Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Sorry, no comments (10:39AM)

Comment spam is overrunning the blog and I've had to shut comments off. My apologies.

Obviously, I'm far overdue for upgrading this blog to new software that isn't so inviting to spammers. I don't post that often and may not bother--but if I decide to start a new blog on a less spam-ridden platform, I'll post a note here. (Assuming I wind up needing to change my domain or something.)

:: Comments left behind ::

Thursday, November 7, 2013


So, I'm thinking with half my brain (10:06AM)

If you lean back and squint just right, recent developments in society worldwide almost seem to form a pattern.

It's like--the human race is splitting into two different species. Homo mos maiorum is linear, cautious, and has their mind fixed on what they might find for dinner. Much as our species (and others) have been throughout the millennia. They seem--not so much unwilling as unable to grasp change in their environment. (I'm not talking about painting the living room blue--I'm talking social events and cultural shifts.)

Large-scale changes in their environment freak them out disproportionately. They have their place in the world and are only comfortable when that place and the other places that help to define theirs, remain constant. They know their role, they know what's expected of them, and they have a fundamental understanding of how to get to their goals. They resent being made to think about these things--and are certainly not prepared to rethink them every couple of years--or every few months. More then resenting it, they seem to lack the perceptual framework that allows them to change.

This could be set off against, for want of a better phrase, Homo ad astra who not only accept change but welcome it--finds it invigorating and exciting and is always willing to try to adapt and look for new possibilities. When society undergoes a sea-change around them, they find it interesting, not threatening. These are the people who agitate for change when they think they perceive a change that could be for the better. (Admittedly, they don't always think that deeply. They have the insatiable curiosity of the elephant's child and are generally willing to try something and discard it five minutes later if it doesn't turn out to be an improvement.)

It's not an age thing. I'm elderly (okay, maybe not, but I just had a birthday and I have wrinkles in my neck!), let's say, "not young any more," and I'm certainly not adverse to change. I know people ten or fifteen years younger than I am who are still freaking out about not living in the world their grandparents knew.

Is it a class split? I know people who come from families of comparative wealth who are Homo mos maiorum not because they are worried about finding dinner but because abundance in their youth sheltered them from the necessity of learning to adapt or, indeed, spared them any sense of what it might mean to struggle.* They're simply not prepared for change because they were raised with the kind of day-after-day stability that wealth can provide.

I don't think wealth is a factor, though. At the other end of the social spectrum are the Have-nothings who cling just as tightly to "how things are" for fear that any change will cause them to lose what little security (whether it's social, mental, or economic) they already have.** More than that, they think they understand their place in the world and (whether or not they like that place) can't deal with the idea of that "place" changing.

It's not education. I know people with and without higher education, I've known people who struggled and failed to get through the basic K-12 education the US offers, and all of these groups contain both Homo mos maiorum and Homo ad astra types.

Is it a personality split? Maybe those who are "people-people" are much less comfortable with change--maybe because their "people skills" are founded on their perception of a class/social role structure that is, these days, always in flux? But, no. Because not all of my people-person acquaintances are that way. Some of them adopt change with enthusiasm--treating it as a new way to connect with other people.

It's not a leader-follower thing. I'm not a leader, not by any stretch of the imagination. I'm also not a follower. (That is, I don't follow if someone isn't leading somewhere I want to be.) But I'm--adaptable, when it comes to social/environmental change. So, it's not that Homo ad astra are leaders and Homo mos maiorum are followers. The leader/not leader quality is independent of the two types. We all know that, across society, there are "leaders" who are trying to "lead" people backwards to some idealized version of yesterday. Or at least to "lead" people into freezing the world today until they've all had a chance to get comfortable with it all.***

Meanwhile, today's Homo ad astra are impatiently shaking off tradition and custom, rolling their eyes at the limitations of the past, and trying on new possibilities with the enthusiasm of a kid in a costume store.

Is the divide--the chasm between these two long-standing populations really getting deeper or is the pace of change in contemporary society becoming so fast that these differences are simply highlighted more than ever before?

I have no answers. I'm just avoiding productive work at the moment. And I probably should have read back through this more thoroughly before making it public, but I console myself with the realization that one one reads entries on a long-dormant blog.


________________

* Some of these scions of wealthy families cannot use email. They are not comfortable with technology and are essentially computer-illiterate.

**Maybe it's perceptual. My perception, I mean. Because you couldn't have much less than these Ethiopian children and their families (and here), but something brand-new and unexplored came to them as a fascinating game, not a thing to fear. In fact, they were fearless.

*** My mind keeps floating to the image of the people who settled the planet's frontiers. There's a section of US society these days who like to compare themselves to those "pioneers" and who, in some cases, use pioneer life & society as the measure of how we should be living today.^ (Indoor plumbing aside, one presumes.) This amuses me--because it's inevitably Homo mos maiorum holding the pioneers up as role models for society--but any thought at all will tell you that those pioneers had to be Homo ad astra.

