December 4, 2012

I Don't Believe In Forgiveness

Forgiveness is something I struggle to understand. I'm talking about forgiveness for major offenses, of course, not petty mistakes. I can forgive someone for unknowingly inconveniencing me. But I cannot forgive someone for intentionally hurting me, my life, or someone I care about.

Forgiveness condones bad behavior and too often, bad people rely on forgiveness to continue on in their ways. All I can offer those people is the understanding that they have no morals or a flawed belief system that causes harm to others.

I believe you should learn from your mistakes and not repeat them. Cut bad people out of your life and replace them with good people. It's that simple.

I have a definite line of tolerance. Once it's crossed, I'm done.

November 19, 2012

Why 2012 Doomsday Theories Are Bullshit

By now I'm sure you know that the Mayan calendar ends on December 21st, 2012, and that this means the ancient civilization had mystical knowledge that the world would end on that date. There's even a movie about it. You should also know that this is complete bullshit, just like all of the apocalyptic prophecies of 1999 (and every other year ever). I'm sorry to inform you that the world is not ending. It probably should, but it isn't.

And now, in case you were clinging to a far-fetched belief that the Mayans knew something that we don't, there is proof that even the Mayans didn't believe the world would end in 2012. Newly discovered calendars show that the Mayans expected the world to keep turning for a very, very long time.

"The Mayan calendar is going to keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future," says David Stuart, an archaeologist from the University of Texas, who worked to decipher glyphs discovered two years ago. "Numbers we can't even wrap our heads around."

The newly discovered calendars date back to a few hundred years before the Dresden Codex, the 11th or 12th century book from which came our previous understanding of the Mayan calendar. They're painted on the wall of a room that had been filled in and was only discovered because looters tried to ransack it. Usually paint doesn't last long in the Guatemalan rain forest's tropical climate, but preserved on this room's walls were colorful murals and the calendar.

The calendar seemed to be on the wall to help scholars get the info they needed without going through books. "It's kind of like having a whiteboard in your office where you're writing down formulas that you want to remember," Stuart said.

The 2012 doomsday predictions were based on previous calendars, which ended after 13 baktuns (periods of about 400 years). This one has 17 baktuns, and notations for larger calculations of time beyond that.

Like most superstitious beliefs, this was a result of lack of information.

The city of Xultan, where the murals and calendars were found, was discovered in 1915, but only a small fraction of it has been explored. Imagine what other secrets (and myth-busting information) the ruins may house.

November 14, 2012

This Week Has Been A Nightmare

I have had a terrible cold the last few days. It started on Monday with a light cough, but by yesterday morning I was bed ridden. Last night I was too sick to even sleep, and just wanted someone to put me out of my misery. Today was bad as well, so I hope tomorrow will be better.

This is my first sickness of the year, but I was ill probably four or five times last winter. Before that, I don't think I got sick five times in a decade. My lifestyle must need some work.

November 9, 2012

Contentment

There is nothing more peaceful and relaxing than watching my lovely lady as she sleeps next to me.

The Beatles and Drugs

One of the more interesting interviews of the Beatles about drug use.

November 8, 2012

Shopping Time

It's that time of year again. Time to start making Christmas shopping lists and getting ready for the holidays.

We're working on our third annual Holiday Gift Guide on VentureBreak, where we recommend various gift-worthy products throughout the holiday season. Check it out if you need some inspiration or advice for making your list this year.

I'll probably put up my tree this weekend or next, and I think I'll decorate the front of my house for the first time in a good five years.

Here it comes, everybody, ready or not.

November 5, 2012

Is Sex Dying?

Our culture is sexually confused.

Anal sex is more popular than ever, sex shops are reporting massive increases in the sale of nipple clamps, and the average age a boy is exposed to pornography is 14. Sexy stuff, huh? On the other hand, a 2011 article published by Psychology Today concluded that the use of Internet pornography is breeding a generation of men who cannout be aroused by their actual, real-life partners, and that "many are becoming convinced that [erectile dysfunction] at twenty-something is normal." Not so sexy.

