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“News” on Facebook

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of “news” on Facebook that displays a great deal of bias. In one memorable bit of news, a website claimed that Michelle Obama is actually a man. The interesting thing is, people seem take these news articles very seriously when they pop up in their news feeds. They are frequently (maybe almost always) shared with friends or networks without proper due diligence being performed to determine whether or not the news in question is true or false.

In most cases, news being shared in this manner comes from an obviously fake or biased source. For example, “Spinzon” was the site that shared the news about Michelle Obama being a man. If a news source is called “The Conservative News Agenda”, you can probably guess what their bias is going to be. If it’s “The Liberal Daily Digest”, same thing.

If you’re going to share news on Facebook, be sure you know what the bias of the news is, if any, and if it looks suspect, do your research before sharing the news to your Facebook page. Sharing interesting, relevant news about politics is helpful, but sharing fake, heavily biased news is not helping anyone.

To help propagate this idea I created this meme. And as an added bonus, I now know what fonts Facebook uses in its news feed!

Facebook news

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01. Nov, 2016
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News from the kitchen

I’m going to wax poetic about our kitchen faucet.

Our old faucet failed a week ago (FYI, when faucets fail, they tend to fail in epic fashion). So we needed a new one. While investigating different faucets, we found several that you can touch to turn on and off. They were a little more expensive than the other ones, so at first we glossed over them, but then we realized – we are constantly turning on and off the kitchen faucet with food-covered hands. Like, every single day. So we ended up buying one. And I have to admit, I am really digging it – you can tap the faucet with your forearm or the back of your hand to activate it, and not have to worry about getting food all over the handle.

So, anyway, yeah. I’m excited about my kitchen faucet. That must be a grown-up thing.

A touch-to-activate kitchen faucet

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18. Oct, 2016
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The Main Street Electrical Parade

Over the weekend we visited the Magic Kingdom as a family. After riding Splash Mountain, Callum and I were walking toward Liberty Square when we noticed that the Main Street Electrical Parade was about to start. Apparently, this particular parade is going to be closing at Disney World on October 9th of this year, with the various floats and costumes being moved to Anaheim so that they can feature the parade at Disneyland, which is where the parade originally took place. Since it’s about to become a part of history here in Orlando, I figured we may as well watch it one last time.

Considering we decided to watch the parade right before it started, we managed to find a really good spot. There are walkways across Main Street that are blocked off during the parade. The Disney cast members don’t let you hang around behind the rope on these walkways – you can’t block the path, as it is used throughout the parade to allow people to cross. But Callum and I found a spot outside of Splash Mountain in front of some garbage cans, still behind the white line but right up close to the roped off area. So basically we were front row. However, as we were a little further back from the street than normal, I managed to get some decent photographs of the various Electrical Parade floats – my camera (in this case, my iPhone) was able to take in a bit more of the floats than you normally would be able to if you were up close to the parade.

These phone-taken pictures aren’t professional by any means, but I was glad to be able to take a few photos while I was still able to do so, before the parade leaves Disney World and makes its way over to Disneyland.

Tinker Bell's balloon

Tinker Bell’s balloon

Alice on the mushroom

Alice on the mushroom

The caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland on his mushroom

The caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland on his mushroom

Captain Hook's pirate ship

Captain Hook’s pirate ship



Pete's Dragon

Pete’s Dragon

The America float, the final float in the parade

The America float, the final float in the parade

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The Doors of Durin

If the Mines of Moria had had better security.

The Doors of Durin

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02. Sep, 2016
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Star Wars Launch Bay

This evening we checked out the Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. We got pictures taken with Kilo Ren and Chewbacca, and checked out the various models of ships and equipment from the various Star Wars movies that they had on display. I didn’t go to the movie beforehand – Yvonne mentioned it’s just a bunch of clips from the Star Wars movies.

