Tuesday, December 31, 2013

We Can Still Be Friends

I like you ever though you are not my friend. If you sent me a friend request on Facebook and I didn't accept it, it doesn't mean I don't like you.

When I joined Facebook years ago, it was to network with other educators with whom I worked. A good deal of my work was done online and my colleagues were, spread across the globe.

As time passed, I added personal friends and family. As a result my news feed got hundreds of posts a day.  If I were to read them all, it would be a full time job. However, reading is just part of the problem. I have to consider each post I make and how my friends/followers will view them.

When I retired from education a few years ago, I sent a message to my professional colleagues and those who followed my education postings. I let them know of that the nature of my post would be changing.  They would be more focused on my personal and family life.

I said that I would not unfriend anyone, but if anyone was following me because of my work in professional development, those posts would be stopping, and I would not be upset if they unfriended me. I also mentioned that I would no longer accept friend requests from educators I didn't know personally. (I never accepted friends with whom I didn't share a personal or professional connection.)

As the years in retirement grow, the nature of my posts and my friends are more personal.  Many of my professional FB friends are also personal friends. I scan their posts and read selectively, as I'm sure they do with mine.

In the past few years, I've had dozens of friend requests from friends of friends, but have accepted only those I knew and with whom I felt I wanted to share personal information.

Recently, I was invited to join a new FB group of former Cyber Angels. Having been associated with them since 1995, I was happy to reconnect through the group. Now I find that I am getting friend requests from group members and am in the uncomfortable position of having to ignore the requests.  Accepting them would put me in a situation where the nature of my posts and theirs would be of little benefit to either party.

Because I'm FB friends with some members of the group, I received regular updates from the group and can stay current without having to add more friends, expand my already overloaded news feed, and share unnecessary personal stories.

The fact is that FB groups are a great way to stay in contact with folks who share a narrow interest without sharing too much non-relevant minutia. 

I'm looking forward to reconnecting with those of you I know and meeting those of you I don't, but it will be through the group rather than through my wall. So please understand that we can be great friends in the Former CA group without being full-fledged FB friends. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Harry Potter, Hogwarts, the Sorting Hat and Magic in the 4th Grade

After three years in retirement, I've re-entered the classroom in a way I never envisioned.  

My grandson started school this September and his district is actively seeks volunteers.  They were looking for library volunteers, and while I wasn’t interested in shelving books, as a retired technology infusion consultant, I thought I might offer my talents in other areas.

I have great respect and admiration for librarians, and know them them as one of the earliest education groups to welcome technology into their domain.  In 1996 I received a call to provide an Internet workshop for school media specialists in the south Jersey.  When asked what they wanted me to present, I was given one of the best, if not the best response I ever received to that question.  She said, “It’s hard to say what we want, when we don’t know what we need.” 

With that memory in mind, I attended the volunteer meeting. As I sat and listened, it was obvious she was looking for the kind of clerical help that I wasn’t interested in providing, but was very open to finding out what we had to offer.  Well it’s not that I wasn’t interested in providing clerical help, as much as I wasn’t interested in driving 35 minutes in each direction to provide it.  

When the appropriate time came, I spoke my piece and alluded the kinds of thing I could and would be able and willing to provide.  Rather than being dismissive, put upon, or intimidated, I could see the wheels turning and her acceptance of what I was offering was immediate. 

Over the next week, we exchanged emails in which I gave her a much broader range of services I could offer, and asked her to get back to me once school opening was out of the way and she had time to digest what I presented to her.

A short time later, she sent me an email with the disclaimer that what she was about to propose might sound crazy and that I shouldn’t hesitate to tell her no.  As soon as I read the word crazy, I smiled.  She had come to the right asylum!  After all, I had taught a self-contained classroom without any text books and created life science curriculum by writing songs and singing them in the classroom.  My teaching partner dressed up like a tree to teach her class photosynthesis.  Heck, the biggest part of my teaching career was defined by crazy!  

Her 4th grade book club was doing Harry Potter. At their next meeting she wanted to sort them into the four Hogwarts houses; Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Gryffindor.   We would reenact the Sorting Hat scene from Harry Potter.   She had a sorting hat that was every bit as authentic as the one in the movie, and would tape her smart phone inside the hat. I would be outside in the parking lot providing the voice of the sorting hat and working from descriptions she had written for each student.

