Friday, March 30, 2007

When I visited my parents a few years ago I spent some time with my father. He was excited to show me a new video he'd purchased titled Pamela's Prayer.

What followed was 57 minutes of of uncomfortable silence. I didn't know what to say. I was married and had lived away from home for close to 15 years. I took it as my father trying to show me that he loved me. He wished he had raised me like that. I tried to look at it as him wishing he'd done a better job (as all parents must) rather than be offended. I'm still puzzled though.

I won't go into my criticisms of the movie right now. Maybe another time.

Which is why when I read about Purity Balls it felt a little familiar. I still don't understand it. I guess from a parental point of view, I wouldn't want to know about my child's sex life, nor would I want my child to have sex as a child. But a "Purity Ball?" I think a child pledging to her father that she won't have sex until married in a mock marriage-type of ceremony is a little creepy.

Teach your kids values, teach them to think for themselves, teach them responsibility, and teach them respect, but don't turn them into little princesses and hope to keep them a virgin forever.

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57th Skeptics Circle  

Skeptic's Circle #57 hosted by Aardvarchaeology is up.

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Vista (revisited)  

A commenter wrote about my recent WGA rant:

As much as we all instinctively dislike big-brother-all-knowing rich organizations, I think Microsoft has a right to do whatever she wants on her software in order to assure it is legal.

Again, let me emphasize that I don't really dislike Microsoft or Windows. I dislike some of the more recent trends and their anti-trust leanings. I like having a stable, highly compatible operating system that I can install and play almost any game on. That's why I have a computer - for gaming (and internet surfing, but any computer should be able to surfing the internet these days).

But, Microsoft has overstepped its bounds as an OS provider into monitoring what I do on my computer and disabling services. It's overstepped as a software provider into policing my hardware, the other software I install on the computer, and deciding whether or not I'm within my legal rights. That is not the role of an operating system.

I can understand an operating system not supporting an obscure piece of software or hardware because there are so many different pieces of hardware and software out there. But to intentionally block a service because Microsoft has decided that it's not compliant with the DRM is ridiculous.

If I buy a music CD, I should be able to burn it to my computer. I should be able to listen to that music in any format I want. I should be able to make a backup in case the medium fails. That doesn't give me the right to give the music to everyone or make a profit from it. But if all I'm doing is transferring the song to my iPod so I can listen to it in my car or at work, then why am I considered a criminal?

Along the same lines, if I use a music protocol like S/PDIF that doesn't provide content protection, what right does Microsoft have to block me from using it on my computer? What if I'm making my own music? Why shouldn't I be able to use any format I want to use?

Open source hardware support is under fire too. Microsoft is going to scan hardware emulators for protected devices to make sure they're genuine. Third parties will be shut out of the open source arena.

The overhead for all of this content protection is CPU intensive, causing degradation of service. Why am I being penalized for piracy? Now I have to pay more for better hardware in order to get relatively the same results, all because Microsoft has taken a heavy-handed approach.

My main gripe is that all of this protection does nothing to stop hackers. They find a way around the protection. But the normal users - me, in this case - continue to have to put up with the protection problems because I want to use my system legally. Even though I believe that Microsoft is infringing on my rights, I would rather have a legal copy of the system and use it as it was intended. I just wish they wouldn't make it so difficult.

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Excession: A Review  

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I finally finished reading Excession last night. I liked the book overall, but it took me 300 pages before it was interesting enough for me to read it for long periods of time. I've had been struggling reading through it a few pages at a time before that, which probably only exacerbated my disinterest.

The ideas in the book were interesting and there was a lot of new information about the Minds and the way the Culture works in general. Events weren't as rosy (from a Culture society perspective) in the book as there were in previous books. The most notable philosophical conflict was with the Affront, a new race introduced in the book.

I've thought about why it wasn't as good to me over the past couple of days and I think the main reason I was disappointed is because the characters fell kind of flat. I didn't really like anyone in the book. Genar-Hofoen came the closest, but he still wasn't well-developed to me. Dajeil Gelian was completely unlikeable, caught in a 40 year sulk and Ulver Seich was hardly better.

The ships were mildly entertaining, but compared to Mawhrin-Skel from Player of Games, they were dull. I think there were just too many characters spread out over the book and in the end, it didn't come together for me. I'd have to put this about even with State of the Art on my list of Banks books, but I think overall it was a good book, for the history of the Culture, more than for the story (as I felt with State of the Art). Ah well.

