I am distraught by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
In case I have any readers who don’t pay specific attention to social media news, let me catch you up. Facebook was recently embroiled in a national scandal after it was revealed that it indirectly supplied personal data about 87 million of its users to a political firm called Cambridge Analytica, who then used it to construct psychological profiles during the 2016 Election to try and influence voter opinion. Which is sketchy enough, but the issue is further complicated by the the fact that the data was supplied without the knowledge or consent of any one of those 87 million users. You can read more details about the scandal here.
In the wake of it all, Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress, debates have been ongoing about whether Facebook should have been more forthcoming about the leak or should perhaps be better regulated, and for perhaps the first time in its digital lifetime, the #DeleteFacebook movement seems to be gaining serious traction. But the real question is: Are we prepared to actually bail on the social media giant? The real answer is: Probably not.
I’ve always had a little bit of a love/hate relationship with Facebook myself. I don’t love its sketchy origin story, I don’t particularly like its design, I don’t love that despite years of complaint we still cannot display posts in our feeds in chronological order, and now, I really don’t like that they play it extraordinarily fast and loose with our personal details. But there are a lot of things that I love and couldn’t give up about Facebook. The biggest of them all being that everyone is on Facebook. It’s hard to convert to solely using the Twitter or Google+ or Instagram’s of the world if only a fraction of the people you want to stay in touch with are using them. I mean, I probably even use Facebook’s proprietary Messenger app more than I use the one built into my phone for text messaging. It’s convenient, it’s what people know, and it isn’t likely to change without a good reason for people to change. MySpace eventually collapsed to Facebook because it was better to look at, it felt more exclusive (it was originally just for college students, after all!), it was user-friendly, and nobody had to worry about encountering unexpected Creed or Nickelback songs when they were searching for their friends. Facebook is king for a reason, folks.
But it also scares me. Shortly after the scandal became public knowledge, Facebook informed me that I was one of those 87 million users who had used the “This Is Your Digital Life” app that harvested all the data for Cambridge Analytica. Though I always try to remain open-minded and think for myself, what if I think a certain way because of how events were painted on social media? What if that’s the case for what you believe? What if an organization far more sinister than Cambridge Analytica were given our data? It’s a bit of a chilling thought! I took the opportunity to download all of my Facebook data myself a few weeks ago, and what I found was pretty eye-opening. All of my posts, photos, comments, likes, etc. were present and accounted for, of course. But so was an alarming amount of details that shouldn’t have been, such as the contact information from my phone… which includes contact information for people who don’t even have Facebook accounts! Also, fitting in with the whole purpose of Cambridge Analytica’s leak, I was also surprised to find that I was categorized as “Liberal,” despite the fact that I don’t consider myself loyal to and have never pledged allegiance to any political party on my profile.
The only solution that I’ve been able to come to without outright deleting my Facebook profile is to de-personalize it a bit. It’s still an excellent tool for sharing stuff, publicizing things that I’m into, and most importantly, staying in touch. I don’t think I could give up Messenger or sharing stupid videos at this point if I wanted to. But I’ll probably be scrubbing a lot of personal information off of it soon. I’ll be posting a lot less personal stories on there. I’ve closed the Facebook page for Tigger and Rufus (sorry fans, I know they’re sooo cute!). And I’ll instead be trying to strengthen my digital presence on this blog and on my other social spaces like Twitter and the like. If you aren’t following me, check out the top of the sidebar to your right! I’m on basically all the things!
Maybe it’ll turn out to actually be a good thing for this blog. Instead of blabbing all my stories on Facebook, I’ll actually be able to reserve some of them for this space instead. And I can still use Facebook to promote that I’ve posted. Win-win? Sounds like it to me!
Tell me all your thoughts on Facebook and Cambridge Analytica below!
Not only do I subscribe to a subreddit with that title in which users literally share graphs and beautiful images of data that they have collected in really neat ways, but I’ve also been learning more about the concept of data gathering, mining, warehousing, and so much more in my Database Management & Design course that I’m taking at school this semester. It’s been really fascinating for me to go into Microsoft Access or SQL Server Management Studio, two pieces of software I had previously been completely unfamiliar with, and actually be able to create a database in them and ask them for particular sets of information or to generate reports. SQL is fun! Type in a command, and behold! An entire table of your requested information is laid out before your very eyes! Crazy!
Something else I’ve been super into is discussing TV shows with my coworkers! It turns out that a few of us are crazy into some of the same shows and love discussing them once we’ve all caught up. I like to say it’s something of a “modern day book club” (or Netflix book club, if you will) that we’ve accidentally started amongst one another. Because, really, who reads anymore? (Actually, all of us do, but that’s a different story for another time.) It’s something we all enjoy and something that we have in common. So why not bond over what we thought of last night’s Criminal Minds or This Is Us?
With these two topics swirling around in my mind along with the idea of putting together a Netflix recommendation post, I decided to pursue an interesting little project this weekend. I’ve captured the data of everything that I watched on Netflix in 2017 and, along with recommendations from my Facebook friends a few weeks ago, came up with a rather interesting look at just what we consume via the streaming giant.
If you’re looking for something new to watch, take a look below!