When I arrived, so as to not lose and time with her students, she had already primed and tasked one of the other volunteers to set things up and test everything out with me.  We taped, tested and got ready for the class. 

As the librarian called each student up I used a script she had written to sort them into their respective houses. I couldn’t see what was going on, but after the first student, it seemed to me that they were buying into the “magic”.   

When the second student was getting ready to have the hat placed above her head, she said, “That’s kind of creepy.”  Before reading her script I ad-libbed, “No, it’s not creepy.”  

I wish I could have seen the expression on her face, because the next student said to the librarian, “How does he know all that stuff?” 

Not waiting for her answer, the sorting hat said, “The sorting hat knows everything.”   After the rest of the students were sorted, they got down to the business at hand, which was reading and discussing characteristics of each of the Hogwarts houses, and what would happen in following weeks. 
Later, the librarian confirmed that they bought into it completely.  Had they questioned it or guessed what was going on, we had plans to introduce me, but that wasn’t necessary.  The sorting hat will be there for future Hogwarts students.

There were three things that really made my day.  First, was that she was doing exactly what I had spent my technology consulting career trying to get teachers to understand.  It's not about technology! It's all about the curriculum.  Technology is simply a tool! You start with a curricular problem and then look for the technology that will help you do it in a way that is better or more efficient than without it.   

Second, the technology of choice was the smart phone, a tool that has yet to make significant inroads into schools. They were just coming into use during the final years of my “working” life, and this was the first opportunity I had to use it with a class!

Finally, was that I wasn’t teaching anything. I was the assistant! There was very little prep and no pressure. It was a fun day and great to get back in the classroom. Well, actually it was getting back into the parking lot in front of the classroom.

Next on the agenda will be something more in my wheelhouse that will truly get me back in the classroom.  I’ll be doing some Internet safety work with all of the 4th grade classes.  

More about that later!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chatting with Dish

I'm on the board of our condo association. Two of us are looking into the possibilities of changing our rules to allow for more satellite dishes than are now permitted.  Having spent quite a bit of time researching the FCC regulations and other issues, all we needed to do to finish our report was to find out more about installers and the specifics of installations. 

Unfortunately, talking to a real person about this issue has, to this point been impossible. Numerous phone calls and visits to dealers who sell Dish or DTV, have proven fruitless.  Today, I went to the dish site and used the Chat feature to talk with Benjamin, who assured me he was a real person. I went it the conversation with little or no expectations of getting my questions answered. The conversation completely lived up to my expectations and I offer to you my chat session, in its entirety, for your consideration.