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vista piracy and woes  

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Surprisingly Vista has outsold XP in its first full month of sales. As Dogic pointed out there are more computers than there were when XP was released, but the article points out that Vista outsold XP by twice as much.

The executives at Microsoft expected to sell 200 million copies within 24 months and they are well within that goal. So how is piracy hurting their sales? Hmmm...

When asked if people should wait for a service pack before buying Vista, Michael Sievert, corporate vice president of Windows marketing had this to say:

"Will there be a service pack? Yes, there's likely to be a service pack for Windows Vista," Sievert said, declining to give a schedule for its release. "Is it something that people should wait for before they deploy? Absolutely not."

In other news, Vista users are complaining about abnormally long times copying, files to a new location on the same hard drive. Notice that the moderator answered that extra time was needed "because many handles and processes are working simaltiousely" (spelling mistake left in). Yeah, it's a tough thing moving files around. Microsoft has only been doing it since DOS.

From the comments on the post it could possibly be related to the OS generating thumbnails for all the files, but that's just speculation. There's a hotfix available, but people are questioning the authenticity. If Microsoft would post an article about it and supply a patch, I'm sure people would be happier to try it out.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

I'm not a Microsoft fan. I dislike their practices of perpetuating their monopoly, and I think consumer pressure works. If I didn't like them enough, I'd stop using them.

What I do like that have created a standard platform that's used by millions (billions?) I can pick up a file and send it to a friend without thinking twice. I'm not anti-Microsoft because they're large. I'm anti-Microsoft because I don't like how intrusive they've become.

I own XP legally and it resides on my only active computer (my apartment is just too small to set up another). It came with the PC I had built 3 years ago. They plastered the damn authentication certificate to my case; my pretty, shiny, piano black case. But I digress.

I noticed a new patch for XP yesterday called "Windows Genuine Advantage" (WGA), which as it explains, is basically software to check to see if you have a genuine copy of XP and help you get a genuine copy if you do not. I'm not going to install it, even if that means it's end of security patches for me.

WGA is like the DRM (Digital Rights Management) of the OS world. DRM assumes consumers are criminals. I don't like being treated that way (which is why I detest airports), but it seems more and more that corporations and the government seem to think that it's necessary.

Vista is built on WGA. You can find cracked versions of Vista, but you can not patch them with security updates through Microsoft. The best you could do is find a cracked patch down the road. But who would want to wait on security patches in this day and age of viruses and worms?

A better question would be, who is clamoring for Vista? It's a train wreck of unsupported drivers and permissions issues according to most users. It's not ready for mass consumption. Most people say they won't even consider it until after the first service pack is released and the major issues have been resolved.

But according to Steve Ballmer, the reason Vista isn't selling very well is because of piracy. I don't know anyone who wants Vista so badly that they'd pirate it and I doubt anyone that did would buy a legitimate copy anyway. The "lost income" they purport isn't really lost if it's never really going to be spent.

To give him some credit, I don't know how bad the problem is in China, India, Brazil, and Russia. Maybe Vista is so cool in those countries that everyone has to have it, security concerns aside.

I know eventually I'll buy Vista because it's the only OS that supports DirectX 10. I'm a gamer, primarily a PC gamer and other platforms (Mac, Linux) don't support PC gaming like Windows does. Somehow that makes me feel criminal.

Thanks to Dogic for the link.

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strange maps  

If you like old maps and the history behind them, then check out Strange Maps. It's a wonderful bit of weirdness and education all rolled-up together.

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it burns!  

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Oh noes! Not the evil banana theory!

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english skills quiz  

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I missed the first question, obsequious. Obviously now I know what it means.

Your English Skills:

Grammar: 100%
Punctuation: 100%
Spelling: 100%
Vocabulary: 80%

From sylvene who also helped me out on supersede in her post. I probably would have chosen supercede too.

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It was a pretty good weekend with much lazing around and my new game of choice Heroes of Might & Magic V. Frustratingly it started crashing on me on Sunday, but I'm hoping it was an isolated incidence related to the mission and patch level. I managed to squeeze in two new movies as well.

The first was the remake of Casino Royale. I've never seen the original, so I don't know how faithful the adaption was or if it was similar at all. It was a different kind of Bond movie. I liked the character as he was presented, but the story was a bit fanciful. But then it's a Bond movie, a spy movie and it's supposed to be. The end seemed tacked on as a way of explaining why Bond never developed attachments and in the end that just didn't work for me and here's the reason.

