I thought I’d just mash them all together into one post comprised of four mini-posts.

Mayim Bialik and Frozen Misconceptions

Actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik recently posted about why she and her sons hate Frozen.  I recognize that tastes vary from person to person and what one lauds as a great movie, another will view as a piece of trash.  I’m sure Mayim could name a movie that she loves that I’d hate to have to sit through.  That being said, the reasons she gave for hating it seemed misguided to me.  (Note:  If you haven’t seen Frozen – WHY HAVEN’T YOU?!!! Also, spoilers are ahead.)

First off, she cited the movie’s "reigning plot line" of Anna trying to find a man to marry.  What I think she missed is that this plot line was there for the sole purpose of subverting it.  Anna thinks she needs "true love" in the form of marrying the first guy who acts nice towards her.  She doesn’t bother to get to know him beyond one night of talking.  Later, when he turns out to be the villain, she makes the same mistake a second time and thinks she needs Kristoff.  Granted, she *is* being turned to ice and sees Kristoff racing back towards her.  Once she sees her sister is in danger, though, she drops the "gotta find a man" quest in favor of "must save my sister."  THIS turns out to be what, in turn, saves Anna, not some guy’s kiss.  Trope subverted.

Next, Mayim worries about the portrayal of men as scheming villains.  Except Prince Hans wasn’t a scheming villain because he was a man.  He was a scheming villain because he was a scheming villain. Kristoff was a man and also a nice guy.  So was Anna’s father.  Widening our definition of "man", we might even include Olaf and Sven.  Prince Hans *was* using Anna to gain power, but it’s not male bashing to have a male villain.

Mayim’s third gripe was the "doll-like" figures and faces of Anna and Elsa.  I’ll admit that, on looking at it again, they do have a certain doll-like quality about them.  Then again, so does Prince Hans.  Kristoff, being a mountain man and not someone who lives in a castle, seems built more ruggedly.  I write this off as animator’s license.  There are many different styles of animation.  Not all look 100% realistic.  That being said, I can understand being pulled out of a movie or show because of the animation.  I’m generally not a fan of shows that flip between "normal" and "anime" modes.  (Such as the old Teen Titans show.)

Do You Like Pina Coladas?  And Getting Caught Cheating On Your Spouse?

I’ve been listening to the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack a lot recently.  Perhaps a bit too much.  I’ve started pondering meanings in the Pina Colada song.  In case you’ve forgotten it, the song tells the tale of a guy and his "lovely lady" who fell into a boring routine.  He was reading the personal ads in the newspaper (to the youngins out there, this was the old-style Match.com) when he came upon a listing that intrigued him.  Ignoring the fact that he’s was planning on cheating on his lady, he answers the ad and arranges to meet this woman.  He waits for his mystery woman in a bar and then sees his lady walk in.  It turns out she was the one who placed the personal ad.  They share a laugh at having tried to cheat on one another and everyone is happy.  The End.

Wait, what?!!!  Is the Pina Colada song seriously suggesting that cheating on your significant other will relieve relationship doldrums?  Granted it might, but only to replace them with a relationship tornado that rips everything (i.e. your relationship) to shreds.  Pretty much any other action other than cheating (or attempted cheating) will be better that this.

Like I said, I might have been listening to this a bit too much.

Bored By The Doctor

I feel traitorous saying this, but I’m not liking the new episodes of Doctor Who.  The first one seemed confused, but I chalked that up to the Doctor having just regenerated and not quite being all there mentally.  However, the following episodes didn’t seem up to par either.  I’m not sure if this is all part of Steven Moffat’s Season 8 Grand Plan, but he’d better kick it up a notch soon.  Take, for example, Listen.  (Spoilers ahead.)  The episode seemed promising.  It started getting interesting.  And then it seemed to go nowhere.  The Great Villain evaporated into nothingness and was never there at all.  It was a big letdown.  It doesn’t even seem to be Peter Capaldi’s fault.  I actually like his Doctor.  I’m not sure I like him more than Matt Smith’s and definitely not more than David Tennant’s, but he’s good.  However, he doesn’t seem to be getting good episodes.  Capaldi can only do so much.  Here’s hoping these Doctor Doldrums let up soon.  (Meanwhile, I’ll be "cheating" on the Doctor with Sherlock.  Amazing show!)

Avast, me Hearties

Arrrr… Today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, ye swabs.  So hoist the colors and grab ye treasure maps or ye shall be keel hauled!

 

There you have it.  Four completely different topics mashed together into one nice post!  Hope your weekend is great, and slightly random in only the best of ways.

NOTE: The image above is comprised of "Brain" by trubinial guru, "Pirate’s Boat – Navire Pirate" by cyberscooty, "Tardis" by tatica, "Single Snowflake" by erik_, and "Music Note" by cyberscooty.  All of these images are available via OpenClipArt.org.