Before I get into my thoughts on the data, let me explain how I put this together. Thankfully, Netflix actually did a bulk of the data collection process for me by tracking everything I watched anyway. You can actually check out your own viewing history if you go to this page after logging into your account. As far as measuring by genre, I plugged all of my data with viewing dates from January 1st until December 31st of 2017 into a spreadsheet and assigned a different genre per title. I didn’t want things to get too crazy, so I didn’t break genres apart too much by giving Gilmore Girls a category like “romantic comedy” or “dramedy” or something that, in reality, probably fits that show much better.
There were a few that I honestly didn’t think would fit in any other generic category. Moana and Sing were the only two contributions to the “Family” genre that I created because, honestly, animated films in my mind shouldn’t have been placed into broad categories like drama or comedy. Same goes for science fiction. I watch so much science fiction that it really felt like it deserved its own space. And as for the sliver of orange on the pie that was so slim it didn’t even get a label on the chart, that genre was actually “Talk Shows,” with Chelsea being the one and only title in it.
Truthfully, I’m not surprised that drama wound up with the biggest chunk of the pie here. It’s probably the broadest genre that I stick to. I think the biggest surprise for me though was that comedy is the second-largest. Knowing myself the way that I do, I thought science fiction would’ve claimed the silver here. During the course of 2017 though, I discovered and jumped on the very late Criminal Minds bandwagon though, and with 12 seasons to its name on Netflix, it took up a large chunk of my year in streaming. In fact, making my way from the pilot episode all the way through to the final episode of season 12 took me from March 11th through August 3rd. Talk about a time killer!
Here are some other series that I completely consumed from beginning until the very end (so far!) within 2017:
TV shows weren’t the only things on Netflix that I watched. I probably took on more documentaries than ever in 2017. In the past, I haven’t typically sought out any particular documentary to watch, but Netflix seems to make them easier and much more compelling to find and take an interest in. They have documentaries about almost any subject matter! Here’s are the documentaries that I watched in 2017:
Several weeks ago, when I was in the initial planning stages of putting together a Netflix recommendation post, I took to Facebook and asked my friends list what their favorite series that they had watched in the last year was. Here were some of the responses:
The Internet has revolutionized our society and the world. That’s why it’s imperative to make sure it remain free and open. Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) want to end net neutrality so they can control what we see and do online. They want to gut FCC rules, and then pass bad legislation that allows extra fees, throttling and censorship. But Congress can put a stop to all of this.
Please make your voice heard and let Congress know that the FCC can’t kill the Internet!
Visit BattlefortheNet.com to write, call, tweet, and break the Internet in protest. Make our voices heard to help save the web!
In less than a month, AOL Instant Messenger will be shut down for good. For a lot of ’90s children, it’s the end of an era. Many of us grew up chatting away on AIM to our school friends and, in some cases, making friends elsewhere. I made a lot of friends elsewhere, as a matter of fact, because the world was different then. We weren’t afraid of “strangers from the internet” just yet (even though we now summon them to drive us places and bring us food), so hopping into a chat room with 25 other people spread out all over the globe was no big deal. And for a kid who was awkward like myself, my interactions on AIM helped me learn about human behavior and how to socialize better.
AIM was the first real mainstream way that we could “text message” our friends and family members, before the technology really took off on mobile phones. It was quicker than an email and seemed more personal. We could have real conversations but also still allow the time to think about our responses. There was nothing better, and the author of that article linked up above is right when he says that the service ignited a cultural shift. But the tech world has changed dramatically in the years since AIM’s prominence and a lot of our communication now takes place on social media and in chat apps. But for the small percentage out there who might still be using AIM regularly either socially or for their business, the announcement that it’ll be going away soon has incited panic.
Where do we go from AIM?
Here’s four alternatives to sink your teeth into. And while our emo away messages and the iconic buddy list sounds of doors opening and closing may never again be the same, some of these services might actually just wind up being major improvements!
Social media giant Facebook launched what is probably the easiest messaging app to get into for one simple reason: everyone you know is already using it! I’m pretty sure the number of people with Facebook accounts in this world far outnumbers those who don’t have one by now, and with Messenger, you can send an instant message to almost any of them via Facebook’s standalone web client (which can be found at Messenger.com; brilliantly simple, huh?) and mobile apps for both Android and iOS. Support for emoji, stickers, gifs, Snapchat-like photo filters, and tons of other features have some users feeling like it’s a tad bit bloated, but if you’re into those kinds of things, it just enhances the service that much more. And if you aren’t? Good news: There’s a “lite” version of Messenger available now, too!
Personally, I use Messenger daily to communicate with friends, family, and coworkers in group chats and one-on-one. Though I’m fully aware there are a lot of other apps that have been developed considerably better, Facebook still rules supreme until people learn to get a little braver with the brands they’re used to and start downloading other apps. Until that day, Messenger works just fine.
Tech-giant Google has surprisingly had a checkered past when it comes to launching a successful messaging service. Google Talk was replaced by Google Hangouts, which has undergone a few changes and renovations itself before its current iteration. Now there are two new Google messaging apps: Allo and Duo, one of which is for messaging and the other for video messaging, both of which Hangouts seems to accomplish just fine on its own. Regardless of Google’s confusion, Hangouts is a little less feature-rich than Facebook’s Messenger, but it can be considered significantly more stable for most platforms and users that consider the Facebook equivalent to be slow, buggy, and bloated. Also in comparison to Facebook’s vehicle, Hangouts ties in with the rest of the Google ecosystem, so if you have a Gmail, YouTube, or Google+ account already, you might also have a Hangouts account and don’t even realize it!