We're talking more and more openly about sex, and we're happily exposed to every sexy part of the human body that can be used to sell us beer, cars, and deodorant—but sex itself seems to be becoming less and less fun. Only 64% of women report having an orgasm in their last sexual encounter (despite 85% of men thinking their partner had an orgasm), and a recent survey showed that 63% of women would rather "do something else" than have sex with their husbands, with watching a movie being the most popular alternative.

As a society, we can't make up our minds between getting our freak on and collapsing in bed, bored and dissatisfied.

Is sex dying?

November 1, 2012

Why No One Shuts Up

Perhaps this is why we have the fanatic urge to post every emotional experience we have on Facebook, to instagram every sunset, to tweet every meaningful quote, to constantly avoid simply being, simply experiencing things, but forever outsourcing life to a realm in which in can be validated by others, and — most importantly — talked about, for in our heart of modern hearts we are not certain that our lives have value in and of themselves.
A great quote from Marc, a young Catholic blogger for the blog "Bad Catholic." It's from a very interesting explanation of why we strive for connection in all areas of life, even intimacy.

Read the rest here.

October 23, 2012

A Drop in the Ocean



I've been addicted to this song for the past week or so. Pandora introduced me to it, and I've been hooked since the first listen.

Such a talented artist.

October 21, 2012

Devon Leaves VentureBreak

Devon Schreiner spent two hectic years writing for VentureBreak. After writing a ton of brilliant content, he has moved on due to conflicts with his employment at Microsoft.

Devon's pieces have moved the blog forward significantly, and I wish him well in his future endeavors. It was an honor to work with him, and I hope he may be able to come back to write an occasional guest post in the future. I'd also like to congratulate him on his recent engagement.

You can read more of Devon's writing on his personal blog or follow him on Twitter.

We're Giving Away A Projector

Well, as planned, we relaunched VentureBreak, and the site is live.

To generate some buzz, we're giving away an Optoma ML500 projector. You can check out the details and enter here.

I'm very excited about VentureBreak and its future. Be sure to pay it a visit.

We're still looking for new writing talent as well. If you think you'd make a good fit, please email me at editor@venturebreak.com.

October 11, 2012

VentureBreak

For about two years I wrote for and edited a group-written blog called VentureBreak. It was focused largely on technology news and opinions, startups, and social media. It disappeared from the web earlier this year when a few other things came up in my life, and I lost the time and motivation to write for it. It also wasn't profiting enough to sustain itself.

But after several months without it, I miss it. I miss it so much that I'm thinking about launching it again and taking it more seriously from a business standpoint.

Before I could relaunch it though, I would need a solid team of writers/reporters willing to write off of pure passion until we start profiting enough to pay them. Taking monetization more seriously, that shouldn't take too long.

What I loved about VentureBreak was that it was a fast-paced blog, and every writer had complete editorial freedom. That means that there were no set posting times or topics, and our writers could write whatever they want (within reason) without fear of it being edited or taken down. That policy worked well for us, and I would definitely keep it in place in the future.

One thing I want to improve on, though, is doing more of our own research and reporting, rather than citing facts from competing sources.

If you'd be interested in working with me on this project, don't hesitate to get in touch: you can email me at djbradmerrill@gmail.com. Past VB writers are more than welcome, of course.

October 5, 2012

Obama Phone

If you haven't seen the original video, take a look here.

This is the best musical parody I've seen so far (and I'm sure there are others).



As funny as it is, it scares the hell out of me that people like this really exist.

October 4, 2012

Kids, Sex, and the Internet

Western society, and we in America in particular, have long been conflicted and very hypocritical about sex. Americans have both Dan Savage and purity balls, we're still struggling to accept same-sex marriages, and prostitution is illegal in 49 of our 50 states. We're also confused about what sex is.

I think the recent backward moves in sex ed can be attributed to the repressed older generation convulsing as it dies, and it's being very loud and obnoxious in the process.

People have always had sex (that's why we're still here, obviously), and they've always started in their teens. But for far too long, and for reasons rooted in outdated reproductive, societal, and religious structures, we in Western society have taught kids that sex is dangerous, shameful, dirty, and not to be talked about. And only for straight married people to make babies, of course. But that's all a lie.