Benjamin (ID: M9H) (Listening)
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Hi, my name is Benjamin (ID: M9H). How may I help you?
Art : I am a board member of our condo association.  We are considering allowing for dish installations, but need answers to questions about installers and  installations.  Is there a number I can call.  I have had no luck speaking to a human.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Are you chatting to set-up satellite TV today?
Art : No... I need answers in order to change our policy and rules
Benjamin (ID: M9H): You're chatting directly to Dish sales department. My name is Benjamin and I'm a real person that you chatting with.
Art : Then it would be nice if I could get my questions answered
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Sure, how can I be help with your concerns today, Art?
Art : Have you read the part about me being a board member and asking about installers and installations?
 Benjamin (ID: M9H): Thank you for having interest about our services that we offer. What are your concerns regarding our installation and installers?
Art : I would like to know who does the installations in our area.  Our zip code is 03077
Benjamin (ID: M9H): For our installation, we do give free installation and since that you're residing on a condo you need to have a land lord's permission a verbal agreement or a written permission will do.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): We can install our dishes on a tripod mount set up or a pole mount set up as well.
Art : I understand that, but quality of installation is our primary concern and we need to know WHO is doing the installations in our area.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): We do give you guys the 100% world class professional installation to give you guys the 100% optimal reception. We do send our highly trained Dish Network technician to do the installation for you.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): By the way, who is your current provider? Is it cable or other satellite provider?
Art : I represent 80 home owners in a condo association who only has cable now.  I need to know WHO installs in our area.  WHO are your highly trained techs?  Do the work exclusively for DISH?
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Yes, you're chatting directly to our online sales department of Dish.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): I apologize, I don't have the exact names for our installers. Once we finalize and generate an account number automatically it will be assigned to the first available technician to do the installation.
Art : But are they YOUR techs exclusively or are they contractors who also do other things for other companies?
Benjamin (ID: M9H): We do have direct technicians and we do have local contractors as well which are highly trained by Dish Network to give you guys the 100% customer service in terms of installation.
Art : We need to speak to someone about the specifics of installations were we are going to allow them.  Is it possible to have someone come out to look at a typical installation location and talk to me about it?
Benjamin (ID: M9H): For the condo/apartment installation, we are only allowed to set up dishes on a patio, balcony, wall where we can do the wall mount set up and any areas where tenants are allowed to use.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Art, for me to check services in your area and locals are exactly coming from. Can I have the address please?
Art : Address removed for privacy
 Benjamin (ID: M9H): Your locals will be coming out of Boston, MA. You will have (ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX) and they are available on both standard and high definition format.
Art : Do you know what the Turing test is?
 Benjamin (ID: M9H): Just to verify, what do you mean by "Turing test"?
Art : It is the test you are failing.  You might want to Google it.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): One moment as I double check it.
 Benjamin (ID: M9H): Thank you for waiting.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Just to manage your expectation, you're chatting with a real person, Art.
Art : That's disappointing.  I could accept that I could talk to a computer for 30 minutes without getting a straight answer, but not a human.  Have you considered a career in politics?
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Art, regarding your concern about who will do the installation. We don't have the exact information about it. Once the work order is generated, it will be distributed to the first available installer's.
Art : Deja vu!  Benjamin, answer me this.  It is possible to get a yes or no answer to a question?
Benjamin (ID: M9H): As we have discussed earlier, the area that I mentioned where you guys can have install the dishes like patio, balcony and other area that tenants that are allowed to used  . We are able to set up dish as long we have a verbal permission or a hand written permission from the land lord.
Art : I'll take that as a, NO.  Thank you for your CPU time.
 Art : I have to go start dinner now.  It will take me about 45 minutes.  Can you hold on so we can finish our conversation?
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Yes.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Art, I understand that you're about to take your dinner. If you just give me 5 more minutes of your time, we will be able to get you qualified for the best offer.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): I can see that there is an activity on your end. Please let me know once you're ready for us to proceed with your concern.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Just to check, is everything okay on your end. Please let me know once you're back for us to proceed with your best deals and great saving offer.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Are you still with me?
Benjamin (ID: M9H): We have noticed that you have been idle for more than 60 seconds.  If there is no response, your session will disconnect in two minutes. Thank you for choosing DISH Network.
Benjamin (ID: M9H): Due to no response I will now end this chat session. Please feel free to log in again for further assistance. Thank you for chatting on dishnetwork.com, have a great day.
Benjamin (ID: M9H) has disconnected.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Cybersquatting has been around since the early days of the web.  Some are legitimate business practices, but many are unethical, unscrupulous, or downright mean spirited. 

Before there were websites were ubiquitous,   speculators bought desirable domain name and sold them to the highest bidder. Regulations were put in place to curtail the major abuses of that strategy.

As domain names were in place for a while pornographers would use automated software to grab sites that had followings, but accidentally let their domain registrations expire.  When people,  including children, went to a website they had bookmarked or found in a search, they would end up at a porn site.  Laws were passed to stop this sort of pornographic bait and switch.

Undaunted, the next generation of treasure hunters began buying up expired domains and using two strategies to generate revenue for the squatters. They would put up a site that had links to dozens of other print related services. Clicking on any of the links resulted in money being made for the squatter.

This kind of squatting is perfectly legal and actually a good business process if done ethically and within the scope of laws and regulations. Scooping up domains that have expired is fine as long those domains were allowed to expire intentionally.  However, people make mistakes and let domains expire accidentally.  When it is scooped up, it often results significant hardship and loss of income for the rightful owner.

If the squatter is contacted by the original owner, the right thing to do is to return the domain for the cost of registration and perhaps a few extra dollars for time invested.  However, sometimes domains are snatched up intentionally to do harm, or held for ransom.  To put it plainly this is at best unethical.  

When done by anonymous squatters who make their living that way, there is little that can be done. They keep domains that generate revenue,  abandon those that don't,  and hold hostage those that expired accidentally.

When done by individuals,  this practice very often backfires, resulting in considerable loss of customers as the victim's story is told on social media. 

Once in a while,  someone becomes an accidental squatter.  It happened to me.  About 15 years ago I was thinking about starting a web site just for people who have been wronged online.  I went to my registrar and found that NoMoreBS,net and NoMoreBS.org were available, but NoMoreBS.com was taken.

