I have a problem with violent computer games

Why did the kids put beans in their ears?
No one can hear with beans in their ears.
After a while the reason appears.
They did it cause we said no.

(from The Fantasticks)

Like most folks over the age of 50, I have a problem with violent computer games, such as “Grand Theft Auto.” I’ve never played any of them, but, like many young folks, my 13 year old grandson does.

gtaOn one occasion, I look over his shoulder as his avatar – a strong, white, adult male, – climbs into his Super Sport Bugatti and sets off on a heist. The bank robbery hits a snag and he and his partner have to shoot their way out, killing the security guard. He makes it back to his virtual apartment with the designated “payout” stashed in his virtual account. He will use those earnings to buy more cars. Or maybe a helicopter or a yacht, depending on how wealthy he becomes. The graphics in this virtual world are realistic and compelling, a quantum leap in design and process from the “Space Invaders” arcade game of my generation.

“Hmpf.” I say to him. “I don’t like these killing games.”

“Grammy,” he says, with a patience that belies his age. “It’s like playing a part in a movie script. It’s fantasy. I know the difference.”

I know, and his parents know, that if he is forbidden to play, he might find a way to do it anyway, and the stress it would put on family relationships would not be worth it. The answer to this dilemma is not for the adults to say “No,” but rather to try to understand what this gaming culture is all about and how to ensure that the young players don’t internalize a wrong message.

For my home schooled grandson, well versed in morality and ethics, his gaming goal is not to kill anyone but to complete the assignment (although characters can get killed along the way). Granted, there are other gamers who get delight in escalating the violence just to see what they can get away with. That’s what I have a problem with out of a concern that they will become inured to the horrors of violence and start confusing fantasy with reality. Hundreds of contradicting studies have been done – and continue to be done – that both affirm and deny the ill effects of playing violent computer games.

The culture of my family is to try to understand where the other person is coming from before any decision is made, so my grandson has explained to his parents his approach to gaming and they have shared their concerns. It reminds me of when my 10 year old son became obsessed with comics during the time in the 1980s when many of the publications began to use illustrations with hyper-sexualized female superhero bodies. I remember having a long talk with him, expressing my feminist disapproval of such depictions of women and reminding him that it’s all fantasy.

I have embarked on a long learning curve that involves my grandson explaining how the game works, which is a complex process, on the part of the gamers, that involves planning, coordinating, and cooperating in setting up each heist. While the game program itself establishes parameters, the gamers make specific choices and have to deal with the consequences.

There are other modules that are available for GTA, my grandson tells me. His favorites are the ones in which his character is a fireman or policeman or emergency medical technician. While the scenarios for those modules can include violence, it is always because the protagonist is trying to rescue someone.

What I am learning gives me a more informed appreciation and understanding of why my otherwise non-violent teenage grandson likes to play “Grant Theft Auto.” And the conversations continue.

I see that what he is taking away from playing these games is so much more than I would have ever considered. For example, he has to budget and manage his virtual money so that he can afford to buy the new luxury items that he wants. In the process of researching cars, he has developed a knowledge of automobiles – both ordinary and classic – that is encyclopedic. He experiments with designing the appearance of his cars, playing with colors and shapes. He has forged online friendships with other players his age from around the world as they work together to develop strategies for their heists. He is honing his reading skills as he keeps up to date on understanding the evolving rules and improvements in the game.

Because he was not told “No” and instead was invited to share his gaming experiences with the family, the problem other families might have with the issue of violent computer games is not a problem for us — although I still really don’t like them. It’s probably a generational thing, as it often is with music, fashion, language, and etiquette. But I learn to appreciate it all. Like Walt Whitman, “I contain multitudes.”

adventures in living in a home/school

Most people have a general idea of what home schooling is. What they don’t realize that there are infinite variations of how to go about teaching your kids at home.

