Shortie: It’s Okay To Be An Introvert

I’m an introvert. I enjoy the online blogging community because I can make friends and don’t have to go outside.

The biggest problem I have created for myself in this is isolation. I would rather build walls made out of books, tv shows, and video games and be alone, than risk the rejection I may receive if I try to meet new people.

But, it’s dangerous to build walls, to be alone. And to feel alone. Living in a world by yourself can lead to loneliness and depression over time. Human connections are essential to growth.

So let’s start small. Say “hello!” to three people today. Go shopping in a store instead of online. And next time someone asks you out, say yes!

Make connections in online communities. Try out Postcrossing or find a penpal, and connect with people around the world via snail mail. Most importantly, make real, human interactions with people that can see, feel, and understand you.
Open up your world and let people in.

Don’t feel alone. Because you never are.

15 Astonishing Natural Disasters You’ve Never Heard Of

There is something that captivates us about natural disasters. Is it the power nature holds, or perhaps the intrigue? The elements that sit with such beauty every day of our lives, such as the sea, the mountains, and the snow, also carry the potential to destroy us. They are one of the only things in the world that we can never control and hardly predict. We all have studied some of the most well-known natural disasters in history, such as the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, Hurricane Katrina, and The Black Plague. Lets take a look at 15 other astonishing acts of that are less well known.

1958 Lituya Bay Megatsunami

All vegetation was removed up to 1720 feet above sea level.
All vegetation was removed up to 1720 feet above sea level.

On the night of July 9, 1958, an 7.7 magnitude earthquake was recorded along the Fairweather Fault in Alaska. The earthquake triggered a rockfall at Lituya Bay, and about 40 million yards of rock plunged 3000 feet down into the waters of Gilbert Inlet, generating a local tsunami. The wave that traveled across the bay following the rockfall was reported to be 98 feet high at the crest. The wave crashed against the southwest shoreline of Gilbert Inlet, and swept completely over the land that separates Gilbert Inlet from the main body of Lituya Bay. The wave then continued down the entire length of Lituya Bay, over La Chaussee Spit and into the Gulf of Alaska. The wave removed all trees and plants from the land, even as high up as 1720 feet above sea level. Millions of trees were uprooted and swept into the Gulf of Alaska. This is the highest wave that has ever been recorded.

“The wave definitely started in Gilbert Inlet, just before the end of the quake. It was not a wave at first. It was like an explosion..” – Howard Ulrich, Survivor

1815 Tambora Eruption

An estimated 10,000 people died instantly in the eruption.
An estimated 10,000 people died instantly in the eruption.

1816 was often called “The year without a summer.” This was due to the largest and most deadly volcano eruption in 10,000 years, which happened in April of 1815, Mt. Tambora in Indonesia. Tambora erupted and spewed 12 cubic miles of gases, dust and rock into the atmosphere and onto the islands in the surrounding area. Rivers of ash and magma poured down the mountain, burning grasslands, forests and homes, sending tsunamis racing across the Java sea in every direction. Debris from the volcano clouded the atmosphere and affected the entire planet for months, contributing to crop failure in North America and illnesses in Europe. The eruption killed more than 100,000 people, directly: through tsunamis, magma, and ash, and indirectly: through famine, illness and severe weather changes, which people were unprepared for. Floating islands of pumice up to 3 miles long were observed in April 1815, and many years after the eruption these islands still hindered travel.

1707 Hōei Earthquake

An artist describes the Hoei Earthquake.
An artist describes the Hoei Earthquake.

The 8.6 magnitude Hoei Earthquake struck Japan on October 28th, 1707. It was the biggest recorded earthquake in Japan’s history until 2011. This earthquake caused severe damaged, and ruptured all the segments of the Nankai megathrust simultaneously; the only earthquake in history that has done this. There was a following landslide and destructive tsunami, about 30 feet high, which resulted in 5,000 casualties. The earthquake may also have been responsible for the last eruption of Mt. Fuji, which happened only 49 days later.

1931 China Floods

Hankou city hall in 1931 flood.
Hankou city hall in 1931 flood.

Known as the one of the greatest natural disasters ever recorded, the China Floods estimated a death toll range between 145,000 and 4 million people in 1931. In this year, three of China’s biggest rivers: The Yellow, The Yangtze, and The Huai all flooded. The flooding was due partly to weather conditions: heavy rains and unexpected snow, as well as seven cyclones. The lands next to the rivers were also overused due to farming, with dams built incorrectly and forests and wetlands that are naturally used to control the river destroyed. When the unexpected weather of 1931 happened, the rivers overflowed and dams broke and waters flooded central China. 100,000 people were killed in immediate floods, but the floods also killed crops, destroyed storage facilities, homes, and roads, leaving survivors without shelter, food or aid. Many starved to death, with the inability to find food or plant crops, and disease swept through communities with no aid or shelter.

