Geek Month in Review: September 2015

By JB Sanders

You know, Fall’s coming…

A Record Player, with Lasers
Stop making Dr. Evil gestures! It’s a real record player, vinyl disks of grooves, only instead of crude needle jolting through the channels, it uses lasers. No damage to the original at all. Plus if the record is already dinged up, it’ll compensate.

Lost Tunnels of Liverpool
So, there are these tunnels underneath the city of Liverpool — which is not exactly odd, except that no one knows who made them, or why. They’re over 200 years old, too, so it’s a mystery with some dust on it.

Archaeologists Reconstruct Doggerland
Remember that island off the east coast of England? No? It so totally used to be there, about 8000 years ago. Then the sea levels rose.

Recover Sound from Silent Video — and More!
This is some straight-up science fiction, here, only now it’s science fact.

Prosthetic Hand That Can Feel
DARPA researchers have created a prosthetic hand that can actually send a sense of touch to the wearer’s brain.

That’s Not Slow Motion, This is Slow Motion
Scientists have developed a camera that takes a trillion pictures a second. Yeah, you read that right. A trillion, with a “t”. It slows things down so much, they can observe light moving across an object.

Touch Screen That Grows Buttons
Those crafty folks at MIT are working on a screen that creates real buttons when you need them, right on the screen.

Blindsight and Human Consciousness
There’s more to human perception, and to human consciousness, then … er … meets the eye. It starts with a guy who is blind in one eye, but in repeated tests can still somehow perceive out of it. It gets stranger from there.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983

Think Before You Pink 2015

It’s October, which means it is time for me to tell you about this year’s Think Before You Pink campaign from Breast Cancer Action. This year’s campaign, “Poison Isn’t Pretty”, has been rubbing some people the wrong way but I’m hoping I can present it to you in a way that helps you understand their position and why I’m supporting “Poison Isn’t Pretty” and I hope you will too.

“Poison Isn’t Pretty” is calling out the Personal Care Products Council and the American Cancer Society for including cosmetic products containing harmful chemicals in kits they give to cancer patients through their “Look Good, Feel Better” program. The “Look Better, Feel Better” program provides free workshops, beauty tips, and complimentary makeup kits to women in cancer treatment. Breast Cancer Action IS NOT saying that the “Look Good, Feel Better” program is bad. What they are asking for is more responsibility from people who are helping women getting treated for cancer.

Many of the products offered to women in “Look Good, Feel Better” kits contain chemicals linked to increased cancer risk, including parabens, Teflon, and formaldehyde releasers. Some of the chemicals in “Look Good, Feel Better” products may actually interfere with breast cancer treatment. The chemical methylparaben, for example, not only increases breast cancer risk by mimicking the hormone estrogen, it can also interfere with the common cancer drug Tamoxifen.

It seems that since the “Look Good, Feel Better” program is a charitable organization established by the Personal Care Products Council, which is described on their on their own website as “the leading national trade association representing the global cosmetic and personal care products industry”, that they should be able to ensure that the makeup kits given to cancer patients only contain cosmetics that are safe for use. I won’t even discuss that perhaps maybe us other ladies who enjoy makeup shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not our cosmetics are increasing our chances of cancer.

To sum up, the “Look Good, Feel Better” program is good, however stocking the makeup kits with potentially cancer causing cosmetics is bad. So let’s tell them that “Poison Isn’t Pretty”!

To learn more about the “Poison Isn’t Pretty” campaign, visit here.

Both the Personal Care Products Council and American Cancer Society responded to the “Poison Isn’t Pretty” campaign here.

Oh Fudge!

By Mitch Rosenzweig

I laughed out loud, although I really shouldn’t have. She was a cute as a button. Curly blonde hair and petite, maybe 3 years old at the most. She had on the cutest little dress with a Christmas print, white tights, and bright, shiny Mary Jane shoes to complete the perfect picture. Her Dad, at the other end of her hand, was clearly a work-a-day type. Gnarled and whiskered, there were paint spatters flecking his plaid shirt and blue jeans. As they walked into the black Friday store, Dad remarked, “Look at all the people!” And in a cute, tiny voice with a little-kid accent, the delicate princess exclaimed loudly, “No Shit!” My coffee almost exploded all over me as I guffawed. Red-faced and embarrassed the Dad bent close to his daughter and gave her a loving reminder: “Now Chelsea, we don’t say those bad words in public.” I wondered if it was okay in private. With wide eyes she nodded, obviously confused and overwhelmed by the bustle of the store.

In the 70s, George Carlin made famous the seven words you can’t say on TV. But really, if you ask anyone, there are way more than seven that we classify as expletives or bad words. When we are kids, we rejoice in their delicious sounds. From the “doo-doo head” and “poopy” of childhood, to the rude mother-degrading curses of teens, we continue to thrill at the obvious insults. It’s not just an American thing; I have seen comedic dictionaries about how to curse in every language. We classify them as “bad” words. Never to be spoken, especially not in public.

Of course no words are really “bad.” They are just sounds on our tongue or letters on a page. It is in the meaning and context that the moralistic value occurs. We can exclaim about abundant waste in a toilet but we better not tell someone they are full of it. It’s all about the context. I have to re-train my brain after my various military stints, where bad words are sprinkled throughout casual conversations. I once heard a Platoon Sergeant use more than 14 of them in a single sentence. The worst part is that I understood and agreed with what he said-and how he said it. I shook his confused hand in congratulations. Bad, bad, bad.

What I don’t understand is why other, non-curse words aren’t considered bad. They have negative connota­tions in all contexts: such as “hate,” “unemployed,” “addiction,” “kill,” and millions of others that produce a visceral response in any setting. We don’t use them in polite society either. I will avoid further examples but I am sure you can think of your own that are far worse than “doody-head.”

As parents and polite adults, we teach our children and train ourselves to avoid using bad words. Even though the best of us occasionally drop an “f-bomb,” most of us don’t cuss like drunken merchant marines. We realize that as reserved and thoughtful adults there are better ways to express our emotions. Only the vulgar cuss-until you stub your toe in the middle of the night. And then that raw instinct forces us to damn something to the nether regions. I’m not holier-than-thou; I am just as likely to slip one in now and then. Especially the milder ones, like sh*t, damn, and hell. Somehow, “doo-doo happens,” or “oh fudge” just doesn’t cut it in all situations.

I have a proposal. Can we create a list of the seven words that we must say? Wouldn’t it be just as important to teach our children those words? The positive rather than negative? Wouldn’t it be amazing to see a dad stooping to teach his to child to say, “Holy love!”? My list of seven words we must say would be: love, faith, caring, peace, giving, forgiveness, and thanks. I’m willing to bet we have just as many reasons to say them in public. Maybe they are prohibited too, since I rarely hear them.

Today, I am going to offer my seven every chance I get. I will fully express myself and let people know how I truly feel. No holds barred. If I offend, so be it. I don’t need a filter. I will pepper my conversation with them and shock people. Even when I stub my toe, I will offer thanks for having a toe to stub. OK, well, maybe after I cuss and fuss a bit.

Express yourself-it’s healthy. Let it out already, Dagnabit!

About Mitch Rosenzweig:
In this new book “Reaching for Insights: Stories of Love, Faith, and the Kitchen Sink”, veteran clinical psychologist and social worker Mitch Rosenzweig attunes his therapeutic sensibilities to his daily landscape and uncovers life lessons for us all – treasures gained by observing the ordinary from an often amusing, and always positive, perspective. This rich collection of 200 brief essays penned from his personal and professional observations delights us and invites us to grow into better, more compassionate human beings. For more information, visit http://www.reachingforinsights.com/