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Idiocracy

Idiocracy
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What would happen if an ordinary man traveled to the far future where the average intelligence has fallen to ridiculous levels.

Spoilers below! You've been warned!

This movie is a fairly raunchy in parts, but is a fascinating take on what the future could become if we didn't guide science and limit the reach and influence of corporation creep into goverment. It's a often-referenced movie when discussing government stupidity and dirty marketing of major corporations. Just remember, "it's what plants crave!"

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The Island

The Island
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The best movies in my view are the ones that make you think and expand your mind. This one is about what it means to be human and what you can do to people who "don't count". There's little I can say without giving it away so:

Spoilers below! You've been warned!

I'll try to keep the examples brief, but here are some quick takes from the movie (and the concepts they raise):

Surveillance society

A smart-toilet analyzes a man's morning pee and determines he has been eating too much salt. Later in the lunchroom, he's denied his beloved bacon for breakfast. Another man gets angry and hits a wall and security instantly appears to have a "chat" with him about his outburst. A man and women start to get close, but security steps in to remind them to keep a "proper" distance.

Racial Superiority

The hundreds of employees that run the facility know about the abuse of the residents, but do nothing (supposedly having bought into the "they're not real people" pitch). Trigger warning: there is a scene where they birth a baby then kill the mother because they were just using her for the birth and didn't care about the "lessor human".

In summary

Anyway, it's a good movie with plenty of action and it accurately portrays the horror that could occur if we increase our technology and forget humanity along the way.

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Minority Report

Minority Report
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Summary

In the not-too-distant future, technology has progressed to the point that we can predict murders and convict people before the crime is committed. When the name of the officer running the program comes up as a murderer one day, he has to find a way to prove his innocence… assuming he doesn't actually do the crime.

Spoilers ahead!

You can see that people have a lot of trust in the police. They accept the incarceration of people who the police say would have committed murder even though the crime never happened. At one point, a horde of spider-like machines is released into a building to scan people's retinas to prove their identity. A couple in the middle of arguing heavily stop to allow the machines to crawl onto their face, point light into their eyes, and then resume the argument immediately after. Every time they walk into a store, the automated displays greet them by name and ask them about prior purchase before making customized recommendations on something else they might like.

One that most people miss is the scene where Tom Cruise's character is eating a bowl of cereal and because he put the box down on the counter next to his TV, a quiet advertisement for the cereal begins to play. Cruise, annoyed, throws the box across the room.

There are some great lessons about government trust and accountability plus it's a great action flick. I definitely recommend it! To learn more, click the movie thumbnail above.

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The Total Money Makeover

The Total Money Makeover
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I have heard of the philosophy of not needing a credit history or credit cards, but never really believed it could work for me until I read this book. Ramsey describes many carefully planted myths about money and money management that hurt normal people and benefit companies and how our ignorance of this is killing us financially. We are trained by meticulous marketing techniques to live a lifestyle that will keep us in debt forever (a lesson I've lived personally).

Read this book to get a practical and easy-to-implement plan that will get your personal finances under control. Stop wasting money, stop worrying about the future, stop being a slave to your debts. And, yes, I'm debt free and have been for more than four years now. Never again.

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The Five Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages
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Does this sound familiar? Married person X comes home to Spouse X and hands them a gift with a grin. Spouse X looks in disgust at the gift, and says "What is this? How much did it cost? You know we can't afford to waste money!" Sad isn't it? This is a love language problem where one expresses affection through gifts and the other very obviously doesn't.

If that didn't sound familiar, what about these phrases:

A: You never spend any time with me!
B: I work hard to provide for you and the family, but all you do is complain!

A: Will you cuddle with me?
B: Why do you always have to be so clingy?

A: I made your favorite dinner tonight!
B: That's great, now let me finish this last e-mail.

Reading this book was quite literally life-changing for me. It's one of those things that divides your life into before and after:

  • Before, I didn't know my brother is a "Physical Touch" person and needs to hug me when we first see each other after a long parting. Now that I know this, I can let him do it without feeling uncomfortable or making him feel uncomfortable. It's really improved a situation that used to be very awkward for us.
  • My mother-in-law had a problem with a co-worker who would always buy her small trinkets (kind of like how a cat brings dead animals to your doorstep when they like you). She didn't know how to handle it so I told her about the book. I explained what it meant to be a "Gifts" person and some tips for handling it and the awkward situation cleared up.
  • Now, when someone is trying to express love or affection (romantic or not), I can more easily recognize it and react/reciprocate appropriately.

The key is that without this knowledge, you may feel you've done everything in the world to make someone feel special and appreciated, but they don't because you're just speaking the wrong language! To learn more, click the book's pic above.

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The Definitive Book of Body Language

The Definitive Book of Body Language
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I suppose some people are naturally good at reading others, but that's definitely not me. I bought this book to learn what people might be telling me without words and it was a huge help! Since reading it, I've been paying a lot more attention to the signs and signals given off by my co-workers and it's amazing what I can read without them even knowing.


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Protecting The Gift

Protecting the Gift
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All parents face the same challenges when it comes to their children's safety: whom to trust, whom to distrust, what to believe, what to doubt, what to fear, and what not to fear. De Becker helps parents find some certainty about parents' highest-stakes questions:

  • How can I know a baby-sitter won't turn out to be someone who harms my child?
  • What should I ask child-care professionals when I interview them?
  • what's the best way to prepare my child for walking to school alone?
  • how can my child be safer at school?
  • How can I spot sexual predators?
  • What should I do if my child is lost in public?
  • How can I teach my child about risk without causing too much fear?
  • what must my teenage daughter know in order to be safe?
  • what must my teenage son know in order to be safe?
  • And finally, in the face of all these questions, how can I reduce the worrying?