1871 Peshtigo Fire

"Refuge In A Field" painting depicts refugees of the Peshtigo fire.
“Refuge In A Field” painting depicts refugees of the Peshtigo fire.

The Peshtigo Fire was the deadliest wildfire in recorded history, which happened on October 8th, 1871. The fire was in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and burned over 1,200,000 acres, with anywhere between 1,000 and 2,500 casualties. Unfortunately, this happened on the same day as the Great Chicago fire, so it is largely forgotten. On the same day as the Peshtigo and Chicago fire, there were also fires in Holland and Manistee, Michigan, and Port Huron, Michigan, which makes some historians believe the fires were all connected.

1970 Peruvian Earthquake

Some people were saved by from the avalanche by climbing Cemetery Hill (pictured above.)
Some people were saved by from the avalanche by climbing Cemetery Hill (pictured above.)

On May 23rd, 1970, an 8.0 magnitude undersea earthquake occurred off the coast of Lima, Peru, lasting 45 seconds. The earthquake did immense damage to buildings, roads and bridges, however, it was the avalanche that came next that had the most devastating effects. The earthquake had destabilized Mount Huascarán, causing over 300 million cubic feet of rock, ice and snow to break away and tear down its slope at more than 120 miles per hour, towards the cities of Yungay. It picked up more rock, snow and debris as it thundered down the hill, and by the time it reached the valley only three minutes later, it was a 3,000 foot-wide wave of ice, mud, and rocks. Within moments, the town of Yungay and its 25,000 inhabitants were crushed beneath the landslide. The smaller village of Ranrahirca was buried as well, making this the most devastating natural disaster in Peru’s history.

1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake, Fire and Tsunami

An artist's depection of the Great Lisbon Earthquake and Tsunami.
An artist’s depection of the Great Lisbon Earthquake and Tsunami.

On All Saints Day, November 1st, 1755, There was an 8.5-9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Portugal. The effects of the earthquake were felt down into North Africa, up into Switzerland, Italy and France.The town that was most effected was Lisbon. The initial destruction from the earthquake was beyond description, where the great cathedrals, all full of worshipers on the sacred holiday, collapsed, killing thousands. The exquisite buildings along the Tagus disappeared into the river. Several fires broke out immediately following the earthquake, from candles and cooking fires. Within minutes the fires had spread, turning Lisbon into an inferno. Two thirds of the city was destroyed by the fire which raged for five days. Following the earthquake and fire, an enormous tsunami swept through the harbor and downtown area, rushing up the Tagus river. Many people died from wandering out into the ocean while the tide pulled back to look at the shipwrecks and lost cargo, not knowing that a tsunami is usually two or three waves, not only one. The three tsunami waves struck various towns along the west coast of Portugal, and damaged towns in Spain, Moroccco and Tangier, as well as many islands. In the city of Agadir, the waters passed over the walls of the city, killing many inhabitants. The tsunami took just over four hours to travel over 1000 miles to the United Kingdom. Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, was also hit, resulting in partial destruction of the “Spanish Arch” section of the city wall. This event was one of the most destructive natural disasters in history, killing more than a third of the entire population of Lisbon. Tens of thousands of Portuguese who survived the earthquake were killed by the tsunami triggered by the earthquake. The tsunami was accountable for about 70,000 deaths in Portugal, Spain and Morocco.

1925 Tri-State Tornado

Ford "Model T" destroyed by the tornado.
Ford “Model T” destroyed by the tornado.

The Tri-State Tornado was the deadliest tornado in US history, occurring on March 18th, 1925. This was part of a deadly “tornado outbreak” which occurs when several tornadoes happen at the same time. The Tri-State Tornado was an F-5 tornado, and lasted for 3-1/2 hours, traveling through three states, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri before dissipating. There were 700 fatalities, and 15,000 buildings destroyed. Winds around it averaged 300 miles an hour, and the tornado traveled with an average speed of 65 miles-per-hour, with anywhere between a 3600 feet and mile-wide path of destruction.

1986 Lake Nyos Disaster

A survivor looks over his dead livestock after the explosion.
A survivor looks over his dead livestock after the explosion.

On August 21st, 1986, Lake Nyos in Cameroon erupted in what’s known as a limnic eruption, sending a fountain of carbon dioxide and water over 300 feet into the air and creating a small tsunami. Hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide flowed down the mountain into the surrounding towns, suffocating over 1700 people and 3500 animals up to 15 miles away. It is still unknown what caused this.

1556 Shaanxi Earthquake

The loss of life in this earthquake was mainly attributed to houses such as these
The loss of life in this earthquake was mainly attributed to houses such as these

What has been called the deadliest earthquake on record occurred on January 23rd, 1556. A 520 mile area in China was destroyed, killing over 800,000 people, many being crushed by their homes, which were at that time primarily stone caves. Over 60% of the population of two provinces were killed. Crevasses as deep as 60 feet opened up in the earth, paths of rivers were altered which led to flooding, mountains were leveled and fires started from candles and cooking fires, which raged for days. Following this earthquake, stone buildings were abandoned, and buildings made of wood and bamboo became popular housing, as they were more flexible and made from more earthquake resistant material.