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Six Years of TechyDad

Posted by TechyDad on September 17, 2014 under Blogging, Fatherhood, Parenting

Last week was my sixth blogoversary.  Honestly, I completely forgot about it given that it was also the first full week of school.  That and other hectic life events caused it to slip my mind until I happened to notice it yesterday.  I decided to go back and see what I was blogging about in September each year (limiting myself to one or two posts per year).

2008

This was the year that NHL started kindergarten.  JSL did not like his brother leaving every morning and he especially didn’t like me leaving every morning.  Though he still couldn’t talk, he made his opinions on the matter clear and gave me quite the guilt trip.

2009

This seemed to be the month of cooking.  I tried making Mock Crab Cakes to limited success (though now I’m thinking of trying it again).  The Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Dessert Pizza, on the other hand, was a bigger success.  (NHL’s braces might preclude this one given the ooey-gooey marshmallows.)

2010

JSL had finally figured out how to ride his big wheel.  He also got on his brother’s big kid bike to pose for a photo.  Little did I know, at the time, that not four year later, he would climb atop that bike again and ride it without training wheels.

2011

This wasn’t the happiest of months.  Hurricane Irene had just swept through, devastating much of the area.  Though our property was relatively unscathed, we had planned a trip to Disney World with just B and me.  This trip had to be cancelled due to the hurricane.  While it wasn’t of the magnitude of what others had to deal with, it took me quite awhile to recover from this.  Posting my two part blog post detailing our could-have-been vacation was very cathartic.

2012

Shhh…. There’s something I can’t share.  Or, at least, I couldn’t at the time.  I wanted to shout the news from the highest social media rooftops, but we needed to keep quiet while we got some things in place.  Eventually, I was able to post about how we had gotten a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome for NHL and how I suspected that I am an Aspie as well.

2013

B went to Type A Con.  While she was away, the boys and I had some time to ourselves and I learned some valuable lessons.

There you have it.  A quick overview of my six years of blog posts, or at least a selection of the September ones.  It’s been quite a wild ride.  I can’t wait for the next six years.  Then again, that will bring NHL’s bar mitzvah, NHL going to high school, JSL graduating elementary school, JSL’s bar mitzvah, NHL prepping for college, and me being the father of two teenagers.  Maybe I can wait for a bit for all of that.  Here’s hoping the next six years go by slowly!

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Saying Goodbye To Summer

Posted by TechyDad on September 15, 2014 under Summer

SummersEndSummer is over. I just need to accept this fact.  Oh, sure, the Official Last Day Of Summer is on the autumnal equinox on September 23rd.  However, all of the signs point to summer being over now.

First of all, the kids are back in school. While this is a welcome sign for many parents, it also heralds the beginning of the fall months.  No more coming home and taking the boys to the water park to cool off.  In fact, if they are even still open (something I would doubt), going into the water in the recent weather would not be something I would encourage.

This leads us to the second sign of summer being over.  It has gotten colder.  I don’t mean slightly cool breeze as you run around the beach colder.  No, this is full blown wear-pants-instead-of-shorts-and-put-on-a-jacket-too weather.  During some nights, we’re actually pushing frost advisories.  The only thing keeping the air conditioning units in my windows was the rain a couple of days ago.  (Move them too close to rainy weather and it gets VERY messy!)

Thanks to the weather, we have our third sign:  The trees are changing colors.  Yes, the green leaves are still the most common, but other colors are rearing their ugly (ok, beautiful) heads.  Some trees have even begun to lose their leaves!

A more local sign is Hoffman’s closing.  Hoffman’s is a local amusement park that generations have grown up attending.  This is the time of year when it normally closes for the season.  Sadly, it has closed for good.  Soon the rides will be sold off and the area redeveloped as retail shops.  A local spot for families to go to enjoy some nice rides will be just another shopping area.  Future summers just won’t be the same.

Lastly, we realized that one of our favorite local ice cream shops was closing today.  We hurried on over to enjoy a final cup or cone while watching their cows.

Yes, summer is over.  Soon the leaves will fall, the air will turn cold, and perhaps snow will even fall.  Thank you, summer for all of your warm days and fun memories.  You will be missed.

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Addicted To Learning

Posted by TechyDad on September 12, 2014 under Technology

learn-iconYou might have noticed that I’ve been a bit quiet recently.  Part of the reason is that I’ve had a bit of a case of Bloggy Writer’s Block.  A bigger reason, though, is that I’ve gotten addicted.  Addicted to learning.

In my field, web development, you need to always keep moving.  You need to keep picking up new skills, learning new technologies, all while keeping your existing skills polished.  If you don’t, you risk being left behind.  Of course, life always tends to get in the way – making sure I don’t have enough time to keep up on everything.  In addition, there’s a certain comfort to doing things the way you’ve always done them and a certain scariness of doing something a new way.  So it can be very easy to sink into a morass of "do it the way we’ve always done it and change nothing."  Once you get into that morass, it can be tough to get out.

