I GoT to have it!

With less than a month to go before the second season premiere on April 1st, I am suffering from a serious attack of Game of Thrones fever. And the only cure is more GoT. Which is why I’m starting to read the books. Ah, Screen Adaptations, you dastardly fiend! How many times have you lured people into reading the original source material, eh? Will your pagelust ever be sated?

I’m not a quarter into the first volume and already I’ve cried three times. This, to me, is a marker of a great book. It has to either make me cry tears of sorrow or tears of laughter, and I am satisfied. Yes, it is that easy to please me. This rating system isn’t always fool-proof for every medium however. I mean, I’ve cried during Adam Sandler films, so what does that tell you?

As an aside, I like that George R. R. Martin, the full-bearded writer of one of the darkest epic fantasies of all time, has a blog on LiveJournal — a place better known for being the den of bickering fandomers, online teen drama before the advent of Facebook, and celebrity gossip. (I say this with love, as an LJer back in the day.) Even more bizarre, he’s a fan of the Jets. Say what?

In light of increased concerns over Internet privacy and trackers harvesting personal information, I thought I’d share a few extensions I’ve been using to minimize third-party attempts to log my browsing activities. I’m personally not a very paranoid person, and truth be told, some of what is being spread sounds a lot like FUD to me (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt). Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate concerns, and there’s nothing wrong with trying a few precautionary measures. Almost all of these extensions are multi-browser and multi-platform, but I’m only linking to the Chrome and Firefox download pages.

Ghostery (Download: Chrome | Firefox)
After you install, Ghostery guides you through a wizard to set up your preferences, letting you choose which trackers to block. I selected everything but Google Widgets so that iGoogle would load properly. If you notice other sites not working normally, you might want to hunt it down in the block list and uncheck it and/or add that particular site to the whitelist so that Ghostery doesn’t disable any functions when you visit it. I recommend that you uncheck the “Show Alert Bubble” in your settings (it’s under “General Options” in Chrome and “Advanced” in Firefox). At first it was kind of neat to see the pop-up list of services being blocked on each page, but it gets tiring and obtrusive pretty quickly. I also unchecked the “Show Ghostery in Navigation Bar” to clean up the interface. Now the add-on does its work invisibly, and I don’t have to think about it.

Do Not Track Plus  (Download: Chrome | Firefox)
More or less does the same thing as Ghostery though the settings/features aren’t quite as extensive as Ghostery’s. I have it installed alongside Ghostery because there don’t seem to be any conflicts I’m aware of, and it’s good to have “back-up.”

Here are some extensions that I don’t use. I feel the two above are enough and using too many extensions can slow your browser and system down, but if you want maybe a little more safety, then it might be good to look into these:

Keep My Opt-Outs (Download: Chrome)
Created by Google to prevent ads from personalizing content based on your browsing data.

Disconnect (Download: Chrome | Firefox)
Blocks third-party tracking from the likes of major sites like Facebook, Yahoo, and others.

Click & Clean (Download: Chrome | Firefox)
This add-on serves a different purpose than the previous ones. It doesn’t block trackers, but it can erase your browsing history, Flash content, temporary files, and cookies, as well as scan your computer for malware, and a bunch of other things as well. It reminds me of CCleaner, and a lot of these functions already exist in your browser, but I suppose C&C makes it a little easier and might be more thorough. Note that the Chrome version is available only for Windows. Chrome Linux and Mac users are advised by the developer to install their other extension, History Cleaner, but from what I can tell, it doesn’t do anything that you can’t already do in your browser.

Final word: I strongly advise that after you install one or more of these add-ons that you delete all your cookies, which is the primary method by which trackers track you. This would mean that you would be logged out of all your sites and would therefore have to reenter all username/password info, but this is worth it to be on the safe side. (You do have all your login info memorized or locked away in an underground vault, right?) Be sure to clear your cache often because it deletes temporary files as well as frees up space on your hard drive. You’d be amazed by how many hundreds of megabytes you could recover.

Title: Bossypants
Author: Tina Fey

Title: Seriously… I’m Kidding
Author: Ellen DeGeneres

Title: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Author: Mindy Kaling

As far as the publishers and I are concerned, 2011 was the year of the lady television comedy writer. I read the memoirs/essay collections by Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Mindy Kaling (in that order!) and I really enjoyed them all. Each title is deserving of its own lengthy review, but I’m lumping them all together like this in a very short post to save time and space. Pretty offensive, but they’re in good company.

This is not the first time Ellen DeGeneres has given us page candy, whereas both Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling are initiates; yet surprisingishly (yes, surprisingishly. Can you believe I have the nerve to tutor English? Oy), I thought the newbies’ books were stronger — literally: I tried tearing up their bindings, and maybe I am a weak baby, but those seams would not budge.

But also stronger in the sense that they were funnier. But they were all satisfying and even life-affirming in their own ways. For example, I take great comfort that Mindy Kaling likes to imagine avenging her made-up husband’s murder to motivate her while jogging because I do roughly the same thing, only I imagine avenging the person who killed my favorite baker. (Evidently I love pastries more than I love my fellow man — that’s another oy for you.) I sympathized with Tina Fey in learning that she once worked as a receptionist for a local YMCA and got hit on by weirdos. And I shared a sense of kinship with Ellen, who talks to her cats on the intercom.

Also, as a woman myself, I like knowing that extremely talented and smart women whom I admire started out as basically nerds, and whose lives were never filled with sex, booze, and drugs, but had their own share of rejection, self-doubt, and Star Wars collectibles. It’s a message that young people everywhere need to hear: It’s okay if you were overlooked in school… as long as you become extraordinarily famous and beloved in adulthood.


Verdict: Ironically, Ellen’s Seriously… I’m Kidding was bossier than Tina’s Bossypants. But all are seriously good.