1972 Iran Blizzard

The most deadly blizzard in history
The most deadly blizzard in history

Iran’s Blizzard in February 1972 is known as the most deadly blizzard in history. Between February 3rd and February 9th, over 10 feet of snow was dropped on rural areas in Northwest and Central Iran. Southern Iran received no less than 26 feet of snow, killing over 4,000 people. Small outlying villages were the hardest hit, wiping 200 small villages completely off the map.

1792 Unzen Earthquake And Megatsunami

The damage from the Unzen tsunami and landslide can still be seen today.
The damage from the Unzen tsunami and landslide can still be seen today.

The Unzen earthquake, landslide and tsunami first began with volcanic activity on Mt. Unzen, on May 21st, 1792. There were first two earthquakes that came from the volcano. The earthquakes triggered a tremendous landslide, as the eastern flank of Mount Unzen’s Mayuyama dome collapsed. The landslide swept through the city of Shimbara into Ariake Bay, triggering a great tsunami, with a wave between 33–66 feet tall. The tsunami struck Higo Province on the other side of Ariake Bay before bouncing back and hitting Shimabara again. There were an estimated 15,000 deaths, around 5,000 are estimated to have perished in the landslide, around 5,000 by the tsunami across the bay in Higo Province, and 5,000 by the tsunami returning to strike Shimabara.

1868 Arica Earthquake

A man looking over the ruins of the city
A man looking over the ruins of the city

The Arica earthquake happened on August 13th, 1864, in Arica, Peru (now part of Chile). It was estimated to be an 8.5 or 9.0 magnitude earthquake, and multiple tsunamis were reported due to the earthquake, in Japan, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Australia. The earthquake devastated Southern Peru, and drove three ships in the harbor almost half a mile inland. There were over 25,000 reported casualties overall.

1977 Andhra Pradesh Cyclone

Citizen wading down the flooded street
Citizen wading down the flooded street

The Andhra Pradesh cyclone formed on November 11th, 1977, and was known as India’s first super cyclonic storm. The island of Diviseema, was hit by a 19 foot high storm surge, which instantly killed thousands, and left bodies floating in the water along with the debris. Landslides ripped off the railway lines in the Waltair-Kirandal route, and crops were wiped out by tsunamis. Thirteen ships went missing in the storm. About 100 villages left without aid, or were completely washed away by the cyclonic storms and the ensuing floods. A total of 10,841 people were reported killed or missing, however According to the Janata party, at least 50,000 people were believed to have been killed by the storm, substantially higher than reported by the government. In the wake of the disaster, officials in India were accused of covering up the scale of damage and loss of life and claimed that the cover up was to hide criminal negligence which resulted in tens of thousands of fatalities. Following these accusations, five high-ranking government officials resigned from their positions.

1999 Vargas Tragedy

A man digs in the mudside, looking for survivors
A man digs in the mudside, looking for survivors

On December 15, 1999, The Vargs state of Venezuela was struck with torrential rainstorms, flash flooding and mudslides, which killed 10,000 people. The unusually wet December poured 36 inches of rain in just a few days, which triggering soil instability and debris flow. The neighborhood of Los Corales was buried under nine feet of mud, and countless homes were simply swept away to the ocean. Whole towns like Cerro Grande and Carmen de Uria completely disappeared. Ten percent of the population of the Vargas state perished during this event.

The of nature is captivating. As modern society advances, we feel as we control more and more every day. Perhaps having an element in our lives that we cannot control will give us more purpose and meaning to our lives, and keep us balanced. No matter how hard we try to control everything, nature is one thing that is always bigger than us.

The Lost City Of Rungholt, And The Storm That Killed 25,000 Men

There are few things in life that inspire us as much as a good mystery. That’s why phrases like “lost city”, “buried treasure” and “vanished” are so enticing. They keep us wondering, knee deep in childlike inquiries. Legends and myths, such as Atlantis, Pompeii and El Dorado, cities that slipped into the sea or were devoured by volcanoes, fill us with questions. What were the cities like before? What would they look like if we found them now? Are the legends true? Germany has one such myth: the city called Rungholt.

Rungholt on a 1636 map
Rungholt on a 1636 map

According to legends, Rungholt was a bustling port city, trading in agriculture, cattle, and amber. Ships were coming out and in daily, ferrying goods from the city to other parts the world. Merchants sold fresh fish, nets, and oysters on the bustling boardwalk, while taverns, brothels, street musicians, temples and inns were abundant downtown, hosting all types of weary travelers, soldiers, and traders. Located in the North Frisian coastal range, Rungholt was a hub for commerce and trade. It is said to have had between 1,000 and 3,000 permanent citizens. The people in Rungholt did well for themselves. The port made the city wealthy, and there was enough income, guests, and amusement to keep the town lively. Everything was right in the world.