^ (Seriously? Is that what it takes? 200-300 years, and then Homo mos maiorum is ready to accept that where Homo ad astra went was a good place to be?)

:: Comments left behind ::

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Listen To the Generals (04:04PM)

Generals: Get real and cut Pentagon spending

Too often, the Pentagon spending debate is ensnared in the outmoded ideology of past wars and driven by legions of lobbyists for parochial interests in the military-industrial complex.

America's power is more than a massive force structure and numbers of ships, tanks and planes. A national security strategy must be based on current and future threats, not past war doctrines.

In 2008, a National Intelligence Estimate declared the economic crisis, not terrorism, as the greatest threat to national security. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullin, along with other senior military leaders, endorsed that assessment.

The bottom line? An ever-increase stockpile of nukes or yet another super-expensive jet fighter are not what we need and not what the military wants.


:: Comments left behind ::

Monday, October 8, 2012


Don't Reform What Ain't Broken (09:47AM)

My current topic of rant is "reform" math which, no matter what I read about it, convinces me that we're currently raising the worst-educated generation of kids in US history.

See this CBS article or even, this American Thinker" article for info. (The political 'tude in the second one is absurd, of course. There is no 'Progressive' or radical left-wing plot to keep kids from learning.) I can't think highly of any system of teaching math that doesn't teach a kid what 10 - 7 =.

Maybe it's rote to memorize multiplication tables, but it's not terminally boring, and no one ever died of having to learn long division.

Also, calculators in second grade? I guess a child is never too young to learn they don't need to use their own brain for anything, are they?*

Okay--I won't go on. I'll just say that I'm glad I'm childless and don't have to worry about any offspring of mine being educated into stupidity.

Ever since I heard about this "reform math, I've been thinking about The Feeling of Power, a thought-provoking short story by Isaac Asimov (found a link here) that suggests we're not smart enough to use math wisely anyhow.

:: Comments left behind ::

the problem with education is the fear of segregation by intellect, the segregation would leave a disproportionate number of minnorities in the slower clases and though that would be the case it has to be done in the interest of all, all the recent 30 year studies have clearly shown that blacks are 20 iq points behind caucasians, latinos are some 10 iq points behind, accept fact for fact and move on in life, the forced depreciation of education of those more capable because of the asquied notion that somehow we have to make every one equal to another when in reality what is doing is commiting crimes against those that are being cheated out on their right to a quality of education

:: chris October 19, 2012 07:36 PM

On the contrary, recent studies have not (necessarily) shown that non-Caucasians are 'naturally' more intelligent. Reputable studies have shown that there are biases built in to IQ tests--and those biases penalize nonwhite individuals.

Moving past that fallacy, I agree that, in the US, there is a pronounced anti-intellectual bias; a tendency to assume that, since intelligence can't be legislated into a democratic average for all, that superior intellect is suspect and probably dangerous. This bias has been introduced into our society by the Right, who have demonstrated a significant pattern, in the last 30 years, of screaming about the danger of electing people smarter than ourselves to political office. (To be fair, the current crop of Republicans didn't invent anti-intellectualism, but they've certainly institutionalized it.)

:: Anne October 20, 2012 08:41 AM

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


In Passing (12:40PM)

Personally, I think that if your marriage stands or falls based on whether or not two other people are allowed to get married? The problem is in your marriage, not theirs.

:: Comments left behind ::

It's not about the vulnerability of a marriage itself, but about the vulnerability of the category "marriage" -- and I know I shouldn't be defending them, but the way you put the question actually clarified something for me -- from what seems to them an overbroad definition. It's a bit like the powerful defensive reaction I have towards Jews for Jesus, or the "are Mormons Christians" question.

That said, I don't see any benefit in trying to legislate restrictions on "Messianic Jews" calling themselves Jewish or taking away Mormon tax exemptions... in fact, I see quite a bit of harm in trying to define these things and restrict them officially. Cognitive dissonance and linguistic chaos are historical realities, often signs of important change.

:: Ahistoricality May 8, 2012 08:58 PM

Sometimes when you read something, it does clarify your own thoughts, yes. I'm glad you had that experience yourself.

As far as your post goes--you're now seeing "marriage" is a category of thing, just as a religion is?

A category of thing--a sort of club that some people feel possessive about and entitled to not only lay claim to but define the rules for and dictate membership in.

What appeared to be just irrational homophobia makes more sense that way, yes.

Sad to say, it doesn't make the objectors sound any more intelligent or mature.

I've belonged to a number of "clubs" in my life--when you define a "club" as a category of activity or lifestyle that you have chosen for yourself. These clubs all evolved over time and not always into something I necessarily approved of. At that point, I had the choice of staying or going.