I wouldn’t say I was in that morass, but I saw myself headed in that direction so I took action and decided to learn some new skills.  My first target was Bootstrap.  Bootstrap is a web development framework that was first developed by Twitter.  I had heard that it made it extremely easy to develop responsive websites – that is, websites that reformat themselves to display on computers, tablets, and handheld mobile devices.  This is something I was able to do myself, but I had heard that Bootstrap made this much easier.

Boy, did I hear right.  As I watched the video, my mind was blown.  Before I even finished the video, I couldn’t wait to apply this newfound knowledge to make something awesome.  I’m thinking a page to encourage someone to hire me for freelance projects would be appropriate.  What better use of a showcase of my new skills?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to learn some more so I can make an even more awesome website.

NOTE: The "Learn Icon" above is by ousia and is available via OpenClipArt.org.

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A Slow Internet Protest

Posted by TechyDad on September 10, 2014 under Internet

anigifToday, on many sites across the Internet, you might see a loading sign instead of your favorite content.  No, the Internet hasn’t broken down.  Not yet, anyway.  Instead, these sites are taking part in "Internet Slowdown Day."

What is Internet Slowdown Day?

No, it’s not a day to get offline (though that might be an unintended result).  Instead, it’s a day to protest against the government and big ISPs who want to dismantle Network Neutrality.  I’ve written about this topic before in Save Our Internet and My Open Letter To The FCC Concerning Network Neutrality.  Here’s a quick refresher, though:

Today, if you want to get a piece of data from a server, you make a request from the server that holds the data.  That request travels up your ISP’s lines, to the ISP that hosts the server, to the server which starts sending the data.  That data now flows back down the server’s ISP’s lines to your ISP and finally to your computer.  Granted, this is a simplified description, but the point is that it doesn’t matter whether you are requesting a video from Netflix or a photo of a funny cat.  All of the data is treated the same.  Furthermore, the same data from two different sources get treated the same.  So it doesn’t matter if your video request is to Netflix, YouTube, or some tiny new video company.

This isn’t the way the ISPs want the Internet to work, though.

For years, the ISPs have looked at the money that some sites make, especially Internet video companies like Netflix, and have seen them as threats to their own video offerings.  For example, if you could get all of your video needs from Netflix, you might not need to pay extra for a cable TV subscription.  Obviously, the ISPs don’t like this and have been trying to fix this.

Their solution is to claim that we need an "Internet Fast Lane."  The way this would work (as far as the ISPs say) would be that all traffic would operate as it does now, except companies could pay the ISPs for access to the "fast lane" to deliver their data faster.  The way it would really work is as follows:

  1. The "non-fast" lane would quickly become a slow lane.  The more sites that pay for fast lane access, the more money the ISPs would get.   If the non-fast lane is too fast, sites won’t want to pay so the ISPs will have a financial incentive to slow things down.  In addition, any new upgrades will go towards the money-generating fast lane, not towards the non-revenue-producing slow lane.
  2. Big companies would be able to afford to pay for fast lane access at every ISP.  Smaller companies wouldn’t be able to afford this and thus would get stuck in the slow lane.
  3. Exclusive deals might be cut to force competitors into a slow lane.  For example, imagine what would happen if Amazon cut a deal with Comcast to make Amazon the "official Comcast Internet Video streaming site."  Netflix’s traffic would slow down while Amazon’s sped up.  This would lead to Comcast customers leaving Netflix and going to Amazon.  Meanwhile, users on Cox might find the opposite to be true.  The Internet video streaming sites that are usable might wind up depending on what ISP you are in.

Of course, we don’t have to worry about this because people could just leave their ISP if the ISP tried this, right?  Wrong.

Most people have a choice of only one or two fixed-line broadband options.  This means there isn’t much of a choice to switch.

Still, all this is theoretical, right?

Wrong.  Check out this graph of Netflix speeds for Comcast users.  That dip in October of 2013 is when users started noticing trouble.  Netflix complained to Comcast who feigned innocence.  They, instead, blamed Netflix for the problem.  Then, Netflix started paying Comcast protection money to improve Netflix’s speed.  Look at the graph and see if you can spot when that was.  If you said January/February of 2014, you’d be right.

So ISPs are willing to monkey with the speeds of the sites we want to access, don’t feel any competitive pressure due to being monopolies or duopolies, see dollar signs if they do this, and have teams of lobbyists telling Washington that their way is the best.  The only thing that can stop them?  The people.  If Internet Users, en masse, tell the government that they want Network Neutrality protected and that they don’t want their Internet broken by greedy ISPs, then we might just win and our favorite sites won’t have to show "Loading Because We Couldn’t Afford Fast Lane" spinning wheels.

NOTE: The image above comes from BattleForTheNet.com and was offered to sites to display to help fight for our Internet.

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