What makes Facebook’s Messenger so popular too is how accessible people are since the social media service is so popular. Hangouts doesn’t suffer too much in this department either since you can access Hangouts directly within the Gmail window, and Gmail itself is a popular service for personal email accounts. Unless the person you’re trying to contact is still hanging out on Yahoo or Hotmail, getting in touch with them via Hangouts is a pretty sure bet. Plus, Hangouts basically pioneered the ability to video chat with a group! You can basically host entire video conferences with each member on opposite sides of the globe with this bad boy!
Hangouts also has its own web client and apps available on almost every platform.
When social giants Facebook and Google both have their own forms of instant communication, why seek out another? Well, as it turns out, there’s actually a lot of reasons! WhatsApp was one of the first mainstream mobile messaging apps out there that was also fully-featured. What that means is that WhatsApp wasn’t just instant messaging — their service also includes completely free voice and video calling, which practically would have been seen as revolutionary a decade ago. I mean, there are still people paying for long-distance and international calling when you and the other person can just hop on WhatsApp and communicate for free!!!
WhatsApp also has a whole host of other fantastic features, but more than anything I want to point out that it’s also built with end-to-end encryption enabled by default. If you aren’t familiar with end-to-end encryption, that means that the information and data being transmitted between the sender and the receiver(s) are completely secured between just the sender and the receiver(s). The risk of any sensitive info falling into the wrong hands via hacking with WhatsApp is pretty slim to none!
Just like the previous two options, WhatsApp is also available on both Android and iOS and has a sweet web client.
Quick disclaimer: Discord was built for gamers. But you don’t have to be one to use it. In fact, it’s my opinion that everyone should use Discord! Over the past few years, the developers of this completely free-to-use program have added all the best aspects of Slack, TeamSpeak, and Skype and rolled it all into one really fun and customizable package! Whether you’re joining a public or private chat server, or creating one of your very own, Discord has virtually everything you need: Voice chat, text chat, powerful management and customization tools, private one-on-one messaging and buddy lists, and they’re even currently developing video chatting and screen-sharing! And since the service was built for gamers, it’s a major bonus if you happen to play anything on PC because Discord has some really innovative ways to implement voice chat into your games to create a seamless experience when grouping up with your friends to play!
Discord is personally how I both keep in touch and play online with my sister and nephew out in Kansas and we have nothing but praise for the service. If you aren’t on Discord, you should be!
You can get Discord for your mobile apps as well as on the web.
If none of the above sound appealing to you, here are some other messaging alternatives that might also prove popular with current and former AIM users:
Telegram: This one seems very much like WhatsApp in that it’s very fully-featured and secure!
LINE: A Japanese group and community messaging app.
ICQ: One of the world’s oldest and most reliable instant messengers.
Yahoo! Messenger: Another one of the old players in the instant messenger game, developed and recently re-designed by Yahoo!
Out of all of these selections, it’s unfortunate that there isn’t an official legacy service for current AIM users to make the move to. It’ll be interesting to see how many websites, APIs, and other multi-messenger clients that have folded AIM into its features for so long will adjust once AIM is taken offline for good.
Back in September, I put together a post listing fifteen songs that are dear to my heart. I thought of maybe doing a regular #MusicMonday segment weekly if it proved popular, but the list never really seemed to resonate with anyone other than myself. That’s totally okay though: the entire idea was to share music that makes my own heart sing.
Today I’ve decided to give the list a little bit of a follow-up. I’ve compiled fifteen more songs that I love below, but this time I’ve selected them entirely from recent records. Consider it my attempt to stay relevant if you want, but it’s also my way of sharing new music that I’ve completely fallen for. If these songs don’t define 2017 for you, know that they certainly have for me so far! So without further adieu…
For nearly 30 years of my life, I was part of a family that was strictly “dog people.” I still distinctly remember having four labrador puppies at once during my childhood. I mean, we were crazy dog people! Then the last few years, it seemed like we weren’t into animals much at all. I’ve always loved animals, don’t get me wrong, but we just didn’t have any. I think my dad probably thought they were more trouble than they were worth. So we just went about our business. Never really thinking much about it.
One day, in late 2013, my nephew and I decided to stop at a local animal shelter. We wanted to look for a new dog for the family. It was time to let another lovable fur-ball into our lives again. To the surprise of all of us, we wound up coming home instead with our cat Tigger (whose origin story you can read more about on my cats’ website!). Since then, a lot of things have changed for us. I don’t think any of us are solely “dog people” anymore. I like to think of myself as a champion for all animals now, but I’ve especially come to love my kitties.
Which is mostly what has inspired me to write this post. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of misconceptions about cats. Even though cats outnumber the amount of dogs in the United States by about 2-4 million, they still get something of a bad rap. Mostly because they’re usually more distant and aloof than most dogs are. Cats also tend not to be quite as obedient as dogs are during training. These traits alone make the idea of owning a cat sound terrible to most dog fanatics!
So in an effort to clear the name of cats everywhere, here are some of the biggest misconceptions and outright myths about our favorite felines.
Cats are assholes.