Since I wasn't ready to start the site, I just bought the two domains so that they would be there when I wanted them.  About two years later, while updating my domains, I noticed that NoMoreBS.com was available, so I grabbed it.

About a week later, I received an email from the person who owned the domain and wanted to know what had to be done to get it back.  After talking with him a bit to confirm that he did have the domain previously, I told him to cut me a check for the $9 it cost me to register it, and offered him the .net and .org names for the same price.  He took all 3 and thanked me very much.

A few days later his check arrived along with a signed copy of a book he had written. When I saw it, the first thing that went through my mind was, "Boy am I glad I didn't act like a jerk!"  Up to this point I hadn't even visited the site.  I checked it out and while read his bio, I found that after getting out of the marines, with no college education he had an amazing career which included Senior VP of Telxon, VP of Worldwide Logistics for Compaq, Director of Distribution for Pepsi, and Area Manager for Frito Lay, just to name a few.

It was obvious that if I had been a jerk about returning the domain, there would have been a battle. No matter who would have won, we both would have had scars, but it wasn't his technical knowledge and connections that caused me to go check out the site, it was the book, Dead Center - A Marine Sniper's Two Year Oddessy in the Vietnam War. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Proof of Heaven

If you had asked me two weeks ago whether there was anything after death, I would have said, "I think so, but I'm not sure."  As a biology major, I believed in the scientific method.  I look toward science to explain the unexplainable, but when that fails, I remain open "mindedly skeptical" to other explanations. 

Until Dad's death, I looked at unexplained events surrounding death through the eyes of someone who had not experienced that kind of lose, and as someone who had never experience anything really out of the ordinary.  After the events that took place after his death,  I began to look for answers.

Over the past few months, while channel surfing, I've come across a few interviews with Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who wrote the book, "Proof of Heaven".  It's based on his own near death experience which took place while in a coma resulting from Bacterial Meningitis. By all accounts, it should have killed him or put him in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.

I purchased the audio version and listened to it. His neurology expertise, the rarity of his disease, the way he went about documenting what happened during the 7 day coma, and the subsequent research he did to rule out any chance of it being a brain based event made this book stand out from all the other NDE books out there.

I've often said the scientific and the spiritual are not incompatible, but if you asked me to explain it, I would be speechless.  I felt this book could help me understand that feeling for which I did not have the words to explain.

By the time I finished listening to the book, I understood the lack of conflict between science and spirituality, and  was convinced that there is something beyond this life. I don't see events in the book as proof of heaven, but I do see it as pretty strong evidence that this body is not the end of me. I believe we are universally connected and I believe our essence goes on after death.  Where it goes or what it does, I don't know, and I believe the human brain in not even capable of understanding the mechanisms that connect us all.  However, not understanding it does not mean one can not, in this life, experience that connectivity. So I'm content in simply knowing that this body is not the end of my existence and doing what I can to experience life and live in the present.

I began my quest to move beyond the confines of the mind. After having listened the audiobook, I began to check out what the big time skeptics thought of the book.  I began with an Equire editorial by Luke Dittrich, who attacked the book, or more specifically Eben Alexander's credentials and motivation for writing the book.

For anyone who has read the book,  what Dittrich said could have been said in a half dozen pages of text. Instead, Esquire used it to test a pay to read strategy.  The piece was over 40 pages long. I won't waste my time to detail what I thought about it.  Suffice it to say that I would like my $1.99 back and will never buy another Esquire article again!

As I write this, I'm watching an Inside Edition, interview with Dittrich which has done nothing by confirm my feelings about Esquire the editorial.

I felt there must be better critiques of the book.  I kept reading and coming across one attempt after another to simplistically challenge one or two key points in the book while ignoring the overwhelming number of facts that blow their explanations and objections out of the water.  It's like people trying to convince me that we are alone in the universe or that dinosaurs didn't exist, because a book says so. 

I could go into details about the other skeptics, but luckily I came across a few podcasts that do that much better than I. Alex Tsakiris writes the blog, podcasts, and conducts interviews on Skeptico.com . In Episode 189, he discusses the critics of Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven.  In Episode 190, he interviews Dr. Alexander. discusses a number of skeptics and their attempts to discredit Dr. Alexander, and is an interview with Dr. Alexander.  If you have not read the book starting with this podcast might be the way to go.  Then listen to the one above it.