My 12 year old grandson is home schooled and has always been. I live with him and his family, and so I am usually right in the middle of it all. My daughter is the facilitator — and that’s what she is, more than a traditional “teacher,” (although sometimes she does play that role). She has chosen not to work at an outside job, so home schooling has become her passion, and she is involved in the regional home schooling community.

Learning here is part of living, and most of the time my grandson learns all of the basic skills, as well as research, communication, ethics, history, civic responsibility etc. etc. as part of some interdisciplinary project in which he becomes involved because he has expressed an interest in it.

The computer is right next to the dining table, and when some question comes up in conversation at a meal, he can turn around and research the answer. He has become very proficient at using the computer to further his learning, either by using actual programs that my daughter has downloaded or by researching and creating his own base of information.

Television also plays a big part in his learning. From Mythbusters to Pawn Stars to documentaries on the History and National Geographic channels, he absorbs information like a sponge.

As an involved observer, there is so much I can write about the processes and the products of home schooling. But what prompts me today is his latest project: pygmy goats and can we have them here as pets.

This interdisciplinary project has just begun and will last until spring, when we will make a decision whether or not we can and will actually get a goat or two. Or three.

In the meanwhile, he has been emailing back and forth with the local zoning office and reading online abut the care and use of goats and how they might be used as a source of income (weeding vacant lots in place of having them mowed). He has ordered a book about the care and feeding of pygmy goats. Over the next several months, there will be visits to places that sell pygmy goats and conversations with the folks who raise them. There will be exercises in figuring out how much land they would need and how to provide for their shelter. These exercises will include a lot of math for measuring as well as for finances.

My role as “grandmother-in-residence” is to listen, encourage, ask questions, and share in the excitement of discovery and adventure. Not at all a bad way to spend part of my retirement time and energy. And, actually, pygmy goats, as their popularity on youtube has proven, are fun to have around. I wouldn’t mind that at all.

the saga of my health issues……..and the promises of technology

I”m hoping someone with similar issues will stumble upon this post and share what works for them.

In the meanwhile, I am plagued by two health issues: a seemingly untreatable and serious sinus infection and frustrating insomnia. While they are no doubt related, I don’t believe that the former is the cause of the latter.

1. Sinus infection. After sinus surgery in May to clean out a bad infection that was lodged up near my eye (and to make a few other adjustments), I am back with a sinus infection that feels just as bad as the one that prompted the surgery. So, yesterday, I was examined by one of the three best sinus experts in Connecticut. (Why Connecticut and not Massachusetts, where I live? He is in my health insurance network, plus I didn’t want to go back to the original surgeon. Plus I was impressed by the information on the website.) The little video he took of my sinuses showed that they are an unholy mess. So, we start with a culture. He says that it’s bad, but he will figure out what needs to be done to treat and cure it. I’m sure that my immune system is shot to hell as I try to fight it off, and I feel sick and tired all of the time. I’m wondering if I should go to an endocrinologist.

In the meanwhile and in desperation, based on some of my own internet research, I am wearing this all of the time — and, damn, if it doesn’t make a difference!! My sinus don’t itch or water when I’m wearing it but do when I don’t. It’s not a cure for the infection, but it makes my life tolerable while I’m waiting for the cure. There is no way I would get on a plane without it.

2. Insomnia. Except for the last two nights (more on that coming) I have not slept more than three hours a night for the past several months. And then only for an hour at a time. I don’t fall asleep until 3 or 4 am. I’ve tried all of the suggested herbs, all of the homeopathic remedies, all of the relaxation techniques, just about all of the prescription alternatives. Nothing has worked. So, again, I did some extensive internet research and I discovered this, which is one of many such devices available. A little more research about its effect on the very important vagus nerve made me think that this might be worth a try.

A CES (Cranial Electric Stimulator) is very similar to a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Stimulator), and I happen to have a TENS device, which is used for muscle pain management. So, I decided to try using the TENS the way they use the CES. Did it several times a day, including before bed time.

