24 August 2016

How to respond to criticism

It's very easy to become offended when someone criticises you. Here are some ideas on what is happening, what to do when it happens, and how to prevent it in future.

  • You might get angry, and raise your voice. Try to notice when this happens, and then just stop and think. Give yourself a moment to compose yourself and think about what is being said. There is absolutely no need to rush to respond to the person - just wait, sit down and have a think. Even take a break if you feel like it - but not storming off - just say you need a moment.
  • Some people do deliberately try and press your buttons, either to get you to admit your mistakes, see you go crazy for fun, or see what's under your skin. Don't let them.
  • It is in people's nature to complain rather than to praise. There is a good quote in Futurama - "When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all." Working in IT is a good example - when IT works fine, nobody says thanks, but when something's wrong, everyone complains.
  • Try to think about the root of the problem. It's very easy for an argument to start at one point, and then you end up arguing about the fundamental laws of nature.
  • It's very possible to have a jokey argument about nothing without it getting serious. If you realise it's heading in a serious direction then just pass it off, forget about it, and move onto something else like the football or that latest YouTube video you saw.
  • If you can, try to find a way to laugh it off. Humility is a high level, mature defence mechanism. I'd even give this a good read anyway so that perhaps you can know yourself a bit better.
  • If there are bells ringing in your head that you are wrong, rather than defend yourself, it's better just to come clean, be honest, and say something like:
    • Oh wait, no actually, you're right yes, sorry, I understand now, it didn't make sense before, sorry I was a bit confused
    • I was playing you on, I wasn't actually being serious! I was just winding you up
    • Sorry, I've been stressed lately
    • It was my bad, sorry
    • Yes, actually now you point it out, I did make a mistake there
    • Oh now, that's definitely wrong isn't it, I can see that now yes. I can fix that.
  • Self-awareness helps, but not to an overbearing degree. Understanding that you are human and you want to improve and be better is the greatest step. Being yourself is also important, as cliched as it sounds - what's key is that you only do what feels natural and right - don't feel you have to do what others want to do or be. Don't feel you have to fall in line with everyone else (unless it is life threatening of course). And don't let others define you.
  • Getting defensive is fairly normal, and you'll try raising points or even go so far as to create cognitive dissonance. A good example would be a politician for example - they often don't like to admit their wrongdoings, and will defend their decisions. But it's more human to be honest - say you messed up, and you will do better in future.
  • Stubbornness doesn't help - someone who is particularly stubborn, if told they are being stubborn, are likely to say "No, I'm not being stubborn!" which is a perfect example of being stubborn.
  • A lot of this probably arises from the "fear" of being proven wrong - no one likes being wrong - we always think we are right in every decision we make - at least at the time. But it is perfectly human to be wrong just as much as you are right. If we never learned from mistakes we would never make any progress.
  • Constructive criticism is a thing, which you should always be prepared for, but there is also witty banter and roasting which can be uncalled for, seem out of order, or are directly and personally offensive. If it's not clear to you that it's a joke, then it's understandably offensive.
  • Hypocrisy is common when it comes to criticism - people sometimes can be more than happy to criticise others, but never when it's aimed at them - those people should be redirected to this blog.
Some other self help articles may also help like these on Tiny Buddha, LinkedIn, and Lifehacker.

23 August 2016

Useful Free Windows Tools

I have posted previously about recommended programs to get you started or if you have issues with Windows, but here is a good collection of all free tools that I use as well. A good website for finding more and alternative programs is alternativeTo.

11 August 2016

The Shallows: Deeper Meaning

I think the deeper (pun intended) meaning or lasting message of The Shallows is obviously a metaphor for her mother's cancer and her going through the same, or similar experience.

  • Cancer, when it comes, is like a shark circling round you - it's always there, and never goes away unless you do something about it. It won't go away on its own, and you're more likely to die of dehydration/cancer if you do nothing, than risk the shark
  • At first, you're not even aware that the shark/cancer is there
  • When you're in medication, especially chemotherapy and radiotherapy, you're very limited  to where you can go and what you can do - like an island
  • Cancer can leave scars - not just physical but also mentally
  • The medication can take the life out of you - you saw the colour leaving her lips and her constant exhaustion
  • A lot of people going in for treatment have someone or something they keep with them - in this case it was Steven Seagull
  • You lose your hair through chemotherapy - although in this case she lost a massive amount of blood

Obviously there are some things that don't necessarily correlate, like the other divers dying, and other plot points like the dead whale etc., but these are just part of the shark part of the story.

