FDA Proposes Crackdown on Flavored E-cigs

There have always been jewels and diamonds in the air for Juul, the e-cigarette company that is trendy for young adults that want to look cool, just without the health problems. One problem: e-cigarettes are causing a new generation to become addicted to nicotine. On Wednesday, the FDA responded that they might take away the “jewel” from Juul.

Juul e-cigarettes may be in trouble; photo from time.com
Juul e-cigarettes may be in trouble; photo from time.com

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared the use of e-cigarettes by teenage users to be of “an epidemic proportion” and has given the makers of e-cigarettes 60 days to prove that they are able to keep their products away from minors. If not, companies like Juul will no longer be able to sell their products and they could face civil and criminal charges if they allow bulk sales through their websites.

Juul and e-cigarette companies weren’t the only ones to get the hammer on Wednesday as the FDA sent out letters to over 1100 stores across the nation, warning of what could happen if they sold e-cigarette products to minors. The FDA also issued 131 fines for selling e-cigarettes to minors, ranging from under $300 to over $10,000.

In a press briefing to reporters, the FDA’s commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, said that over 2 million students going to either middle or high school were regular users of e-cigarettes and the flavors that come with them.

While it is true that e-cigarette users inhale fewer chemicals than the normal cigarette smoker, studies show that e-cigarette users get more addicted to nicotine due to the high amounts of it found in e-cigs.

Juul wrote a statement in an email to the New York Times about the FDA’s decision, saying, “Juul Labs will work proactively with FDA in response to its request. We are committed to preventing underage use of our product, and we want to be part of the solution in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of young people.”

The FDA has also threatened to ban all flavors associated with e-cigarettes. Smoking e-cigarettes can also be called “vaping,” depending on what you believe constitutes vaping and what doesn’t.

As more information comes out about e-cigarettes, the FDA continues to place more sanctions and limits on companies like Juul. There could be a time where e-cigarettes get banned, but since the actual cigarette hasn’t been banned, then most likely the e-cig is likely here to stay.

If you are dealing with substance misuse or you know of someone here on campus dealing with substance misuse, please get in contact with SAVES, located in the lower level of Tyler Hall. You can call them at (540)-831-6031 to set up an appointment or you can walk in. All information will be kept confidential.

Deaths Caused by Cancer to be Near 10 Million

The World Health Organization’s cancer research agency said on Wednesday that at least 9.6 million people will died from cancer in 2018. This will account for 1 in 8 deaths in men and 1 in 11 deaths in women.

WHO also stated that at least 18.1 million will be diagnosed with cancer this year. This number is up from 14.1 million in 2012 when the last survey was published.

WHO also wrote in their study that the rising numbers of cases and deaths were determined by a number of factors that included social and economic development and the increasing populations.

The deadliest cancer in the world for this year is lung cancer, which also has 2.1 million new cases. Lung cancer is mainly caused by smoking but can also be caused by second-hand smoke as well. Breast cancer also has the same amount of new cases as well.

The third most commonly diagnosed cancer is bowel cancer followed by prostate and stomach cancers.

Of course, the best way to prevent cancer from spreading is to get a check-up once every 3 months depending on your age, along with having healthy habits.

“Stop-smoking” programs, screenings and vaccines may have helped reduce some cancer rates in certain areas such as lung cancer in Europe and North America.

Though some programs are working, WHO added that most countries still face an overall rise in the number of people diagnosed and treated for cancer.

Learn to Write, Stem Majors

Just last week I watched one of my friends trod through grading some assignments. For anyone of you who is familiar with the pain that is grading, you know how horrible it is. For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure I will say this, it’s worse than actually doing the assignment. No matter how much you suffered writing that paper or finish that lab I can guarantee you that grading it was worse. Why? Because the person who graded it had to do it 20 times while you only had to go through that hell once.

As I watched my friend grade those papers I felt nothing but sympathy and gratitude. Sympathy that he had to do that and gratitude that I only had to grade lab assignments and not papers. Because I’m going to be honest, there’s nothing worse than grading papers. When you grade a paper you’ve got to not only grade for content but also for grammar. Which is annoying and time consuming. Papers are often peppered with mistakes, some serious and some small. The line between too harsh and too lenient is blurry, making it difficult to know how many points to take off exactly.

The reason I bring this up is because I see the worst offenders for this sort of poor writing is STEM majors. We STEM majors have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to our ability to write, it’s almost sad. The worst thing about it all is that we make fun of the humanities while we do it. A majority of science majors can’t string three words together into a cohesive sentence but we delight in making fun of the people who can. I’m guilty of that myself, I’ve got at least a dozen English major jokes in my arsenal ready for use at any time.

But honestly? We STEM majors need to get it together. Either we have to stop making fun of the people who can do what we can’t and treat them with the respect they deserve. Or we need to stop scorning the skills altogether and learn how to do it ourselves. A lot of STEM majors will claim that they don’t know how to write, that their brain doesn’t work like that. Coming from the same group that’ll look down on an Art major who can’t do calculus. It’s funny because that Art major is going to need calculus way less than the STEM major will need to be able to write.