Last night, I actually fell asleep reading. I can’t remember the last time that happened. On top of that, I don’t feel constantly hungry the way I usually do, and I wonder if that’s because it’s stimulating the vagus nerve as well. I’m thinking of buying a CES if I can get my chiropractor to give me a prescription for it. But, in the meanwhile I’m going to keep doing the TENS stimulation on my mastoid bone and see if I keep getting the same results.

Placebos? Maybe. But the medical profession hasn’t helped me much, and these are technological processes that seem to work and have some bases in science. The medical professionals don’t even bother investigating or considering these options. They probably don’t even know about them

I’d love to hear from others who are dealing with the same issues as I am. Sometimes we just have to help ourselves.

This is why I blog….

Here on this weblog, I write about whatever interests me at the moment, even though, at the time, I recognize that it might not interest anyone else.

But every once in a while, out of nowhere, it does.

I just received an email from a man in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada regarding a blog post I did back in 2003 about friends of mine leaving to join a group in Edmonton that I consider a cult.

You can read the post here — and be sure to read the comments as well.

Apparently, a colleague and friend of my e-mailer, who was missing since March 22, has been found dead. Police do not suspect foul play; my e-mailer suspects suicide. He also seems to believe that she was somehow involved in de Ruiter’s group.

I guess he is doing his own investigation, and so I gave him the names of my old friends who left all of those years ago, in case they are still around and can help him. And in case they might like to get back in touch with me.

That’s why I blog. Because all of my stuff is sitting somewhere out there in the world wide web, and sometimes it is just what someone is looking for.

Well, it’s one reason I blog. I blog because I’m a writer and I need a place to write.

Whatever. It all works for me.

patience, persistence, PayPal and the Yellow Brick Road

Let me begin by saying, upfront, that this is all about the unlocked Uplay phone/tablet that I bought online from JSLX Technology. It is a global market, after all, and, while I usually buy from American companies, this device was just what I was looking for at a price I could afford.

This story has a beginning and a middle; it does not yet have an end, and I’m hoping that posting this on my blog might help to end this frustrating saga in a just and fair way. Any advice from techies or others, after reading through this whole post, will be greatly appreciated.

I have spent the past two weeks attempting to, and finally actually, contacting both the seller and the manufacturer because the damned thing has a variety of issues, mostly, I believe (and so does the computer repair place I brought it to) because the drivers, while downloaded, are not installed and the tablet offers no way to install them.

So, I am now on that interwebs Yellow Brick Road, slogging through e-mailing territories lined with various conversational pitfalls, detours, dead ends, and side paths that are designed to wear me down. BUT, as that Lilith logo in my right sidebar proclaims: “She is that which will not surrender.”
Lilitu

Yes, I could send the device back to China, but, according to DHL and UPS, it would cost me $180 to do so — more than I paid for the damned thing. And that’s how the company asks you to send a return. So, that’s not an option.

Yes, the manufacturer and seller could possibly send me a driver installation disk or some instructions on how to install the drivers, but they are refusing to do so. I don’t know why, except that they keep insisting that there is nothing wrong with the device and there are drivers downloaded in it. (As you will see from the screen images posted below, the drivers are there but they are not installed and the device offers no way to install them, making the device function like something out of the very early ages of this technology.) Even with an excellent wifi signal, trying to download anything via the browser takes so long that the servers time out. Navigating anywhere in the device is worse than trying to get to the Land of Oz. That’s certainly not what their website PR indicates. This is a young company, and it surely needs more work before it can compete in the global marketplace.

I started a PayPal dispute and got nowhere, so I escalated to a claim, which is under review. One reason for this post is so that I can send PayPal the URL and give them all of the details that way.

The devil is, indeed, in the details, and the details are in the screens that come up when I connect the UPlay phonepad with my HP Pavilion Notebook PC so that I can see what’s in the tablet’s folders. These are details that can’t be argued. (What can be argued, and are being argued, are my experiences not being able to download stuff like the Kindle Android app, and of other downloading efforts timing out even though the wifi signal is excellent. Maybe it’s that driver problem; maybe the device is simply a LEMON.)