Although, we never found out the name of the beach...

03 August 2016

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Issues in upgrade experience

Overall, several improvements have been made to the OS, like customising the quick tools, better start menu, deeper search integration, and more tools to help you.

General advice

  • Temporarily disable your AV and protection program due to Windows making large changes to the system. In some cases (Avast), a complete uninstall might be needed.
  • Uninstall any programs surrounding network changes like VPNs, hotspots or virtual machines
  • Check you have at least 30GB free space if you are doing an upgrade because the Windows directory will be archived, and temporary files will be left on the system post-upgrade.
  • It might help to disable all Windows Explorer extensions. C-Cleaner and Autoruns can help you with this.
  • Disconnect any peripherals you have, including keyboard and mouse. Only reconnect them once you get the login screen again.
  • If you do have problems after the upgrade e.g. system crashes or locks up after you login, then try going back to the previous build. On the lock screen or start menu, when you click Restart, hold down the shift key. This will bring up the troubleshooter. From there you can go to Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Go back to the previous build. You could also try Safe Mode instead (Startup settings option) to figure out what is causing the problem - if there aren't any messages then Event Viewer might help here. There are also more reset and recovery options here. There is also a 'Start Fresh' option which will upgrade your PC and reset it.

A few problems during the upgrade

  • Did initially attempt Windows Update, and downloaded, however it disappeared and was not installed even after reboots, so I had to manually install with the Media Creator Tool instead
  • Audio was not working properly after upgrade - uninstall of driver and reboot solved this
  • Kaspersky removed its licence key so needed to be added again
  • Additional hidden network adapters were present which I removed
  • The UAC has changed - it no longer has a taskbar tab when a UAC is raised so it can be difficult (or impossible) to see it unless you close the program, in my example MediaMonkey needed COM Elevation but couldn't see it the first time.
  • Some of my "Quick access" shortcuts in Windows Explorer had been deleted, e.g. Desktop.
  • Mouse pointer speed had slowed down so needed to re-apply the settings
  • Some people have had problems with webcams after the upgrade - there is a registry fix available

Some notes as well

  • Windows Defender now has an Offline Scan built in, but it isn't clear the button will immediately restart and start scanning
  • Classic Shell, Adobe Reader and Steam all needed an update straight away
  • A KB update was already applied during the upgrade however is not in the Settings - only in Programs and Features / View installed updates - a second one is now available
  • Programs and Features reports many programs installation dates as the date of the upgrade
  • Machine rebooted 5 times during upgrade
  • Windows reinstalled the default Apps like Get Office, even though the latest version of Office was installed. Other apps include 3D Builder, Skype Preview, Paid and Free Wifi, Connect (Companion)
  • Some devices in Device Manager have changed names
  • As per any other upgrade, Windows will create a "Windows.old" folder and some other temporary files in the C:/ drive. You can use cleanmgr to clean these up. Below, it's using 22.44GB.
  • Some services appear broken, even when doing a brand new installation. But they seem to run ok.
  • I had to reinstall Chrome as Chrome did the thing where it just says "Loading" on every tab you open.

After the upgrade

  • Reinstall your Antivirus and any extensions and startup items that you disabled
  • Run cleanmgr to free up space if you're happy, this will remove the "Windows.old" folder backup
  • Check for updates in Windows Updates
  • May want to tidy up your System Restore points to free up space
  • As above, check your apps work okay - they may need updating straight away
  • Check your network is working fine - if you view the network adapters in Network Connections and see e.g. Ethernet #2 but no #1, then you may want to delete the old secondary one from Device Manager.
  • Open the Store app and update all apps