This probably varies between cats, but generally speaking, cats are actually pretty great!
Cat behavior is often times more subtle and low-key than a dog running to greet you at the door. Rather than drowning you in sloppy dog kisses, a cat is more likely to give you a long slow-blink, rub against your leg, or “boop” you gently with its head. In fact, if a cat hangs out in the same room as you, it can be considered a compliment: As a rule, cats don’t stick around where they don’t feel comfortable. So if it didn’t like you or considered you a threat, it would be hanging out somewhere else. You can also feel special if your cat rolls over onto its back in your presence: Displaying its vulnerable belly is your cat’s way of trusting you.
Also, as horrifying or morbid as it might be, if your cat brings you “presents” (i.e., dead rodents or other small animals), this is actually the highest honor it can bestow on you! This is your cat’s way of hunting and providing for you. It thinks you’re unable to hunt for yourself and has thus taken it upon his or herself to do so for you. Isn’t that sweet?!
Cats take care of themselves.
While caring for a cat is generally much lower maintenance than caring for a dog, this doesn’t mean you can leave a cat to its own devices 24/7. It also doesn’t mean that it’s a “lazy” pet that you’ll never have to spend time or energy on.
Your cat will need assistance with more items that you think they can handle on their own than you might believe. Cats do mostly groom themselves and keep clean, but their coats will still need to be brushed out regularly. This is especially true for longer-haired cats or those who shed more than others. Provided you have an entirely indoor cat (which it should be!), it will also use its own bathroom without bothering you too much. You’ll still need to clean and completely change the litter on a daily basis, however. And since cats need much more sleep than humans do, you won’t need to show them constant attention. But they will still need human interaction via affection, playtime, and exercise.
So while a pet cat might consume less energy, they are still a big responsibility to uphold! Make sure to consider that before adopting one!
Cats don’t get seriously ill.
This is another topic that is just not true. Possibly stemming from the old cliché that cats have “nine lives.”
Cats only have one life however and, like any other animal, cats will sometimes get hurt or get very sick and need to see a veterinarian. Some pet owners believe that cats will only need to see the vet once or twice a year, but depending on the age, health, and condition of the cat in question, it may need to see the vet more often than you’ve been led to believe.
Your cat is a member of your family, so make sure to keep him or her healthy!
You don’t have to “fix” indoor cats.
No matter what you’re told or what you read, you should always spay or neuter your pets!
By getting your cat spayed or neutered, you will effectively be:
Avoiding an unwanted litter of kittens
Avoiding those unwanted kittens from being euthanized in shelters
Greatly decreasing the urge for them to spray all over your house
Reducing aggressive tendencies when a cat goes into heat
Eliminating the risk of testicular or uterine disease or cancer
There are low-cost animal clinics all over the country that provide the surgery at very affordable prices. You can also safely have your kitten fixed as early as eight months old.
Honestly, there’s no reason not to have it done!
Black cats are bad luck!
This misconception is completely absurd. We can all agree on that. But somehow, black cats are still one of the most common types you’ll see abused or in shelters.
Black cats are just as great and as loving as any other cat. Don’t be silly.
Cats love drinking milk.
This one is particularly surprising for most of my non-feline friends, but milk actually isn’t great for them! Though a saucer of milk is frequently seen as the beverage of choice among cats, it turns out most cats are actually lactose intolerant! Drinking too much milk can cause a cat to have diarrhea, get sick to their stomach, and vomit. Generally speaking, you’ll want them to avoid the dairy!
Cats don’t like attention.
This is another one that’s probably dependent on the cat. While some cats prefer their alone time, there are definitely cats that are much more social than others! For the most part though, you can count on the fact that they’ll let you know when they’ve had enough of you.
Pregnant women shouldn’t have cats.
This myth is caused by a fair bit of confusion and forewarning.
Pregnant women are at risk of being infected by toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that can cause a miscarriage or deformities in an unborn child. The most common ways women are infected by toxoplasmosis are from poorly-cooked food, contaminated soil, or handling cat feces, which can occur when cleaning a pet cat’s litter box.
While pregnant women are sometimes warned that they’ll have to give up their pet cat, the fact is that they are simply advised against cleaning their litter box. Toxoplasmosis is typically not transmitted from simply coming into contact with the cat itself. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that women are far more likely to contract the disease by “eating raw meat or from gardening.”
Cat owners will usually look into this procedure as a way to prevent their pet from scratching during playtime or after their upholstery was ruined by scratch marks. What most don’t realize, however, is that having a cat declawed can actually be quite painful and cause lasting physical problems for them. And if you’re thinking this is just my personal opinion, please note that even the American Humane Society vehemently opposes the procedure as it involves surgically amputating the last bone on each of the cat’s toes.
For anyone who may not already be aware, I’ve developed a relatively recent interest in tarot cards. I’m not sure what exactly inspired it — one of my favorite cult-inspired films, The Craft, is being remade and/or rebooted soon, and also I had fallen in love with hearing local Victoria Crosby give tarot readings to listeners whenever she was a guest on the Smiley Morning Show — but whatever the case may be, I wound up purchasing a fairly affordable tarot card set on Amazon a couple of years ago that came along with a book of directions teaching you the basics of how to use them. I was determined that I was going to learn what all of the cards meant. Maybe one day I could also do professional tarot readings!