Buy the book if you are curious, but don't waste your money on the Equire article.  There are plenty of other skeptics who do just a well (or just as poorly) without stealing you money.

I'm continuing my listening with The Present, the current leading entry from TruthContest.com , a site devoted to  "...seeking the answers to the big questions of life, where we come from, where we are going, why we are here, the truth about life and death."

Friday, June 28, 2013

After Dad's Death - The Rest of the story!

Last week I posted about strange happenings after my father's death.  I suspect some of my friends thought that I was a little bit crazy.  However, since then other even stranger things have happened and this post does two things.  It puts all of the events in a sequence and removes all doubts about my sanity.  Clearly, I am crazy. ;-)

When it comes to the events I am about to describe, religious people would make a heavenly connection. Atheists and skeptics would dismiss them as pure coincidence, whatever that means.  As for me, I am not religious or an atheist. I am, however,  spiritual. I believe we are all made of star dust and share cosmic connections, some of which are stronger than others.

It’s not my intent to try to attribute the events of the past week to any of the above reasons.  I’ll simply relate the events as they took place and let you come to your own conclusions.  Whatever you believe, I think  many of you will agree that at least some of the events are more than coincidence.

My father died on Wednesday, June 19 and things started happening.

1)      On Wed., when my sister got home from the funeral home, after going over the funeral details, there was a bright, brand new, 2013 penny sitting on the center cushion of the den couch. Apparently this has been experienced by others and is easily dismissed.  I thought nothing of it when she told me.

2)     On Thursday, when my mother woke up and came to breakfast, she said that she kept hearing alarms going off during the early morning hours. We didn't think it was particularly strange until we got a phone call from my niece who lives on the other side of town and told us that her phone alarm, which was not set and not being used, went off every half hour beginning at 4:30. It really freaked her out, and coupled with mom's story, Twilight Zone music began running through my head.

3)      Then throughout the day, lights in the house kept dimming and flickering unexplainably. My sister said that the only time this ever happened was doing a storm. At first, I dismissed it, but as the day went on, and even the next few days, it still is happening. Again, this is easily dismissed.

4)      That night, actually next morning at 1:43 AM, my sister's phone alarm went off. It wasn't set and it was a ring tone she never used. She didn't see any significance to the time, but I immediately remembered that during my high school years, Dad had a trucking business and used to set his alarm for 1:45AM.

5)       She was telling me this while I was checking email on my phone. I told her it couldn't happen to me, because I turn the phone to silent at night. At that instant, I noticed an email setting was changed. I'm positive it was not something I had done accidentally, because I had made no settings change on the phone in days and had looked unsuccessfully one or two times for this particular seeing in the past.

6)      On Sunday a service was scheduled at the house for 7:30. When my cousin arrived early in the day the first thing she related was about her mother, my father’s sister.  She and Dad were the closest of the five brothers and sisters. She has Alzheimer’s and hasn’t recognized family for quite a while. Her children had made the decision not to tell her about his death. They felt that even if she did comprehend, it would serve no useful purpose.  When my cousin visited  my aunt after the funeral, the Director of the facility said, “You are not going to believe what happened.” She went on to relate that at about 11:30 (the same time the funeral was coming to an end), my aunt started pounding the table  and screaming (something she has never done), “Someone is dead!  Someone is dead! You have to listen to me! He’s dead! Someone is dead!”  What the funeral director didn’t know was that my aunt often referred to dad by his Yiddish name, Shimon. The fact that she said “he’s dead”, we feel she was actually saying, “Shimon is dead!  Shimon is dead! You have to listen to me. He’s dead! Shimon is dead! 

7)      Weather had been perfect the entire day, but five minutes before the service was to start, a passing thunder shower hit and my niece, who was outside, called everyone out of the house to see a double rainbow that had formed.

8)      Five minutes after the service was over, we got a call from Dad’s best friend’s daughter, who said that she had told her father (who was on hospice) about my father’s death and that he passed away earlier the day of the service.  The double rainbow?

9) Mom insisted on returning to her assisted living apartment on Monday. Right after we got to the room, alarms went off in the hall for about 10 seconds. Right after it happened, my sister checked with administration and maintenance, but they said there were no alarms. All four of us in the room heard them as clearly, but apparently no one else did.

10)  We went back to the room and less than 20 seconds later there was knock on the door. Jill was right next to the door and opened it immediately, only to see an empty hallway. We all heard the alarms and the knock!