We really ought to be honest with our kids that sex is supposed to be healthy, fun, and nothing to be ashamed about. For humans, sex is not just about making babies—it's also recreational. Of course it's a private subject, but there are times when we should be at least a little open about it. Most people will become sexually active in their teens, and they need to learn how to be safe, respectful, and happy about it when they do.

The Internet helps to debunk the lie, but it's not enough on its own. As with any other field of knowledge, without some background, you can easily get off track and misinform yourself about sex online. That's why parents and educators need to be honest with children too.

Kids don't suddenly figure that stuff out when they turn 18. Thinking otherwise is silly, and abstinence-only sex ed doesn't work. As far as sex education is concerned, knowledge is power.

I'm going to have kids someday, and they are, more than likely, going to become sexually active during their teenage years. I hope that before then, their mother and I (along with their school and other people they know and trust) can help them decide to do so knowledgeably and consciously, knowing why they're doing it, and what the results might be. At that point, I'll want to know that my kids are healthy and happy, and at least some of why that is.

My kids will make mistakes, as we all do. What I hope is that they will be strong and confident enough to overcome those mistakes, to learn from them, and become better human beings.

After all, isn't that the goal of being a parent?

October 3, 2012

All Dashes Are Not Created Equal

Writers and editors of print publications would never dream of confusing the em dash (—), en dash (–), and hyphen (-) within the publication. And while most of us can't really explain the difference, we tend to use the correct punctuation mark when we write by hand.

So what happened online? Most websites have no regard for the distinction between these punctuation marks.

If you're the kind of person who seeks professionalism in your work, then you should understand the purpose of each of these punctuation marks, when to use which, and how to type them on a keyboard or include them on a website.


  • Em Dash (—): Denotes a pause in thought, a parenthetical statement, or — more casually — an afterthought. In a web page, a web developer can include — to represent the character. When typing, you can input a character by holding ALT and typing 0151 on the numpad.
  • En Dash (–): Denotes a range, especially of numbers, such as $100–150. – in a web page or ALT-0150 on a keyboard.
  • Hyphen (-): Used for the hyphenation of words (co-ordination; able-minded; pre- and post- touring.) Just use the keyboard key for this one.

October 2, 2012

Did You Know?

Does this video scare you, or get you really excited for the future?

September 26, 2012

Beautifully



I heard this song for the first time on Pandora, and I remember thinking about what a dick this guy must be because of the chorus: "It's not that you're not beautiful, you're just not beautiful to me."

But after looking into it more, it's a really beautiful and sad song. There are several interpretations, but mine is that the guy in the song is gay and struggling to explain to a close female friend why he can't be with her. Jay Brannan is homosexual, so he very well may have faced this situation in his life.

Great song.

September 20, 2012

Stop Typing Two Spaces After A Period

How many spaces do you type after a period? One? Two? Sometimes one, and sometimes two? One of my pet peeves is when people, especially those who are supposed to be professionals, type two spaces after every sentence. When asked why, these people often cite their high school keyboarding teacher or suggest that it's "more professional" than typing a single space.

If you're a convinced two-spacer, please take a look at any professionally typed publication. For example, here is an excerpt from a recent article in the Journal News:

Take a look at the end of each sentence: only one space after every period, question mark, or other sentence-ending punctuation. The vast majority of everything you read uses single spaces.

And, even if you use double spaces in your own writing, it's unlikely that you've ever noticed the difference in publications or wished that there was more space after every period.

I took a typing class too, so I had a habit of using two spaces for a very long time. There are plenty of circumstances in life where large numbers of people, sometimes the majority, understand and do things the wrong way. Typing two spaces because it's "more professional" is like avoiding sleeping with a running electric fan because you might die. It's a misconception.

The most common explanation for the introduction of double spaces at the end of a sentence is because of fixed-width characters on typewriters, where they theoretically improved legibility. However, few people today use fixed fonts: we use proportional characters on our computers, and professionals long ago established that single spaces work better for proportional type. The job of a typographer or page designer is to make words as clear and legible as possible. None of them use two spaces to do so.

If you're typing for print, single spaces automatically make text flow better on the page. More than one space can create rivers of white space on the page that unconsciously distract your readers.

