Safe Spaces and Facebook

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.



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.



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

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.



Memorial Day Stew

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.


Weekend Chum Stew: Food, Fiddler, Fonts, &c

Observation StewYesterday was a crazy day, and I didn’t get the news chum stew on the stove. Today is chilly and rainy, so I’ve made an extra big pot:


CyberNewsChum: Windows, Facebook, and the Internet of Things

userpic=cyborgIt’s been a busy week both at work and at home. Articles have been accumulating, but there are a few theme groupings to get out of the way before we get into the stew. So, for an appetizer, here’s a collection of interesting articles dealing with computer related news chum:

  • Microsoft Continues the Push to Win10. Microsoft is continuing its push to get everyone to upgrade to Windows 10 (ref: “I Think I’ll Wait to Wash the Windows“). The latest salvo is a warning from Microsoft that Windows 7 is unsafe. What do they mean by that? Here’s the answer, from the horses, umm, mouth:

    Speaking to Windows Weekly, Microsoft Marketing chief Chris Capossela explained that users who choose Windows 7 do so “at your own risk, at your own peril” and he revealed Microsoft has concerns about its future software and hardware compatibility, security and more. “We do worry when people are running an operating system that’s 10 years old that the next printer they buy isn’t going to work well, or they buy a new game, they buy Fallout 4, a very popular game, and it doesn’t work on a bunch of older machines,” Capossela stated.

    The real meaning came out in his next sentence, where he stressed it is “so incredibly important to try to end the fragmentation of the Windows install base” and to get users to a “safer place”. Translation: They want everyone on Windows 10 so they can control the ecosystem and have that captive market like Apple has.

  • When You Need to Upgrade Windows. There is a time that you really must upgrade your windows: If you are running the original Windows 8, not Windows 8.1.  If you don’t upgrade original Windows 8 to 8.1 or 10, security patches stop this week. Security patches are critical. The problem is that Microsoft doesn’t make the upgrade easy, hiding it in the Windows Store. Here’s how to install the Windows 8.1 upgrade. To help you more, here’s a tutorial.
  • Deprecating Old Internet Explorer. Here’s another push to get you to upgrade: Microsoft has stopped support of older versions of IE except the latest for each supported OS. Beginning next Tuesday, January 12, Microsoft will officially retire Internet Explorer versions 8, 9, and 10 for most Windows operating systems, according to a Microsoft support page. Internet Explorer 11 will be the only officially supported version of the browser for Windows 7, 8.1, and 10. The only exception will be Windows Vista users, who will stick with Internet Explorer 9. Vista’s mainstream support ended more than a year before IE11 rolled out. The unpopular OS is almost up for retirement anyway. It reaches the end of its extended support phase in April 2017. After that, Vista will be unsupported just like Windows XP.
  • Lastpass Upgrade. This week, Lastpass announced an upgrade to Version 4.0. Even though Password Managers have some risk, I still recommend them. They move you to using longer and more complex passwords, but store them in such a way that they can’t be easily exploited. There are visual candy upgrades, but the most important thing is a new feature: Emergency Access. This lets users designate trusted family, friends or colleagues to have access to their password vault in the case of an emergency. They’ve also improved the Sharing Center. The new LastPass Sharing Center is one central location that allows users to easily manage and share passwords in a secure, encrypted way. Whether partners need to share logins for the mortgage and paying bills, or aging parents need to share important logins with their family, the Sharing Center keeps the passwords in sync for everyone. Users can manage who has access to shared accounts and have the option to remove access at any point.  Alas, I’m still waiting for them to update my Firefox plug in.
  • Facebook News Feed. Here’s a really interesting, but long, article on how the Facebook news feed algorithm works and how you can manipulate it. I still miss the days of Livejournal, where I could easily catch up chronologically with what all my friends were doing. I can see Facebook’s problem with doing that as the number of status updates and shares, combined with the number of friends, has grown exponentially. Really an interesting read.
  • Internet of Things. Do you really need that connected refrigerator? Here are two great articles that make clear the cybersecurity risks of the Internet of Things.

    The first talks about how as the IoT grows, security is being left in the dust. It is like the early days of the Internet. At its fundamental level, the Internet of Things (IoT) are devices that connect to the internet. They can be anything from data-guzzling devices that monitor your physical activity, smart thermostats that monitor the outside air and adjust your home temperature accordingly, or appliances that can think on their own and order groceries while you’re at work. The problem: all too often, device manufacturers have the same problem: they’re thinking too much about the product, and not enough about security. Once an adversary gets a toehold in your network onto an IoT device, it can then exploit its trusted access to do things even more nefarious.

    Like what, you ask. Here’s where the second article comes into play. Consider ransomware in the IoT. Since anything with a computer for a brain and an Internet connection is vulnerable to a virus, hackers with lofty ambitions can go after a wide range of devices. Conjure up that laundry list of “Internet of Things” gadgets: smartphones, fitness bands, smartwatches, fridges and ovens, smart locks, thermostats. Imagine your phone refusing to work when you need it, your refrigerator threatening to defrost your food, your house refusing to heat or cool, your smart locks refusing to let you into your house… or letting someone else in. As opposed to disabling attacks, the ransomware attack threat is only going to continue to grow… especially as it can lie latent until triggered.



Spread It Around

userpic=socialmediaAvast ye mateys. It’s time to start clearing the deck of all these pieces of news chum, before they bring my bookmarks to the bottom of Davey Jones’. So let’s throw some of this bilge-bait to the fishies. This bucket o’chum all concerns social media and aggressions:

Bucket No 1: Lashon Harah.

