Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'social-networking'

The Times, They are a Changin’

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Feb 18, 2017 @ 6:24 pm PDT

I know, we’re all sick of Trump and news about Trump. So let’s take a breather. Here’s a collection of news chum that shows some other interesting ways that the times are a changin’:

  • Social Media Addiction. The New York Times is reporting that Generation X is more addicted to social media than Millenials. Again, read that headline: the younger kids (Millenials) are LESS addicated than the generation before them (GEN X, Adults 39-49). That, perhaps, explains the greying of Facebook. A Neilsen study found that adults 35 to 49 spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for the younger group. More predictably, adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on the networks: an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week (and I’m part of this latter group). The report is based on smartphone and tablet use, and it found that in the United States, 97 percent of people 18 to 34, and 94 percent of people 35 to 49, had access to smartphones. Seventy-seven percent of those 50 and older used smartphones, the report found. The 29-page report was based on data from 9,000 smartphone users and 1,300 tablet users across the country from July through September. It also found that Facebook still dominated on mobile, with about 178.2 million unique users in September. It was followed by Instagram, with 91.5 million unique users; Twitter, with 82.2 million unique users; and Pinterest, with 69.6 million users.Snapchat, a favorite of younger users, was sixth on the list, behind the professional networking site LinkedIn.  This raises the next question: if Millenials are using their smartphones so much, and they aren’t on social media, what precisely are they doing? They aren’t making phone calls.
  • Screens on Airplanes. Another New York Times article has an interesting finding regarding screens: we are using our personal screens so much that airlines are phasing out seat-back screens (which saves them a hella-lot of money). With built-in screens, airliners provide passengers with a set menu of content through boxes that power the in-flight entertainment system. The screens appeared in their most primitive form in the late 1980s with a few movies played on a loop. By the early 2000s, they had advanced to allow passengers to make choices on demand. By streaming content over wireless systems, passengers will have a wider array of content and the carriers will not have to maintain screens because passengers will bring their own portable devices on board. For carriers that discontinue the screens, the savings can be significant. By one estimate, in-flight entertainment systems are the biggest expense in outfitting a new plane and can make up 10 percent of the entire cost of an aircraft. The screens and their wiring add weight to the plane, and when fuel prices are high, every pound makes a difference. Another financial incentive: Without the screens, carriers can install slimmer seats, which means they can accommodate more passengers and earn more money. The article makes one other very important comment regarding personal screens: Experts said that if airliners are going to rely on consumer electronics for in-flight entertainment, the carriers should be prepared to offer another amenity: outlets for passengers to charge their devices. Mr. Hoppe said it was “imperative” to have them available in all rows and seats, and “essential” to ensure that each one works.
  • Fashion Rules for Plus Size. Let’s break up the New York Times articles with a change of fashion. A bunch of editors at Buzzfeed decided to break the “fashion rules” for Plus Size women. You know what? They looked great.  This goes to show yet another change that is happening in society: people deciding not to follow arbitrary rules from someone else, and wearing and being what is right for them. More power to them!
  • Intel Dropping Out of Science Fairs. One last New York Times article: it appears that Intel is dropping its sponsorship of Science Fairs. As someone who judges at the California State Science Fair, this is bad news. I see the remarkable things kids do, and it restores my faith in our youth. I originally thought the reason might have to do with Trump — after all, Intel had been meeting with Trump and Trump hates science.  But the reason is due to a more fundamental change: [The traditional science fair’s] regimented routines can seem stodgy at a time when young people are flocking to more freewheeling forums for scientific creativity, like software hackathons and hardware engineering Maker Faires. That is apparently the thinking at Intel, the giant computer chip maker, which is retreating from its longtime sponsorship of science fairs for high school students. It has dropped its support of the National Science Talent Search, and is dropping support of the International Science and Engineering Fair. The article noted that this leads to broader questions about how a top technology company should handle the corporate sponsorship of science, and what is the best way to promote the education of the tech work force of the future. Intel’s move also raises the issue of the role of science fairs in education in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. All I know, as a judge, is that these fairs have encouraged some remarkable research by Middle and High School Students.
  • The Cost of Solar. As we keep debating the real costs of hydro-carbon based power, the costs of solar on an industrial scale continue to drop. Eventually, it may be that clean power is so much cheaper that we’ll be able to reserve hydro-carbons for the real thing we need them for: plastics. [And, believe me: if you think about a society without gas for your car is bad, just imagine a world with no plastics — not only no plastic bags and storage containers, but circuit boards, enclosures, insulation for wires, sterile medical devices — we need to save our oil for plastic]. Quoting from the article: Solar has seen remarkable cost declines and is competing in more circumstances with every passing year. But it is not the world’s cheapest source of electricity. Yhe main reason is that there is, at least currently, no such thing as “the world’s cheapest source of electricity,” if that’s taken to mean cheapest, all costs considered, in all places, at all times. No such fairy dust exists; different sources perform differently in different economies and different electricity systems. What can be said about solar is that it is rapidly increasing the range of circumstances under which it can compete on costs, without subsidies. This is a good thing. Together, wind and utility-scale solar are now the cheapest available energy sources in the places that are building the most of them. Utility-scale solar now has a lower total cost of power than natural gas.