If you're publishing text online — on a web page or blog, on Facebook, or elsewhere — web browsers automatically convert any multiple spaces to a single space, in accordance with the HTML standard. That means that typing two or more spaces is simply a waste of time and effort, because your readers will never see it. Sure, you could use this behavior to continue on with your habit, but that's like never learning to spell because your word processor has a spell checker: what happens when the machine isn't there to help you?

Two-spacers also seem to be very inconsistent. In documents written by two-spacers, sometimes there are two spaces after a sentence; sometimes there are three or more; sometimes there's only one. It seems that no one who prefers to type two spaces after periods can actually make it happen regularly. Maybe they hold the space bar down for too long so it repeats, or sometimes only hit it once instead of twice. Perhaps the extra spaces end up migrating around when writers copy and paste sentences.

Whatever the cause, it's much easier, much neater, and far more professional to just type a single space.

September 18, 2012

Sprint's Online Customer Service Sucks

I have an iPhone 4S, but I may as well have an old Nokia phone. I haven't had any data access over 3G for the better part of two months.

I finally got around to contacting Sprint with their online chat on September 2nd. The representative I talked to instructed me to switch my phone off, and then assured me that he had fixed the problem. The problem was not fixed.

Today, I contacted Sprint for the second time, explaining the issue again. The representative led me through several steps, some of them more than once, and wasted about half an hour of my time to tell me he can't fix it and that I would need to call their support department. I would've loved to know that from the beginning.

Both of the chat representatives seemed to speak very poor English, and neither of them were knowledgeable.

I shouldn't have had a technical problem in the first place, so the least Sprint could do is fix it. Or rather, hire "specialists" who know how to fix it.

September 14, 2012

Bad News

This blog, now with 40% more doom and gloom.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't watch the news. I don't read the newspaper, either. Sometimes I'll skim the headlines on CNN just to make sure the world didn't end, but that's about it when it comes to mainstream news.

Why?

Because watching that shit makes me want to jump off a bridge.

A few years ago, on Christmas, my whole family was gathered at my grandparents' house for lunch. We were all talking, laughing, and generally having a good time. The local news station was playing in the background, and they were talking about how busy the stores had been the day before. People were actually spending money, despite the recession.

But they were very quick to put a negative slant on the story by saying that some stores were going out of business. That was close.

Then they got to the weather. You'd think you'd be safe from negativity with the weather, especially because it was a very nice day for December in Ohio. But you'd be wrong. Instead of talking about how the warm weather was a relief from the sub-zero temperatures we'd been having, they talked about how warm temperatures would melt the snow and pose a risk of flooding. There was no flooding, whatsoever.

Then came crime reports. "Nut shoots 12, then self. Happy holidays!"

What's my point? Simply that watching mainstream news will make you want to chug a bottle of oxycodone and lie down on a railroad track.

This world isn't the horrible place they make it out to be. Sure, bad things happen, but is it really necessary to emphasize them as much as they do? When is the last time you heard a happy news story?

And it's not an accident. They've done studies on this—happy people don't watch as much TV, so it's in the media's best interest to keep you feeling miserable than report hopeful and happy news.

The solution? Turn off the TV. Read a book. Spend some time with the family. Go to the gym. Just turn off that damn TV.

September 11, 2012

Remembering September 11, 2001

Looking back to eleven years ago, the feelings of horror and devastation still linger. The sense of not knowing what was happening still enters our thoughts at times. Anger and a desire for revenge still pass our lips when the subject comes up in conversation. We as Americans will never forget that day.



There will be many memorials all over the country today. Prayers will be said, candles will be lit, and songs will be sung. Thousands of people will remember and reflect upon that day in their own solitary ways. It doesn't matter if you attend any memorial service today. It matters that you take some time out to remember and honor the victims of that horrible day.

It doesn't matter if you're a native-born American, or if you've never set foot on the soil. The horrible events of 9/11 could be reenacted anywhere, anytime, against any group of people. Any extremist group, religious sector, or certifiable loon could make 9/11 happen again. Unfortunately, no one is exempt from the hatred of others. Intolerance is too ingrained in too many people.

How do you plan to honor the victims and heroes of September 11th today?

September 8, 2012

Multitasking Doesn't Work

I stumbled across a blog post today about multitasking, and how it never really works. Harold, the author of the post, recommends an interesting alternative to help you be more productive.