Pull yourselves together STEM majors and learn to write!

Waking Giant

Swirling in the quiet coast

A frozen giant slumbers deep

Curled around her waking host

Creation’s vessel rising steep

 

Whipped by storm and crashing waves

Seared with flowing earth of fire

The island covers nature’s grave

‘Neath molten rock, the forest’s pyre

 

Wind to cloud, these ashen skies

Cloak the ocean’s hidden gem

Spewing hot the landscape’s rise

And bringing forth new life again

Belgium bans “loot boxes” in video games

Microtransactions have been a hot topic in the gaming industry. The question has been, should they be allowed in games? Well, one country has decided that one form of microtransactions is illegal.

Belgium has decided to ban so called “loot boxes” from video games in their country, labeling it as gambling. This is just a week after The Netherlands declaring some “loot boxes” as gambling as well.

The Minister of Justice in Belgium has said that publishers of games that have “loot boxes” risk fines or prison time if these games with loot boxes are distributed in Belgium.

Games like FIFA, Overwatch and CSGO were determined to promote gambling and thus will be subject to Belgian gambling laws. Star Wars Battlefront 2 was able to escape the ban to due the outcry of there being loot boxes in the game when it was released, the publisher, EA removed them.

The main reason for the decision from Belgium is to stop minors from being exposed to gambling when they are only trying to have fun, the Minister of Justice noted.

Publishers who don’t remove the “gambling” from their game could face up to five years in prison and fines up to $800,000.

However, for those who hate these loot boxes in America, don’t expect anything to happen since most forms of gambling are legal.

Ghost

This was never supposed to be a ghost story. My grandfather built this house with his own two hands, but I don’t think he ever meant to haunt it. He died peaceful in his sleep, the way everyone always says they want to go. Peaceful deaths aren’t supposed to make ghosts.

We all hear him in the creaking floorboards, we can feel the ridges of his fingertips in the faulty wiring. Nothing in this place is without his maker’s mark.

My grandmother has it the worst, though. She sees him lingering in every corner, but he’s gone before she can get a good look. They always slept in twin beds across the room from each other, like a TV couple from the fifties, and she keeps the bed made for him—dusting off the patchwork quilt every few days. Just in case.

Once, she tells me that she woke up to see him standing at the end of her bed. Watching over her along with the painted porcelain angels that line her bedside shelf like a row of holy soldiers.

“He looked good. Like the day we met,” She tells me. She lays her hand on mine and her skin looks like crumbled tissue paper stretched thin over her hollowed bones, “What I don’t understand is why he keeps leaving me here all alone.”

She sees other ghosts too, though none loom quite so large over my mother and I as my grandfather does. My grandmother tells me that her father came to visit one day, his legs finally healed from his accident in the coal mines. She asks my mother when her brother is going to visit again, since she keeps seeing him standing at the edge of her driveway working on a car that he had owned back in 1967. Her mind seems to run in a loop, so haunted by the phantoms that surround her that she becomes unsure of how each day bleeds into the next.

I start wondering if I too might start seeing ghosts one day, and I see the same fear sparking behind my mother’s eyes. We wonder if this haunting might be hereditary, as we watch my grandmother lose track of life and death before our eyes. Our fear is shaped like my grandfather’s silhouette, lingering in the corners of the house he built.

Tattoos in the Work Place

In the new and growing environment of a work place filling with millennials, changes and approaches to how the work place is run are being introduced. On one hand, more interesting appearances are coming into greater view, and on the other hand managements are struggling to deal with evolving trends.

One of the biggest controversies that occur with employee appearances are tattoos. They are often bright, colorful, and attention grabbing, and oftentimes permanent, and therefore not easily covered. While most other changes to one’s appearance can be changed or modified to be considered appropriate for the work environment, tattoos do not provide such a luxury, and so employers can be hesitant to offer opportunities to applicants with tattoos.

The question, however, is why should they?

Tattoos have long been seen as unprofessionally, but given the rising popularity of tattoos and the ever increasing number of people who get them, it is becoming harder to view them as anything other than a common method of self-expression. When something has grown commonplace among the public, it is difficult to argue that potential customers could be put off by tattoos, especially if they themselves have some.

As time presses on, so to do we find ever-evolving shifts to popular culture—both in the workplace, and out. While this does not necessarily mean that employees will be able to go around covered in tattoos, piercings, or extreme hair styles, it does encourage more freedom in what is considered appropriate for work.

A few tattoos may be just artwork to some, but to others they represent something deeper—a permanent and personal fixture of their body that tells a story, and shouldn’t have to be hidden just to be considered for employment.

At the end of the day, though, we are who we make ourselves—whether inked from our head to our toes or a sanitary slate, our bodies remain the one thing we can say without a doubt is ours to control. Whether the professional environment can keep up with the trends of a new society is anybody’s guess, there is no doubt that we as a culture will continue to press on regardless.

 

Photo from STAPAW

E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Lettuce from Arizona

While the salmonella outbreak in the Eastern half of the U.S. is almost over, there has been another outbreak, this time in Arizona and Alaska.