 

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A Final Serving of News Chum Stew to Close Out 2016

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Dec 31, 2016 @ 11:12 am PDT

Observation StewIt’s the last day of the year. That means it is time to clean out the accumulated News Chum links, so I can  start 2017 fresh. It’s been a busy week, what with cleaning out the highway headlines and getting the California Highways website updated. But I’ve caught up on the RSS links (again, I highly recommend newsblur, which I switched to when Google Reader died), and I’ve got a full set of hopefully interesting articles ready to go:

  • Livejournal Moves its Servers to Russia. The Russians haven’t only interfered in the US elections and been sanctioned for it (more on that in my second post for today). Long ago, the Russian entity SUP purchased Livejournal from SixApart. In fact, supposedly the Russian word for blog is Livejournal. But the servers for the American Livejournal have long been on American soil, under American rules. Not any more: Livejournal has moved their servers to Russia, and already Russia is interfering with free speech. I’ve been with Livejournal since I started blogging back in 2004; I’ve got a permanent account there. I’ve been there through the original ownership, the days of SixApart and Vox Media, and the SUP ownership. About 4-5 years ago, I got fed up with their DDOS attacks and moved my blog over to WordPress, self-hosted on cahighways.org. I also created a Dreamwidth account with the same username as LJ (cahwyguy), and set things up so my posts auto-crosspost to Dreamwidth, and thence to LJ. I also imported all my posts from LJ to this blog, although some were protected and comments didn’t come through. Most of the friends I’ve had from LJ days have been refriended on Facebook. Long story short (TL;DR): LJ is now my tertiary site; I still read and comment there, but main posts are here. Those still reading this there are welcome to friend me over on Dreamwidth (user: cahwyguy) or on Facebook (again, user cahwyguy).
  • Fiddler on the Roof Announces Tour. Continuing the trend of starting with some updates, about a week ago I did some predictions about the upcoming touring season of Broadway shows. Since I wrote that, Fiddler has confirmed their tour. I predicted that Fiddler would go to the Ahmanson; as the Pantages shared the news from Playbill, it could end up there. I’m interested in this tour primarily because this version’s Motel, Adam Kantor, did Yiddishkeyt with my daughter.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas. As we’re on the penultimate day of Chanukah, and still within the 12 days of Christmas (and we still have annoying Christmas car commercials on TV), this article is still of interest: The story behind the most annoying Christmas Carol: The 12 Days of Christmas. For someone who doesn’t like Christmas Carols (for the record, my favorite is still Peter Paul and Mary’s Christmas Dinner), I found the background fascinating.
  • Solar Power – It’s Everywhere. Another thing currently on my mind is solar power, as we’re about to embark on a re-roofing and solar installation here (a consequence of extremely high DWP bills ($1500 and $1200 from July/August and September/October) and wanting to get it done before Trump guts everything). So this article about how Solar Power is getting cheaper caught my eye. To my eye, solar is now a no-brainer even if you don’t believe in climate change: it helps us get off of imported oil, and ensures our domestic reserves will be there in the future when we need them (as there is no dispute that petroleum is a limited resource). More importantly, cutting edge solar is now cheaper than Natural Gas, as least for large power producers. Alas, home solar has not gotten significantly cheaper, although presumably it will pay out in utility savings (especially in the hot San Fernando Valley).
  • Historical Notes. Two articles related to history caught my eye. The first has to do with Air Force Space Command, and particularly a new website that captures that history. I know one of the folks on that website, Warren Pearce; he seems to view me as a “greybeard” in relation to AFSPC (although I’m more of a CBG – Chubby Bearded Guy). I’m not really a greybeard in the true sense (although my first task when I got to my current employer was doing the security certification of then Lt. Pearce’s facility in the Springs — which I still remember because our finding was the lack of plastic sheeting in case the sprinklers went off), although I know quite a few from my SDC days. The second looks at the history of the Shopping Mall, and how the designer came to regret it. The mall — in its original sense of a square building, with the stores turned inwards surrounded by parking and a non-descript exterior — is dying, to be replaced by urban streetscapes such as the Rick Caruso specials or Big Box stores that harken back to the shopping main streets of old. What’s old is new again. Speaking of that, remember the site in Carson that was going to be the home of the LA Raiders. It’s becoming a shopping outlet mall.
  • Annoying Things. Here’s another pair of interest, dealing with annoying things. The first article looks at those annoying notifications of “Facebook Live” events from your friends — and provides information on how to turn them off. The second is more significant, and worth saving as a reference: what to do if you are hit by ransomware. Of course, the first thing to do is make sure you have backups, not network connected, to save your ass. The page, however, provides information on how you might be able to decrypt your disk, and not pay the ransom. Related to that is a third potentially useful link: How to use the Microsoft System File Checker to restore potentially corrupted system files.
  •  Food News. Two food related items. The first has to do with a Russian-Armenian restaurant in North Hills that sounds interesting enough to try. The second deals with the death of yet another deli: Carnegie Deli in NYC has served its last Pastrami Sandwich, although an outpost remains in Las Vegas.  I’ll also note that Cables Coffee Shop in Woodland Hills has Closed.
  • Android Phone Information. Did you get a new phone for the holidays? Is it Android? If so, here are two articles for you. The first talks about what you should do to get rid of your old Android phone. The second talks about how to transfer stuff to your new Android phone.
  • Supersonic Flight Possibly Returning. We’re getting near the end, folks. Here’s an interesting article on why we lost commercial supersonic flight, and the way it may return. The answer is: It may not be for everyone, and it will remain very expensive.
  • The Specialist. Lastly, one of the podcasts I listen to is “The Specialist”, which talks about odd jobs. Here’s one for the specialist: the guy who replaces the light bulbs in the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas. I’m sure he didn’t go to college with that career in mind.