So, what I am doing is documenting, via screen images, attempts to prove to the seller and manufacturer that the Android drivers that are supposed to be installed are NOT INSTALLED.

Any techies (American,Chinese, Indian…whoever…) reading the following — please tell me if I am wrong and, if so, what I might be able to to do get this problem fixed.

The first thing I do is go into Control Panel, and then Devices. This is what the UPlay phonepad appears as. There is a yellow exclamation point by the device, which comes up as an MP3 player. (My iPhone comes up as a camera, so I understand how that works.) I’m assuming that the yellow exclamation point means “Whoa! There’s some problem here! Check it out!)
1device

So, then I click on the device and see that there is no general information for it. Well, OK. I go on from there.
2devicegeneral

Next is device functions. There’s a whole list of Android drivers listed ALL WITH YELLOW EXCLAMATION POINTS. There are also other functions without the exclamation points. Obviously, there has to be some reason why the Android drivers are highlighted as problematic, right?
3devicefuntions

AHA! Click on an Android and you get a CODE 28 MESSAGE THAT THERE IS NO DRIVER INSTALLED!!!
4driversCode28
Here is information about the Code 28 message, which includes:

Code 28 is a device manager error indicating that the drivers for a given hardware device are not installed. This error means that a previous attempt to update the driver failed or a driver was uninstalled for a given device but was not replaced/updated. This error prompts you to reevaluate your driver installation and reinstall the driver if necessary. In most cases, reinstalling the driver will fix the problem

OK. So, let’s try a fix.
6apply_fix

UH OH. NO STRAIGHFORWARD FIX. Windows can’t find a way to install, and the internet can’t find a way to install.

Well, maybe there’s a file somewhere in the device that’s an installer.
7browsefiles

Hmm. There are two drivers listed.
8android_install

OK. Let’s click on Android Driver. Well,that’s all well and good, but where do I go from there to install.
9install_android_driver

This is where my expertise wanes. I don’t know what these files are, but I click on one that looks promising, anyway.
11cant_open_file

Hmm. Let’s try this.
12free_file_opener

No, I don’t think I want to take a chance and go this route. Here’s where my knowledge of this stuff stops. So now what?

It is the responsibility of the seller or manufacturer to provide me with the capacity to install the drivers. Otherwise, the device is defective and they are the liable parties. IF they do that and the drivers are installed and the device still doesn’t work, then it is a LEMON. Do I have to suck up the cost as a bad purchase, or are they still liable?

ADDENDUM: After another unhelpful response from the seller, I will explore some cheaper cost of returning the device. They do have a return policy: will pay between $9 and $25 toward the return shipping cost. I believe that should get the $25, but their decision will be based on whether they think anything is wrong with the device or if I am returning it “just because I didn’t like it.” By now, I don’t trust them to care at all about fairness or truth.

I waged my battle as though with the wind. There’s no getting any satisfactory fix from them.

And the truth is that this is a device that looks good on their website but is a real lemon. And their customer service sucks as well. AFLE for me.

[NOTE: Go to the next post to read the end of the story.]

When Bloggers Felt Like Family

More than a dozen years ago, when “personal” blogs were beginning to blossom, I managed to brazenly infiltrate a small group of such bloggers. all of whom were expert in some aspect of communications technology. That they welcomed me — a technological dilettente –into their virtual family still amazes me.

In many ways it was the best of times for personal bloggers, as we played off each others’ posts, bantering and badgering and behaving pretty much like affectionate siblings — even though many of us had not met in person. Like most siblings, after some years of sharing a rolicking range of adventures across our global homestead, we drifted apart — catching up periodically these days via the much less adventuresome terrain of Face Book.

