Thursday, May 28, 2020

Brain Work

Idiocracy (2006)
We've always had to deal with rumors. Hearsay. Opinions pushed off as facts. The internet allows for the faster propagation of ideas, both good and bad. Critical thinking must be applied to weed through the chaff and we fail miserably at that.

I posted on my Facebook page about an article pointing out how photographers can take pictures a certain way that skews perception. Photogs will take a picture of a beach that shows it overcrowded and people not complying with social distancing, but when you look at it from another angle, everyone is pretty much compliant. The same thing happens with news articles and opinion pieces by media agencies. They'll spin a story in one direction, omitting important context and you've got people wanting heads to roll.

In the age of the internet, we've gotten lazy with thinking and when looking for answers. We reach for the article at the top of the page that has been positioned there by an algorithm. News articles show up in our Facebook feeds, chosen by algorithms and most of the time these algorithms don't pick it because it's factual. It's picked because it may have key words that might fit your demographic or you might find it interesting, though most of the time I don't think Facebook even really knows me.

We don't look to experts for guidance anymore, we look to Hollywood celebrities, athletes and Youtube stars. Facts be damned!

To weed out the bad ideas, we have to learn to become critical thinkers. Of course, critical thinking was never formally taught in school, at least not mine, but we are taught some critical thinking tenets. They just aren't labeled as such. After you grow up and get out of school you get lazy. You've got a job, family, kids. Or a nightlife. Or some other stress. Thinking! Ain't got time for that. So we rely on websites like Facebook and Twitter to do our fact-checking for us. As a society, a community, or a responsible citizen we should put on our big pants and do what it takes to form our own opinions and make our own decisions. That means search and find relevant articles from reputable news services. Apply a little critical thinking and come up with our own results. But that's hard work and few people are willing to put in the time to do that. It's just easier to share something that we've seen online.

I remember sitting across from a gentleman a few tables away at a restaurant recently and listening to him repeat pretty much everything I've seen on Facebook already. Not a single idea that was his own. Of course, he was a little liquored up but I'm sure it wouldn't have been any different if he was sober. We've become meme repeaters and we as a society are turning into the movie Idiocracy.

All I ask is that when faced with an article of news, just take a second to ask yourself a few questions. First of all, who published this? There are so many fake news sites that sometimes it's hard to distinguish them from the real news and it seems that some real news sites have an agenda. If it's a meme and it's touting that someone did something, then for Pete's sake, search and see if anyone else is reporting it. The first big clue is just that statement, "No one else is reporting on this!" Well, that's probably because it's not factual. Check it!

This has kind of turned into a rant, which was not my intention, but times have changed over the years and especially now, we need to embrace critical thinking and work our brains a little more. Below are a few articles to help you in this endeavor. One is a sort of cheat sheet and the other is for instilling critical thinking in kids. In fact, that one is just as good for adults as well. Enjoy!





Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Murder Hornets Ain't Got Nothing On The Murder Frogs

Movie Poster for Frogs (1972)
Just look whose in this movie!
My daughter and I took a walk right after sunset. I've got a bad back and so when she decided she wanted to take the long way, I reminded her that I needed to take the short route.

"Honey, we need to go this way so if Daddy's back gives out I don't have to crawl so far. Plus, in that direction you can hear the Murder Frogs and they will eat you one leg at a time. Just like we do them."

No argument over direction.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Staying in Touch!

White square highlights my camera
used as a webcam with the
DroidCamPro app for Android.
With everyone staying home because of the present situation we find ourselves in, most people are either using their computers and webcams to do work from home, staying in touch with co-workers, or keeping in touch with family and friends.

Below are two articles that I came across that I think could benefit all parties. The first is from the Dropbox Blog and is about how to rock the conference video meeting, but can be of benefit to anyone using webcams for staying in touch.

A BBC reporter on how to be a video conference rock star


This next link is how to use an old cell phone as a camera. I have two webcams and a DLSR that I use as cameras, but that camera on my phone is pretty sweet, too. I use the free version of DroidCamPro and it works great.

Zoom, Google Meet, Teams: Can't get a webcam? That old phone in a drawer can help.

Hope this helps you when you are communicating with work or friends and family.


Monday, March 2, 2020

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Aside from major events like marriage and the birth of the Kid, we made a really big change last month. We moved out of the Dallas area, but stayed in East Texas. Kind of like shouting distance from DFW. We couldn't move any further than that, otherwise the grandparents, and the Girl Scout troop leader would have had my hide. We're still close enough that we can visit and not take a day to travel to do it.

But we're even closer to my parents now. Mom is just down the road about 10 miles and Daddy is about 35 minutes away, half the distance that he was. Hopefully, as they get older, I'll be close enough to help out around the house for them.

There were several benefits that we looked to capitalize on by moving to the country and a smaller town. The cost of living is way down. My apartment that I'm in now is about $500 cheaper and just as nice, if not nicer than the one in Dallas. We are approximately five blocks from downtown Winnsboro, Texas. I can get out and walk without having to cross hazardous streets. There are trees everywhere! No traffic! Lilly can ride her bike all over creation and I'm looking to get one for me and then we'll start our own bike gang. The stars at night are gorgeous and I'm preparing my telescope as the evenings warm up. There are several lakes in the area. Plus,  there is just something about the country. Yes, there is a train about five-hundred yards away and it passes at three or four in the morning, but it's a train. I love trains. The church down the street chimes every half hour or so. I love that sound. It's just a whole different world and I missed it and I'm glad that I'm back in it!