And with that, we’ve cleaned out the 2016 News Chum. I’m planning one more political post to close out the year, and then it is on to 2017. May your new year be a good one, filled with fewer deaths of people close to you or celebrities you care about, and may all your news chum stews be filled with tasty morsels of delight, as opposed to pieces of sinew (as we got with the 2016 election, but that’s the next post).

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Fear (fear ear) and the Echo (echo cho) Chamber

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 11, 2016 @ 5:56 am PDT

userpic=socialmediaEveryone is attempting to adjust to the results of this election differently. Those who have been marginalized for whatever reason — sex, color, orientation, etc. — are reacting in fear for what might happen with Trump (even though he is not yet in power, and won’t be in power until January). Those who have crawled out of the shadows and the gutters, emboldened by the man, have taken to harassing and abusing those marginalized (even though the laws have not changed, and likely will not change, making what they are doing illegal). Some, like me, who have been fortunate enough (dare I say privileged, which I do recognize) have been coping by hoping for rationality — believing (perhaps unrealistically) and hoping that the weight of the Presidency will change the campaign demagogue into a reasoned man concerned with his legacy, suitably constrained by our Constitution, the opposition Democrats, and our system.

We all have been taking to the streets and social media. Social media has done its job: amplifying the small fringe voices and actions so that they feel like a national groundswell; amplifying the resulting fears to make everyone more fearful; echoing those who have the same fear while hiding the reasoned voices on both sides. The reasoned people who supported Trump more to blow up the system rather than to support his behavior see only the riots and vandalism in response to his election, not the fear. Those who support Clinton only see the fear and the hate response. And it magnifies, like a mirror looking into a mirror, reflecting on and on forever deeply, even though we’re really only talking about perhaps a quarter-inch of glass.

And those who operate the social media — the Mark Zuckerbergs, the folks behind Twitter, etc. — where are they in all of this? Silent. They are silently allowing the echo chambers they created – and the algorithms they curated — to spread the fake news, to spread the parodies, to spread the words that amplify and isolate. They are not taking responsibility; they are not helping to heal. When we look back at this election, we’ll see much of the ultimate blame belongs with the Internet and Social Media for building up the hate and fear between both sides. For those us on the Clinton side, ask yourself: where would we be if Trump had been unable to tweet, but could only go through the news media, if we weren’t seeing the fear-mongering fake news on FB, if we weren’t seeing the parodies and believing them real. For the Trump supporters, the same question: how might your picture of Clinton differ without FB spreading the stories, and Wikileaks being enabled to spread overly sensationalized innuendo?

