Friday, April 29, 2016

Social Media, no pickles, extra onion, with an egg, cut in half, Peruivan chocolate mayo....

Ramblings Post #313 
I just want to go someplace quiet, have a few drinks with some friends, tell some stale jokes and tell some lies about how good things used to be....without somebody pulling out their phone to check something. They're hanging out with us checking twitter to see if something better is happening. It has become tiresome. I once went to club and only ten of us were there. They had to kick us out at closing we were having such a good time. Sometimes you have to forget what's next, and do what's now. (in all fairness that was before cell phones, or else I would have been out!)
I have long enjoyed the basic format of the vast majority of social media that I do employ. I don't snap, spotifizzle, swipe or wheezle or whatever the new hot verb invention of the moment might be. My last Facebook post might have been last year. But, I do like them updates. Six asinine inspirational quotes? Yes please. Three pictures of your cousin I don't know? Of course. An article that you didn't read either? Gimme. One of the grand benefits of the basic look of Facebook -  of the reverse-chronological feed that has been the staple of how we get most of our social media - is that keeps me updated. I get the new stuff first, and then if I want to dig deeper I can. It's convenient. And now it seems to be headed the way of the pay phone and selling you a complete computer game. And I for one don't like it. 

You see, for me one of the underlying problems with social media in general is that you only see what you've specifically selected. For record I'm the kind of guy who while watching TV flips through the onscreen guide and occasionally ends up on a channel I didn't even know existed. And while social media is an opt-in sort of situation, the self selected isolation that this technology allows however, puts you in a kind of awareness bubble, with data you MIGHT find stimulating or mind expanding being filtered out because you didn't select it when you signed up. Because you didn't know it existed yet. It's why I flip channels and actually still surf the web and not just hit the round about of my favorite familiar sites. Avoiding this personal sequestration is also one of the reasons I've always tried to keep at least one conservative friend in my Facebook feed, if only to remind me that everyone doesn't think like me. Because while I do see the value in safe spaces, the problem comes when we start to want to live in this comfort zone as though the rest of the world doesn't exist. Or get upset when we find out the rest of the world isn't just like our own little slice of heaven. 

Which brings us "curated social media," the new eyeball sticking technique where all that behind the scenes monitoring of what you're looking at on whatever app you use means you'll get more of exactly that content. Facebook already does it, first by limiting my feed from all of my friends to just the few I've clicked to like their stuff. I like to think that more than 20 of my friends regularly have something to share. And the damn thing also makes me switch from Highlights (i.e., ads) to Most Recent every time I log in, which is annoying. You would think that with all the tracking they're doing, they should know I prefer Most Recent by now, ya think? And now Twitter has just changed over to it as well, and my feed time line jumps from 3m to 16hrs and back again as though I'm stuck in a revolving time machine. Even after I changed the settings. I am less inclined to use both because of these "sticky" features. 

My fear is that as my interests are tracked and analyzed, those things I will be fed by my personal media aggregators will become more and more limited, more and focused on bent on turning me into one those media zombies who look at their phone every two minutes. I will assume the algorithm will be setup to keep the final number of feed items from going all the way down to one, and that it will occasionally interject the new source just to keep it lively, but this whole process sounds sad. And dangerous. Because if you think we already live in little echo chambers now, and this will only make it worse.
We already aren't listening to one another, and constantly trying to turn each others positions into unreasonable evil. In a world where we've made the "compromise" a bad word, allowing us all to ensconce ourselves even deeper in our own social ghettos, fed only those stories things that reinforce our naturally myopic viewpoints and personal biases, one can't help but think maybe this isn't in our best interest.   

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Odd Quotes

Real friends are worth their weight in gold.
Everyone has baggage. The people that care about you will stay to help you unpack.
~ The Internet

Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince. Damn, damn, damn.

I'm gonna need a minute. The world doesn't feel right.

We have gotten far too casual with the term iconic and legendary lately. We like someone this month or this year and we want to refer to them as though they've been a part of lives since we remember our lives being our lives. And it devalues those whose artistry helps us to meet ourselves and find the words we always meant to say but just couldn't find.

Prince Rogers Nelson really was an ICON. He really was LEGENDARY. In every sense of the words.

Even writing that in the past tense feels funny.