It was January 16, 1362, when the storm came. Known as the “Grote Mandrenke” in German, or “the great drowning of men”, the storm decimated the Netherlands, England, Denmark and the German coast. The Chronicle of Anonymous of Canterburyrecorded it like this:

“around the hour of vespers on that day, dreadful storms and whirlwinds such as never been seen or heard before occurred in England, causing houses and buildings for the most part to come crashing to the ground, while some others, having had their roofs blown off by the force of the winds, were left in the ruined state; and fruit trees in gardens and other places, along with other trees standing in the woods and elsewhere, were wrenched from the earth by their roots with a great crash, as if the Day of Judgement were at hand, and fear and trembling gripped the people of England to such an extent that no one knew where he could safely hide, for church towers, windmills, and many dwelling-houses collapsed to the ground.”

An immense storm on the North Sea swept far inland, greatly changing the shape of coastlines, and rearranging islands. The water came so far in, it completely redesigned the shoreline, flinging mainland out to sea, creating new land masses, and erasing islands, towns and districts off the map. Rungholt, the port city, and all of its inhabitants, were swallowed by the sea, never to be heard from again. This storm, “the great drowning of men” is estimated to have killed at least 25,000 people in one night.

The North Frisian coast, before the storm of 1362, directly after and today

This Rungholt legend has entranced people for decades, sometimes even being called “The Atlantis of the North Sea.” It was written about in the ballad “Trutz, Blankenhans“, in 1882, by the poet Detlev von Liliencron:

Over the centuries the legends around Rungholt have grown. It is said now that the downfall of the city was a punishment of God for their sinful choices and disrespectful life towards the Church. The wealth of the city has also gotten more and more extravagant as the story has grown, as has the size of the city. Some say it is a ghost city, and during the times when the tempests are appeased in the North Sea, it is possible to hear the bells of the church rise up from beneath the waves. While research has yielded actual insights into the existence of this mystical place since the last century, the legend continues to exist today in movies, novels, and songs.

Scientist and Archaeologist have tried to reconstruct the existence of Rungholt based on some less-than-concrete evidence. In 1636, a cartographer named Johannes Meyer made a map featuring Rungholt, however, he had not seen this fabled city, he had only only referenced another map, from 1240. An agreement between two traders from Rungholt and Hamburg was also found, dated 1361. There were also several artifacts pulled from the Wadden Sea between Between 1880 and 1940, including bricks, swords, pottery, bones, and even a skull. It is believed these are connected to the lost city from so many years ago.

Items found in the Wadden Sea, maybe from the lost City?
Items found in the Wadden Sea, maybe from the lost City?

These and other indications, such as wells and a lock discovered in the Wadden sea, suggest to the investigators that Rungholt was a real city, and a thriving port up until the storm of 1392, however, the legend of Germanic Atlantis survives. There is not enough concrete evidence to verify scientifically the existence of this mysterious city; At the same time, the existing indications are signs that it is not just a local legend. For now, Rungholt remains a true mystery.

How Far Are We From Future Tech? Bridging The Gap Between Science Fiction And Reality

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “Future Tech” or “Science Fiction Technology?” Humanoid robots walking the streets? Genetic engineering? How about life in space?

Today we’re looking at science fiction technology that was once just a fantasy, that is now part of our daily life. We are also going to take a peek at some of our favorite sci-fi tech, and see how close it is to being a reality. So buckle up!

Credit Cards

Believe it or not, credit cards were first mentioned in science fiction. You might expect that the person who envisioned the credit card to be a genius businessman or bank executive of some sort, however the person who first developed the idea of the modern credit card system was a Utopian science fiction author Edward Bellamy. His novel, Looking Backward, made some very accurate descriptions about how the credit card system would currently work today, even down to the concept of one receipt for the store owner and one receipt for the consumer. His book, written in 1888, and the idea that you could simply take a card into a store, swipe it, and have the item paid for was, well, science fiction. During this time, “credit” only existed as a method for stores to allow certain buyers to purchase extra items.

… a credit card issued him with which he procures at the public storehouses, found in every community, whatever he desires whenever he desires it. This arrangement, you will see, totally obviates the necessity for business transactions of any sort between individuals and consumers.

Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, 1888

Nuclear Power

Nuclear weapons are a staple story point in science fiction novels. Similar to “credit card”, the phrase “atomic bomb” predates the actual weapon, used in 1945. This phrase is first mentioned in H. G. WellsThe World Set Free, published in 1914, in which scientists make the discovery that radioactive decay implies potentially limitless energy locked inside of atomic particles. Robert A. Heinlein also wrote about atomic weapons in his 1940 book Solution Unsatisfactory, which poses radioactive dust as a weapon that the US develops to end World War II, however, the dust’s existence brings drastic changes into the postwar world. Cleve Cartmill predicted a chain-reaction-type nuclear bomb in his 1944 science fiction story Deadline, which led to the FBI showing up on his front porch, over concern there may have been a potential breach of security on the Manhattan Project.