Unfortunately, my interest in making a profession out of tarot waned shortly after an experiment I did this past Halloween on Facebook in which I invited any interested friends to let me give them a reading via Messenger. There were far more people interested than I expected and the readings took me damn near the entire first week of November to complete. To be fair, the length of time necessary took so long because I had to send photos of each person’s spread along with my lengthy, hand-typed interpretation that I had to research extensively with the included book whenever I needed a translation myself. Someone who actually knows the cards and are comfortable giving readings and maybe did it via Facebook Live or some other video technology would probably breeze right through this kind of project.
In the end though, I did complete the readings and had a lot of fun with my friends. I also wound up learning a great deal from the art of tarot. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the mysticism and “magic” surrounding the cards that really are drawn at random, I do think that translating the luck of the draw and applying it to an individual’s particular life and circumstances can help guide or comfort them. The cards are just paper card stock with beautiful illustrations and descriptions behind them — I think the real magic of tarot, like life itself, is what you make of it.
But a lot of my friends insisted that I “teach them” how to do tarot themselves or to better understand the process. So without getting in too deep with definitions and interpretations behind each individual card (you’ll have to look those up online or purchase your own set for all that!), I’ve put together a general understanding of tarot below!
Traditionally, most tarot decks are comprised of 78 different cards. They can come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and even vastly varying styles of artwork and illustrations on them. The one thing that is generally universal among all tarot decks though are the meanings behind all 78 cards. These meanings, along with their illustrations, are meant to allow the reader and the questioner (that’s normally you!) to access a part of their brain that we would otherwise ordinarily ignore, allowing us to be more contemplative and reflective in regards to the subject of which you’re questioning. The generally held belief, is that, by tapping into this contemplative state, we’re also able to gain a little better understanding about past and current events as well as some foresight into what the future may hold.
Since the cards were originally conceived to use during games of Italian tarocchini and French tarot in mid-15th century Europe (and are sometimes still used to play them today!), it should come as no surprise that the deck is comprised of four suits that vary by region (in North America, we typically play with the French suits). Each suit has 14 cards with ten cards numbering from one (or “Ace”) to ten along with four face cards (King, Queen, Knight, and Jack and/or Knave). Additionally, tarot decks also include a separate 21-card trump suit and a single card known as the Fool. In countries that use tarot for more spiritual or soul-searching purposes like we do here in America, the trump cards and the Fool are most often referred to as the “major arcana” while the other suits are called the “minor arcana.”
Skeptics have a lot of reasons to criticize tarot. Generally they just aren’t believers in a more mystical world and that’s perfectly fine, but one of the other biggest complaints against tarot is that there isn’t really any straightforward or common rules among those who practice it. The method of which the cards are shuffled, drawn, laid out into a spread, and even how they are read or interpreted will sometimes vary wildly among each practitioner. It really isn’t even that uncommon for those familiar with reading tarot to seek out a reading from another reader. My own “witchy” friend out in Los Angeles has asked me to “pull some cards” for her a time or two! Basically what I’m writing is that there is no “right” way to do a tarot reading. To be honest, the person doing your reading could completely bullshit their way through it and it wouldn’t exactly be “wrong” either. It’s all about what you take away from it. The practitioner is there to be your guide and more or less put their spin on it for you.
My personal favorite way of doing a reading is with the seven-card “horseshoe” spread. I prefer this spread because it provides kind of a quick and easy method of getting down to the nitty gritty details of what’s going on with a person and how the cards can best answer their question. The cards are shuffled while the questions are being asked. Afterwards, seven cards are drawn and laid out in a horseshoe-like pattern with each of the cards representing something specific in the questioner’s life such as the past, the present, obstacles to overcome, suggestions of what the questioner should do, and their eventual outcome.
There are definitely other, more popular methods and spreads that more experienced tarot people do, such as the Romany spread and the Celtic Cross layout. By all means, these spreads have their merits as well and are just as valid as the seven-card spread — they’re just a tad too involved for a total novice like myself!
The Major Arcana
These 21 cards (22 counting “The Fool”) are what I like to say are considered the “big guns” of tarot. They begin with “The Fool,” which is unnumbered and therefore often doesn’t get included with the other Major Arcana, and end with “The World,” which if you put two and two together, represent something of a full circle of life allegory. It is the Fool’s journey to enlightenment. These cards are often larger-than-life and broadly represent the stages and lessons in life such as love, change, spirituality, morality, etc.
While these cards have specific representations or definitions that can sometimes vary by deck or style, everyone must first understand that tarot is meant to make you think and is in no way set in stone. It’s completely up to interpretation. You, as a questioner, may interpret your cards completely differently than how the reader sees them. More often than not, questioners feel that the definition of each card is pretty spot-on for their particular circumstances, but it’s always best to go with your gut feeling if you feel like something isn’t correct. Tarot is something to be interpreted and is absolutely not a perfect science.
The Major Arcana cards are as follows on the table below:
[table id=1 /]
The Minor Arcana
Totaling 56 cards in all, the Minor Arcana cards consist of everything that isn’t included in the Major Arcana and are divided into four suits of 14 cards each. Whereas the Major Arcana cards represent the Fool’s journey and the “big guns” of tarot, the Minor Arcana are all about the smaller, more finite everyday details of a questioner’s life. Topics like material concerns, vanity, specific relationships, etc. are covered in this section of the deck with the face cards (Kings, Queens, Knights, and Jacks/Knaves/Pages) representing actual people we know.