I never met the man, never got to see him in concert either, despite his last show being in Atlanta. Still he was and will be a part of the very fabric of my life. There are songs he wrote more than three decades ago I still know by heart, including the ad-libbed parts, and melodies that evoke memories and feelings that make me have to pause. True, there are parts of his incredibly deep catalog that were a little past where I wanted to go, but it just meant maybe I wasn't ready for it yet. Or maybe his talent was beyond my conception.

I don't remember the first time I heard Prince. I do remember having his very first album on cassette tape. The one where he played all the instruments on every song (or so legend has it). I liked Under the Cherry Moon as well as Purple Rain. I like way too many songs of his to have a favorite. So many of them spoke to me, sometimes when I wasn't even trying to listen.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Water Menu at Chez Work..

Ramblings Post #312
Some co-workers went to a spin class another co-worker teaches in the evenings. Things I learned : In a spin class your feet are locked into the stirrups. The seat is way tiny. There is an arm exercise component using weights. And the water is $5 a bottle. Oh, I didn't go, this is just what I heard from the, people who decided sweating out their hair was a good time. The part they were most irritated by oddly, was not the hair, but the price of water. So, in the interest of making a few bucks, I created my own water menu for the office. No free samples.

Colorado North Artisan Water
(Fresh snow chilled water bottled by hand in bottles then hand remixed in other bottles)

Colorado South Snow Well Water
(Basically same as the other water, just filtered naturally through the rock and bucket lifted)

Colorado Further South Snow Artisan Spill Water
(The drippings from the South Snow Well Water, gathered and separated)

North Georgia Seasonal Water
(Water captured this season, fresh and stored in something that holds water)

North Georgia Unseasonal Water
(Water captured this season, aged for your pleasure, and served at room temperature for balance)

Special Unfiltered Mississippi Mud Black Water
(Contains Minerals, small amounts of detritus, and minerals)

Exfusion Water
(Water in a specially areated form that you can inhale)

Rain Water
(Funnel. Barrel. Untouched by human hands, from God to you. Through us. For a small-ish fee.)

Death Valley Spring Agua
(Hand bottled from a garden hose filtered source in Tucson and driven through Death Valley for flavor)

Coconut Juice Water
(Free range coconut. No coconuts were harmed in the making of this water. Coconut free.)

Double Diet Water
(All the water, half the calories, now with half of that! Now with less gluten.)

Water Water
(Like organic water, but now with even more water. No substitutions)

Educated Water
(Better than Smart Water- served with/at three “degrees”)

Tap Water
(Served in hand crafted –ish recycled bottles collected by urban indigenous nomads)

If you'd like to buy something, we'll need your social security number and address. Why? Well, we're gonna need to pull your credit. This stuff ain't cheap!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bad Apple

Ramblings Post #311
Sometimes the world, or God, or the deity of your choice depending on where you are reading this, sends you a message. Maybe it's the same song playing over and over again randomly as you go through your day. It could be the way the wind blows, or running into just that right person at just that right moment. Or it could be the day you tell the government you don't have to help them, they respond by telling they got it done without you. God has a sense of humor. Or the deity of your choice, depending on where you are reading this. 

Last month, the evil and over reaching US government got a crazy judge to conjure up court order to have our heroes at Apple assist in trying to investigate what was either a terrorist attack or a brutal mass shooting. They requested that the company help them access the encrypted data on one of their premier products - the iPhone. Apple balked, calling the request an order to create a backdoor into their device, wrapping itself in the flag and screaming give me liberty or free wifi...or something like that. That's like a fair explanation of it right?

Okay, maybe I'm being overly dramatic, but I thought then and I still think now that Apple could have chosen a better place to stand to make it's case for personal encryption in the face of government intrusion. All those cases in New York involving crimes where neither party is completely clean? One of them maybe? No? In any case, after cloaking themselves in the concept that we should be able to live free from government intrusion (although properly warranted) the one thing that Apple didn't want to happen went ahead and happened - the government was able to access the phone without them.

Using an unknown, third party group. 

So now Apple has another problem. The issue they were trying to avoid was the creation of a method of access that circumvented their security features, a necessary feature which they claim was vital to protecting YOUR information. And to prove it, the company appeared to be going out of it's way to do so. It was a good, if not great PR stance for a luxury brand. Now, they know their phone and its vaunted encryption system has a hole in it, but now they don't know where that hole is. And everybody else knows it. This would the opposite of a great, or maybe just good, PR move.