Atomic War Pulp Magazine - First Issue - 1952
Atomic War Pulp Magazine – First Issue – 1952

Earbuds

In Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451, earbuds were described for the first time. Mildred relies on little “seashells” to sleep. She puts them in her ears, and they constantly plays music, entertainment, news, and talk radio. They are described just like earbuds, but wireless, and Bradbury refers to them as Seashells.

“The little mosquito-delicate dancing hum in the air, the electrical murmur of a hidden wasp snug in its special pink warm nest. The music was almost loud enough so he could follow the tune. And in her ears the little Seashells, the timble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming on on the shore of her unsleeping mind.” -Farenheight 451

Mobile Phones

Inspired by Captain Kirk’s hand-held Starfleet communicator on Star Trek, Martin Cooper, decided to develop a hand-held mobile phone. We have seen many improvements to the cell phone since Cooper’s first prototype in 1973 which weighed two and a half pounds, and there are now a registered 6.8 billion cell phone subscriptions active.

We have discussed a few things that science fiction has inspired in the past. Let’s check out the future.

Genetic Modification In Humans

Is Genetic Engineering still something only of science fiction? “Genetic engineering” or “Genetic modification” is the process of adding or modifying DNA to an organism to bring about a change to the structure and nature of genes, using techniques like molecular cloning and transformation. This is currently being done in food (often known as GMOs), has been successfully tested in animals, and is now the discussion for human genetic modification is open.

Glofish, the patented and trademarked brand of genetically modified fluorescent fish, was one of the first genetically modified animals to become publicly available.
Glofish, the patented and trademarked brand of genetically modified fluorescent fish, was one of the first genetically modified animals to become publicly available.

There are many important things to consider when discussing all the possibilities genetic engineering could bring. People from all different fields, faiths and backgrounds weigh in on this issue, with many ideas and concerns. The standstill to actually begin trials is more on a moral level than scientific level.

Some amazing scientific leaps could be made through genetic engineering, such as eradicating deadly diseases. Genetic mutations would be able to replace bad genes with correctly functioning copies. For instance, Tay-Sachs, a terrible and incurable disease could be completely wiped out with the help of selective genetic engineering. Genetic engineering could potentially get rid of all diseases in unborn children. There are illnesses that doctors can foresee your child will suffer from in the womb, such as Down’s Syndrome and sickle cell disease. Genetic Engineering would help all babies be born strong and healthy, and could stop the passing on of hereditary diseases such as Huntington’s disease, which children have a 50-percent chance of developing and passing along to their own children if one of their parents has it. Genetic Modification could also exponentially increase the human lifespan. Once the full understanding of genetics and aging is realized, it may be possible to slow down some of the cellular mechanisms that lead to our body’s degeneration.

However, there are some major concerns with the topic of genetic modification in humans as well. Scientist do not know everything about the way a human body functions yet, and so making changes on a cellular level may lead to genetic defects. What if we wipe out one disease, only to introduce something even more deadly? If scientists genetically engineer babies in the womb, there is still a possibility that this could lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or a premature birth. The human body is so complicated that scientists simply cannot account for everything that could go wrong. Also, is genetic engineering right? Many people believe it is like playing God. Besides religious objections, there are a number of ethical objections. If we eradicate all disease, this will lead to an overpopulation of the earth, according to some. Longer lifespans would also cause more social problems down the line. The most important question to ask with genetic engineering is, “will it go too far?” It could be used to stop diseases and give humans better quality of life, however, where does the research end? There has already been talk of “designer babies,” in which you are given the option to choose the hair color, eye color, height, intelligence, skill set, and sex of your child. Is this right and fair?

Writer Dinesh D’Souza states his position on this in a 2001 National Review Online article:

“If parents are able to remake a child’s genetic makeup, they are in a sense writing the genetic instructions that shape his entire life. If my parents give me blue eyes instead of brown eyes, if they make me tall instead of medium height, if they choose a passive over an aggressive personality, their choices will have a direct, lifelong effect on me.”

There is a lot to think about when it comes to the possibilities of genetic engineering in the future. I don’t think you’ll be needing to worry about “clones” like in The Island showing up at your door, but as science advances, possibilities in genetic engineering become a real issue, with both pros and cons needing to be heartily examined.