Those of us who were there in the founding days of the Internet: What have we wrought?

Shortly before the election, Vox ran an article about how the Internet is harming our democracy. I saved it planning to post and comment upon it the day after the election. The election occurred, and other reactions came first. But the article remained, and deserves to be heard. The article talks about the impact of fake news on the election; about how Facebook considers itself to be a technology company, not part of the media. Quoting from the article:

But that’s wrong. Facebook makes billions of editorial decisions every day. And often they are bad editorial decisions — steering people to sensational, one-sided, or just plain inaccurate stories. The fact that these decisions are being made by algorithms rather than human editors doesn’t make Facebook any less responsible for the harmful effect on its users and the broader society.

Further on, the article notes:

Facebook hasn’t told the public very much about how its algorithm works. But we know that one of the company’s top priorities for the news feed is “engagement.” The company tries to choose posts that people are likely to read, like, and share with their friends. Which, they hope, will induce people to return to the site over and over again.

This would be a reasonable way to do things if Facebook were just a way of finding your friends’ cutest baby pictures. But it’s more troubling as a way of choosing the news stories people read. Essentially, Facebook is using the same criteria as a supermarket tabloid: giving people the most attention-grabbing headlines without worrying about whether articles are fair, accurate, or important.

Post election, this algorithm is showing us the fear and the attacks because that is what our friends are sharing. It isn’t showing us the reasoned voices. It is isolating us, and not allowing us to confront the hate directly online. We’ve defriended the other side long ago. And so it magnifies. The following excerpt from the article points out why things feel so bad now:

This dynamic helps to explain why the 2016 election has taken on such an apocalyptic tone. Partisans on each side have been fed a steady diet of stories about the outrages perpetrated by the other side’s presidential candidate. Some of these stories are accurate. Others are exaggerated or wholly made up. But less sophisticated readers have no good way to tell the difference, and in the aggregate they’ve provided a distorted view of the election, convincing millions of voters on each side that the other candidate represents an existential threat to the Republic.

And now that that existential threat has been elected, look at the reaction. Facebook built that fear, folks. Facebook elected this man, folks. One in five people — that’s 20% — say that they changed their vote because of social media:

In a recent survey of 4,579 Americans, Pew found that most people who are exposed to political content across their social media feeds react negatively to it. Nearly 40 percent of respondents described themselves as “worn out” by political debates on sites like Twitter and Facebook, and 80 percent of respondents said that when they see political posts they disagree with, they usually choose to ignore them. Meanwhile, 40 percent reported blocking or filtering political content and/or fellow users who posted political content on their feeds; the vast majority said it was because they felt the content was “offensive.”

But that doesn’t mean said political content has no measurable effect on Election Day. In Pew’s study, 20 percent of respondents admitted that they had changed their minds about a political issue or candidate after seeing the issue or candidate discussed on social media.

Think now about all how all those stories about Hillary and her email server, about how Hillary was dishonest, changed minds about Hillary. I heard an NPR story last night about how Democrats were voting in large numbers for Trump because they didn’t trust Hillary. It was social media that built that distrust. It is also social media that permitted the White Power groups and other haters to be heard in much larger numbers than they actually are. Combine this with the fact that even a single percentage point difference in each state — one in one hundred shifting from Trump to Clinton — could have given the election to Clinton instead of Trump:

Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida flip back to Clinton, giving her a total of 307 electoral votes. And she’d have won the popular vote by 3 to 4 percentage points, right where the final national polls had the race and in line with Obama’s margin of victory in 2012.

NPR asks: Did Social Media ruin this election? They note:

This is our present political social life: We don’t just create political strife for ourselves; we seem to revel in it.

When we look back on the role that sites like Twitter, Facebook (and Instagram and Snapchat and all the others) have played in our national political discourse this election season, it would be easy to spend most of our time examining Donald Trump’s effect on these media, particularly Twitter. It’s been well-documented; Trump may very well have the most combative online presence of any candidate for president in modern history.

But underneath that glaring and obvious conclusion, there’s a deeper story about how the very DNA of social media platforms and the way people use them has trickled up through our political discourse and affected all of us, almost forcing us to wallow in the divisive waters of our online conversation. And it all may have helped make Election 2016 one of the most unbearable ever.

