Monday, February 28, 2011

Chapter 7.5: Book Blog: Druggies, Immortal Assassins and The Maybe Dead

Okay, wow. I am so embarrassed that I haven't updated this blog for two weeks. This is not going to become a habit I promise. Sadly, all I have at this point is a book video. But it's a long one since I had five books to talk about. I swear, I will try to think of something to talk about in the next few days. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to shout them out in the comments.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chapter 7.4: Saint Valentine and A Message of Hope

So it's that time of year again, the day filled with groans, cheers, and chocolate. No, not Halloween. It's Valentine's Day. Or Singles Awareness Day if you feel kind of bitter about Valentine's Day. A hopeless romantic at heart, I like Valentine's Day and do not feel the need to rename it. I may not have a significant other, but I still love giving and getting Valentines from my friends and family. Plus I love hearing stories of sweet Valentine's that others have had.

And of course, I love to research things and so I went to look up the history behind Valentine's Day. The origins of the day aren't actually very well-known and the accepted story may be completely fabricated. But the most popularly believed story is that Saint Valentine was a priest under the reign of Emperor Claudius II. Claudius declared that young men in the army were forbidden to marry. Of course, many of the men still had sweethearts they wished to wed so Saint Valentine continued to marry couples in secret. At least two Valentines were martyred by Claudius on February 14th in different years of the 3rd century.

In Rome, during the same time, there was a pagan festival celebrating Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage and fertility. This festival was called Lupercalia and was held for three days, between February 13 and 15. During this festival, men slaughtered goats, dipped the hides in the animal's blood and then slapped women with the hides for fertility. Oh those wacky pagans.

Of course, when Christianity took over Rome, they had to rework the pagan holidays to fit in with their religion (goodbye solstice, hello Christmas). So to honor Valentine (supposedly) they created Saint Valentine's Day, the name of which was shortened over time. But how was romance tied to the day? Well in Lupercalia, the men would choose the name of a woman to be paired with for the festival (and maybe longer if they hit it off) for...fertility.

Today of course, this is really a holiday for the flower companies and candy people, as well as Hallmark. But it's also a day to just show you care. You don't have to have a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/lover to show that you care. You can offer to walk your neighbor's dog, give your babysitting services to your aunt (or parents depending on how young your siblings are), or baking cupcakes for your classmates (or study group or co-workers (but only the ones you like ;) )).

So along those lines, I would like to recognize an organization that is showing the world it cares and does it every day. The It Gets Better Project is an organization working to show gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth that life will get better. People can be cruel, especially high schoolers and middle schoolers. Now, imagine you have something different about you that makes you stand out when all you want is to be treated like everyone else. Having a sexuality different than heterosexual is akin to being the most stereotypical geek. Basically, anyone feels the slightest inclination to make your life hell (maybe they're afraid because you're different, maybe they fear their own sexuality, maybe they're just homophobic) will probably do so.

The It Gets Better Project lets those youth know they are not alone. They give encouragement to let them know that this time of your life will not last forever. It was created in response to the suicides of so many gay teens in 2010. And many celebrities and even normal people have lent their stories as encouragement.

I fully support this project. I am straight and avoided most teasing in school since I simply didn't let potential bullies think I cared (even when I did). And I got out early through the Running Start program. But my heart goes out to every teen who has every been bullied. Every teen who dreaded school because of being tormented, who ever thought that suicide was the only way they could leave that pain behind. High school seems like it will last forever and that even after school, there's no guarantee that things will improve.

I can't guarantee things will improve, no one can promise that 100%. But once you leave the narrow slice of humanity that occupies your high school, you'll find there are more people who care, more good people in the world than bad. There'll always be people who suck, who try to bring you down. But remember that you have amazing gifts. You are an individual with so much to offer the world and we need you. The world needs you so hold your head high and remember that It Gets Better.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chapter 7.3: The End is Nigh

We love our technology, and believe me, I love my laptop far far more that I should love any inanimate object. I can understand wanting things to run more efficiently, more smoothly. But I think at some point we need to step back from our drive towards making something better and worry about whether or not we've given it the ability to kill us in our sleep.

For my PK Dick class, we recently read the short story "Second Variety" which talks about these robots called claws that have developed to the point where they imitate people to get close enough to chop you to pieces. At the end you see that one variety of robot even has weapons to use against the other varieties, which sometime in the near future will mean all out robot war. But all the humans will be dead by that time. Oh, and the robots are made in automated factories buried beneath the surface. To quote Will Smith "Robots making robots? Now that's just stupid."

Anyone who has seen a movie about robots or the uprising of the machines knows just what a bad idea this production of robots is. In I, Robot you get the master robot overpowering the three laws that keep people safe from rogue robots and turn them against humanity. Now who wants to own a robot? In Eagle Eye you have a program meant to identify threats using all kind of technology that is against our basic rights to privacy. It hacks in to any technology (traffic cams, cell phones, digital ticker tape, the TVs that play in storefronts) to gather information and make sure that it's dastardly plan comes to fruition, via blackmail of Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan. And who's been living under a rock so long they've never heard of Skynet?

Well sure, you say, anyone can write a story or make a movie about robots and machines taking over the world. But it's fiction; that'll never actually happen. We're smarter than the people in books and movies. We can learn from their fictional mistakes.

Yeah, sadly, this is kind of not true. Exhibit A: the Pentagon commissioned a robotics company to develop robots who are able to exist by eating organic matter. Doesn't sound so terrifying right? Well organic matter includes grass, broken wood, and dead bodies. Yes, that's right, our own government has asked for a a robot that can live off of the fallen in the field. I ask you, what special programming makes sure that your robot only eats corpses, as opposed to eating people while they sleep? Don't believe me? You can read about the robots here, here and here

Still not convinced that humans just don't know how to quit when they're ahead? Check out the newest incarnation of Monopoly:

This coming fall, you can purchase Monopoly Live, a version that has an omnipotent tower in the middle of the board. The board watches your game piece, automatically adding money to your bank card when you pass go, calculating rent prices, and always remembering exactly how much money you have. When the designers were asked what's missing from the game, one responded "The disputes. The tower never makes a mistake."

You know what else is missing? The common sense that tells you not to make a machine who remembers your every move. Also, doesn't that thing look like it could coordinate an attack between your appliances and cell phone? I think I'd be installing a lock on my door if this game ever entered my house.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chapter 7.2: Book Blog: Drugs, Dogs, and Vampires

I feel terrible about how little I've updated recently. I do have an idea for a post that I will hopefully get written this weekend. In the meantime, here is the book post for this past week. Plus last week, since I didn't actually get a post up for last week. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chapter 7.1: Book Blog: Mockingjays and Angels

Wow, I can't believe we are already in February. As of January 31st, I have read 14 books this year. Can you tell I have a lot of time on my hands? I actually recorded this yesterday but didn't get a chance to upload it. And I'm sorry that I got off schedule with posting it. I was busy on Friday working on homework and attending a poetry reading. Anyway, enjoy the video.