The Center for Disease Control sent out a warning not to eat any romaine lettuce from Arizona after more than 50 people got sick due to an outbreak of E. coli that has spread to 16 states across the country.

This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine lettuce, in addition to chopped romaine and salad mixes that may contain romaine, the CDC said in their warning.

The romaine lettuce that is causing the E. coli outbreak is from the Yuma, Arizona area but a common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has not been identified as of now.

The CDC is telling people they shouldn’t eat lettuce if they don’t know if the lettuce is “romaine” or not and instead should just throw it away.

This is the second outbreak in months that deals with romaine lettuce. However, the CDC didn’t release a warning to consumers which in return led to them getting criticized by Consumer Reports.

An infection from E. coli can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody stool, and vomiting. The bacteria can also be spread by contaminated water (always boil if unsure), animal manure, or uncooked beef.

It is not certain if we have seen the last of the E. coli outbreak with romaine lettuce, but you should take precautions right now when it comes to romaine lettuce. If you are unsure about the lettuce in the fridge, throw it out.

 

Stormy Daniels, Her Lawyer’s Threat, and What This Could Mean

Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who is suing President Trump, has once again resurfaced in the news, though, to be more accurate, her lawyer has been the one making waves. Michael Avenatti, better known as Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, has recently stated that he has a DVD he is ready to release, which could prove to be very embarrassing, if not detrimental, for many of the concerned parties in the affair.

Avenatti has tweeted a picture of a DVD, warning that he will release it if President Trump or his lawyer continue to call Stormy Daniels a liar after her “60 Minutes” special. Avenatti has called his tweeted picture a “warning shot,” and so far, it seems to have worked. Trump and company have been silent on the matter, though it is uncertain how they will respond with the various scandals and responsibilities going on with the White House and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen.

It also brings up the question of what is on the DVD that could be so frightening to Trump and his lawyer that Avenatti would feel it is sufficient to hold them off. There seems to be some implication that the DVD could contain video of Trump caught in the act of his affair with Daniels, possibly even explicit evidence. If so, what could that mean for the President and the state of the White House?

It is hard not to think back to the time of Bill Clinton, given some of the similarities that are present. Frankly, it would be shameful to have yet another president found guilty of having an affair, though few people would be surprised by this one. What is particularly mind boggling about this situation is that this affair was already an issue before Trump became President. For all of the uproar there was over Bill Clinton’s affair, many of Trump’s voters and supporters seemed to gladly ignore this side of Trump. It brings up one final question: At what point do we stop acting like Trump’s election was about his policies or character (or lack thereof), and start admitting that his election as president was merely about his pandering to hate filled rhetoric and beliefs?

This is a despicable man, not because he slept with an adult entertainer, but because he had an affair, and then chose to have his lawyer pay Daniels hush money, only to demean her in various ways when his dirty laundry gets aired. The quality of Trump’s character was well known before this and during his campaign, yet not of his supporters batted an eye. This scandal comes about, which would be enough to end the career of any president before, and there is hardly an outcry. You have to begin to wonder what this man really represents, and why it got him elected.

Line of Gemini – Part 14

When they reached the place of the execution, a wooden stage, right outside of the white and gold palace, Sunny’s mouth dropped. The palace sprawled so far Sunny had trouble seeing the end of it. Instead of gargoyles, there were golden statues of the Gemini peering over the ramparts. She looked up at the statues, then at the golden cupolas, then down at the darkened moat, a waterfall pouring into it.

The crowd was divided into the different groups, Tod told her: Gemini, Cassiopeia, Taurus, Scorpio, Sagittarius, and Leo. And they all milled about, like lions in cages, shooting people from opposite groups nasty looks. As soon as they got there, Isolde went over to the other Cassiopeia, and Tod and Sunny stayed back, away from everyone else. He told her to keep her head down, not look at anyone.

“Aren’t there more groups than this?” she asked, and Tod shook his head.

“No, not all the horoscopes that you know have Setareh forms. Remember, humans named the horoscopes after us. Not the other way around.”

People were shouting and cheering and waving signs, one of which said, “Death to Tyranny.” Sunny frowned. If that person was really for Eli getting killed, she thought it was kind of strange and ironic, but whatever. 

“Geez,” she said. “A lot of people sure hate Eli.”

“Are you surprised?” Tod scowled, looking at the crowd around them.

“I don’t know – ” She paused. “Like what happened with him? What happened with you guys? And why are people so mean?”

Tod sighed. “It’s a long story.”

“Tell it. They’re taking their sweet time,” she said. And she just needed something to get her mind off Eli and the terrifying place she’d found herself in. Maybe if she could understand, she could be more help.

When she’d asked Tod if he had a plan, he’d just shrugged, so she guessed he was still thinking. They still had time, because contrary to what Isolde had made it seem like, they’d gotten here way too early.

“Well…everyone used to be a lot nicer and friendlier. Like on Earth. Everyone’s pretty nice there.”  

“Ehh,” Sunny said, shrugging her shoulders.

“But you know, they say that on Earth, most people are nice and do their best. But it’s the exact opposite on this planet. Everyone is rude and self-serving. I’d say 95 % of people are. People don’t even know the meaning of love. And if someone does love, it’s seen as a fluke. A mistake.”

