Conspiracies and Angelology, a book review

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Angelology, a book by Danielle Trussoni is a meticulously crafted thriller based upon the age-old theory that angels are among us.  A rather intriguing thought if you really think about it.  Angels descended down from the heavens as Watchers, who’s sole purpose was to watch humans from a distance.  However, the temptation that human women presented was too unbearable, thus giving rise to the Nephilim, half human and half Angel with the strength and beauty unknown to humans.  Their brilliant and iridescent wings are their most angelic quality.

In the beginning, we are introduced to the pious Evangeline who is very much clueless to her ancestors’ line of work and her birthright.  As a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration at the St. Rose Convent, her life is a strict religious routine.  However, this all changes when she stumbles across letters which tell of a correspondence with the late Mother Innocenta (who died in the fire of 1944) and Mrs. Rockefeller (a powerful woman from an influential family), and a chance meeting with Verlaine who was hired by Percival Grigori to collect information about the St. Rose Convent.  Before I get too excited and spoil the entire novel, I’ll stop.  All I’ll say is that I got consumed in the imagery and the plot.

Let me just say that I love buying books.  I love perusing the ails of a bookstore and I love to grasp at the pages of a beloved paperback, engrossed in a wonderfully spun plot.  I have one golden rule about selecting a book which has proven very useful in the whole process, which is to always read the first five pages.  Not only did the beautiful cover catch my eye, but the rather eloquent and metaphorically rich writing style kept me turning the pages.

Danielle Trussoni
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With conspiracy theories running rampant in today’s world, the fascination behind uncovering an underlying yet powerful group pulling the strings behind all worldly events is becoming increasingly popular.  Take for example, the DaVinci Code.  I am not going to lie when I say that it really is an intriguing idea that something on a much grander scale is happening outside my rather busy and mundane life.  It is exciting to get lost in a fictitious world where mythical creatures are intertwined in the mortal coil.  Maybe that’s why vampires and werewolves are all the rage, taking film and literature by storm.   Angelology is a well crafted novel, a real page turner!  If you ask me, I could see this book turning into a fantastic film, although if it ever graces the film industry it better be good.

The Reign of Snobbism

Why do trends and languages survive in our ever changing world when others simply just whither and die off?  There are many endangered dialects and trends fading at this very moment now.  So, why do some have a strong foothold on society?  I took a Languages in Contact course in my undergrad, which catered towards the love/hate relationship between English and French.  I was very fascinated by the etymology part of the course as I learned that a lot of english words we use today are actually born out of mispronunciations of french words.  (Okay, so clearly it seems that I might be alone in this guilty pleasure I allow myself to have).  But some french words have maintained their status in being used with a snob-like air to them.  The food industry is notorious for that, using “hors d’oeuvres” or “entrées” instead of the english equivalent.  I could go on and on, but I think I should stop myself at risk of becoming too boring.

So, what does this have to do with anything?

Why, Apple of course!  In reading Bryan Chaffin’s article, “UBS Finds 31% of Android Users Likely to Switch to iPhone”, it reminded me about snobbism’s impact on the french language and how it could impact so much more than just language.  In this article, they had a survey of the retention rate of U.S Smartphone Customers and they found that customers with the iPhone have an 89% retention rate.  Gosh that’s a high percentage!  HTC was the second highest with 39%. Even though this is a US based statistic, I know fellow Canadians who love their iPhone and persuade others to get one as well, using catch phrases on their facebook statuses like “Got troubles with your Blackberry?  The local Apple store can fix that”.  It’s cute, it’s catchy, and they have a point.  Apple is increasingly becoming a popular decision amongst smartphone users.  In my opinion, it seems like the attitude towards getting one is a “they have it so I want it, and I want the newer one”.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  Apple’s popularity is being fuelled by snobbism and it looks like it is not going to die down anytime soon.

[… I feel the pull of Apple snobbism.  I want one!]  




Sources:
Chaffin, B. The Mac Observer. “UBS Finds 31% of Android Users Likely to Switch to iPhone”. (c) 2011 
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Are iPhones the new Twist?

While skimming through the many tweets from BBC and AppleGuru to get some inspiration, I stumbled accross this article by Alex Heath called “HTC President:  Kids Hate iPhone Because Dads Have Them”.  The title pretty much says it all.  According to the HTC President, Martin Fichter believes that the iPhones will lose their popularity among the youth because of the growing popularity with the adults.