The four different suits sometimes vary among different decks but they’re commonly referred to as wands, cups, swords, and pentacles. (Variations you may encounter are rods, clubs, or staves instead of wands and coins, disks, or rings instead of pentacles.) You may be more familiar with their corresponding French suits of clubs (♣), hearts (♥), spades (♠), and diamonds (♦). They’re also sometimes related to the four elements of Fire, Earth, Water, and Air.
The Suit of Pentacles ♦
The Suit of Pentacles is connected with the classical element of Earth, the physical body and possessions or wealth. Since coins (or pentacles, diamonds, rings, etc.) could be seen as a representation of the feudal class or traders, the suit deals directly with world-class matters specifically.
The Suit of Cups ♥
The Suit of Cups is connected with the classical element of Water and pertains to situations and events of a more emotional nature. Like the previously mentioned suit, the corresponding French suit of hearts is appropriate as many cards in this suit deal directly with matters of love, romance, friendship, familial bonds, and other emotional issues. Cups were also the symbol of the clergy during feudal times and so the suit can also sometimes indicate matters of spirituality and religion.
The Suit of Wands ♣
Depicting the classical element of Fire, the Suit of Wands reveals information involving action, energy, flowering and growth. This can be attributed to it having represented the farmer class during feudal times, thus directly relating to matters of simplicity and nature as well as poverty and submission.
The Suit of Swords ♠
Corresponding to the classical element of Air, the Suit of Swords signifies freedom and quick change. The swords correlate to the intellectual side of life, cutting through physical and emotional weakness. Appropriately, this means the suit is often depicted by illustrations of military forces, strength, power, and authority and can bring clarity or freedom to otherwise foggy and restrictive ideas.
For anyone interested in getting started with reading tarot, my advice would be to just purchase a deck of cards and start learning. Pull cards for yourself or for your close friends and family as practice. Purchase a set that includes a guide book to help you learn the meanings behind each of the cards and how to best interpret them. There are several affordable sets that can be purchased online for less than $20! If you feel so inclined, there are also resources online that offer courses that will teach you how to read tarot. Once you become more experienced, you can upgrade to fancier, more expensive decks and maybe even make a business out of it!
As for me, I’ll probably stick to doing the occasional reading for a friend or anyone who asks me to “pull some cards” for them. I know that I definitely won’t be doing the widespread readings again this Halloween! As fascinating as the art of tarot is, it’s absolutely not something for the faint of heart to practice because it can manage to take its toll. Maybe in more ways than one, for the more spiritually-minded among us!
What are your thoughts on tarot?? Let us know by commenting below or by starting a thread in the discussion forums!
You might recall that last summer, I made the decision to go vegetarian. Even if you’re someone who doesn’t regularly share meals with me, you’ve probably heard a great deal about it. You’ve seen me preach and post photos of meat-free meals on Facebook and Instagram. Maybe you read my story on Medium about coming to my decision that I wrote a few months later. No matter how you heard about it, you know I’ve basically been broadcasting about it whenever I can. Not because I’m trying to annoy basically everyone I know, but maybe to get some of them to think instead. The fact is that when you eat meat, you’re eating another creature. Another creature that also had a mother. Another creature that also felt fear and pain. Another creature that valued its life. And not too many people like to stop and think about it. Not when their cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, and tenderloins taste so good.
And that’s okay. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to be a good person. I suffer from a bit of guilt myself — I’d love to go full-blown vegan and cut out all animal products from my diet. I still haven’t made that kind of commitment, but I’m hoping one day I’ll be able to totally give up my love of cheese. But a lot of people don’t realize that you don’t have to completely change your diet to love and help save animals from the cruel horrors of factory farming. There’s actually a lot of other adjustments you can make to your lifestyle that’ll help! Here’s just a few:
Buy Cruelty Free
This tidbit is what I like to think of as the second most obvious lifestyle choice after going vegan. Did you know that 219 animals like mice, rats, cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and monkeys die every minute in an American lab? If that makes you sad or angry, this one will really steam your bean: Since different animal species absorb, metabolize, and eliminate substances differently than humans, it also means lab testing on them is unnecessary! Usually it’s all in the name of testing beauty and household cleaning products!
Fortunately for us animal lovers, it’s pretty easy today to find products from companies that have decided not to test on animals! Two of my personal favorite brands, both of which are pretty commonly sold in grocery and department stores, are Seventh Generation and Method. I’ve also recently started using personal hygiene products from Every Man Jack, though I’ve heard those sold by Jessica Alba’s The Honest Co. are wonderful as well! All you have to do is keep a look out for these cute bunny logos (and not any different bunnies because fakes definitely exist!) on bottles and packaging:
If you aren’t yet prepared to commit to a meatless diet, you can participate in Meatless Monday! Setting the precedent as far back as World War I, the U.S. Food Administration urged families to to reduce meal staples to aid in the war effort, launching campaigns called “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday.” The Meatless Monday movement was then revived in 2003 by Sid Lerner and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future as a public health awareness campaign. Why Monday? Studies show that Mondays are the best day to make small, positive changes. And though you’re still eating meat the rest of the week, there is at least one day you would be helping to impact the factory farm industry!
