Category - Digest

Dispatch from the Outskirts – Nov 13:
Zuckerberg, Meet Hindenburg

How do you say that in Russian?

I’ll just leave this here.  My sister sent it to me about a week ago.

Is your favourite technology actually pathological?

…what caught my eye in Regis’ book was his description of the Zeppelin as an example of a ‘pathological technology’, and his definition of that suggestive phrase. For Regis, there are four things that make a technology ‘pathological’. First, they are oversized in terms of their absolute size or effects. Second, ‘pathological technologies’ cast such a powerful spell on people that all rational evidence against them or to their contrary is rendered null and void.

Third, their risks and even their blatantly dangerous downsides are systematically minimised and underplayed. And fourth, a technology should be considered pathological when there is an extreme mismatch between benefits and costs.

It strikes me that many of our modern technologies fit this pathological profile. The likes of Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Reddit and Twitter create addictive feedback loops that keep us liking, swiping and in a state of ‘continuous partial attention’.

We now return your ‘partial attention’ to its regularly programmed distraction…

Time Capsule 1969:
*PIF and The Delaware Water Gap

It’s been a LONG time since I dug into that Epic Memoir I started working on like two years ago… based on the journals I started during my senior year in high school and first year of college – 1969 and ’70.

click to embiggen

But this morning I spent a little time re-learning a Phil Ochs song that I first learned… well, just a little over 50 years ago.  I know because I wrote down all all the chords and lyrics in a spiral note book.  And the date above “Power and Glory” is July 18, 1967.  I probably haven’t played the song since 1968, but I played it today.

And I think that inspired me to open the file for “Time Capsule” for the first time in a long while.

I’m still not entirely certain what this project is supposed to be.   I vacillate between concepts: Is it a book? The concept seems dated.  Could it be some kind of web-based, multi-media, interactive…. something or other?  That might actually might be interesting: availing myself more fully to all the stuff that is readily available via YouTube, etc.  Or could it a “one man show” in which I read and recite passages from the text and (finally!) get to  and perform the songs of the era that I still remember how to play and sing?

Maybe it’s all three.

But it ain’t gonna be much or anything if I don’t actually work on it.

So today I worked on it.  I opened the Scrivener file ad landed on a chapter I’d already written about my first experiences with the demon weed.  So I posted that as a new “chapter” called

*PIF and The Delaware Water Gap 

And if you’re wondering, here’s a recording of the Phil Ochs song that got me started.  It struck me as a useful reminder of what we’re actually trying to save while the institutions around us are crumbling…

Mama Barn and Her
Two Little Baby Barns

I made a “painting” today.

This original photo is from a road trip that Ann and I made around Lake Michigan in the spring of 2009.  We went up the Michigan side, stopped at Mackinac Island for a couple of nights, then crossed over the Upper Peninsula and went down the Wisconsin side.

This scene was somewhere on the Leelanau Peninsula.

All digital, of course.

But hey, at least I’ve got something too show for my day off…

Click to embiggen:

The old Day Farm in Sleeping Bear Dunes Park

Dispatches from the Outskirts
October 27 – #TMITM Edition

I encourage you to read Andrew Sullivan’s latest at NYMag.com:

The money quote:

It turns out that Mark Zuckerberg’s real achievement will be the collapse of a rational public dialogue and the empowerment of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Our sacred institutions are at risk not only because of the would-be tyrant who sits atop them, but because of the technologies  that put him there

Every time we post something, or comment on something, or reply to a comment,  we are complicit in sustaining an rogue ecosystem that undermines both our selves and our nation.

Facebook cannot go the way of MySpace fast enough.  How do you say that in Russian?

And no, the irony of putting that on Facebook – even “indirectly, i.e. by “lobbing it over the wall from my own website – is not lost on me.  I just really have no idea what else to do about it.

We are all hoist on our own petard.

Neener Neener

I got mine.  Did you get yours?

Of course, I had to stay up until 2AM to get it.

And the whole time I’m wondering, “is this really going to make my life better?”

I guess we’ll find out in a week…

But hey… it’s my job! (said the master of rationalizations…)

From “Halt and Catch Fire”
You Are Not Safe

The show is called Halt and Catch Fire.* It depicts the early days of what we now call “the tech industry,” first in Texas and then in Silicon Valley, in the early and-mid-1980s (when what we now call a “notebook” was known as a “luggable.”

I watched the first two seasons a couple of years ago.  I started to watch Season 3 last year, and have finally gone back and watched the entire season, and will soon start watching the fourth and final season which ended earlier this month.

One of the themes in the third season involves what can best be called “the pre-emergence” of the Internet. One of the characters has discovered ARPANET  and has contracted with a similar network hosted by the National Science Foundation.

[spoiler alert for H&CF S3 E8]

In the closing minutes of the 8th episode, one of the characters leaves a suicide note. He is in legal jeopardy for having released into the wild the source code for a valuable security software product. The Feds are closing in, and he has decided that going out a high window is better than prison. Before his departure, he leaves this warning on the dominant public BBS network of the day:

YOU ARE NOT SAFE

I, Ryan Ray, released the MacMillan Utility source code. I acted alone. No one helped me, and no one told me to do it. I did this because “security” is a myth. Contrary to what you might have heard, my friends, you are NOT safe.