Some people feel that the Launch Bay isn’t as impressive as it could be – it’s more of a mini-museum that doesn’t offer guests as much interaction with the Star Wars universe as a full attraction might. However, I’m pretty sure that the Launch Bay is a temporary installment to keep guests interested while the real Star Wars land is being constructed elsewhere in Hollywood Studios. For what it is, I thought the Launch Bay was pretty good. We rushed through it this time as we had FastPasses for Midway Mania, so I’ll probably go back to check out more of the models another evening.

While at the Launch Bay you’ll find a few unruly Jawas roaming the premises, making illicit trades with guests. If you bring a trinket from home to the park you can attempt to trade it with them for droid parts. Here’s me trading a Batman eraser with one of the Jawas; he’s checking out my potential trade while I keep an eye out for the authorities. He went for it, so I’m now an R2-D2 head richer. Afterward I asked him if next time I saw him he’d let me drive the sandcrawler. I don’t think he went for it.

A Jawa at the Star Wars Launch Bay

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It’s a tragedy

At 11:30 AM I got the call to head to Redgrave’s Children’s Home. Three children had been accidentally poisoned. The neighborhood was in shock. The saddest part was, two children had been poisoned there last October, and another one a few months before that. Chief Carson sent me over to the home to try to make some sense of what was going on.

When I arrived at the children’s home, Mrs. Redgrave met me on the front porch. I could tell she had been in tears most of the morning. I showed her my badge. Still shaking, she led me into the house.

Inside, the home was roomier than I thought it would be. A couple of kids, maybe five years old, were playing with toy dinosaurs on one of those big oval carpets you used to see a lot in the 70s. Piled high by the closet was a big pile of bags of pesticide. Walking further into the house, I noticed more bags of pesticide on the dining room table. There were more stacked by the TV. Some kids were playing video games in the family room, sitting on big bags of pesticide, some of them ripped open and leaking powder onto the floor. I took out my notepad and scribbled a few notes.

“It’s all so senseless,” said Mrs. Redgrave. “Such a tragedy. I just can’t understand how this happened.”

“Ma’am,” I said. “You do know you have big bags of pesticide all over the house?”

“Of course,” said Mrs. Redgrave. “You never know when you are going to have a pest problem.”

“Do you have a pest problem, Mrs. Redgrave?”

“No. Would you like some tea?”

I brushed pesticide off one of the couch cushions and sat down. Mrs. Redgrave fetched me a cup of tea and placed it on the table beside me. I didn’t drink any.

“Mrs. Redgrave,” I said. “Do you think maybe having all this pesticide sitting around constitutes a risk?”

“Of course not,” said Mrs. Redgrave. “We would only use it if we had a pest problem. And we would make sure that when we spread it around the house, we’d tell the kids to be very careful where they stepped.”

“But there’s so much of it,” I said. “Why do you need so much pesticide?”

She frowned at me. “What are you saying?”

I shrugged. “I’m just trying to make sense of what’s going on.”

“Owning pesticide is not a crime, Officer.”

“I realize that. But maybe if you just got rid of some of these bags…”

“We can’t do that,” said Mrs. Redgrave. “We’ve always had pesticide. Our neighbors have pesticide, too. If they used their pesticide and we didn’t have any, the bugs would move from their lawns over to ours. Can you imagine?”

“I suppose,” I said. I sighed. “So what are you going to do now?”

“Same thing as last time,” she said. “We’re going to post pictures of the victims, so everyone knows all about the promising young lives that were tragically cut short. We’ll hold a candlelight vigil for them. We’ll use social media to talk about how horrible we all feel. And then I guess we’ll do our best to get back to our daily lives, and pray that this never happens again.”

I closed my notepad. There wasn’t much more I could do here. “Thank you for your time.”

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MacBook Pro keyboardIt should come as no surprise to anyone that I spend a lot of time on the computer. And a lot of that time on the computer is spent writing. I do a lot of different sorts of writing: writing fiction, creating posts, leaving comments, composing emails, chatting with friends – the list goes on.