And it’s not just the animals that will benefit! Meatless Monday also encourages going meatless for other reasons too. Your health, for starters! By going meatless, even for one day a week, you can greatly reduce your risk for conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity! You’ll also reduce your carbon footprint and help save our planet’s precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water (1,850 gallons of which are used to produce a single pound of beef!). Improve our health and save the world at the same time? Count us in!
And don’t worry: You don’t have to incorporate things like tofu or seitan to find a delicious vegetarian meal!
Animals in need all over the world could use donations of all kinds. Even if your pockets aren’t lined with extra cash, there’s still plenty of other items you can donate to animal shelters and your local Humane Society, many of which you can probably even find in your own kitchen cabinets! They are always in need of common items such as:
If you have extra time to give, many shelters are also frequently in desperate need of volunteers! Whether that means volunteering several days a week or just once a month, they are always looking for people to help with cleaning, paperwork, walking dogs, playing with cats, give the animals baths, etc. If you have even more skills at your disposal, they could even use your help balancing their books or repairing their facilities!
As painful as they may be to watch, sometimes sharing the horrific undercover investigations into factory farming is necessary. It’s hard to open your eyes to cruelty if you aren’t witnessing it first-hand. Don’t just encourage your friends to do their research: Show it to them. Share videos like the one below on your social media feeds. Share articles about the awful things humans are doing to other creatures. Remind them that hamburger, chicken, pork, and fish don’t just come from the supermarket!
Excellent resources to follow on social media are The Dodo and Mercy for Animals. They are constantly sharing excellent photos and video — both happy and horrific — to help spread the word. A simple click of the “share” button can do wonders. And if you feel like you’re being repetitive, just know that it’ll all feel worth it the first time one of your friends tells you that they were impacted by something important.
Go Vegetarian or Vegan
Okay, so I’m cheating a little here. I know that I said permanently altering your diet wouldn’t be one of these items. But the fact remains that completely leaving animal products off your plate and clothing racks is the absolute best way to champion for your love of animals. It’s also the easiest! It doesn’t involve going out to factory farms to protest or chaining yourself to a tree in the rainforest. But it does impact the finances and livelihoods of those who perpetuate all of the crimes of humanity we’ve committed against our animal friends.
Besides, all the cool kids are doing it! Oh yeah… I’m not above name-dropping! You’ve probably heard of Alicia Silverstone’s very outspoken vegan lifestyle, but did you know there are a lot of other famous faces you probably love and admire that are also into saving lives? Those include:
Sir Paul McCartney
…and more increasing basically daily!
Want to be smart like Natalie Portman and Mayim Bialik? Then start eating smart, too!
Thankfully, a new year is upon us! And even though there are already people saying 2017 won’t be much better, we can’t help but be hopeful. It’s also the perfect time to look back on the actual good things 2016 brought us. Since a full year of content can get pretty lengthy (and also because my father @daddo has informed me that my blog posts are TOO LONG!), I’ve limited my list to five great items that turned my world around this year! You’re welcome, dad!
I’ve had my eye on the Amazon Echo for quite some time. It seemed amazing and like the perfect device to basically do everything short of turning your home into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise! Alexa can read you the news, tell you jokes, set alarms and reminders. She can even control your lights and thermostat if you invest enough money in other devices! But I had my reservations. My Android phone was already equipped with “OK Google” functionality, which Google has now also ported to a smart home device. What could Alexa do that my phone couldn’t? It wasn’t until my co-worker @texan2hoosier got one for Christmas and raved about how fun it was that I decided to dive in and get one of my own. And with Amazon’s incredible price point of $50, what do you really have to lose in testing it out? Go buy your own and ring in your New Year with Alexa!
This game has been a long time coming. For the uninitiated, game developer Square Enix has reportedly had this game in some stage of development for over ten years! And with its stunning graphics, modern gameplay, beautiful open-world exploration, and gorgeous music, you can easily see why it’s taken so long to nurture into life. Fans of the games can also expect to finally step away from linear point-to-point storytelling, number-crunching turn-based combat mechanics, and exhaustive tech and research trees, making for the first modern Final Fantasy in the series’ long-standing history. Add some excitement to your New Year and check out the game today!
There is always a lot of stiff competition in this category. In fact, “24K Magic” is nearly so played out for me now that it nearly didn’t even make the cut. But the return of new music from the now-iconic Bruno Mars this year was so exciting that my local radio station played it three times in a row the day it was released. Not to mention he probably deserves a little bit of credit for successfully integrating “#blessed” into a popular song without so much as batting an eye. But let’s get real: It’s absolutely the most fun song we’ve heard this year.
Okay, so Facebook Messenger isn’t exactly new and it wasn’t released this year. But this year, more than any other, this former AIM addicted teenager has been sucked into the craze of Messenger. Never before had I noticed how intuitive of an instant messenger/texting app it really is until I finally installed it on all of my devices. Though I desperately tried for years to get more people to invest in the Google ecosystem of products (I love me some Google!), the reality is that Google’s Hangouts still has a way to go in the New Year before it gets this awesome. And whether you love or hate Facebook for its social media, it’s undeniable that most people actually have it unlike nearly every other messaging app available. If you don’t have Messenger on your phone, tablet, or computer yet, what are you waiting for? And feel free to chat with me any time!