Life in Space

‘The way species get endangered and wiped out is by being dependent on a limited environment. Humanity started in East Africa and now live on literally every continent – even Antarctica – albeit for a small time. We live in snow, jungle, deserts, savannahas, forests; we have spread out about as far as we can spread out, and the next step is to move to space.’ – Dr. Al Globus

Dr. Al Globus, a contractor at NASA, believes humanity may not be far from having the technology to build human colonies in space. The International Space Station currently houses six astronauts at a time, ideally a space colony would have hundreds or even thousands of people on board. Many designs of a “space settlement” rely on a central cylinder, around which is a rotating living space. The force of rotation provides artificial gravity for the humans on board.

a habitat rotating around the central cylinder
a habitat rotating around the central cylinder

Dr. Globus believes the space colony could be potentially feasible by the end the century, if major national disasters are avoided. However a number of important obstacles that would need to be overcome first, before these settlements would be able to be built. First of all, the cost of getting rockets to space is too high to ferry hundreds or thousands of people up to the stars. The cost of rockets, fuel, and getting to space must decrease. Secondly, there needs to be a way that the space colony can be self-sufficient, using indoor farms and solar energy. This will also be very, very expensive, but the price could be paid either through “space tourism” or by all the nations of the world banding together to focus on the common goal of getting to the stars.

So life in space may not be in the cards for us, but perhaps for our children. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Sentient Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence. How could we discuss future tech without talking about AI?

Humans have always been wondering about sentient robots. Will robots ever get smarter than humans? Will they decide to wipe us off the map? Maybe they are already here, like Cylons from Battlestar Galactica, and we just haven’t noticed them yet!

All of this has happened before, all of this will happen again.

If you worry about artificial intelligence taking over the world, you’re in good company. Speaking at the Zeitgeist 2015 conference in London, Steven Hawking said:

“Computers will overtake humans with AI at some within the next 100 years. When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours.”

Elon Musk, inventor of Tesla Motors, agreed with him and had this to say:

However, some people disagree, for example, in Anil Ananthaswamy’s New Scientist article titled “Sentient Robots? Not Possible If You Do The Maths” He argues that robots will never be sentient, according to a study of a mathematical model of how our brains create consciousness.

However, there’s no doubt that future AI will have the ability to do great damage. For example, an unconstrained virus spreading throughout the whole internet, or machines programmed to set off atomic weapons, and so on. Some people have other worries, like artificial intelligence stealing our jobs. In Martin Ford’s book “Rise of the Robots” he talks about a jobless future where AI have overhauled the economy.

I see the advances happening in technology and it’s becoming evident that computers, machines, robots, and algorithms are going to be able to do most of the routine, repetitive types of jobs. That’s the essence of what machine learning is all about. What types of jobs are on some level fundamentally predictable? A lot of different skill levels fall into that category. It’s not just about lower-skilled jobs either. People with college degrees, even professional degrees, people like lawyers are doing things that ultimately are predictable. A lot of those jobs are going to be susceptible over time.

So what does our future look like with artificial intelligence? We build more and more advanced AI every day.

One of the world’s most lifelike androids was built by Japanese designer Hiroshi Ishiguroand is named Geminoid F. She can smile, blink, furrow her brows, talk and even sing. She is able to mimic human expressions due to the 12 motorized actuators in her face, and she was so convincing she was cast as an actress in a Tokyo play.

Gemenoid F
Gemenoid F

With recent technological as well as automotive advances, Uber, Google, Tesla and more have all been working on self-piloting cars. The AI that drives these vehicles will work alongside with multiple sensors, radars, and lasers to drive the vehicle, accelerate when needed, brake at the right places and stop when the car arrives. These vehicles can spot objects as far as two football fields away and make calculated turns. AI cars have an advantage over human-driven ones as they will have a 360-degree view of the surroundings from the dome on top of the vehicle.

Google's Self-Driving Car
Google’s Self-Driving Car

Amazon is making use of AI technology in many of its warehouses in the U.S. where human and artificial intelligence work hand in hand to dispatch over 1.5 million packages each day. The need to deliver the right products to right customers in the fastest time has made way for artificial intelligence to come to the forefront in warehousing, logistics, and soon, delivery. Amazon is excited about their “Prime Air”, where they boast, “a delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones. Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system.”

So what does our future look like with advanced artificial intelligence? Will robot overlords overthrow us and take over? Will they take our jobs and enslave us? Only time will tell, I suppose. For now, I suppose I’ll enjoy my Amazon two day shipping. Thanks, robots!

Excuse My French: Ten Idioms And Their Strange Origins

Idioms. Loosely defined, an idiom is a “word, phrase or saying that is used, but not interpreted logically or literally.”

I’m a native English speaker and I still get all tangled up in these. (I’m still stuck on “Bob’s your uncle.” I’ll never understand that one!)

Here are a few everyday idioms, their meaning, and origin.

To Turn A Blind Eye

Definition: To purposefully ignore undesirable information

Example: “I can’t believe you can turn a blind eye to the corruption in the world.”

This expression is rumored to have arisen after the English Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, in which naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson, is said to have purposely raised his spyglass to his blind eye, thus making sure that he would not see any sign from his commanding officer, giving him option to withdraw from the battle.

On The Ball

Definition: Someone who is sharp, in control, and alert.

Example: “I like the new commissioner, he’s really on the ball!”