11)  My wife loves Carmel and we saw that McDonalds was advertising Carmel shakes for a limited time.  We didn’t have them in NH and she said she wanted one before we headed home on Tues.  On the way back to my sister’s house we pulled into the drive-thru of McDonalds only to find out that the milkshake machine was broken. We all laughed and joked about dad pulling another fast one.  No one actually though that, but with everything that was going on, it was just a way of lightening things up, but then Tuesday brought events that made us question our joking.

12)  Whenever we go to and from NJ, we stop at the Blue Colony Diner of Rt. 84 at exit 10.  Usually we stop in both directions. Sometimes we eat there and other times we just pick up baked goods for folks in NJ or NH.  This time was no different.  We picked some baked good and got back on the road.  Jill said that she wanted that Carmel Shake and asked me to stop at the first McDonalds to see if they had them  We got off at Exit 15 and almost flipped out as we came up to the light and saw a sign for Seymour. CT!  Had the shake machine not been broken in NJ we would never as stopped at that McDonalds in CT and never seen that sign.

13) When we arrived home the first thing we noticed that a picture fell off the fireplace mantle. A number of times the cat has knocked off my picture which sits right where she likes to sleep. There are three other pictures that have never been disturbed before.  This is a scan of the picture with what we saw superimposed.

So there you have it. Any one of these happenings… WHOA! Just as I typed that last sentence, my computer made three low pitched beeps that I have never heard before.  I’m talking about a computer I have had for five years and use about 4-6 hours a day. I’ve been around computers since 1979, I’ve built computers and I should be able to identify the source, but I don’t remember any programs that I use that make that sound. Only Firefox and Word are running. I checked the Task Manager and there are no programs or processes running that could have made that sound.

As I was saying before the beep, any of these happenings can easily be dismissed, and had there only been one or two, I might have done so, but for me, the sum is greater than the parts. You can make up your own mind.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Funerals and Things That Go Bump in the Night

We've all heard about strange things happening after the death of a loved one. I'm not a disbeleiver, and as my son  says, there are many levels to the matrix. Having experienced strange things under different circumstances, I keep an open mind, but today I'm a believer.

My father died on Wednesday and things started happening that were unexplainable. On Thursday, when my mother woke up and came to breakfast, she said that she kept hearing alarms all during the night. We didn't get upset and didn't think it was particularly strange until we got a phone call from my niece. She told us that her phone alarm, which was not set and not being used, went off every half hour beginning around midnight. It really freaked her out, and coupled with mom's story, Twilight Zone music began running through my head.

If that had been the only thing, I  would have still been a bit skeptical, but since then other things have been happening. For example, when hen we got home from the funeral there was a bright, brand new, 2013 penny sitting on the center cushion of the den couch.

Then throughout the day,  lights in the house kept dimming and flickering unexplainably. My sister said that the only time this ever happened was doing a storm. At first, I dismissed it, but as the day went on, and even today as we're sitting here, it still is happening.

Last night at 1:43 AM, my sister's phone alarm went off. It wasn't set and it was a ring tone she never used. She didn't see any significance to the time, but I immediately remembered that during my high school years, Dad had a trucking business and used to set his alarm for 1:45AM.

I said that it couldn't happen to me, because I turn the phone to silent. Then it hit me that when checked my email, I noticed that a setting was changed. I'm positive it was not something I had done accidentally.

I'm not sure exactly what to make of this, but I do know that is not ordinary. It might be Dad trying to communicate with us, anomalies created by the minds of the loved ones, or something else, but whatever it is, I do you know is not ordinary!

Have any you had similar experiences?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Political Parody Sites

It has become increasingly obvious that some people who post or read items on FaceBook have a problem telling the difference between satire and actual news. (In come cases, that is entirely understandable.) So as a public service, I am providing my list of PARODY SITES.
In case you wonder why, there are two reasons. 
1) I have seen each of these sites either posted as actual articles or interpreted as such by readers of posts. 
2) As the NewsBuiscuit reports, '17% of Children are Just F***ing Stupid', and we all know what stupid children become when they grow up. Yes, that's right... politicians.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Our First Freschetta Pizza

We are not frozen pizza people, but we do love mushrooms and spinach.  Last night, my wife saw a commercial for Freschetta Portabella and Spinach Pizza.  She thought it looked good, so we decided to give it a try.