Since I started using word processors to write fiction a long time ago, things have changed in many ways. Word processors themselves don’t seem to have changed that much… there are new tools available, and I really like using Scrivener to write fiction due to the way you can manage different pieces of your writing, and customize the way you want to publish your finished drafts. But generally the writing itself, and the various writing tools you use to accomplish writing, haven’t changed a whole lot.

That said, one big change that I’ve noticed is the addition of the autocorrect feature. It kind of snuck up on me. At first, autocorrect corrected a bunch of various simple corrections, but over the years it has become much more robust, until now, when almost anything you type incorrectly can and will be autocorrected. Autocorrect will also frequently correct things that are correct, which can be a bit of a pain at times, but generally it’s quite reliable. I have noticed that autocorrect will now also correct series of words – if you type a string of words into your word processor, autocorrect will try to correct them based on context. I find this pretty amazing.

The reason I am posting about this today is because this afternoon I realized just how much I rely on autocorrect. The truth of the matter is, while I’m actually a pretty good typist, I tend to be lazy with my typing. I knowingly typing slews of errors knowing that I don’t have to worry about them because autocorrect will take care of them for me. I noticed this because while I usually do my work on a MacBook Pro with autocorrect turned on, today I spent quite a bit of time on a Windows machine without autocorrect (because Microsoft Publisher is unfortunately only available for Windows). After working with Publisher for a while, I switched to another window to leave a few comments on a web page and used my (now) normal method of devil-may-care typing. I kept having to back up to correct my lazy errors. A few years ago I would not have left those errors, because back then I was more careful to input things correctly the first time (knowing that if I didn’t, I’d have to go back and fix the errors myself).

I wonder if anyone else has adapted their typing style to take into account autocorrect’s usefulness? It’s an interesting paradigm, and one that I didn’t see coming. Perhaps in the future we’ll be able to type some serious garbage into our word processors, and autocorrect will magically change it into the most colorful of poetry! I’m looking forward to it.

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26. May, 2016
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On the off chance

Me in the waiting roomOn the off chance I don’t make it through tomorrow (because hey – you never know), I wanted to mention that I’ve been pretty lucky, and for that, I am thankful. I’m thankful for the life I’ve lived so far. I was fortunate to have been born to fantastic parents living in a free and beautiful country who raised me with love and care, and who provided for me so that I could become healthy and educated. I have an amazing wife and kids whom I love very much, and who fill me with joy every single day. I have a diverse group of amazing friends who lift me up. And I’m happy to have been to the places I’ve been, to have seen the things I’ve seen, and to have met many people from all different races, cultures, traditions, and affinities. These things have made me the person I am today, and I am happy to be that person.

It is my hope that, after I am gone, people will continue to work to understand one another – to endeavor to place themselves in each other’s shoes or sandals. I believe that most people want to do what they feel is right, and do not naturally come from an evil space. Knowing this, people can choose to work in harmony and trust toward a better life for everyone. It might not be easy, but it is the right thing to do.

And if you and I both make it through tomorrow… onward we go!

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12. Apr, 2016
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Earth Day

It’s April, and Earth Day is coming up – not really a holiday – and certainly not a vacation day – but a day to take some time to think about our planet, how we as a species treat it, and what things we can do to make life better for all living creatures on Earth.

I am fan of Earth Day as I am a fan of all things natural. That said, I do realize that I tend to spend most of my time sitting indoors. I do try to get out, of course, as it seems do most people. But it would be great if being outdoors in nature was somehow integrated into the fabric of our daily lives as it was for our ancestors. I’m not saying I want to become a farmer, of course – just that the way many modern vocations are designed, people tend to spend a lot of their days out of touch with nature. In the future, as it becomes easier to work anywhere, I predict we’ll see more interesting ways that people will be able to work and play in harmony with our planet.

Ontario cottage at dawn

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04. Apr, 2016