Safety is a story. It’s something we teach our children, so they can sleep at night. But we know it’s not real.

Beware baffled humans. Beware of false prophets who will sell you a fake future – of bad teachers, corrupt leaders and dirty corporations. Beware of cops and robbers. The kind that rob your dreams. But most of all, beware of each other. Because everything’s about to change.

The world is going to crack wide open. There’s something on the horizon – a massive connectivity. The barriers between us will disappear. And we’re not ready.

We’ll hurt each other in new ways. We’ll sell and be sold. We’ll expose our most tender selves only to be mocked and destroyed. We’ll be so vulnerable and we’ll pay the price. We won’t be able to pretend that we can protect ourselves anymore. It’s a huge danger. A gigantic risk. But it’s worth it.

If only we can learn to take care of each other. Then this awesome, destructive new connection won’t isolate us. It won’t leave us in the end so… totally alone.

He says it will be worth it… and for the most part, it is.

But how much do we feel “connected” when in fact… we are alone?

And we are just beginning to get a sense what the Trojan Network has unleashed inside the city gates.

Ryan’s soliloquy sounds prophetic. It is “sent to us” from 1986 – but was probably written sometime last year.  The episode first aired on October 4, 2016 – before we had any real sense of what how the Russians had weaponized our “social media.”  So it actually seems even more prophetic, anticipating as it does the condition we find ourselves in just a year later – as we begin to learn of the vulnerabilities hidden in these networks.

The tech oligarchs who have brought us this “open and connected” environment have also unleashed the most pervasive surveillance system the world has ever seen, to which we willingly and gladly contribute.    Not even Orwell could have imagined…

And now begins “the tech backlash” – as leaders of all stripes try to get a rein on the beast.

The post and the  several that precede it are a part are probably part of that backlash.  Now I have to wonder if I’ve left one mob and joined another.

*

*The title “Halt and Catch Fire” refers to an early bit of code that could shut down a computer’s central processing unit.

 

Dispatches from the Outskirts of Facebookistan – October 23 Edition:
How To Self-Deport From Toxic Town

Facebook, meet MySpace.  Only… how do you say that in Russian? 

I’d like to be able to say I started something, or at least that I’m  an early un-adopter.

Then along comes this item from ReCode to tell me that maybe I’m just part of a growing trend:

How to quit Facebook (if the time suck, Russian ads or political noise has become too much)

There are many valid reasons you might want to quit Facebook. Maybe you spend too much time there. Maybe you’re tired of its cluttered app. Maybe you’re unnerved by all the Russia stuff.

I was an avid Facebook user for more than a decade. But due to a combination of the reasons above, I’ve almost completely quit Facebook over the past three weeks. No surprise, I have been much happier for it.

I haven’t actually taken any of the steps recommended above, but I have managed to reduce my visits to nearly nil.  I’m not really missing it.

I did stick my head through the portal this morning, and saw pretty much what I’ve been seeing for the past two or three years –  the same handful of people saying pretty much the same things.

And expecting different results?

And that’s definition of…. oh yeah… right.

I rest my case.

 

Dispatches from the Outskirts of Facebookistan – October 16 Edition

I have often referred to Facebook as the Internet’s “infinite random trivia generator” – a notion largely derived from the mind-numbing habit of staring at the display – laptop, desktop, or hand-held – and scrolling on, forever thinking that the next post will be something genuinely interesting or profound. OK, maybe the next one. Or the one after that. Or the one… you get the picture.

I have refrained from posting anything on Facebook (OK, maybe a comment here or there…) for the past week.

I suppose you could say that by trying to avoid Facebook I’m actually more fixated on Facebook than if I was just interacting with it normally. Maybe the problem is I just don’t know what ‘normally’ means anymore. But two weeks in to this self-imposed quarantine, I think I can safely say I’m not missing it all that much.

Anyway, here’s what you missed:

*

From Monday October 9:

There’s been a lot said both pro and con re: TN Senator – MY Senator – Bob Corker offering some choice observations about the Moron in Chief in the past few days. I tend to fall into “where was he when we needed him?” camp, for reasons that are alluded to in this delectable bit of diatribe from Wonkette– my go-to site for caustic and profane commentary on current affairs:

GOP Sen. Bob Corker Has Only Just Begun To Talk Shit About Donald Trump

The money quote:

It’s true that Corker has done a lot of fucked up things. The race-baiting ads he ran against Harold Ford Jr. in his first campaign come to mind! He is not a hero. But he is doing something important right at this moment. We feel like both of those things can be true at the same time, no?

*

OK, so Harvey Weinstein is fat and ugly. Couldn’t he at least shave? #UglyStubble

– – – – – –

Thursday, October 12:

Why do men still wear buns in their hair? You would think with all the ridicule and scorn that has been cast upon man buns that by now they would know better. #NoThatDoesNotLookHip

*

Now on to the really important stuff:

It’s discouraging to think that the Cleveland Indians could finish the regular season with the best record in baseball, and then lose three consecutive games to the New York Yankees and be knocked out of the playoffs.