It was our first time trying Freschetta pizza. The box says, "New Look! Same Great Taste!"   When I opened the package, the first think I realized was there was no tomato sauce.  My first question was, "Where's the tomato sauce?"

My Bad! I made the mistake of not looking closely when I picked it up.  I'm not a fan of white pizza.. My taste buds were primed for tomato sauce and I knew that would effect my evaluation of the taste.

The  second question that came to mind was, "Is the new look a pizza covered only 3/4 with spinach and mushrooms?"

I seriously doubt that is the cases, but it certainly is a quality control issue.  In this case, does it mean I have 25% less topping than I should have or does it mean that the rest of the pizza has more topping than it is supposed to have?  Not knowing the answer to that question, I put it in the oven and prepared to sample the "Same Great Taste!"  

The instructions said 15-19 minutes.  I set the time on 17 minutes and started to write this blog.  After getting pulled away, the next thing I knew, the time went off.  When I took it out of the oven, it was obvious, that I overcooked it.  It wasn't burned, but it was crispier than either of us would have like.  Once again, my bad!

It's difficult to evaluation on an overcooked pizza, especially not knowing whether it had the right amount of topping on it.  That being said, the "Same Great Taste!" was pretty good.  It was better than many frozen pizzas we have tried in the past, but it was still obviously a frozen pizza.

My wife is much more of a garlic person than I am, and the garlic was obvious from the moment I put it in the oven. The 25% of the the pizza that didn't have much in the way of spinach and mushrooms was obviously not as good as the rest of the pizza.  The garlic and onion sauce took over that portion of the pizza.

As I said before, we are not frozen pizza people and Freschetta Roasted Mushroom and Spinach Pizza did very little to convert us.  We'll  stick to fresh cooked pizza.

Upon re-reading this entry, one more thing is obvious.  I obviously use obviously too many times, but I'm obviously not going to go back and fix it, because clearly I'm to lazy. (Bet you thought I was going to say,  Obviously, I'm too lazy."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Remembering Ernie Kovacs at 3:00 AM

At 3:00 AM, I woke up to something that smells like old socks in my CPAP mask.  After taking it off, I realized the smell was the result of my forgetting to put water into the humidifier.  Not being able to go back to sleep, I headed to the sink to clean it with soap and water.

From there I sat down at the computer and saw that someone had put a comment on my YouTube video of my grandmothers Hungarian stuffed cabbage recipe. She mentioned that her mother was the "Capusta Queen", capusta being the Hungarian word for cabbage.

That brought back a flood of memories of my youth and growing up in a Hungarian home.The first memory was of the Ernie Kovacs show and one of my favorite segments, the Kapusta Kid in Outer Space.  Here, right after the Sid Cesar commercial., is one episode.

But that was just one memory.  My mother went to Trenton High with Ernie and as I got older, she would let me in on the secret of why the family would laugh so much at things I didn't understand or see as funny.

Being Hungarian, Ernie would sometimes include references that only the Hungarian community would catch.  The Kapusta Kid (Cabbage Kid) was just one innocent reference.  Others were not quite as innocent.  Take for instance, the episode where Kapusta was asked were he had been and responded that he was around the corner at the curve house. I think there were probably three cracked ribs in our family as they laughed hysterically.

Year's later it came up in a conversation and I asked what was so funny.  Everyone remembered that episode.  Mom explained that when Kapusta said he was around the corner at the curved house, it was a play on the Hungarian words kurva haz.  I'll let you check out Google Translator to see the Hungarian to English translation and understand what kind of things were often going on between the lines on the Ernie Kovacs Show.

Ernie was a genius and a classic!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sniper Chris Kyle Killed on Gun Range

Anti-gun advocates are going to try to make fodder out of the fact that America's top sniper was killed on a gun range, but if I'm correct they are as inaccurate in their assessment as Chris was accurate in his sniping. There are no details of the shooting, but I'm going to speculate that Chris never saw what was coming. 

I belong to a gun club where the range safety rules are CLEAR and STRICT. When on a rifle range, there is always a range officer in charge.  If an official club officer is there, they are in charge. If a club officer is not there, the first person on the range becomes the range officer. Every member of the club is trained in range safety rules and procedures before they are accepted into the club.

The range officer declares the range either hot or cold and there is a red and green light that is used along with the verbal commands.  When a range is hot, there is no one down range and people can load and shoot.