Had Apple cooperated, they could have created a "hole"for the government to use and then fixed it, with the message being now not even we can get into the next generation. This would have maintained the illusion Apple has of always being one step ahead. Okay, I don't believe that, but the Apple fan boys do. And that is their bread and butter. Instead, they're now have to ask the very people they refused to help to help them fix their own product.

How much money is Apple hiding offshore to avoid having to pay taxes on it?


And while the unsettled privacy issue caused by advances in technology remains unanswered for now, and hopefully will end up attached to something much more mundane, it's kind of funny. I can almost hear it in my head. A government agent with a deep Southern drawl explaining their position on telling them how they cracked the phone. "Sounds to me like you fellas have a bit of ah, what you call it, encryption problem. Yep, to bad the U.S. government would completely wrong to help you out, I mean proprietary systems and all that. Government top secrets. That kinda thing. Can't have Apple talking about closing back doors."

Barkeep. An apple martini. Did you know I used to make these?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Hammer. Nail.

This is a political post.

The idea that we are at odds with a faceless, stateless enemy had been slowly ebbing over the past year, as the time between incidents grew and other world issues bubbled to the surface. But after the horrific events of Brussels and Lahore, four actions in eight days total, the ugly specter of modern war has reasserted itself. And we have reacted again in the most typical, most predictable of fashions: Our problem is that when all you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, and  America possesses the most powerful "hammer" the world has ever seen. As such to threats to our safety we predictably react by suggesting we put boots on the ground, or some other euphemism for putting young men in harm's way on purpose. You can almost hear the crowd chanting in a fervor. And it is a sound theory when you can have the war "over there," minimizing your own collateral damages. It also helps if your enemy isn't prepared or actually expects to die for his cause. But here, in the modern world, the war is wherever the "enemy" wants it to be, and the enemy intends to die. This isn't tactics and movements as we've known it, this is Guerilla warfare, the last act of the desperate, scaled up to the digital age.

War is no longer tanks and infantry, but selected strikes and strategic actions designed to provoke specific political reactions. And combating it is now more investigation, policing and spycraft than bullets, artillery and warships. We wish it all still that simple. But as we enter this new century, our vision of war has to change. We can't fight modern wars using outdated tactics lest we entertain the prospect of girding ourselves into tyranny. And yet this tyranny, this tearing apart of our basic values is our knee jerk response. 

So what do we do? Our enemies no longer wear uniforms clearly delineating this is one, they walk among the innocent, both here and abroad. So what can we do? While we wage this  modern war, using modern tools, we also have to attack this movement at its source. We have to metaphorically cut its supply lines. We can no longer merely treat the symptoms, we have to cure the underlying disease. And the disease is NOT Islam, or just anti-American sentiment, but partially if not in large part due to the same issue that causes so many ills of the world, and is the cause of this conflict as well: Poverty. As much as we don't want to admit it, a great deal of modern war is the result of our economics.

 I realize I'm not a scholar, and there has been some disagreement on the subject, but in the interviews I've read with terrorists, aside from that known small core of fanatics who truly believe a the particular vision, the majority of those who join organizations that use terror join those groups for the most basic of reasons: money. With rationales ranging from long periods of unemployment, lack of prospects, boredom to simply feeding their families, these don't always start as stalwart soldiers, but as desperate men. And in a war of suicide bombers, the way to wreck their supply lines are cut off the incentive for people to willingly join. Addressing those strict adherents is another matter, but you have to whittle down the enemy to win. 

For starters, I might suggest a comprehensive economic reform program, within the bounds of the tenets of the prevailing religion, need to introduced into those area rife with potential for the incubation of terror organization recruiting. And when I say comprehensive, I mean one that addresses corruption, nepotism, and injustice as well as providing opportunity.  I realize it's counter intuitive, that the idea might be read as providing them with the tools they need to cause us more injury. But in reality, the introduction of jobs, of work and the ability to feel the value of earning, should take away from the recruiting efforts. This is not to espouse the idea that capitalism is the answer, but a mix of capitalism and socialism, along with a sponsored program of moderation to mix with the radical ideas would help alleviate the pressure. The weird part is, this isn't exactly a new idea, but like a lot of things, I believe we're just not executing it properly. In some ways we're undercutting our efforts by trying to fight the modern war with conventional tactics, like drones and bombs.

Is this a fix all? No. In the complex world we live in, nothing is simple. This is just a starting point. A certain amount of hubris on the part of Americans also has to be worked through. But that's a point for another post. But as people have long said, you can't wait until it's perfect to get started, you have to start somewhere. And here is as good as any.