It's called the Multiple Put Down Method. Essentially, you work on something with no distractions for 20 minutes, put it down, and come back later for another 20-minute session.

Harold described the steps like this:

  • Alert your brain that a task is coming that will require its recall, creativity, and brilliance (yes, your brain is brilliant–thank your parents). Then let some time pass–a day, perhaps.
  • When you’re ready to start, set a timer for 20 minutes, such as the stopwatch feature on an iPhone. Set your cell phone to airplane mode, turn off your email, and silence all other distractions. Then hit start on the timer.
  • During the 20 minutes, you must focus on that task without interruption. And unless the building burns down, do nothing but work on that task until the timer goes off. You may hit the wall, but keep going. The vast majority of people find they can work on that task “in the zone” until the timer goes off.
  • After 20 minutes, you have a choice: keep working or take a break. If you keep working, reset the timer to 20 minutes and go through the process again, without interruption until the next 20 minutes are up. If you decide to take a break, it can be short (such as refilling your coffee cup), medium (returning a phone call) or long (going into a meeting, or working out).
Harold says that your brain is great at running processes in the background, but it's horrible at multitasking. That means that while you're driving to work, showering, or working out, your mind will be working in the background on the task, so when you're ready, the information will drain through your fingers, into your computer or notepad for about 20 minutes. The break allows your brain to restock on brilliance.

I'm definitely going to be giving this a try. Make sure you check out Harold's post for more info!

September 7, 2012

A Healthier Lifestyle

I'm not overweight, and I'm very physically active, but I have a higher body fat percentage than I'd like. I've decided to take on a whole new dietary lifestyle to accompany my usual workout routine.

There's a very simple concept behind burning fat: You have to burn more calories than you consume. This can be done by increasing exercise and decreasing the number of calories you take in. I already work out multiple times a week, so now I just need to focus on my calorie intake.

I'm not calling this a diet. Diets are temporary, and don't work for long periods of time. This is a lifestyle change. I want to make this "diet" such a part of my life that it would feel weird not to eat this way.

I've put together a list of foods I'm going to start limiting myself to. The list is definitely non-exhaustive, but I'm going to stick to the general nutritional value of the items included. I'm allowing myself two "normal" meals per week (like a fatty burger or a steak at a steakhouse), but everything else will follow the list.

And of course, the foods on the list don't have to be eaten in their pure state – for example, beans can be used for chili, bread can be used for sandwiches, etc.

If you're looking to eat better as well, this list is a killer guideline.

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potatoes
  • White potatoes
  • Wheat bread
  • Wheat pasta
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Salad greens
  • Celery
  • Peppers (red, green, and yellow)
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggs
  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey breast
  • Salmon
  • Apples
  • Cantaloupe
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries

Republicans Need To Stop The Hate


When it comes to politics, I'm pretty libertarian. I tend to agree with Republicans on fiscal issues and Democrats on rights issues.

As a libertarian I don't think that redistribution programs really help society, or even the individuals receiving the redistributions. And the hefty expense of them isn't cool, either. I could explain why, but I'm sure that would start a debate with some of you, and that's not what I'm going for. The point is that in the past, given the choice between the two main political parties, I would've gone with the Republicans because I don't like large welfare or other spending programs.

I've said that if democrats would just take a college economy course, they'd be perfect. And if the republicans would stay out of our bedrooms, they'd be perfect.
One issue that makes me uneasy about supporting any republican, though, is gay and women's rights. The only really heated debates I've had with people over the past few years have been about gay rights in particular. It really pisses me off that someone could feel so superior as to tell others who they can and cannot love.

But now I'm adopting a policy of not supporting any Republican from now on, unless they are publicly pro-choice and very libertarian as far as their human rights beliefs go.
Why? This Todd Akin asshole. It's just way too over the top.

The Republicans have thrown away generation after generation of voters with their infatuation with controlling our personal beliefs, what we can do with our bodies, and who we can love. I'm sick of seeing elected officials lecture women about rape and gays about love.

Republicans need to give up on the oldest generation of voters, and the religious nuts. There are millions of voters in the younger age groups who would be happy to embrace them, if they would only stop the hate.