27 July 2016

Ghostbusters 2016 Review

  • Feels like it was using the franchise far too much for its own benefit. 
  • There were 4 renditions of the main theme tune, which, sure, it is a catchy song, but it wasn't overkill in the original.
  • Why was the lead girl so "okay" with giving up her career on merging general relativity and quantum theory? That would be the biggest breakthrough in physics in ages.
  • Why did we not see the professor of the university again, like shocked or rejecting the evidence of ghosts and what the lead girl was up to? I feel that would have made it funny.
  • The lead girl said there was no science in her book at all, so how did Abby and Jillian create the technology? How did Jillian even develop the technology to be so portable so easily?
  • Bill Murray wasn't used well enough in the film at all, it felt more like he was poking fun at the film - more specifically the girls in it
  • Now that Rowan is dead and there aren't any more devices, why does the town even need the Ghostbusters anymore? Unless someone else starts making similar devices, but that would basically be a repeat of the same film. 
  • A lot of the jokes weren't funny, and the scenes were edited together so closely to make it really fast paced, but left no time for the jokes to sink in. It felt like they were cranking jokes in at every opportunity. A lot of the jokes were very childish as well, like the fart joke and Jillian's general responses. This isn't an Avengers movie, you can't do the Hulk/Groot thing with a human. 
  • The nuclear reactor on the top of the car was a major plot device that was not explained for being there, definitely deus ex machina
  • The CGI was very mixed - the proton packs and streams looked excellent, but the ghosts weren't all great
  • Sigourney Weaver could have been used better
  • Feels like the roles were better suited to men really, and Chris Hemsworth was the "dumb blonde receptionist", and his role change later in the film makes no reflection on him alone
  • Generally did not get what they were talking about sometimes (not the sci-fi technobabble) but even the jokes too
  • They could have expanded on the ghost that was at the end of the lead girl's bed for a year. Why did the ghost ignore her after a year? Why didn't they visit her house to see if the ghost was still there?
As there are so many questions I'm led to believe there will be a sequel.

16 July 2016


Evolution and nature

There is no afterlife, heaven or hell. There is no reincarnation. These are all things we have dreamt up to make us hopeful and protect us from the truth: that once we die, we are never conscious again. There is no such thing as a soul.

The reason behind this is obvious if you look at nature. What makes us so different from monkeys, from cats and dogs, and from the smallest little creatures? Why do humans get the privilege of an afterlife when other creatures do not? At what point did evolution give us this 'soul' and this ability to ascend to a different plane of existence?

From all this the truth is very clear: it is something we made up. We made up the idea of afterlife so that religion could be used as a way to control people, and cover up the fact that science is real. The argument between religion and science all started with religion wanting to cover up the facts that science brought with it, and throughout history has dismissed the ideas of many scientists and killed them.

This idea is instantly depressing. The thought that when we die we won't exist anymore. We won't be able to think, feel or do anything - we will cease to be. We shut our eyes and that is the end of our story. It's scary and deeply harrowing. But it doesn't mean that life is pointless.

Existentialism and influence

The resolution to this existentialism is to "do what we can". Your life is a gift - it is a chance to change something in this world. To make the world better. So that when you die, you can feel happy, knowing that you've left this world in an improved state than when you found it. Every single person that is born is another gift - another chance to change this world and make it better - to create your legacy. Whether that means to have children, to make someone else happy, to save the lives of others, to provide to others, and to push humanity in some direction that it will be better in the future.

Think about what you are passionate about, what makes you tick, and what you think needs to be fixed in the world - what is that thing that makes you think "Someone really needs to fix this". My lasting thought in life would to be in bed at the end of my life, surrounded by family, friends and loved ones, looking back at everything good I've done in this world and being happy that I made this world a better place. I have influenced the world and changed it to a different path than it previously would have been had I done nothing through my entire life and just "existed".

From this comes a philosophy of how to live your life as well - to never cause suffering. Try and make the lives of others better - don't hurt others, or anger them or upset them. Show them patience, care, kindness and tolerance and find how to move forward.

Origin of the universe

There is another concept that religion imposes - the idea of a god, or many gods. Knowing that each of us is made from stars, and that after all the stars have burned out in 100 trillion years, and the universe slowing cooling until the heat death of the universe, it does make you think, why does the universe exist? Is there a way to escape the universe? Can we live beyond it? Is there a way for humans to keep surviving, after the Earth is gone, and after the last of all the suns has gone out, to keep living for trillions and trillions years more, or is there even a way to escape the universe?