The older Bond movies are more polished. Matt even mentioned during the movie that this Bond was certainly the must "scruffy" Bond of them all. Movies have changed over the years to reflect more realism and less fantasy, I think. Not that all old movies are more imaginative or all new movies are gritty, but it's been a trend that's become more predominant. And that's the style that is attempted in the newest Bond movie.

Maybe they were afraid that the fans wouldn't accept the new Bond character and so they tried to link it to the old movies by showing the younger, more naive Bond. I don't think they needed to and it detracted from the movie for me. But even though I haven't seen enough of the old films to judge them all, I always thought the old movies were nice looking and exciting, but lacking in substance. This one tried to bring more substance to the characters, but I don't think it was a complete success.

The second movie, House of Sand and Fog, has to be the most depressing movie I've ever seen. I thought my mother-in-law was cruel for making us see Eight Below, but sadly-humanized-puppy-eyes have nothing on this film. HoSaF sets out to destroy your day as soon as it begins. It's a good movie overall I think and the central message, that seeing things only from your point of view can be disastrous, comes through clearly. But like Shawshank Redemption, I'm not so eager to go through the pain of it anytime soon (and Shawshank had a happy ending).

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pet peeves  

Oh, Muna, how did you let it happen?

Yes, I thought Muna on the Apprentice was great until last week's episode. She had the cool accent, the calm exterior, and well, she just seemed more professional than the other candidates. The only chink in her armor seemed to be that she complained a little too much.

Then last week when we saw her talk to much, interfering with the crew that was trying to get work done, I attributed it to editing. Shows like this know how to make people look bad before they're on their way out. It didn't bode well for her, but there was always the chance it would just be a one time thing.

Then this week it continued. I actually don't really blame her for her team's loss. I think Kristine had more to do with it. Good directing or making the decision to not let Muna in front of the camera would have fixed the problem.

But even though I find fault mostly with the PM, Muna can't get off completely free. And by the end of the episode I wasn't so sad to see her go. I have to admit that might have been softened because I was playing Heroes of Might & Magic V during the episode and I wasn't giving it my full attention.

But towards the end of the episode something interesting happened that made me pay attention. Muna, coined "The Believer" by the show, turned to the Bible and prayer to help her in the boardroom. Kristine, perhaps a bit disrespectfully, pointed out that she'd never seen God in the boardroom with Trump and she was going to read one of Trump's books instead.

It was funny because it seemed like she was poking at Trump's God-complex at the same time as she was commenting on one of my biggest pet peeves. Asking God to choose a side. It's like the people that pray for their team to win a sports competition. What makes them think that God would pick one side over the other? Is the other sports team somehow less deserving or less God-fearing? Why would God even care?

It seems presumptuous, even arrogant to think that you are more deserving of a special favor over other people. Isn't God supposed to love everyone equally? Why is that no one ever seems to believe that? Which brings me to my #1 pet peeve, "everything happens for a reason".

Yes, that's true, but the reason is not because of some big design or purpose. Everything happens for a reason because of cause and effect. I guess if God doesn't answer your prayers, then "everything happens for a reason" is the next big thing. Maybe because "God" is just a creation of our mind. Something to help us feel comforted and special in times of crisis.

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my nerd score  

Monday, March 19, 2007

I am nerdier than 55% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

From Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant

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visual dna  

Thursday, March 15, 2007

from PBS

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blogger weirdness  

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Just a quick apology to those that access my blog through a reader. I decided to combine some categories today and for some reason Blogger re-published them out. I added categories a few weeks ago to all of my post. At first I didn't realize that I could do it without republishing, but after a few posts I figured out the easy way to do them in the edit list. This time, I'm not sure what happened.

Anyway, happy soon-to-be-the-weekend. I'm thinking a bit ahead, aren't I?

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I've changed things around here a little bit by updating to a template with page elements. The addition of the Google Reader is the biggest change as well as some of the links. I didn't save my links off before I moved, so I recreated them. It's probably for the best.

The one thing I don't like is that the page header can't be centered without using the center tag and having it show up in the title bar on the browser. But I suppose I can live with it.

It's a beautiful day today here. At lunch I went out for a run. Well, more of a walk with a little running. I signed up for the Corporate Challenge 3k and I'm seriously thinking it was a mistake. It'll be in May and much hotter. I hate the heat.

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i, robot  

Friday, March 09, 2007

The BBC recently published an article about The ethical delimmas of robotics.

While I think it will be a long time before we develop sentient robots, I think we're more likely to develop sentient programs first, it's interesting that the ethical debate has already begun.

Should robots have the same rights as humans if they develop sentience and should there be limitations on how they're used? Would sentient robots threaten the "specialness" of humans?