We need to realize the impact of social media on this election. We need to realize that the hate voices we are hearing are an overly magnified and emboldened fringe. We need to realize that our fear and loathing of the President-elect — and indeed, much of his behavior and excesses — have been magnified through social media. It will continue to magnify, until we make the decision to stop letting it do so.

We need to take action. We need to speak up for the majority, not amplify the fears and behaviors of the minority. Remember the following:

Get away from the fear. Step away from the keyboard before you share that article about yet another hate attack. Use the amplifying power of Facebook not to share hate, but to share hope. Speak up and say: THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

It is not acceptable, because Trump campaigned so as to amplify hate, to take that hate out on others in society.

It is not acceptable, out of your fear of and in protest of Trump’s election, to vandalize and destroy.

It is not acceptable to lose faith in our American system, to believe that its checks and balances and restrictions will not serve to temper the behavior of our Chief Executive. It limited Obama, and it will limit Trump.

We are the best of America. We need to show it. We must remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt — the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

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The Power and Misuse of Social Media

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Oct 31, 2016 @ 4:59 am PDT

userpic=socialmediaWhen I started blogging/journalling back in 2004, we were in the midst of Kerry vs. Bush. Facebook was still pretty much restricted to college campuses, and the hot place to be was Livejournal. I don’t remember much political discussion online then. Certainly, we didn’t have the explosion of pundit and commentary sites, we didn’t have the heavy satire sites and such. We still got most of our news from less partisan sources (I won’t go so far as to say non-partisan) such as broadcast and print media. But there was still a heavy amount of criticism of George Bush, and all the memes about village idiots and such started circulating. I’m sure you could find all the icons from that era and you would see the large amount making fun of Bush (and I’m sure there were equal ones making fun of Kerry, but I didn’t see those).

By the 2008 election, Livejournal’s star was starting to fade and Facebook’s rise, but I still remember loads of political discussions on LJ. Many of my political icons come from that era — especially during the primaries where it was Obama vs. Clinton. In my admitted progressive circles, there was lots of criticism of John McCain (especially when he chose Sarah Palin). Online news sites and prediction sites were starting up, but I don’t remember the large number of partisan sites and pages.

With the 2012 election, the shift to FB had begun in earnest, and online journalism sites were rampant. This was the battle of Romney vs Obama (and Obama had no serious primary opposition). Memes — as in the stylized photos with the large bordered text — were beginning to circulate. Romney certainly made sufficient gaffes to feed them.

It is now 2016, and social media has become the influencer of elections, not the reporting outlet. Parody news sites are rampant, as are partisan meme generators. In fact, memes have been the source of news for many people, believing any text they see on a meme. It has gotten really really bad folks. People have turned off their critical thinking; they are sheeple, willing to do or think anything the Internet says. This becomes a vicious circle, and the echo chamber that FB is has increased the partisan nature of discourse.

Reading my FB feeds brought this all back to me. I see posts about the situation at Standing Rock, about people should post their location as Standing Rock to confuse the police. I see memes going around expressing political opinions, and loads of sharing from hyper-partisan, non-journalistic sites. As I’m up early due to a headache, seeing this leads me to post the following reminders:

  1. Facebook is not the world. Police do not have the time to monitor everyone’s FB feed to determine who is where and who to arrest. Showing your location as someplace in solidarity with an action does not benefit those you are supporting. Similarly, liking or sharing positions pieces is only benefitting the “likes” of someone you don’t know. It is often a trick to entice you.
  2. Just because text goes around on top of an image doesn’t make it true. Anyone can claim something is a quote or a statement, pop it on an image, and people will believe it. Don’t keep circulating those, no matter how enticing. Confirm (or double confirm) anything you read, focusing on confirmation from well-known broadcast and print media, and especially international and multiple sources.
  3. Recognize satire sites. If it is from The Onion, Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker, or a number of other sites, it is likely not true. Very likely.
  4. Recognize partisan sites. Many of the sites that pose as news these days — e.g., Occupy Democrats, Partisan Report, Red State Blue State — spread news in a hyperpartisan manner. Don’t repeat what they say, you only make it worse. This article has a good summary of such sites from the progressive side; On the conservative site, such sites include Breitbart News, Wall Street Journal (oh, how the mighty have fallen), NY Post, and I’m sure there are more. Again, always double or triple confirm what you read.
  5. Remember that if you see it on the Internet, there is no guarantee that it is true. People can make up anything and easily make it look real. Confirm everything before you reshare or react.
  6. Facts are non-partisan. Do not believe the innuendo regarding the fact checking sites. Snopes, FactCheck.org, and such are not partisan mouthpieces — they call out all sides for incorrect use of facts.