These are the thoughts that should drive us forward. If you strongly believe in god, then the pursuit of science and wanting to discover how the universe came about, kind of dissipates. To focus on something like a god is to distract yourself from trying to answer the real questions about the universe. To settle on a belief is giving up and avoiding answering the question. There shouldn't be a belief, instead, there should be a desire to want to know.

07 July 2016

WALL-E is about sacrifice

WALL-E isn't a movie just about robots or love or the environment. It isn't even about Disney or that little sweet butterfly that gets in you every time you watch a Pixar classic. It's about sacrificing our humanity.

Buy N Large (BnL) became a popular company at the expense of business competition. This allowed them to commercialize every facet of organisation. Media, transport, government, health, education, science, sport, technology: everything except environmental responsibility. We sacrificed economic and cultural freedom for the sake of convenience. We got rid of political and business borders and made a new frontier, but put up borders against nature and a wall of silence.against the depletion of resources, physical space and waste management.

The second sacrifice was nature. Pollution and lack of recycling or renewable energy usage ruined the climate. For the sake of excessive and immediate consumption: a mindset of only thinking what you need now, and not ever considering the future.

Then we sacrificed the Earth. Humanity literally packed up its bags and ran away from its home. We gave up the entire planet - its history, culture, races, resources, and nature itself - because it was easier to leave than to fix the problem.

Then, we sacrificed our intelligence: humanity ceased growing, inventing, or creating. It just existed.

Then we sacrificed our bodies, because of laziness, given floating chairs. We stopped working, given robots. We stopped exploring our surroundings and questioning anything of our existence because of the digital world on a screen in front of us. We even stopped meeting in person.

This resulted in the ultimate sacrifice: our humanity. This is why WALL-E is so powerful as a character, because, even though he's a robot who has developed artificial intelligence, sentience, and a conscience, he's the only character left who is still human. Not just in his personality but in all the things he does and collects too. He is the only character who really understands how important humanity is and why it's worth saving, via the plant and his love for EVE, before any other characters cared or bothered to fight for it.

WALL-E isn't just a family friendly digital romance action adventure science fiction space opera trying to warn us of environmental responsibility, it's a definition of humanity and its relationship with the whole universe. It's about using technology not for convenience, but to enrich us. It's about making our place on this little planet worthwhile and enjoyable to the maximum we can afford. Technology should be used to connect us as an entire species and give us the platform to pursue our humanity in ways never before possible. It's not meant to be used so that we can just live in a chair for our entire lives - there is a good Oatmeal (or similar) comic that depicts this.

Only by using technology sustainably, to manifest our dreams, can we retain our humanity, rather than sacrifice it.

03 July 2016

Response to 'The EU is undemocratic'

Being in the EU is fundamental. Leaving is like running away from your problems. If you don't like the way the EU is run, we have the power to change it if we get involved and vote for it. I trust the EU more than my own government.

23 June 2016

Father's Day Poem

Thanks for always being our dad.

Thanks for being a dad that cares; many dads just make themselves scarce.

Thanks for staying with us through every difficult time; many dads just run away and hide.

Thanks for being a dad who loves his family; many dads just keep behaving angrily.

Without you dad, our family ship would have surely sunk; many dads would rather always be drunk.

Dad, you're our inspiration and hope; without you we wouldn't have been able to cope.

We are so lucky to have you as our dad; you're something that makes us really glad.

If the love you have could be turned into shares, we're certain we would all be billionaires.

Thanks for always being our dad.

30 May 2016

Climate change is everyone's responsibility

Colleague at work recently said 'It's up to the government to combat global warming, not the businesses, it's not profitable'

I say - no. It is everyone's responsibility. We all live on this planet, we must all, collectively, look after it. Just like a mould growing in a petri dish, if we consume every mineral, there will be nothing left and we'll die out.

I say everyone can help.
Everyone can recycle.
Everyone can save power and fuel.
Everyone can write to their MP.
Everyone can sign a petition.

We are not alone and there are many celebrities also trying to help - Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Mark Ruffalo are just a few names of people that have put their reputations on the line to say what really matters.

There isn't ever a future where we have to stop worrying about our environment and can do as we please. We will always need to recycle and always need to use renewable energy. Fossil fuels will become our past, and we will become something of the past if we do nothing. Resources will become scarce and prices will continue to rise - this isn't scaremongering, this is our fate, unless we prevent it.

This planet is worth saving. Save it.