I'm not really worried about threatening the "specialness" of humans. It may cause other people issues, but to me it's a very small matter. But there is survival of a species. If robots compete with humans in a niche created for humans, then what will that do to humans and how much equality should be granted without causing harm?

I don't see how we could not grant rights to robots without making them a slave species if it came to a time when they could feel pain and emotion and wanted to make decisions for their own welfare. Regardless of whether or not they're biological, and who knows, they might be partially biological, denying a wish for self-determination is wrong.

But ethically there are a lot of gray areas and I think it will take a lot of thought and debate to draw the lines of what we should do. And then it will take a lot of re-thinking those lines and coming up with better answers.

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what's in a name?  

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I thought I'd try to explain the origin of the name ordinarygirl and how I chose the name for this blog. Longtime readers may know that I don't really have a theme in my posts. I write about myself and the things I'm interested in. It's a bit chaotic perhaps, but it works for me.

I used to post on Live Journal as something of a diary, mostly private posts. A little over a year ago I decided to abandon my diary there for Blogger. It took some time to get used to the idea that private posts weren't an option. Occasionally I still post something private over at Live Journal just to get it out of my system. But not having the ability to post privately has been a good thing because I'm more likely to share what I'm thinking with the outside world.

I grew up in a very fundamentalist religious household. Even after I struck out in my own direction it was hard to shake the influence of that over my life. I always held out that there was something supernatural, even if it wasn't something that could be explained. I believed that there was something there that made people special.

Over the last few years though I've rejected the entire idea of a supernatural. It may make me feel special, but believing in something I can't even define or prove became too difficult. Realistically I could make up anything or borrow a belief just to have something to believe in. But why make something up or continue to try to find meaning in it when there are many things that can be defined and understood that I can believe in?

When I created this blog I wanted to acknowledge the commonality of humanity. Yeah, that sounds pretentious. I guess it was more of embracing what makes me human, regular everyday stuff and all. It wasn't that I didn't think being different was important too, but I wanted to focus more on the parts of me that connected me to people in general, the parts that are overlooked because they're just not really that cool.

I had a new appreciation for who I was and I just wanted to be that ordinary person. Maybe it's a bit of the whole uniqueness for the sake of uniqueness is overrated.

It really wasn't that conscious of decision. I had all of this stuff in the back of my mind at the time, but I pretty much just decided on the name and started writing.

How did you decide your name and the theme for your blog? Was it a conscious decision or something that evolved over time?

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ever feel like you're going crazy?  

Sometimes I feel like I'm losing my mind. Yeah, I guess people have said that to me jokingly all of my life, but the last few weeks it's been crazy the things I've forgotten.

Last week I went to fill up for gas on my way into work. I went inside to get a drink while the gas was pumping. When I came out I drove off. I don't remember taking the pump out of the gas tank. Later that day a co-worker of mine pointed out that my tank was open. I think I just drove off with the pump still in the gas tank. Thankfully it had to have been done pumping. I don't have a large tank.

Yesterday when I left work I realized I didn't have my keys. Since I had left my coat in the car, I figured maybe I left my keys there too. Yep, the door was unlocked and there they were in the ignition.. with the car still on. That's not the first time I've left the car on and walked away. It probably doesn't help that since it's a hybrid the engine usually shuts off, so I don't think about it if I sit in the car for a few minutes.

They events are laughable. What's not laughable is not even remembering that I forgot such obvious things. Even later I don't remember leaving the engine on or leaving the pump in the tank. I just know that's what had to have happened.

Matt says I must have been distracted and maybe I was. But I don't know why I'd be distracted more lately than usual. I'm not really under stress, but I do have trouble focussing. Lately when I re-read things that I've written I notice some of the words I've used are out of place. Perhaps that's the disctraction of writing at work. Or maybe my brain isn't quite finding the correct word.

Maybe it's all just part of getting older.

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the tomb  

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

By now you've probably heard of or read reviews for or seen for yourself the controversial show The Lost Tomb of Jesus. It took me longer than usual to watch it because I couldn't stomach more than a little per night, but I finally finished the recording last night.

Going into it I didn't have much of an expectation that it would offer any kind of unbiased opinion. I'd read other people's comments on it, but more importantly I'd seen Simcha Jacobovici's shoddy work on The Naked Archaeologist on History International. He isn't an archaeologist. He's a journalist, and not a very good one at that. In his show he determines what he wants the outcome to be and drives towards that by cherry-picking the theories and scientific proof that he wants to believe. If the proof gets in the way of his intended target, he simply ignores it.