What this book actually does is teach you how to listen to your intuition and stop living in denial. DeBecker found that many instances of child abuse by neighbors, babysitters, and dare care providers were preventable if the parents had just paid attention to the little signals.

For example what if the old man nextdoor starts giving your young daughter candy, but only if she'll kiss him on the cheek first. You say to yourself, "he's just lonely, it's harmless". But if you have to rationalize a behavior, that means you see something wrong! It's a real eye-opener and something I would highly recommend for all parents.

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Newegg.com

Newegg is one of those sites that just doesn't seem to have a downside. Check out these pluses:

Great Search and Sorting Function

Newegg - Electronics store

In this case, I wanted a laptop so I clicked that category. Now I can choose filters that will narrow the results by brand, screen, hard drive, processor, memory etc. This way I never waste my time on options with tiny screens or that are way out of my price range.

Even better, I can go to power search where I can add multiple filters from the same category! Now I can choose anything from EITHER Sony or Toshiba and within three price range categories.

Now I can get REALLY specific

The main reason I love this feature so much is that I don't care if a screen is 15 inches or 20, but I definitely don't want anything smaller! I also am very picky about brand while maybe in this case any graphics card is fine as long as it's an Nvidia and not a Radeon type. Power Search lets me do that!

Great Prices and Shopping Options

I have found Newegg to consistently have some of the best prices on anything around. Even if they're no lower than anyone else, they often offer free shipping or other deals. Even if there's no particular deal at the moment, they have a "Price Alert" function where you can enter a price to watch for. If the item goes to or below that price, you'll get an e-mail.

Many options

For the alert, enter any price you want, but note you'll get no response if the price never goes to that level. You can also set other conditions like if it goes to free shipping or has a rebate (I recommend checking both).

Setting a price alert

The Best Research Tool of All

There's 8 reviews and all of them are very high (except one)

Nothing beats direct feedback from users who have purchased products before. Newegg's community is very good about giving feeback both positive and negative and you will learn the best from the experiences of others.

An example of a positive comment

In this comment, the user tells us how much he loves this laptop, but also mentions that it has trouble going into sleep mode. By scanning the other comments or doing some research online, it's easy to verify if this is an isolated issue with just this user or something real to worry about.

An example of a negative comment

Now there was that one completely negative comment that seems out of place. Reading it, you see that the user is not complaining about the product, but about Newegg itself. And even then, it's not a very credible complaint. This kind of review can be disregarded.

The point is that you have a lot of good information from other users about the pros and cons of any product. In some cases, the reviews one after the other said that the power supply unit I was looking at was cheap, but wouldn't likely last more than a year. That was really good information to have before I purchased.

Great Service

Besides fast shipping that is often free, Newegg both in my experience and as can be seen from the other shoppers on the site, provides excellent service consistently.

Bash the product, love the store

While researching products I often find ones that mention that there was a problem of some kind, but that Newegg fixed it, refunded, replaced, etc. No matter how nice a site seems otherwise, without good service, it's no good, but Newegg is an great example of how websites should be.

Summary

So there you have it. Not only do I use Newegg all the time, I love the site and I recommend you try it out too. Click the logo below to visit them:

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Thinkgeek – Cool Tech Toys and Geek Gear

ThinkGeek Geek Merch

I have to confess, I was really thrilled when I found out that Thinkgeek had an affiliate program. Thinkgeek is one of those really great sites that takes just one thing and does it really well. In their case, they sell geek and techno toys, shirts, and gadgets.

Check out these shirts!

Note that these are just samples of the kind of thing Thinkgeek sells, but items may go in and out of production! PLEASE don't give me grief if Thinkgeek doesn't have these particular items anymore by the time you go looking for them!

Dr. Who
It's black
Sunlight! AAAA!
I have this 🙂
Got Power?
Only sometimes

How cool is that!? And of course they have many many more. If you're not the t-shirt kind, they have TONS of neat computer toys instead:

Air Bazooka
USB Drink Warmer/Cooler
External DVD+HD+Card Reader
Foot Switch to Hide Windows
Net Cam
Lighted Mousepad with 4-Port USB Hub

And not just those. They have some really neat generic toys for around the house and for your cubicle at work. Be sure to check them out

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Gattaca

Gattaca
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In the near future, your job and dating prospects are all a factor of your DNA and the quality of your genetics. Much like the risk of people hunting you down online that we have today, this shows how the essence of who you are could be used against you. Some examples:

Spoilers ahead!
  • A girl takes a stray hair to the corner DNA lab to check out a guy she's interested in.
  • Our protagonist, who's parents decided to let grow naturally in the womb instead of letting the fetus be genetically perfected, has inferior DNA. This prevents him from getting any kind of job better than cleaning toilets.
  • Even though people are legally protected from DNA collection, potential applicants who don't "volunteer" a sample are considered unhirable. Though illegal, the discrimination is impossible to prove..
  • Desperate people use the DNA of others to borrow identities so they can get things they otherwise couldn't.
  • All police searches, checks, investigations, etc. involve checking DNA.

Basically, it's a cautionary tale of what we could become if we let our genetic data become the standard by which we're treated in society.

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