“Really?” Sunny’s eyes widened. “But – it didn’t used to be like this?”

He shook his head. “No, well, at least not as bad. Everyone used to care about Earth and other planets and want to help grant the people there wishes. But then the Setareh started to get frustrated. We have long life spans. Up to a thousand years. And…people who’d been around a while saw that humans continuously made the same mistakes. They failed again and again. They turned to war and fought and killed each other. They hated others based on their beliefs. The Cassiopeia in particular were the frontrunners of the Anti Wish movement. They basically said we should stop granting wishes because humans no longer deserved our help if they were just going to mess up again and again. But the Gemini, as the rulers, disagreed and said we should continue to help. And that’s what caused the war. It was the first war on our planet.” Tod’s eyes darkened. “I wasn’t born then. But the war destroyed so much. And…” His voice cracked. “Nothing was ever the same. These people aren’t the people of the past. They’ve turned into everything they hate. They fight. They no longer care about anyone else except themselves.” He paused. “Humans aren’t perfect but you can’t expect perfection. That’s why they need our help. But no one can help now. We have too many problems.”

“Wow.” Sunny popped her tongue. “You weren’t joking. That was a long story.”

“Yeah.”

“So…what about you and Eli? What did you fight about?”

Tod scratched his neck. “Well, we at least agreed that we wanted to grant wishes again. But he wanted to continue to fight the Cassiopeia and mow down all the opposition and…I knew that we couldn’t continue to be at war. It had already destroyed so much but he just doesn’t seem to get that. Of course my parents were on his side, but as you can see – ” He gestured to the group around him. “A lot of people hate Eli. So he actually does need me. He finally got it through his big thick head – ”

“Tod.” Sunny grabbed him by the shoulder. “It’s okay. Calm down.”

Tod took a breath. He knew that he was acting just like the others, annoyed by Eli just because he had different views, but he couldn’t stand him sometimes.

“I can’t be ruler,” Tod said. “I can’t.” He bit his lip, his voice weak.

“Well, maybe you don’t have to. Maybe after we save Eli, we can figure something out,” Sunny said.

“No.” Tod shook his head. “I have to be ruler. I already am.”

“Huh?” Sunny said, tilting her head. “What do you mean?”

He told her everything, well, with the exception of the heir.

“You fused with her?” Sunny said. “Doesn’t that mean – ”

“Doesn’t that mean what? It doesn’t mean anything,” Tod said, turning red. “Anyway, I’m stuck here with these terrible people. And I have to figure out how we’re going to fix this mess.”

“Oh.” Sunny swallowed. “I’m sorry.” She paused. “But since you’re leader, you can just tell them to not kill Eli. Simple.” She smiled, but Tod didn’t respond with one of his own.

“Yeah. See how Isolde likes that. She’s basically the leader and I’m her sidekick that she dresses up like a little puppet.”

He paused and then said, “When Eli comes out, I’m going up there.”

Sunny felt like the hot temperature was finally getting to her brain. She let out a little gasp. “Um, what? That’s your brilliant plan?”

He swallowed. “It’s all I’ve got.”

Sunny crossed her arms over her chest. “Okay, but I’m coming up there with you.”

“Sunny – ”

“We’re in this together.” She put a hand on his arm, and he looked uncomfortable, but a slight blush appeared on his face.

He didn’t answer, just nodded, and they waited, staring straight ahead.

Line of Gemini – Part 13

After Sunny wished, nothing happened. She sighed. Of course not. It wasn’t like she’d expected anything. She shielded her eyes against the sun, and then shook her head, her heart sinking to the pit of her stomach.

About a half hour passed before she felt the car lifting off the ground.

“Whoa.” She looked to her right, to see if anyone else had noticed, but everyone was focused on the road. A part of her said that the lack of sleep was causing her to hallucinate but it couldn’t be, because she saw the road growing smaller and smaller below her, before her very eyes. “What the – ” She started to panic, scanning the dashboard to see if there was some magic button she could push to get her on the ground, but there was nothing.

She’d never been on a plane before; she didn’t even like heights. Sunny shrunk against her seat, shuddering, her eyes tightly shut. “No, no, no, no,” she whispered. Another half hour passed, and then the car began to pick up speed. Letting out a breath, Sunny cracked her eyes open. The sky was dark blue and she saw a planet below, not earth, but a green and gold sphere, with black lines that looked like veins traversing it in every direction.

The car whooshed towards the planet, and Sunny gritted her teeth, trying not to scream. She failed at that.

When they hit the ground, she bit her tongue, her heart in her throat. Once her head had stopped shouting at her and her nerves were sufficiently jangled, she realized that music was still playing – banging in her ears. She ran her hands over her face, shaking. She couldn’t even focus or stop her fingers from trembling to turn it off. “Oh God, oh God.” How could she have gotten here? How could she even be alive right now? She was a human, right? Unless…

She looked at her hands and saw they were glowing. Like the sun.

She opened the car’s door and slipped out. Her feet crunched on black crunchy sand and she found herself in a small clearing. Surrounding her were tall green trees, and despite the fact that the trees were everywhere, it was still very bright.