I'm not offended by the subject of his new tv special, but I am offended by his method of presenting information. He does it under a veil of science and scholarship, which he doesn't know the least bit about. He even admits as much in an interview.

"We're not scientists. At the end of the day we can't wait till every ossuary is tested for DNA," he said. "We took the story that far. At some point you have to say, 'I've done my job as a journalist.'" -- The Loom

It certainly doesn't speak well for History International or The Discovery Channel that they've carried his drivel.

For more in-depth blow-by-blow about The Tomb in particular check here.

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what type of fae are you?  

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What type of Fae are you?

From Sylvene

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why I love Battlestar Galactica  

Dogic and I have discussed this a little, and it's helped me understand why I like the show. My husband doesn't really care so much for it. Characters like Starbuck and Baltar bug the heck out of him.

I like the characters though. To me they're more real than most tv series I've seen. The events that surround them are fantastical, but the characters react in, what are to me, believable ways.

Last night's episode though left me puzzled. I just hope that something happens later this season or next to redeem it. I'm not a "destiny" type of person, but even if I was, the "destiny" seemed pointless. I'm just hoping there's more to it.

But back to the characters, here's a quote from Dogic based on a conversation we had about why some people are so turned off by the characterizations in BSG. He's much more eloquent than I am and he said what I basically wanted to say.

I think he’s a great character, (as are all the characters in BSG), because it shines light on the fact that many people…probably even most people…have deep down fears and strong emotions over certain issues and events, and when any of us are put into situations that trigger these deep issues, we often will behave emotionally or irrationally or selfishly.

Especially after the last episode, I can relate to a character who grew up very intelligent in an otherwise backward community, and thus has always been an outsider, and is naturally very defensive and afraid of other people, and yet has contempt for other people. Maybe this is just my own observation, but from people I’ve met in my life, I’ve noticed that the more alone a person is, the more insecure (and whiney) they become. Whiney is just the external manifestation of insecurity.

So, ya, Baltar is an unpleasant person, but I really like the character. It’s VERY real.

I've always liked flawed characters. I think people can do bad things and still be good people. That doesn't mean they're not responsible for the bad decisions or they can't be tormented by them. In fact, someone who agonizes over a bad decision is often seen as heroic. But the agonizing can also go too far, eating away all the aspects that make a person good.

They've done a good job of portaying that in the Admiral, his responsiblity as a leader and his desire to do the right thing. Sometimes he comes off as harsh, even unlikeable, but you can always see the internal struggle and what it's cost him.

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how will you die  

Friday, March 02, 2007

How will I die?

You'll die Mysteriously...
You are a different sort of person and your death will be unexplainable.

'How will you die?' at QuizGalaxy.com

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useless trivia about me  

My Netflix List

Yes, I know you've been dying to know.

Matt and I actually share the list, but I often add movies at work out of boredom.

Currently out:
1. The Illusionist
2. House of Sand and Fog

In Queue:
1. Casino Royale
2. Bubba Ho-Tep
3. King of New York: SE (Widescreen)
4. Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky
5. Kung Fu Hustle
6. America: Freedom to Fascism
7. Ringside: The Best of Mike Tyson: Disc 1
8. Ringside: The Best of Mike Tyson: Disc 2
9. Superman Returns
10. The Descent
11. Dave Chappelle: For What It's Worth
12. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
13. Final Fantasy VII: AC: Bonus Material
14. Little Miss Sunshine
15. Cube
16. Murderball
17. Dead Alive
18. Shallow Grave
19. Killing Zoe
20: 11:14
21. Insomnia
22. Jesus Camp
23. Run Ronnie Run
24. Battle Beyond the Stars
25. The Gift
26. Scary Movie 4
27. Lady in the Water
28. Garden State
29. The Island
30. King Kong
31. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
32. Timeline
33. The Birds
34. Vertigo
35. Babel
36. Unknown
37. Unknown White Male
38. Marie Antoinette
39. Charlotte Gray
40. Primer
41. Idiocracy
42. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
43. The Virgin Suicides
44. The Good Girl
45. Derailed
46. The Grudge 2
47. Below
48. The Jacket
49. Magma: Volcanic Disaster
50. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
51. Flags of Our Fathers
52. 49 Up

Children of Men
Deliver Us from Evil
Hannibal Rising
Letters from Iwo Jima
Man Push Cart
Pan's Labyrinth

I'd love to hear any recommendations for movies to add, if anyone would care to comment.

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