Michael O’Connor Clarke was a warm, funny, and energetic member of that original blogger family. To learn that he is in the hospital with esophageal cancer is more than just disturbing.

But it is not surprising to learn that members of that old virtual family are again coming together in an effort to generate both emotional and financial support for his actual family, because as our blogger/friend Jeneane Sessum shared on Face Book: They are a one-income family. That income is in a hospital bed right now and for the foreseeable future.

One of the blessings of the Internet is that it enables the coming together of like minds and hearts to help things happen. We can’t cure Michael; that’s up to his doctors in Toronto. But we can help him by helping his family. If you are moved to do so, go to http://supportmichaelocc.ca/ and see if you might be able to help.

Surviving the Western Mass Apocalypse

Well, it wasn’t really THE Apocalypse, but, after a week without heat or electricity or phone, and with temps in the house falling to about 45 degrees at night, it sure felt like it could be.

The snow started a week ago a few days before Halloween, and it looked like this.

In three days, it looked like this:

We lost half of the ancient maple tree, the leaves of which were just beginning to turn, and it probably will have to be taken down completely. We lost pieces of the maple in our front yard as well and portions of various trees that form the edge of the property that borders on conservation land. Two days ago, my daughter went out and bought a chain saw.

With a gas stove and gas-heated hot water, at least we were able to eat and wash the dishes during the icy winter week. Our unheated but enclosed porch became our refrigerator as we tried to save as much food as we could.

By the time that the snow finally stopped, power, phone, and cable lines were loosed or down all along our street (and all over this part of Massachusetts). The storm’s strength took out the power so quickly that we didn’t have a chance to charge our cell phones and laptops. We husbanded our battery flashlights and the meager amount of dry firewood that we had available.

We all hunkered down in the living room, blockading its doorways with blankets. This is my grandson, trying to keep warm on the mattresses and quilts piled on the living room floor.

Lines began to form at the gas stations until finally there was no gasoline left within an hour’s drive of our town. I had about a quarter tank of gas in my car and eventually went out to charge my Iphone.

Thankfully, my daughter and son-in-law had the foresight to move our cars far enough onto the property to avoid any limbs that might fall from our neighbor’s rotting oak. One limb did fall — right where our cars would have been. It settled itself over all three power lines that run above our driveway (cable, phone, electricity), blocking our ability to back out when the storm stopped. Eventually, a very helpful neighbor with a chain saw cut off enough of the branches so that the cars could get out; but the limb remained, threatening to take down the lines completely.

The property taxes in this town are pretty high, but the upside of that is that the town set up an emergency shelter in one of the schools, with cots lining the gym and three free meals a day for anyone whose homes were without power. They distributed water bottles, showed movies in the afternoons, and lined the main hallways with chairs and surge protectors so people could charge their phones and laptops. Eventually they even had wifi.

They were staffed with volunteers that paid special attention to all of the elders who flocked there for the only support they had available.

We were finally able to get gas, and then the two main grocery stores opened with generator power. There was nothing available that had to be refrigerated, but we were able to pick up soups and breads and, of course, lots of Puffs tissues.

We got our power back yesterday, exactly (almost to the hour) a week from when the storm began. The tree limbs are off the wires, but we still have no landline phone service.

Having been sleeping in a 45 degree bedroom, dressed in multiple layers — including a hat — and burrowed under two blankets and a quilt, I now am close to understanding what the homeless must suffer in cold weather.

What I wished I had available were old fashioned rubber hot water bottles for my feet and hands and a book light that used regular batteries. I have ordered these in preparation for what I’m sure will be coming down the pike this winter. We also will be buying some kind of generator so that we can keep the house at a livable temperature should we find ourselves, again, faced with this kind of winter misadventure.

But we survived. My grandson is recuperating from an terrible sore throat virus, and my daughter is exhausted from taking care of him, tending the fire, and feeding us all. Hestia lives in her. Me? I was just too cold to be of much help.