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The funny thing is that upon reading this article, my mind took me back to this rather fuzzy memory I had.    See, when I was young, my dad banned all these anime shows and Nintendo games because, well he was old school like that.  What did I do instead then, you wonder?  Watched Discovery Channel documentaries and informative Biographies.  Besides the point, I remember watching a broadcast about The Twist’s birth and death.  Apparently, The Twist faded out of the spotlight because the adults were also starting to dance the Twist.  [Now remember, this memory was pulled from the murky waters of my childhood memories so I am not 100% sure if this is accurate, but to me it seems like it could have been one of the factors that could have contributed to its death].  So, assuming that Mr. Fichter is right, popularity among the adults can either break or make the iPhone… correct?  In my honest opinion, I believe that the iPhone has surpassed the status of being labeled as a fad.  Most young people I talk to, love their iPhone and therefore recommend it to others as well.

Ask yourselves this, if Mr Fichter is right, are the iPhones becoming the new Twist?

Sources: 
Heath, A.  Cultofmac.com. “HTC President:  Kids Hate iPhone Because Dads Have Them”. © 2011.    <http://bit.ly/nL6pN8>

To Bike, or not to Bike

Living in the fast paced and stressful world that we live in has taken a toll on us.  The invention of cars have definitely made going from A to B a lot quicker, however it has taken a toll on us physically.  Obesity rates have climbed over the past couple of decades because of bad eating and poor exercise habits.  In short, we have become sedentary and us humans were not built to sit all the time.  This is a problem!

I remember looking at the world through the moist eyes of the young, idealistic young girl I was and telling my dad about how better it would be if everyone used bikes instead of cars.  I would then go on to tell him that everyone would be healthier and global warming would be solved. This coming from a girl who also wanted to be friends with everyone.  I think I was inspired by either a news broadcast or a picture of the crowded streets of China filled with bikes… I think.  Yes, I thought a lot when I was little.
© CBC.ca
So naturally, when I saw those rental bikes installed in Toronto I immediately thought to what I had said to my dad all those many many years ago.  According to Suemedha Sood, the author of “Travelwise: Bike sharing around the world”, bike sharing has become a global phenomenon which is reinventing public transportation as we speak!  I know that this ongoing program warrants an “it’s about time” seeing that our environment is slowly choking from pollution, but I can not seem to wrap my head around the idea of paying money for a membership when I can just use my own bike.  Nevertheless, I definitely do not want to be the buzz kill at this party.  It is important to encourage and cultivate this interest in readily available bikes stationed around the city.   Bike sharing programs are available in Paris, Hangzhou (China), Washington DC, Mumbai (India), London, Mexico City, Melbourne (Australia), and Dublin (Ireland).
© MotorcycleUSA.com
Inventor Grant Ryan riding the YikeBike
Hold on, hold ON!  Where are you going?  There’s more!  Have you heard of the “YikeBike”?  I was just recently introduced to this rather cute bike that folds up!  Check it out by clicking here!  Con, it is an electrically powered bike so the exercise component behind biking has been completely cut out.  Pro, pollution through fuel emissions will be non-existent.  It just depends on which one outweighs the other.  I kinda want one… if only it folded up into a fashionable purse!  (Sue me for being a girl!)
I would definitely be willing to rent a bike to travel the streets of Toronto during my next visit or maybe invest in a YikeBike in hopes of doing my part by improving my environmental footprint.   Isn’t it nice to have more greener options now?
Sources: 
Sood, S.  BBC.com Travel.  “Travelwise: Bike sharing around the world”. © 2011.   

The Ongoing Smartphone Battles

Welcome to the heavyweight smartphone company championships!  In this corner we have Apple, a multi-billion dollar company which is rated the number one for customer satisfaction for its sixth year in a row!  Aaaand in the other corner, we have Samsung Galaxy using the relatively new yet increasingly popular Android software! Who will win this battle?!  Let the battle begin! *Ding Ding Ding*