The whole wildcard system sucks. The Yankees could’t even win their division, and yet they get to compete in the ALCS. Did I mention that the whole wildcard scheme sucks? That’s why.

Maybe I just feel that way because I grew up in a time when one team won each league and then went to the World Series. You won the season, you got to go the World Series.  There was no “Post Season.”  There was just the World Series.  Which was played in early October.  And during the day. That made a whole lot more sense than than this idea that a second-place team can be the “World Champions” – after playing all the games in the cold nights of late October.  Jeezus.

I still think of the Houston Astros as a National League team, so I don’t understand why they’re playing in the American League Championship Series, but at this point, at least they won their division, and they’ve never won a World Series. So I might start rooting for them.

The Astros were originally the Houston Colt 45s, and became the Astros when they started playing in that dreadful Houston Astrodome. For that alone they should be condemned to baseball purgatory, but I’m going to overlook that now that they’re playing in a modern new park – with a retractable roof so they can play outdoors when the weather and Houston humidity permit.

The Astros / Colt 45’s were among the first “expansion teams” in 1962 – the same year the Mets were formed – and the Mets won their first World Series a mere seven years later in 1969. So maybe it’s the Astros’ turn this time.

Anyway, I bought a Cleveland Indians hat and was gonna root for them in the playoffs this year.

Because I really don’t have a personal favorite team any more. I grew up with the Yankees, became a “closet Dodger fan” after I read a biography of Roy Campanella (nobody ever mentions the second black man to play in the Major Leagues…) in the fourth grade, and was a Braves fan for a long time after moving to Hawaii in the 80s (TBS was the only “live” national television station in the Islands for a long time).

But over the last decade or so, my interest in baseball has waned considerably – thanks to the interminable post-season games and the endlessly repeating commercials. Since I got TiVo in 2001, I just can’t sit through commercials anymore. So I don’t really have a favorite team any more and I have no idea who any of the players are.

So when it comes to the post-season and it’s time to try to care a little, I go by the theory of “root for the team that has gone the longest without” winning the World Series. Last year that was the Cubs. who hadn’t won a World Series since 1908 – even though they were playing the Indians, who haven’t won a World Series since 1948.

Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, I figured it’s the Indian’s turn. I bought a cap and was gonna root for ‘em. I got to wear the hat for exactly ONE game before the second-place-in-the regular-season (in other words losers!) Yankees knocked ‘em out of the stupid “Divison Series.”

I think I’m just going to keep wearing my Indians cap in mourning, but root for the Cubs in the National League and the Astros in the American League (that still sounds weird). But I’m not gonna buy another hat.

*

Famous questions from the Apple Store: “Do you have a thing that can get the boogers out?” (of an iPhone’s Lightning connector socket).

– – – – – –

Friday, October 13

I keep hearing about a news service called “Axios.” The references treat it likes it’s a credible news service that’s been around for a long time, but I swear I never heard of it until about a month ago. Whathefuck is “Axios” and why is its suddenly getting all this attention?

*

Here is my definition of an asshole: somebody who will stand in the middle of an audience, and not even look around to see if he’s standing in front of somebody. Hey, asshole… down in front!

– – – – – –

Saturday October 14:

More baseball: Is it really necessary to a emblazon all the uniforms and caps with a “Post Season” logo? I know it’s the post-season. I don’t have to keep being reminded every time I look at one of the players. #CrappyMarketing

– – – – – –

Sunday October 15:

This is “the Facebook effect” : In the one instant that I look at Fucking Facebook, I see something that somebody I know is photographing Jason is bell at the Ryman. I immediately feel terrible if that’s not me. Fuck you, Facebook.

*

I’m pretty tired of hearing people complain about the USB-C ports on the new MacBook Pros. It’s the port of the future. You need adapters to connect to the gizmos of the past. Get used to it and shut the fuck up.

*

Well, there ya go.  1200 words worth of witty and profound.

See ya next week.

 

#TMITM: Resistance is Futile
We Have All Been Assimilated

If you’re still using Facebook, here is your required reading for the day:

The many Facebook experiments add up. The company believes that it has unlocked social psychology and acquired a deeper understanding of its users than they possess of themselves. Facebook can predict users’ race, sexual orientation, relationship status and drug use on the basis of their “likes” alone. It’s Zuckerberg’s fantasy that this data might be analysed to uncover the mother of all revelations, “a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about…”

Sounds like the “Unified Field Theory” of Human Behavior.  Einstein couldn’t find one for physics, so it’s doubtful that Zuckerberg will find one for humans (Humanity: it’d be a great idea if it wasn’t for all the fucking humans…) but he can sure fuck up a lot of stuff trying.  And we are all the hamsters in his cage…

And speaking to the point re: the Internet’s effect on our ability to sustain a coherent thought, this article appears in a section of The Guardian called “Long Reads.”  But if it’s too long for you, there’s a podcast edition.