As the days go on, I'll start introducing you to my new town and maybe you'll want to come and visit yourself.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Books Do Make a Difference

Came across this article from The Smithsonian about how if you had access to books in your home growing up, then you have an edge over those that didn't. Well, duh! Actually, it's a little more than that.
 The study, published recently in Social Science Research, assessed data from 160,000 adults from 31 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Turkey, Japan and Chile. Participants filled out surveys with the Programme for the International Assessment of Competencies, which measures proficiency in three categories: literacy, numeracy (using mathematical concepts in everyday life) and information communication technology, (using digital technology to communicate with other people, and to gather and analyze information).
The gist is in the comparison of a person who had few books in home and went to college vs. someone who had tons of books but only did 9 years of school, their literacy levels were roughly the same.

This article got me to thinking about my grandmother, Carmon Pickering. She grew up in the cotton fields of North Louisiana, went to a business school in Jones, La. but didn't graduate. She went on to get married and raise four kids taking care of the family.

(***Edit*** The school wasn't in Jones, it was called Draughon's Business College and was in Jackson, Mississippi. I misheard her when I talked to her to confirm it.)

I learned a lot from her over the years, including how to cook, but the most important thing was instilling in me the love of reading. My earliest memories are of me sitting in my grandmother's lap while she read aloud to me. As I grew older, a visit to my grandmother's would always lead me to her bedroom whose walls were lined with stacks of books on every topic from gardening to astronomy. I would go on to become an amateur astronomer and she fed that passion with subscriptions to Astronomy magazine and a membership to the Planetary Society which netted a newsletter from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

My parents provided my brothers and I with books also. We had a set of Britannica Encyclopedias in the house and I regularly got books for birthdays and Christmas with topics ranging from space and WWII to the Hardy Boys and The Man in the Iron Mask.

I strive to expose my daughter to these same types of books because I understand the importance of reading. It's also one of my joys of owning my comic book shop for a short time. I got to show other children the pleasure of reading comics and other books and what worlds they could open up for them.

Now, I pick up my daughter from school and she can't wait to show me the books that she has checked out of the library. She even wants to read to me as we drive home. Who needs audio books when you have that?

What were some of your favorite books growing up?

Growing Up Surrounded by Books Could Have Powerful, Lasting Effect on the Mind via The Smithsonian.com

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Hello, Sunshine!

Yes, I'm posting to my blog. No, I'm feeling well. With the return of sunshine this weekend (as fleeting as it may be) Lilly and I have been a little active. Not that we haven't been active before, but this was the first time in a long time that we just hopped in the car and took off. Saturday, we gassed up the car in anticipation of "doing something" on Sunday. Didn't know what, but we were doin' it. 
Unfortunately, I had a little squabble with the concrete out front of the 7-11. The curb is a little higher than most and I was having a lively discussion with the Kid and not paying attention. Next thing I know, I'm a 747 skidding on a foam covered runway, a.k.a. the concrete. No bumps or bruises, but some nice abrasions below the right knee and above the right eye. Two very concerned gentlemen asked if I was okay and needed help. I answered with being more embarrassed and probably needing a drink, though most witnesses probably thought that I had already imbibed.
Upon waking Sunday, we both had the urge to get out and so decided to have a road trip to Burleson to visit our friends, Blake and Kim Ovard and Tugg the Wonder Dog. They have a wonderful shop called Geek Out in Downtown Burleson and is a must visit if you have time. Of course, Tugg was taking the day off and stayed at home, but we got to visit with Blake and Kim while browsing all of their geeky goods. Lilly found a great calendar for her room and found plenty to purchase on future visits.
We took a lunch break at Fresco's Cocina Mexicana on Blake's suggestion and it did not disappoint. Lilly had quesadillas and I took on the Brisket Chimichanga. As you can see, I'm not much of a food reporter as I took a bite before I took the photo. Be sure and try the table-side guacamole. Not exactly inexpensive but worth it. The table salsa is awesome, too



In addition to eating and visiting, we checked out The Market Emporium Gift Shop. Lots of Lilly stuff to be had and she settled on a manicure set in a cute little cupcake case. It's right up her alley.

Lots of fun on a wonderful sunny day. We hope that you got out to do something just as fun! In fact, share with us!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Back In The Saddle and The Journey Home

As dramatic as that title sounds, it's nothing big except to those who worried over our trip. That and the fact that the last time I posted on this blog was over three years ago. I've had the want-to, just not the energy or drive. I figured this was the perfect time to let all of those concerned know that the Bug and I were back home after driving to see Great Grandma in Georgia. We would love to see her more than once a year, but there and back in five days is a little too much on both of us.








When we left, something was trying to tell us not to go. Just outside of Marshall the gates were opened and a downpour of Biblical proportions descended. With hazards and 45 mph speeds we made it til it cleared the other side of Shreveport. One fellow didn't make it easy when he decided to hydroplane from his lane to mine while I'm sitting beside a big rig. A little tension during that moment. We had credit card problems, also. Seems someone spoofed my personal card up in Iowa, so I had to cancel that one and use my business card for transactions. No big deal, but I transferred money after business hours and though it showed available in my account, it wouldn't let me get a hotel room for the night. So, here's a grown man having to call his mama and use her credit card to get the room. Sure enough, the next morning it was fine. We had the same problem with it on the way back, but I had some cash on me, so it wasn't a big deal, just a pain in the rump.

We got to spend time with Great Grandma Carmon and Uncle Kenneth Earl. Lilly had the best time entertaining them. She love her G-Grandma Carmon. Also got to see my cousin Angeline and her husband, plus saw her daughter on the way thru West Monroe where she has a game shop. Stopped at several comic shops on the way back and then finished with a visit with my brother Kelly all over a Sweep the Kitchen at Johnny's Pizza.

I'm very glad to be back at home now and get back to work. How was your weekend/week?
Emperor Pawlpaltine at Southern Realms in Ruston, La. My
home where I grew up. An array of helmets at a truck stop!