In these 10 days of introspection between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur comes a very timely post about the use of social media from the Coffee Shop Rabbi. In it, she talks about the Jewish notion of Lashon harah, which prohibits the use of speech to say anything negative or derogatory about another person, even if it is the truth.  There is only one exception: we can say negative things about another if those things are true, but only if our silence would result in injury or severe loss to another person. Think about this the next time you get ready to press that “share” button. The Coffee Shop Rabbi’s article goes into this in more detail; she uses as her example the viral claim that terrorists are infiltrating Europe among the refugees. Although debunked, spreading it can cause great harm. As she reminds us: “Social media is particularly potent speech because it travels so far, so fast. Careless use of it has ruined reputations, destroyed careers, enflamed violence. We need to be careful in using such a powerful tool.”

Bucket No 2: Microaggressions.

There’s an interesting article in Bloomberg View about how grown-ups deal with microaggressions. The author of the article notes that “We used to call this “rudeness,” “slights” or “ignorant remarks.” Mostly, people ignored them. The elevation of microaggressions into a social phenomenon with a specific name and increasingly public redress marks a dramatic social change.” What I found interesting about the article (and I didn’t agree with everything) is her notion about cultural shift:

Western society, they argue, has shifted from an honor culture — in which slights are taken very seriously, and avenged by the one slighted — to a dignity culture, in which personal revenge is discouraged, and justice is outsourced to third parties, primarily the law. The law being a cumbersome beast, people in dignity cultures are encouraged to ignore slights, or negotiate them privately by talking with the offender, rather than seeking some more punitive sanction.

Microagressions mark a transition to a third sort of culture: a victim culture, in which people are once again encouraged to take notice of slights. This sounds a lot like honor culture, doesn’t it? Yes, with two important differences. The first is that while victimhood is shameful in an honor culture — and indeed, the purpose of taking vengeance is frequently to avoid this shame — victim status is actively sought in the new culture, because victimhood is a prerequisite for getting redress. The second is that victim culture encourages people to seek help from third parties, either authorities or the public, rather than seeking satisfaction themselves.

I think we’ve heard folks talk about “victim culture” before: the notion that everything that happens to me is someone else’s fault. Some call it the abdication of responsibility.

But as I said, I’m mixed about the notion as a whole. I do believe there has been a culture of privilege, which creates aggression and privileges not seen by everyone, but there none-the-less. How do we handle these? Writing them off is clearly wrong. Some of the anger I see, however, although heartfelt, it also the wrong way. The problems need to be fixed.

Bucket No. 3: A Sentence is a Bad Thing to End a Preposition With.

One of the most common sources of aggression on the Internet is grammar. The problem is that most of the hard and fast rules we think exist really don’t. It demonstrates that we need to boldly go to that world where grammar is the least of our concerns. We need to not worry about what they will think, or what we use to end our sentence with. Hopefully, we’ll all get along. PS: I’ve discovered a great podcast on words: The Allusionist.

Music: Having It All/Having It Almost (2008 Demos): “Date Is Just A Four-Letter Word” (Liz Larsen, Wendy Perelman, Christa Jackson, Stefanie Morse, Kirsten Chandler)


Vigilantes, Mobs, and Bullies, Oh My!

userpic=soapboxReading the news over lunch the last few days has been very upsetting. I’ve read articles about trophy game in Africa, potential underage sex, anti-abortion activists, and much more. What has been upsetting me most, however, is not the ostensible subjects of the articles — the killing of animals, the sex, and such. What is upsetting me — and what is prompting me to climb up on my soapbox and write this article over lunch — is the way that the Internet is turning people into cyberbullies, cybervigilantes, and cybermobs.

Let’s take the case of the dentist, Walter Palmer, who admits to shooting a lion with a bow and arrow. Long before he has had his day in a court of law, where it would be determined if he actually violated the law, his personal information was placed on the Internet. He has received death threats; his practice has been harassed and shut down. This has impacted not only Palmer, but his employees, his family, and his patients — none of whom are guilty of any crime. It has gone beyond Palmer. Even different dentists who happen to share the same last name are being harassed and threatened. Other game hunters — who hunted legally — are being harassed.

We’ve seen this happen in numerous other areas. Consider Jared of Subway fame. Claims have been made, and even before they are investigated, there is harassment. This harassment has extended to Subway franchises, who have done nothing other than try to run a business. It is even true in the case of Bill Cosby. I’m not trying to say that Cosby is innocent. But displays of African Art collected by Cosby are being boycotted — this doesn’t benefit Cosby at all, and financially hurts the art institution that was viewing the items as art.

Growing up, we all read books like The Ox-Bow Incident, where we learned about the dangers of vigilante or mob justice. We work to teach our children that cyberbullying is wrong. Yet on the Internet, we participate in it. There are people who troll comment forums, attacking anyone who expresses an opinion they disagree with. There are people who dox other people, disclosing home addresses and phone numbers to permit personal harassment and threats and expansion to family members. There are people that organizes attacks on businesses they do not like. There are people that go undercover and illegally film events, to disclose identities that put people at risk. These people are all, essentially, taking the law into their own hands.

I’m not trying to argue that Cosby’s actions, or Palmer’s actions or whomever’s actions are right. I’m saying that the Internet is not the place to try them. They need to be judged in a court of law, against the laws that are on the books, not someone’s personal moral code. If you don’t like the law, get the lawmakers to change the law. But we are a civilized society, and we do not take the law into our own hands. That means no trials in the court of public opinion, no sharing of rumors and heresay on the Internet, no doxing, no online harassment, no trolling, no cyberbullying. We — as a society — are better than that.

I shall now climb off my soapbox. That feels better.

P.S. If you are kid / teen facing a cyberbully, here’s some good advice on what to do.