A range is cold when it is time to set and/or check targets. At that point the range officer declares the range cold and tell as shooters to cease fire and make guns safe.  He is responsible to make sure all people have stopped shooting, removed their magazines, cleared the chambers, and placed the guns on the table next to them in an open, safe position.  When the range is cold, you can't even handle ammunition to load a magazine.

Only then does the range officer declare that it is safe to go down range to check targets.  Those doing so, go down range unarmed.  My guess is that Chris Kelly and Chad Littlefield were going down range, UNARMED, when the alleged murderer, Eddie Ray Routh, opened fire in violation of gun club safety rules, as well as state and federal laws.

I would not at all be surprised to find that one or both of them were shot in the back.

Once again, this is NOT a gun control issue. It is a MENTAL HEALTH issue. 

Just my two cents!

UPDATE 2/5/13 - As I speculated, this appear to be more of a mental health issue than a gun issue. Kyle was trying to help a PTSD victim, something he had done in the past.  As a sniper, his kills of insurgents most certainly saved hundreds of U.S. lives. To try to use this tragedy into an anti-gun agenda item does a disservice to Chris and all those who serve our country.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What Passes for Journalism These Days

Now that you've read the topic, you can breathe a sign of relief, because there many others who are far more qualified and well written on this topic.  I won't bore you with a long winded or rambling opinion.

I make it my point to read opinions and news reports on all sides of an issue and come to my own conclusion as to the nature of the truth   However, in today's Union Leader, John DiStaso write an article that criticized a remark made by Rep. Cynthia Chase. I couldn't simply let it pass, because the way he did it was to me, an example of how to lose credibility in a single sentence.

Click here to read it for yourself and see if you picked up on the hypocrisy that passed as journalism. I did post a written response to the Union Leader website, but then I remembered that humor can make a point and a picture is worth a thousand words.  So I created this little opinion piece of my own.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How to Protect Your Privacy on Facebook

Well Facebook had made another change!  This time they "simplified" their privacy settings and in doing so, caused confusion and a new round of ill informed posts.  One that is going viral right now talks about having your friends do things to make sure the world doesn't see what you wrote.  While it isn't entirely false, following the guidelines will NOT ensure your privacy, but limit what YOU can see, thus providing a false sense of privacy.

The Snopes.com article about this is here, but they don't provide the details you need to keep yourself private. I'll go through the settings in a bit of detail, but here's the privacy picture in a nutshell. 

I can't begin to tell you how many people have lost friends, been arrested, lost jobs, college scholarships, or their jobs because the THOUGHT their post was private.


Now let's take a look at what you need to do to theoretically limit your activities to your friends.  I say theoretically, because it is never as simple as it seems and there are way that your posts could be seen, especially if you are tagged on a photo and then comment, but I digress...

Now you can check and change your settings!

Below, you can see four of the five setting you should change based on you desired level of privacy.  I'll address number 2 in more detail in below.

 So far, the simplified settings are simple, but here's where it can get confusing. Clicking on "Review all your posts and things will you're tagged in" will show all your activities and, to some extent, who can see them.

When you click on it, you will be able to scroll through all your activities.  I've chosen three below to help you understand what this means and what you have to do to protect your privacy. By no means, is this a comprehensive explanation!

1) First, you see I commented on Jimmy's post.  There is no icon, before the pencil icon.  Because there is no icon there, I know that the people who see it are determined by Jimmy's privacy settings.  If he makes public posts, the world can see it.  

2) The pencil icon indicates that your settings allow this to show up on your wall.  If you don't want it on your wall, you can go to your wall and Hide it.  However, it will still be on Jimmy's page where you placed the comment.

3) The globe shows that the world can see that I "liked" Sandy's status post.  Sandy is a friend of mine who is technically sharp, has chosen to make her posts public, but lives my my motto, "Never post anything online you don't want to read in the NY Times tomorrow morning."

4) The silhouette indicates that only my friends can see this post, because I have chosen to be more private than Sandy.

So there you have it in a nutshell.  As I said, this is by no means all there is to know about privacy settings on Facebook.  Even if you NEVER post, your privacy isn't secure.  You can be tagged on photos and friends who are careless about their privacy may share things about you that you wouldn't want shared.  Not even quitting Facebook can prevent that sort of thing.

The best thing you can do is to follow the idea of not posting anything you don't want to be public and to help educate your friends.

Be safe!