We have just about a week to go in this election. As you see all the mud being slung, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. For those that like Trump, if his past and behavior were on the part of any other candidate, would you still support that candidate? For example, if it was a white, male Democrat such as Gary Hart, John Kerry, or Ted Kennedy, would you be calling for them to drop out of the race? Trump is not special; your hatred of Clinton should not blind you to the foibles of the man that disqualify him. Consider Bill Cosby: he’s had a lot of the same accusations and has fallen from grace; Trump has had similar accusations, and yet has grown in support. Double standard, anyone?
  2. Similarly, if all the behaviors that make you hate Clinton were attributed to a Republican candidate, would you accept them? Would you be demanding the emails from George Bush, Mitt Romney, or John Cain? Would defunding embassy security have disqualified Bush for a second term? Recognize that the FB echo chamber has made this worse, and that your hatred is inflamed because she is Clinton, or because she is, well, “she”.
  3. Are you reacting to manufactured news, or news slated so as to play to your biases and hatreds? If so, just say no. This is true from both sides.

Hopefully, this has given you something to think about, as we start the last week of the campaign.

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Safe Spaces and Facebook

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Sep 26, 2016 @ 5:14 pm PDT

userpic=socialmediaOver the weekend, I had the occasion to get into a… discussion… on a post from a Facebook friend. During this… discussion… I was chastised for not being aware of all the context from previous posts by this friend on the subject. Another person commenting on the same post was chastised for intruding on a safe space in a problematic way, and a friend of mine was chastised for chiming in. Thinking back on this, I think the following reminders should be made:

  • Facebook is not a safe space, even if your post is “friends only”. Often, although the post might be friends only, Facebook makes the response visible transitively to friends of friends, meaning your post may inadvertently have a much wider audience than you expect.
  • Facebook does not present all past posts, and not always in sequential order. You cannot assume that anyone commenting on your post has any context at all. Whether they have seen your past posts depends not only on whether they have settings to show “most recent posts”, but how popular your posts are, how often they read your and linger on your posts, and many algorithmic factors.

The upshot to this is that you should not assume anything on Facebook is safe or private, and particularly, you cannot assume that your wall and your posts are safe spaces. Similar warnings apply to venues such as Tumblr and Twitter, where again you can’t always control who sees what you write. Warnings also apply to traditional Blogging, such as WordPress sites, where you can only restrict things through password protected posts.

If you want truly safe spaces, you should go “old school”. I’m not referring to pen and paper, although that can be safer. I’m referring to venues from the last decade, such as Livejournal and Dreamwidth, where you can restrict journals to friends or a subset of friends, where transitive accessibility is limited, and where you can have assurance that all posts are shown in sequential order. Further, on services such as Livejournal/Dreamwidth, you can have sticky warnings and FAQs at the top of your journal, and links to your rules. That’s difficult in Facebook — even if you do a group (where you can have a sticky post at the top), people reading on their wall may not see it.

Remember: the Internet, and especially social media, was not designed with privacy in mind. Especially if you are getting a service for free, you are often the product that is being sold, not the customer. It was also not designed to protect you — especially if you are sensitive to slights (intentional or otherwise), not everyone may know your warnings, and not everyone may be protected from posting. No where is that truer than Facebook or on Google, where everything you write is scanned for advertising potential, and it is easy to not see everything.

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Passings…

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Aug 13, 2016 @ 6:04 pm PDT

userpic=tombstonesSome passings (or soon to be passings) from the last week that are worthy of note:

  • Pete Fountain. I’ve come to an appreciation of New Orleans Jazz late in life. My dad always loved it, and in a number of ways our tastes have aligned as I’ve gotten older (except for Jolson — I’m not as big of a Jolson fan as he was).  I’ve grown to love Firehouse Five + Two, the Dukes of Dixieland, numerous small Dixieland groups (anyone know a good podcast for these), and cover artists like Al Hirt. And, of course, Pete Fountain. Fountain was a legend, and worked with a number of the folks I just mentioned: Fountain started playing professionally on Bourbon Street in his teens. He once called the street of strip clubs, music joints and bars his “conservatory.” In his early years he toured nationally with the Dukes of Dixieland and the late trumpeter Al Hirt.
  • Glenn Yarbrough. Another love of mine is folk music, going to my first love, Peter, Paul, and Mary. That love lead to many groups, including the Kingston Trio, Tom Paxton, and of course, the Limeliters (which never disbanded, despite what the NYT says). The first, and probably most famous, tenor in the group was Yarbrough (although Red Grammer was a close second), and he helped create that famous Limeliter sound and repartee. Yet another loss to dementia and mental deterioration, similar to what is happening to another famous Glenn, Glen Campbell.
  • Kenny Baker. I’ll ignore the jokes about short subjects, and say this is the man that made R2D2 who it was (was R2D2 a he?). But he was more than just a droid, he was a noted vaudevillian, and a major character in Time Bandits.
  • Gladstones 4 Fish.  At one time, Robert J. Morris owned a bunch of wonderful restaurants: RJ’s for Ribs in Beverly Hills, Gladstones 4 Fish in Pacific Palisades, and his brother owned Adam’s Ribs in Encino (at least, so it appears). Morris sold them a long time ago, the the only remaining one, Gladstones (now owned by former LA Mayor Richard Riorden), has gone downhill (Morris still owns the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe). Reports have come out that the county would like to see Gladstones out (reported closing is October 2017). The County Supes would like to see the lease on the property extended to a full 40 years (currently it’s only allowed to run for 20 years), which they believe would lure in a new restaurant that would build from scratch on the site. The long-term lease would hopefully make such a build more stable and viable for whichever company steps up to the challenge.
  • Social Media Infrastructure. Times have changed. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen social media — such as blogs and journals — moved from an open infrastructure with loads of supports (everyone and their brother having a blog on their own website), and loads of journaling sites (such as Livejournal and its clones) to a closed infrastructure of Tumblr, Facebook, and other short-attention-span media. Let us bow our heads in remembrance.

 

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Clearin’ of the Links: Science, Technology, and Medicine Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Jun 30, 2016 @ 6:03 pm PDT

userpic=mad-scientistI’m still working on clearing out the links that accumulated during the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), with a goal of getting them all done before you take off for the Fourth of July weekend. I may already be too late. Here’s a chunk that are loosely related to science, medicine, and technology:

Medicine Chum

  • Understanding Migraines. One of the ills that plague me are migraines (which, luckily for me, are mild compared to what others get). No one knows precisely what triggers migraines, or how the various abortives work. Some think it is related to nerves in the head, and some think it is related to blood flow.  A new genome-wide association study published in Nature Genetics suggests that a migraine may primarily stem from problems with the blood supply system. This could lead to new ways to treat migraines.
  • More Than Human. We’re discovering more and more than the human organism is much more than the human organism — that is, much of what contributes to our health or lack thereof is our microbiome. Further, our overfocus on being “germ-free” has significantly hurt our biome, and may be the single largest contributor to our various health maladies — including obesity. Here’s another biome story — this time, the involvement of the biome with what has been called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Specifcally, researchers say they’ve found biological markers of the illness in the blood and gut bacteria of people with systemic exertional intolerance disease (SEID) (a/k/a CFS). Their results were published in the journal Microbiome. In this study, found clear differences between the blood and guts of healthy versus sick people. Compared to healthy controls, people with ME/CFS had weaker and less diverse bacterial ecosystems in their guts, as well as higher levels of immune inflammation in their blood. These differences were so clear that the researchers were able to spot nearly 83 percent of the time which participants had ME/CFS just by looking at their bacterial and immune response results.
  • Being Like Everyone Else. If everyone else did something with no proven medical benefit for medical reasons (like, for example, overusing bacterial soap), would you do it? A study that is unsurprisingly proving very viral on social networks is highlighting one such thing: most women these days are “preparing for the Olympics” for claimed medical benefit, when there is none (where “preparing for the Olympics” == “going Brazilian” == removing hair on their … == insert your own euphemism here). My attitude, for whatever it is worth, is that women are their most beautiful when they look like women — not airbrushed models or pre-pubescent girls — but women – with imperfections and hair and some parts large and some parts small and some parts inbetween. While we’re on that subject (and while we’re clearing links), here’s an article I found on two-piece suits for large chested ladies. What bothered me about that article is that the chest was the only part that was large. Why weren’t there two-pieces for ladies who happened to be large in other places as well? As it is, an article like that is just perpetuating body dismorphic ideas, just like shaving everywhere does.
  • How Old is Your Body? I’m 56. Recently, I’ve been wondering if there is any part of my body that has been with me all 56 years. So I was quite pleased to see an article come across my feeds that asked the same question: How old is your body? What component of your body has been around the longest time? For example: brand new fingernails every six months, 2-7 years for the hair on our heads, new skeletal muscles every 15 years. But those neurons in your brain? Never replaced.