This is believed to have originated with sports, however there are a few theories to where it first began. One theory is that “on the ball” refers to runners getting ready for a race, up on the balls of their feet on the starting line. It may also be derived from the earlier expression “keep your eye on the ball” (used in many sports.)

This could possibly have originated from a saying during the early days of baseball. When the pitcher couldn’t get a good pitch, it was said that he had “nothing on the ball.” Therefore the opposite would be “on the ball,” meaning he or she has control of a situation.

Hit The Sack/Hit The Hay

Definition: To go to bed

Example: “I’m so tired after that party, it’s time for me to hit the hay / hit the sack.”

This most likely originated due to the fact that in the late 19th century, mattresses often were made out of old sacks, which were generally stuffed full of hay or straw.

Cut From The Same Cloth

Definition: Similar, of the same nature

Example: “Your father and husband sure are cut from the same cloth!”

This expression is supposedly derived from tailoring. If you’re making a suit, you would want the jacket and pants to be cut from the same piece of material, thus ensuring a perfect match in color, weave, etc. There are many differences that can occur in material from batch to batch, so the only way to ensure a perfect match in fabric is to have the whole outfit cut from the same cloth.

Down To The Wire

Definition: Undecided until the last minute

Example: “That election was really down to the wire!”

This phrase supposedly came from races, such as horse races and foot races, where the winner was determined by whomever crossed the finish line first. A string, tape or paper banner was stretched across the finish line to help the judges see clearly who crossed first in a close race. That banner over the finish line was called the “wire,” and the winner is the one who broke the “wire” first.

Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Definition: Taking on more than you can handle

Example: “I bit off more than I could chew by picking a fight with that guy!”

This idiom dates back to the 1800s, when people chewed tobacco regularly. Sometimes the greedier people would bite off too large of a chunk, which made for the warning, “not to bite off more than you could chew.”

Bite The Bullet

Definition: Deciding to do something hard and get it over with

Example: “I really just need to bite the bullet on this project.”

This idiom is believed to have been derived historically, from the practice of having a patient chew a bullet as a way to cope with the extreme pain of a surgical procedure without anesthesia, however, this is disputed. This may have been done simply as a last resort with battlefield medics, and in the old west where there were few resources. This phrase was first recorded by Rudyard Kipling in his book The Light That Failed.

Riding Shotgun

Definition: Sitting in the front seat

Example: “I’m riding shotgun on the way to the mall!”

When stagecoaches were used as the main means of transport, the seat next to the driver was reserved for an individual holding a firearm, traditionally a shotgun. This front-seat position was strategic for the guard to be able to see and ward off any bandits or animals that would attempt to loot or endanger the passengers riding in the carriage.

Dressed To The Nines

Definition: Dressed very elaborately

Example: “Lets get dressed to the nines and go out tonight.”

This idiom may have originated in one of these two places. One possible origin is that the saying was inspired after the exquisitely crafted uniforms of the 99th infantry regiment of the British army, formed in 1824.

It also may have come from tailoring. When a tailor makes a high quality suit, it uses more fabric. It takes nine yards to make a perfect suit, because a good suit has the fabric cut all the same direction. This causes a great amount of waste, but if you want to show that you’re fancy, you pay for such waste.

Raining Cats And Dogs

Definition: Raining very large, heavy raindrops

Example: “Look outside at those raindrops! It’s raining cats and dogs!”

This strange phrase was first recorded in 1651 in the poet Henry Vaughan’s collection Olor Iscanus. Its origins are left up to speculation, with the ideas ranges from medieval superstition to Norse mythology. The most probable source of the phrase, however, is that dead animals and other debris were sometimes washed up in the streets after heavy rainfall, which could make it appear that it had “rained cats and dogs.”

If you liked this post, be sure to check out part one, Dont Want To Be An American Idiom.

Millennial Mind Bomb: Why I loved Netflix’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’

I was the optimal age when Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events first hit shelves. The Bad Beginning was released 18 years ago and it is still well loved by us ‘90s kids today.  (Well, I guess we are supposedly adults now. ’90s adults?)

Last year, I heard that Netflix was re-creating these classic books into an original series and I was ecstatic.  I have been very impressed with the shows and movies Netflix has rolled out thus far, however, I was devastated to hear that they were casting Neil Patrick Harris, the comedian, as the Count Olaf, the darkest and most sinister villain of my childhood.

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Upon watching the series, however, I was pleasantly surprised. Harris does a fantastic job playing this evil fiend. Harris plays Olaf as an ominous adversary, but the dark humor and self-awareness he brings to the character is enough to keep the show light.

 

Lemony Snicket, played by Patrick Warburton, narrates the show. He does an incredible job and really brings the Gothic feel of the books to the series. The orphans, Melinda Wessman as Violet, Louis Hynes as Klaus, and Presley Smith as Sunny (voiced by Tara Strong) do a great job of carrying the story. There are a few famous faces that bring life to the show as well, such as Joan Cusack as Justice Strauss, and Catherine O’Hara as Dr. Orwell. This show also features Daniel Handler, also known as the author, Lemony Snicket himself, in three episodes, as the fish head salesmen.