© HTC Wallpaper HTC Backgrounds

Who indeed will ultimately win this ongoing war?  With the decline of Blackberry, it seems that Apple has become more powerful and maybe, just maybe, the idea of them monopolizing the smartphone and tablet industry is becoming an all too real possibility.  So, what is in the way of Apple monopolizing this industry?  The cheaper option of cellphone companies running on the Android software now available for consumers, who are not too keen on the high prices associated with Apple’s products.  I have been keeping up with the lawsuits that Apple has been attacking Samsung with over patent issues and, to me, it seems that Apple is using any means necessary to squash the competition.  According to Zachary Karabell, the author of the article “The Frightening Fall of Blackberry (and Why Apple Should Care)”, states that “consumers have very little brand loyalty in a world of rapid innovation and lots of choices” which has inevitably lead to Blackberry’s downfall.  As ludicrous as this sounds seeing that Apple is at the top of their game right now, they need to be careful to not follow in Blackberry’s footsteps. In my opinion, this could be a factor driving the actions that Apple is taking.  If they become a monopoly, they would not have to worry about a potential downfall in the future.  As Ricky pointed out in his article “Eric Schmidt: Apple’s Lawsuits Against Android are because of Jealousy and a Lacy of Innovation”, the outcomes of these lawsuits are putting a dampener on the future of Android in the States.  Here is a direct quote from Eric Schmidt himself:

“The big news in the past year has been the explosion of Google Android handsets and this means our competitors are responding.  Because they are not responding with innovation, they’re responding with lawsuits.  We have not done anything wrong and these lawsuits are just inspired by our success. ” (Ricky: © 2011)

Apple’s recent win over banning Samsung Galaxy tablets in Germany is just fuelling Apple’s rapidly growing ego as they are now moving towards banning Galaxy’s tablets in Australia and Japan.  Ed Sutherland, the author of the article “Apple Wins Permanent German Ban on Samsung Tablet”, does state that Samsung is going to appeal the ruling as it “severely limits consumer choice” and “restricts design innovation and and progress in the industry”.

© Apple

So who seems to be winning?  It looks like Apple is going for the final takedown, but at what cost to the public?  Apple is banning cheaper alternatives that could be available to the less fortunate, thus impeding on their chances to grab at opportunities that will be available to them if they are also connected to the increasing connectivity that smartphones and tablets currently provide.  Bill Thompson, the author of the article “Why the Poor Need Technology”, states that the “digital divide” is an all too real reality.  So if Apple is indeed vying for a monopoly, prices of their products will increase as they will not have a competitor to keep prices at a reasonable amount, thus excluding the poorer population.  This is worrisome!

It may seem like I am shining a negative spotlight on Apple, but I assure you that I am part of the Apple cult myself.  I own the second last generation of the white macbook and I love everything about it.  I am even contemplating getting an iPhone when I eventually get on the smartphone bandwagon that I seemed to have missed.  However, I’m starting to second guess whether choosing Apple products is the best course of action.  It seems that Apple is bullying their way to the top and I do not like bullies.  What do you think?  What would you do?

Sources:
Karabell, Z. The Time Moneyland Website. “The Frightening Fall of Blackberry (and Why Apple Should Care)”. © 2011.
Kunzler, G. MacTrast website. “Apple Topes US Smartphone Customer Satisfaction Ratings for Sixth Straight Year”© 2011
Ricky.  Digitizor Website. “Eric Schmidt: Apple’s Lawsuits Against Android are because of Jealousy and a Lacy of Innovation”. © 2011.
Sutherland, E.  Cult of Mac Website.  “Apple Wins Permanent German Ban on Samsung Tablet”© 2011.   
Thompson, B.  BBC.com website. “Why the Poor Need Technology”. © 2002  

Natural Disasters Galore

Is it just me, or are natural disasters seeming to dominate the current news?  From Japan’s very severe earthquake to New York’s hurricane Irene, to the forest fires in Texas, to hurricane Katia in Britain, and the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that hit Vancouver Island.  What is going on?

Subject to copyright.  Original source unknown.