Sunny shielded her eyes and turned around in a circle. She swallowed, and after a few moments, picked out the sound of running water. She didn’t like standing idle and so she figured she’d better follow it – at least, that was a start. She pushed through the brush and had been making good headway when she saw a small creature with green fur scurrying ahead of her. Curious, Sunny ducked under some brambles, thorns cutting her cheek and catching her hair. She yanked away, her hair tangled, and then tripped over a vine, falling on her face. “Oww,” she groaned. She realized then that the ground below her wasn’t really sand; it was more like bits of sharp black rock.

When she heard a panicked squeaking she jolted to her knees. What she saw first was a huge carnivorous plant. Its teeth dripped with an icky brown substance, and its stem, as well as its massive jaws, were mottled brown and gray. The squeaking came from the green rat like creature and Sunny could see that it was trapped underneath the plant’s thorny vines. Before the plant could dive at the ground, Sunny pulled out her pocket knife and hacked away. The plant roared at her, the brown juice spattering her face. Sunny yelled back. “Shut up, you stupid plant!”

Just a couple cuts and her hands pulled the creature out. She stumbled away from the angry plant and stared at the animal’s cute face. It kind of looked like a ferret, except it was green with a gray stripe from its forehead to its tail. “Aww! Hi there!” Sunny said, already thinking of names and bringing the creature back to Earth with her. However, the cuteness didn’t last long. The animal bared its sharp teeth and bit down hard on her thumb.

“Ouch!”

She dropped it and stuck her thumb in her mouth, the acrid taste of blood filling her mouth. “That’s how you repay me?” she spat. “Not going to save you again. Jerk.”

Wow. I’ve been here ten minutes. I’m already talking to small furry animals like I’m back home.

On Earth.

The familiar panic set in and Sunny fell to her knees, starting to hyperventilate. “Oh, God,” she murmured, and a lump gathered in her throat – she couldn’t do this. Why did she think that she could? Why did she wish to be here? She was helpless, and she’d be better off back home. The tears flowed down her cheeks and she felt her body burning up. She feared the worst: what if whatever was allowing to be here was wearing off? What if she was going to burn up and die? She screamed.

“Sunny!”

A familiar voice broke into her thoughts and she turned around to see Tod.

Her eyes narrowed. He was wearing a long green and white cape with a gray romper underneath. He was still wearing his sunglasses. And somehow, he looked less foolish than he usually did. “Tod,” she breathed in relief, getting to her feet and wiping tears from her eyes. “I – how’d you find me?”

He stepped closer, swallowing. “I can see you.” When she looked confused, he added, “It’s a Setareh thing.”

“A Setareh thing, huh.” She gestured behind her. “Are humongous carnivorous plants also a Setareh thing?”

“Yeah. Well, a Dross thing.”

“Right.” Her hands shook, and she had so many questions, but all she said was: “Um, the word dross? It means rubbish.’ Did you guys know that when you settled your planet?”

“No,” Tod said, shaking his head. “But I guess it makes sense because the Setareh – they made a garbage planet into something…better.” He paused. “You’ll see.”

“Where’s Eli?” Sunny said suddenly. “Did he get here?”

“Oh – ” Tod was about to reply when a woman crashed through the undergrowth and came to a stop in front of Tod. “I cannot believe you!” she yelled at him, smacking him hard.

“Ow.” Tod rubbed his jaw.

“Uhm – ” Sunny said. “Who are you?”

“Don’t talk to me,” the woman said, pointing a finger at Sunny. Then she turned back to Tod and said to him: “You get down on your knees and beg for forgiveness.”

“No.” Tod shifted his weight, knowing that Isolde was definitely serious with the getting down on his knees thing but also knowing that Isolde had a pretty short attention span. “Take us back.”

“Okay, guys, what is going on?” Sunny said.

Isolde turned to her. “Your little friend here tricked us,” she snapped. “He said he just wanted to protect you. Not bring you to our planet. Then he forced me to take him to find you.” She gritted her teeth. “Since he doesn’t have Eli, he barely has any of his power. Disgusting.” She spat on the ground.

“Eli?” Sunny felt faint. “Where’s Eli?”

“He’s going to be executed. And we’re going to be late to the party if we don’t hurry up,” she said, and for the first time, a spark of joy entered her eyes. “So let’s go.”

Tod shook his head. And this is the woman I’m having a kid with.

He wasn’t telling Sunny that anytime soon.

***

Sunny had had two panic attacks already, and she wasn’t ready for a third. But she was freaking out about Eli. What if they didn’t get there in time? While Isolde got ready, which meant fiddling with all her accoutrements, including her whip, her gloves, and her stupid forehead band, Sunny stared at Tod.

“I don’t like heights,” she admitted.

“Don’t worry,” Tod said, squeezing her shoulder. “I’ll be right next to you. Just shut your eyes and we’ll be there in no time at all.” He looked at Isolde. “And Izzy, you’re fine with carrying both of us?”

What did you call me?” She put her hands on her hips.

Tod swallowed. “It’s just a nickname – ”

She grabbed him by the arm, jerking him hard, and gave Sunny the same treatment. “Ow,” she whined.