And there you have it — my picks for the best of 2016. While it certainly doesn’t take anything away from the tragedy of life this past year, these pieces of entertainment have provided most of us the opportunity to escape from it all for a little while. Maybe even helped us find our voice or a way to express ourselves in some cases!
The world was finally invited back to the charming town of Stars Hollow yesterday as we marked the premiere of Netflix’s latest revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the follow-up to the WB Network’s quirky dramedy that aired from 2000-2007. It has been nearly a decade since the original series went off the air with a less-than-stellar seventh season that left fans wondering about those “final four words” that were never spoken. Now the series has made its triumphant return, fans are thrilled to return to the little TV town that feels like home. And with the series’ original creator back at the helm, hopefully we can find a little bit of closure as well.
Out of courtesy to those who haven’t finished watching A Year in the Life, I have done my best to avoid spoilers in this review. If you’re allergic to absolutely anything even resembling information that may spoil the series for you, you might wait to read this until after you have finished watching! You should also tread with caution in comment sections or other areas of the site!
END OF SPOILER NOTES!
Unlike most television revivals, A Year in the Life perhaps had more excitement surrounding its initial announcement than any other. Fans had been prodding creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and the cast about a reunion since practically the moment Gilmore Girls went off the air. Many fans thought it could never happen with the cast and crew so scattered in the time that had passed. But almost as if the stars themselves had aligned, Palladino managed to make it all happen. Sadly, the only missing piece of the puzzle is Edward Herrmann, who played patriarch Richard Gilmore and who passed away in 2014. In a loving tribute, the new miniseries largely features and sometimes even centers on Richard’s passing and the large impact he had on this world.
A Year in the Life is comprised of four 90-minute miniature Gilmore Girls movies set in a different season. The miniseries follows the mother-daughter pairing of Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) the year following Richard’s passing. Rory, who has fallen into a career rut, returns to Stars Hollow with a forgettable boyfriend in tow. Meanwhile, Lorelai is living with her now-boyfriend Luke (Scott Patterson) and recovering from an explosive fight with her mother Emily (Kelly Bishop) after the funeral. Emily herself is now coping with her new reality as a widow while Luke starts really learning what it’s like to be part of the Gilmore gang. A lot of heartwarming hilarity and gut-wrenching drama ensues. And I think that I speak for most viewers when I say that, by the time we got to those mythic “final four words,” we were all left with our jaws hanging open!
Aside from the excellent writing, A Year in the Life is arguably most successful at making it seem as though the original series had never stopped. The rebuilt sets look like they had never been torn down and the entire cast slip back into their iconic roles as if they had never quit portraying them. Keeping up with Lorelai and Rory’s trademark fast-paced banter as they stroll through Stars Hollow’s town square is a breath of fresh air that’s been missing from our screens for years. The rest of the cast is still on point as well — even bit players like Babette (Sally Struthers) and Miss Patty (Liz Torres) get their moments to shine! How Palladino brought all of these busy people together again is a mystery, but the fact that she did is a real testament to the world she’s built. Even the people who worked on the show loved it as much as the fans did!
Was anyone else completely in love with anything having to do with Stars Hollow: The Musical? As a fan of her Doctor Who character, I can’t help but love Alex Kingston’s new character of Naomi Shropshire. And the Life & Death Brigade’s extravagant entrance was extremely well-done. All the way down to the choreographed dance numbers! And although some of the original series’ guest stars felt a little shoehorned in (we probably could have done without Jason Stiles or April Nardini…), I’m still extremely grateful that everyone who really mattered was able to at least make a cameo. The most meaningful cameo arguably came from Melissa McCarthy. The actress, whose Hollywood stardom has exploded since the end of Gilmore Girls, returned only for one scene in the revival’s final installment as Sookie St. James, the Dragonfly Inn’s chef and Lorelai’s best friend. The cameo was short but sweet, providing the series with her signature comedic timing as well as a heartfelt chat with her BFF leading into the show’s final moments.
That Ending Though…
Well, all I can really say without spoiling anything is “WHAT?!?!!”
Without a doubt, fans that have finished A Year in the Life are already mobilizing to petition Netflix and Palladino for more. That can’t be how they leave us, right?! It’s practically begging for more to be written! According to Palladino, this has been how she envisioned wrapping up the original series before she and her husband left prior to the seventh season. Perhaps this actually is the most natural place for us to say goodbye to Stars Hollow after all?
It could be. However, don’t completely rule out the possibility that we could see even more of our favorite girls in the future! Palladino recently told The Hollywood Reporter, “We really had a very specific journey in our minds and we fulfilled the journey. So to us, this is the piece that we wanted to do. And the whole thought about, is there more, is there more, is there more — this has to go out into the universe now. We’ve got to put this to bed. And then whatever happens, happens.”
The ending does make a lot of sense for longtime Gilmore fans. But all things considered, I’d still rather see them do even more. Maybe once a year? And seeing how much interest and publicity A Year in the Life has generated for Netflix, you would think it would behoove them to immediately order more!
At this point though, all we can do is hope. As well as pour another cup of coffee and watch it all over again!
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is available to stream exclusively on Netflix! You can also catch all seven seasons of the original Gilmore Girls there as well!