My curiosity got the better of me when I remembered a theory I had heard about how natural disasters were more prevalent now because of media coverage.  Now I am not denying that these natural disasters ever existed, but you have to agree that the media does play a part in all of this.  As the world is becoming smaller, we are now more aware than ever about what is going on abroad.  The widespread popularity of social media is now making the flow of information faster and faster as now even the news broadcasts rely on it (Foutry: (c)2010). When I typed in “natural disasters and the media”, I got various articles and not-so-free essays about media coverage on natural disasters.  One article that really stuck out was by Patrick Cockburn.  The title itself got my attention: “Catastrophe on camera, why media coverage of natural disasters is flawed”.  He suggests that media can tend to exaggerate the extent of the damage caused which is problematic seeing that the news is taken at face value.  Take, for example, the precautionary measures taken by the New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (ie closing subways and evacuations).  I found a video of some New Yorkers stating that it was just a big unnecessary media hype.  Click here to view the video I am referring to.  Mr. Cockburn states that politics come into play as an unresponsive government will be criticized and therefore not be re-elected. [NOTE:  On the other hand, media coverage is necessary as it raises awareness of what is going on around the world.  This awareness will lead to action from other countries who generally provide financial support and humanitarian aid.  Guillaume Foutry explores how social media affects the spread of aid through global awareness in his article “Social Media and Natural Disasters”.  He shines a light on the positive aspect of the media and social media as he states this rapid spread of information facilitates the spread of humanitarian aid to those affected.  So let’s not start bashing the media just quite yet.]  

We can also point fingers to global warming as the earth’s temperature is slowly rising.  As the article on the National Geographic website states, one of the effects of global warming is that “hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger” and “floods and droughts will become more common…”.

So what is going on?  Is it the media’s doing?  Is it the fact that there is more coverage on global events and that they tend to exaggerate the severity of these disasters?  Or is the weather becoming more and more tumultuous and violent?  What do you think?

Sources
BBC.co.uk: “Britain Braced for Severe Gales on Sunday” (c) 2011 .
Cockburn, P.  “Catastrophe on camera: Why media coverage of natural disasters is flawed” (c) 2011 .
BBS.co.uk.  “Magnitude – 6.4 magnitude quake hits off Vancouver Island”.  (c) 2011.
Foutry, G.  “Social Media and Natural Disasters”. (c) 2010
Huff Post New York: “NYC Hurricane Flooding in New York after Irene” (c) 2011
Unknown Author. National Geographic Website. “Effects of Global Warming:  Signs are everywhere” (c) 2007 .
Wells, M.  Video coverage. (c) 2011

It’s all About the Manners!

As technology updates, so do the rules pertaining to etiquette.  So how does the iPad fit into these rather ridged etiquette rituals we so often practice in public?  What is the right time or the right place to use one? This article that I found on cultofmac.comexplores the correct use of using an iPad in restaurants.  Nicole Martinelli, the author of this interesting article, cited a server who stated that people on iPads in the restaurant tend to take longer to eat and is therefore bad for business.  Another server stated that one table were all on their iPad while eating, stating that it “seemed completely insane”.  However, it just seems to me like the iPad acts like a Gameboy would -another way of distracted children so that they do not act out.

I’m the type of person that believes that answering your cell when you are with someone is rude, yet I am sometimes guilty of breaking that social “faux pas”.  Now that we are connected to everyone with just a phone call, text message, or a social networking site it is natural to always want to keep up to date.  The iPad puts everything right at our fingertips, whether it be games to distract children or current news to distract the more mature population.  So I ask again, what are the rules regarding the proper use of the iPad in a public setting?
Feel free to view this article by clicking here!

Life Before the Industrial Revolution

(c) bbc.co.uk

I was shifting through the videos and articles on bbc.co.uk (and yes, I realize that I was on the UK version) and I found this video on these tribes in the Amazon that have had virtually no human contact outside of their tribesmen.  It just boggles my mind that tribes like these ones exist without being tainted by the surrounding world.

Being surrounded by shoes and clothes and all the other material obsessions makes one forget that life was never like this before.  These “uncontacted” tribes really do prove that there is another drastically different way to live.

Check this video out as well as the more detailed pictures taken on this website.

Photography

(c) Elena Kalis

While perusing countless articles and blogs, I was introduced to the photography of the lovely Elena Kalis, a Russian born visual artist who – clearly – is the master of underwater photography.

After viewing some photos from her Alice in Wonderland portfolio, I was hooked!  I went into a fervour, wanting to see more and more of her impeccably executed photography.  Even though some of her pictures seemed playful, others had some morbid undertones to them.  However, that did not dissuade me from her art. It just made me even more intrigued!

Here’s a link to an interview with Elena as she talks about her Alice in Wonderland project.  Check out her website as well for more photography.

Enjoy ;)

Little bits from everywhere