Isolde took a breath, then they shot off into the sky. Sunny shut her eyes tightly, then a horrid thought came to her. What if Isolde dropped her? She’d be dashed to pieces on the ground below. She really hoped this person was nicer than that.

What if I just dropped this stupid human girl? Isolde thought to herself. She’d be lying to herself if she said she wasn’t thinking about it. But the truth was, she wouldn’t do it. And she knew what was holding back, what would always hold her back. Nobody, at least barely anybody, on Dross were in relationships for love. Love didn’t survive on their planet. They weren’t wired for it. And people who fell in love usually ended up depressed or dead. Her mom had been Cassiopeia and her dad had been a Taurus. It hadn’t gone well when the war happened. But she’d been born out of their love. Sometimes she still felt it. But she pushed it down. Until it came to a choice like the one she was carrying right now.

And she thought of her parents and she couldn’t help but do the right thing out of guilt. If it even was the right thing.

Well, she told herself, it didn’t matter. It was at least what her mother would have wanted, and that was right enough, at any rate.

Samsung to Release a Smartphone Without Internet

Question time: What is the reason why you have a smartphone?  Most people would answer: “internet.”  And while most of us need our phones, the internet can and will distract us from doing things which is why Samsung has found a solution.

Samsung’s Galaxy J2 Pro is the bare necessitites when it comes to a phone nowadays. This version of the Galaxy allows to call, text and to take photos with 8 megapixal rear camera and 5 megapixal front camera but the selling point of the phone is that the phone has no internet service at all (no WIFI or data).

The phone is only going to be sold in South Korea since students (high school seniors) down there, are getting ready for the toughest test of their lives called suneung, a test that will essentially determine the rest of their lives and that’s not a exaggeration. Unlike in America where there’s multiple factors that play into getting into college,  South Korea students have had the idea of suneung being the deciding point of their lives.

The phone comes in only two colors, black and gold, and it will cost around 200,000 won, or around $190.

The best part about the phone is not the specs but the promotion that Samsung is running. Once students are done with the exhausting test, they can trade in the phone for a new Samsung Galaxy S or an A-series phone released after 2018 and have the cost of the J2 reimbursed.

The Galaxy J2 Pro will most likely never be released outside of South Korea since most countries don’t take testing as serious as South Korea does but nevertheless, this phone is unlike no other phone released today. It can take you to a time where phones were not used for internet but for only calling and texting

Oh, how the times have changed and they just keep changing

 

Saving Lives, Bad for Business?

Recently a report has been published by Goldman Sachs analysts exploring the question “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” The idea behind it being that as “one-shot cures” rid more and more people of their disease and/or medical condition, the need for that particular medicine will go down, as there fewer people to spread it. The report cited a study about treatments for Hepatitis C that have more than a 90 percent cure rate. As a result of that effective treatment, the need for that treatment decreased significantly, as did the profits from it. All of this begs the question, what in the world is wrong with medical companies?

It would seem that profit is the greater concern over improving lives and saving lives. This report appears to suggest that medical companies developing treatments and cures for sick people should focus their efforts on diseases that can and will appear on their own, without the need for carrier. It suggests that the research should focus more on disease like cancer or medical conditions like asthma not because they should try to cure it, but because it has a more sustainable business profit. That is to say, because people will always have to deal with these conditions, and therefore they can continue to profit off of the sick. And as for the people will curable or potentially curable disease or conditions? It seems they are just going to get ignore and be left to suffer. It is apparently a bad thing that so many people got treated for Hepatitis C.

What sort of world do we live in were profit is put above improving and saving lives? It is understandable that companies need to make a profit so they continue to fund medical research, but it should never be taken so as to even consider placing profit over the lives of their patients. If this is how things are going to go, how until we hear from our doctors that our illnesses are curable, but that they will not cure it because it would mean less money for them and the medical companies?

 

Photo from the Wall Street Journal

Graveyard Shift – Part 2

The ancient looking hand opens, slowly, and drops a bag of Peanut M&M’s onto the counter.

“Oh,” Mickey says, “Okay. That’ll be $2.25”

There’s a loud thump behind her as, presumably, Sid faints and hits the linoleum. Just as slowly, the front-most hooded figure pulls a five-dollar bill from somewhere on their person and retrieves the M&Ms. The hissing sound gets louder, and as they float back out the door Mickey takes it to mean, “Keep the change.”

Mickey turns to check on Sid, who has since come to. He rises slowly his feet, staring intently at her for a long moment before he gathers up the courage to actually speak.

“H-how long have you worked here, again?” Sid asks.

“About 15 years,” Mickey tells him.

“Right. Great. Please please please tell me that was the weirdest shit you’ve ever seen in here.”

“Oh, not even close,” Mickey leans back against the counter, “Welcome to the graveyard shift, kid.”

 

Famed Gaming Champion Loses Records for “Cheating”

One of gaming’s most famous figures, Billy Mitchell has been stripped of all of his records that he has held for decades.