Technology Chum

  • Automotive Security. We were having a discussion on our van this morning about car security, specifically how some thieves are collecting automotive RFID signals, and then going around parking lots broadcasting them, unlocking cars, and stealing stuff inside. I had noted how cars are generally better protected against theft, and how entertainment units are less likely to be stolen than radios of old. Another rider pointed out, however, that the keyless ignition cars are easier to steal. In general, our cars are weak in terms of security — so it is good at the Senator is pushing to increase cybersecurity protections in cars.
  • LED Streetlight Dangers. More and more cities are going to LED streetlights because they use less energy and are brighter. Now the AMA has come out with some cautions on LED lighting: cool it and dim it. The AMA’s statement recommends that outdoor lighting at night, particularly street lighting, should have a color temperature of no greater than 3000 Kelvin (K). Color temperature (CT) is a measure of the spectral content of light from a source; how much blue, green, yellow and red there is in it. A higher CT rating generally means greater blue content, and the whiter the light appears. The new “white” LED street lighting which is rapidly being retrofitted in cities throughout the country has two problems, according to the AMA. The first is discomfort and glare. Because LED light is so concentrated and has high blue content, it can cause severe glare, resulting in pupillary constriction in the eyes. Blue light scatters more in the human eye than the longer wavelengths of yellow and red, and sufficient levels can damage the retina. This can cause problems seeing clearly for safe driving or walking at night. It can also affect our sleep cycles and rhythms (which is why many people recommend using f.lux to turn down the blue on your screens in the evening).
  • Tweaking Your Facebook Feed. Many of us who came from LJ miss the days of a sequential feed, where you know you could catch up on your friends. Facebook has never been quite the same. But Facebook is now providing some details on how to tweak your feed. First, they’ve disclosed their news feed algorithm, which will now show posts from friends higher up in the feed than posts from Pages like news outlets. Based on these new values, there are now some specific tweaks that you can do to make your newsfeed what you want it to be.

Science Chum

Science People In the News

  • New Position: Steve Isakowitz. The Aerospace Corporation (my employer) has announced the selection of a new corporate President and soon-to-be CEO: Steve Isakowitz, former President of Virgin Galactic. Iskowitz is also a former CTO of Virgin Galactic. Previously, he held a wide variety of senior engineering, business, and management roles across the private and government sectors, including positions at NASA, the Office of Management and Budget, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of Energy. He replaces Wanda Austin, who has reached the corporate age limit for VPs and above.
  • Passing: Simon Ramo. Simon Ramo, the “R” in TRW, has passed away.  Ramo shaped California aerospace and the space industry through organizations like TRW, and I should note that he is responsible for the company I work at: The Aerospace Corporation is actually an FFRDC spin-off of STL, Space Technology Laboratories, which went on to become TRW.
  • Passing: Steve Walker. Word came to me Thursday morning of the passing of Steve Walker, one of the seminal people in the field of cybersecurity. The formal obituary and funeral arrangements haven’t been published; I found a bio here. We’ll get something up on the ACSA In Memorium page as soon as we can.

 

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Memorial Day Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon May 30, 2016 @ 5:55 am PDT

Observation StewThis has been a busy weekend, what with theater, working on the highway pages, cleaning the house, and hunting for a replacement car after my accident. But I do accumulate links, and they need to be cleared out periodically. Before we do, please take a moment and remember those who have given their lives so that we may have the freedoms we have in this country. Despite our flawed political candidates, the flawed presidential selection process, and the divisions created by entrenched political parties, we still have more freedoms in this country than many elsewhere in the world; many have given their lives to protect those freedoms, and to ensure others are free as well.

(pauses for a moment)

Here are the news chum links I’ve accumulated since my last news chum post:

Lastly, (a) remember to read and comment on my potential replacement cars (remember the car is for me and how I live, not how you think I should live); (b) remember that the Hollywood Fringe Festival starts Tuesday, and you should pick your shows now; (c) that tickets are now on save for November’s new Faire: Nottingham Festival (no word on Tumbleweed Township tickets yet); and (d) you have the ability to help Spring Awakening be on the Tony Awards.

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