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The premiere season of this Netflix original show covers the first four of the Snicket’s books, The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill.

The show follows the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny. After their parents die in a mysterious fire, they are bounced from guardian to guardian, while being chased by the evil Count Olaf, who is in pursuit of the Baudelaire’s fortune. 

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Running parallel to the orphan’s story is the mystery of a secret agency, the Volunteer Fire Department. The VFD mystery is intriguing and a lot more is revealed about it in the show than in the book series, which I really enjoyed.

It also follows the path of two adventurous parents, played by Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders, who are first seen in a prison in Peru. The whole series, the nameless “parents” are trying to get home to their children. You are led to believe that these are the Baudelaire parents, that somehow things are going to turn around and the Baudelaire’s will live happily ever after as a family.

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Alas, the twist at the end is that the parents make it home to their children, however, they are not the Baudelaire orphans, they are none other than the Quagmire triplets, who become the Baudelaire’s only friends later on in the series.

The first season comes to a close with the Quagmires’ house engulfing in flames, and the two surviving Quagmire triplets arriving at the Austere Academy along with the Baudelaire orphans.

This show satisfied my love for these books and brought back all the great childhood memories of reading them. I was very pleased with the series and can’t wait for season two.

 

Did you read these books? How did you feel about the Netflix series? 

Stop The Madness! How To Quit Impulse Shopping Once And For All

Impulse buying can affect us all. We live in an instant gratification society, and there are advertisements on TV, in stores, even ads custom tailored after our internet searches on our iPhones and tablets. Retailers are quite aware of the enticement to impulse shop, hence the shiny aisle cap displays, and magazines and assorted goods available last minute at the register. We don’t need them, but somehow that extra Snickers and TIME makes it into the shopping bag.

So, how do we escape, when the temptation to buy is everywhere? Here are a few lifehacks that helped me escape the impulse buying trap!


Take Your Time

Did you see the new and exciting product on the internet, TV or billboard on the drive home? Don’t order it immediately, just wait! Simply putting off a purchase for a few days can help you work out if you really need it. Sales tactics such as “doorbusters” and “limited stock available” can create a sense of urgency, and a push to buy immediately both in the store and online. This is especially prominent in commission-based retailers, such as car dealerships and large electronic stores. We all have heard, “Buy now, it could be gone tomorrow!” It is better to walk away then to feel forced to purchase something you didn’t want, with money you needed to spend on something more important.

Buy What You Need

Always have a list when you shop, and stick to it! Many stores sell in bulk, such as Costco. Buying in bulk can sometimes be cheaper, however if you decide to buy in large quantities, you can often wind up with more than you need. Only take advantage of bulk deals if you know that you’ll use it all.

Some sales, such as “buy one get one free” can be great, if you needed two of that item! However, sales such as “buy one get one half off” can have you spending more money than necessary if you end up buying two of the same product just to get the sale price. It’s not a sale if you didn’t need it! According to Betabit, 88% of impulse purchases are made because the customer feels like the deal is just too great to pass up. Don’t jump at a great offer if it is something you have no need for!

Be Mindful Of Your Finances

Ask yourself the important questions: Do I need this right now? Could I find a better deal on this somewhere else? How is my savings account doing this month? Is this in my budget? Would I buy this if it wasn’t on sale or display?

Do The Right Research

Always do your homework before making a big purchase such as a TV, computer or vehicle. Do you need all the features of the brand new model, or will last year’s model do just fine? Is there anything about the more expensive choice that makes it perform better, or will the lower cost option work just the same? Consumer Reports and Amazonare great places to stop in and check reviews before buying, to make sure you make an educated decision about your purchase.

Choose Your Shopping Companions Carefully

Only shop with people you know will tell you the truth, and won’t pressure you into buying. Remember, not everyone is on the same budget as you, and they aren’t in charge of managing your finances. Don’t shop with someone you know is a bad influence on your spending habits. Instead, choose someone who will ask the right questions such as “Is this something you know you will wear?”

Shop With A Plan And A Purpose

Don’t shop when your emotions are clouded. According to Psychology Today, Studies show people who go shopping without a purpose, or while they’re not in a clear state of mind end up buying things they don’t need and can end up with buyer’s remorse. During 40% of store visits, shoppers make on average three impulse purchases. Usually, impulse shoppers consider buying because they feel bored, angry, guilty or stressed.

Have Some “Splurge” Money

Make sure to set aside a certain amount of money each week or month that’s just for fun! Having some money that you can spend and play with, even if it is a small sum, will make you feel like you have freedom to splurge.

“Impulse buying easily compares to a fad diet. As soon as you start the diet, you desperately crave whatever you can’t have. You don’t want to starve and then binge, either with food or money, so set aside some money for small impulse buys. Fit small impulse buys into your budget as a reward for something you’ve accomplished.” -Hillary Price