Mitchell, 52, had held the title of being the first person to have scored one million points on the arcade game “Donkey Kong.”  The decision comes after many years of allegations of cheating towards Mitchell which he has denied many times.

Twin Galaxies, which tracks video game records believes that Mitchell’s scores were achieved with the use of emulator, a computer program that replicates an arcade or console machine.  They presented their findings to Jeremy Young, a Donkey Kong forum operator who after seeing pictures of Mitchell’s gameplay, says that “those scores were impossible to achieve without a emulator.”

After Twin Galaxies did their own investigation, they concluded that Mitchell had indeed used a emulator and with the evidence posted on their page, they decided to ban all of Mitchell’s scores which include the first perfect score (3,333,360 points) in the original Pac-Man game and to ban all future scores of Mitchell’s (if he were to continue to play for records).

Twin Galaxies also reported their findings to Guinness World Records who also decided to remove Mitchell’s records from the Guinness Book of World Records.

Now, the record holder for the first person to have scored one million points on Donkey Kong is Mitchell’s rival, Steve Wiebe, who no longer competes for records. Wiebe is currently a math teacher in Washington (the state).

Mitchell has not respond to the stripping of his records and as of now, he may not speak ever but this could not be more embarrssing for the former “best gamer in the world.”

Well, a popular cartoon show, Regular Show had a character on the show called Garrett Bobby Ferguson (GBF) who looked like Mitchell. Mitchell sued the show trying to ruin his image and the case got thrown out of court. The character’s main trait and the reason why Mitchell sued the show… GBF was a villian who cheated at video games.

Well then, it looks like Regular Show has predicted time just like the Simpsons have done for decades.

Trump Rants on Twitter… Again

Once again, Trump has taken to Twitter to address his grievances with the latest debacles, news, and world affairs concerning him. No surprise there, as this seems to occur on an almost weekly basis, which is something we should talk about. For now, let us ignore the specific subject matter of Trump’s latest Tweets, though they do merit attention and consideration, and concentrate on the fact that this is how Trump deals with any backlash or negative criticism.

Donald Trump is, unfortunately, our president, and he should act like it. This man is meant to be the figurehead of our nation, and the singular person that the rest of the world looks to and sees America, and what do they see? An angry man that response to every piece of negative criticism like a child. This man is supposed to be running our country, yet he appears to spend too much of his time concerning himself with the opinions of others, and rushing to Twitter so he can bash and decry those he does not like. This is a man that resorts to, essentially, pointing his finger, calling someone names, and saying they are a liar. He is doing precisely that to James Comey, who is releasing a book on April. 17 that details his (poor) experiences with Trump and had an interview on the 15th about this same book. Given the numerous issues and problems facing the government and America as a whole, not to mention the recent missile strike in Syria (which should be mention), Trump has better things to do with his time than concern himself with a book.

Frankly, Trump only seems to really care about his image. This is not news, by any means, but it bears repeating. His actions seem like that of a desperate man doing his best to discredit any who oppose him for fear that people might actually realize what a horrendous job Trump has been doing. This man may be the President, but he does not act like one or seem to hold much, if any, respect or regard for the position. Simply put, Trump is president in name only.

Line of Gemini – Part 11

The cold night air took away Tod’s breath as the woman hauled him through the sky, toward the stars. “Hey, wait,” he tried to say, but the words wouldn’t form in his throat, and even if they had, he knew they wouldn’t have made a difference. They climbed higher and higher until Tod saw a gleam of gold below them – their planet. He could see the mountains from here.

“You know we can’t get through the barrier,” he said. “Not without Eli.” The only way he and Eli could go back in the first place was if they combined their energy and called for the other Gemini to help them. Tod going through alone – it would disturb the balance and their universe would fight against it. Without Eli, Tod was little more than a human.

The woman scoffed. “Well, guess you finally got lucky, Tadraz. I found a loophole.”

Tadraz. My real name. He grimaced. Her fingers latched onto his.

“Wait, what?” He tried to pull away. “What are you doing?”

He could feel her power coursing through his body. “No. No!” He tried to struggle, but she was much too strong. In a moment, she had merged with him and Tod was gone, seeing the world through her eyes, battling with her thoughts. It wasn’t long before her power overcame his and he blacked out.

***

Her name was Isolde and she was going to bring peace to the world. Well, that was the plan anyway. She pulled her hood down, watching Tod as he lay there on the floor. She crouched by his side, pushing his sweaty hair away from his forehead. “Poor baby,” she said.

“Isolde!” a voice echoed in her ear and she heard the familiar clomp of hooves. Smiling, Isolde leaped to her feet to see her father coming her way.

“Daddy,” she said, rushing over to him. “Look.” She pointed at Tod’s body.

Her father laughed. “I’m proud of you.” He kissed her forehead, then stooped lower to look at Tod, his muscles creaking with age. “What is he wearing? You can’t expect to march to the palace with him looking like that.”

She eyed Tod’s strange outfit. “Dad, you know the humans have weird superstitions. Obviously, those plastic things don’t work against us.” She pointed at Tod’s necklace.  

Her father was a Taurus, since the line of Cassiopeia was all female. Horns sprouted from his head and tattoos burned into his skin flickered in the light.

“Certainly not.” He chuckled, running a hand over his beard. “So, did someone else get Eli?”

“I don’t know yet, but I’m sure they will.”

“Well, I’m proud of you. You’re going to be queen.”

“Finally. We worked so hard.” She felt the warm light getting steadily warmer inside her and the smile on her face grew brighter. She’d tell her father later. He’d be so happy.

***  

“Tod’s gone?” Sunny yelled. She couldn’t believe it. She shook her head. “You were supposed to be watching out for each other.” Her voice trembled.

“I know – I know. It just happened so fast. I’ll find him, don’t worry,” Eli said. Better than anyone, he knew that was what he had to do.

“I’ll come,” Sunny said.

“No,” Eli said. “No, you go back home. You can’t come. You’re a human and you’ll die on our planet.”

“But you can’t even get home without Tod,” she protested.

“I’ll find a way,” Eli said, pushing past her.

Sunny ran after him. “But wait, you can’t just leave me – ”

He didn’t answer, slamming the door. Sunny wanted to run after him, but she knew he was right. There was nothing she could do – she was a human. She’d never hated being a human so much before. It always seemed like it was a gift – make a mistake, well, you’re only human. But now it was what was preventing her from helping her friends.

She checked the time. It was three o’clock in the morning. How worse could this trip get? She’d have to go home, tell her parents what happened. She just imagined how that would go.

“So the boys we adopted, they’re actually aliens from another planet. On the way to Nashville, we got attacked by this woman, who’s also from that planet, but they killed her, so it’s all good, right? But then another came to our hotel and kidnapped Tod. Of course I can’t do anything, so Eli left to go after him. And I didn’t even get to see the solar eclipse. That’s what I’m really bummed about.” Sunny burst into tears. She knew her parents wouldn’t believe her. Her dad would probably say something like, “Cocaine is a hell of a drug,” and her mom would think she was crazy.

Hey, even she thought she was crazy. She remembered that she hadn’t called her parents to tell them that they’d gotten here all right but she figured it was too late now. She lay back on her bed and rubbed her eyes, inhaling shakily. It would be fine. She’d go home, she’d make up a story, say that they found another family – it didn’t matter.

She’d just forget about them.

But she knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Let Me Out

I recently watched a movie called ‘Let Me In’ on Netflix. It’s a sorrowful tale of a young boy growing up isolated, alone and afraid. Bullied at school and suffering through the divorce of his parents at home, his only solace comes when a girl, Abby, moves in with her father, Thomas, next door. He is instantly intrigued by her; she is aloof and reluctant, for reasons that are explained later. But they nevertheless find themselves drawn to one another and are able to bond over a mutual love of puzzles.

The tale unfolds in one sense as a Peter Pan fable. There are elements of eternal youth depicted in the character of Abby, who is revealed to be a vampire. In a more traditional take on the vampire myth, she must be invited into a house like in vampire legends of old. She burns in the sun and is only seen at night. And while it is unknown if religious artifacts have an adverse effect on her, there are numerous religious overtones displayed in the character of Owen’s mother who listens several times throughout the movie to late night sermons on T.V., a habit that is hinted to have contributed to the dissolution of her marriage. Abby is also super-strong, and seems to revert to a more animal state with glowing eyes when feeding.

Despite this, she remains very much a child. In describing her plight to Owen, she self-describes as being “…12. But I’ve been 12 for a long time.” She is inquisitive, laughs, and engages at every turn with Owen for all the world like a 12-year old girl would. She doesn’t really hint that she knows why she has to be invited in to a house beyond knowing that it eventually causes blood to pour from her eyes, nose, and mouth. She knows that she must not be in the sun, and that she needs blood to live. And that is all that is given.

In another sense, this makes Owen and Abby’s infatuation all the more tragic. While being an otherwise very stereotypical childhood crush, the revelation that Abby is a vampire, combined with the discovery that her father is not in fact her father but the last boy she fell in love with, gives rise to the implication that Thomas’ fate is what is in store for Owen.

Owen, like Thomas, will grow old and die in service to a childhood love that cannot grow old with him, in addition to his already ravaged childhood, torn asunder by the divorce of his parents and, towards the end, his near death at the hands of his bullies. This spells depressingly cruel consequences for Owen that two children, one immortal and the other merely troubled, could never be adult enough to foresee. Thomas, it is shown, commits several acts of murder just to collect blood for Abby to survive.

During overheard conversations between Abby and Thomas, it is shown that decades of such murders begin catching up to him as an old man. In the end, after botching a second attack and about to be captured, he douses himself with acid to obscure his identity and, thus, his connection to Abby, protecting her. When she comes to visit him at the hospital, he is unable to invite her in due to the acid damage to his vocal cords. Lastly, unable to speak, he offers himself to Abby, who feeds from him before allowing his body to fall from his tenth floor room. On a police tablet, left by an officer near his bedside should he wish to confess, is scrawled a single line: “I’m sorry Abby.”

By the end of ‘Let Me In’ I was shouting internally ‘Let Me Out’ as I tried to imagine any way in which the ending of such of a path could ever be thought of as romantic or good.