Regardless of which I chose, I can say that I never made a public move* to block anyone else's access to a club just because they had different beliefs about it than I did.

I mean, that's the sort of thing you'd do when you were eight.

Adults should be a bit more sensible about accepting that life contains many paths and many of us are not sharing the same ones.

____________

* Okay, aside from some bitching and moaning, but that's just me. Mostly I just like to complain about almost anything.

:: Anne May 9, 2012 05:07 PM

Marriage is a lot of things: it's a legal status, an emotional and social relationship, a stage of life (for some people, multiple stages of life), a financial entanglement, a sacramental ritual, a sexual relationship and/or a limitation on sexual relationships.

This is why talking about it is so damned complicated: in any conversation of two or more people, odds are there are several different definitions of marriage at work. And they aren't entirely separate things, either....

But to get back to my main point.... for adherents of the patriarchal family/sex model (I hate to call them "conservatives" or "traditionalists" when neither is really true), there are about three categories of sex acts: sanctioned marital relations; relations that could be sanctioned by marriage, but without sanction; abominations. Same-sex marriage is a huge paradigm shift for people who can't even concieve of legitimating unsanctioned but sanctionable relations.

:: Ahistoricality May 9, 2012 08:27 PM

Yes, this topic is unbelievable tangled. Semantically, the word "marriage" means so many different things, depending on what mouth it's coming out of.

As a liberal, my instinct is to think (which I have done) and then to err on the side of inclusion if in doubt.

At the same time, thanks to this conversation, I can now empathize with the emotional conflict that the "my marriage or no marriage" crowd must be feeling. Any sea-change in what "marriage" includes will require them to redefine their emotional territory, a very tough thing for most of us to do under the best of circumstances.

Also at the same time, I stand by my original post.

It's hard and it hurts, yes, and it's a change individually and for society as a whole, so turmoil on all sides, but making this step--growing in this way--is the right thing to do.

:: Anne May 10, 2012 11:13 AM

Friday, September 30, 2011


Do You Know Peter? (11:01AM)

Reading The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study made me regret that "fashions" in business-think mean this valuable insight is much less familiar to today's workforce than it was to my young one.

This analysis--combining ecology, game theory, and computer science--is a way of looking at the Principle that I don't think was possible thirty or forty years ago. Fascinating.

A lot of scattered thoughts--going nowhere in particular with any of them.

Although the article does a good job of summing up the principle in the Abstract, let me add my own definition: "In traditional corporate structure, any highly competent employee will be promoted into failure."

The part that I'm thinking about today--I never quite looked at it like this before--is the underlying corporate perception that someone who is a good worker will be good at any job. That people who are "good" at something are just, you know, naturally good at things.

It's a very Liberal Arts approach, isn't it?

Hard science says that a molecular biologist--even a brilliant one--is not qualified to work as a nuclear physicist. The Liberal Arts say, "you can do anything if you know how to think."

University business studies programs have always been an attempt to take the Liberal Arts "if think-then do" approach and apply it to a specific set of situations--the corporate world.

This has been good for business and for labor in a number of ways, not the least of which has been the ability of workers to shift or outright change job responsibilities from one company to the next. If you were "good" at your last job, you're more likely to be "good" at this one. This approach has also allowed businesses to widen the pool of candidates for each job opening--and the wider the selection, the more likely they were to find the "perfect" candidate.

In a world where work is becoming increasingly specialized--but where the labor force is becoming increasingly unwilling to be pigeon-holed and filed into categories--how is this going to shake out?

It may become irrelevant--traditional corporate structures could be dying out.

The entrepreneurial push--the drive for all of us, no matter how unfit*, to "be my own boss" is part of the trend. The fact that many of today's most successful corporations are taking a nontraditional approach to hiring and retaining their labor force is another--flexible hours, remote workplaces, independent projects, etc., are virtually eliminating the traditional career ladder.

Of course, the previous generation (mine and the one before me) are still active and many of these people are the ones running today's companies and corporations. They still have OldThink mindsets, so this Principle is still an active factor in today's business world.

(I know this for a fact because I'm desperately fighting against being promoted out of my own area of competence at the moment.

The company (management consisting largely of Old White Guys) wants me to step up their ladder. I'm not interested in their ladder, or that step. I've been there and it was boring and I was bad at it and I have no interest in seeing the view from that ledge again.)

(Thus, we see that the Peter Principle is not, as the article says, unavoidable. If people refuse to be promoted into failure, then it's avoidable.)

(Sadly, not everyone is as aware of their limitations as I am of mine--but I was less aware of mine twenty or thirty years ago, so maybe I'm being unreasonable.)

I wonder if the next generation will be able to break out of this corporate mold when they're the ones at the top? Are they drinking the kool-aid or are they just biding their time, waiting their turn?

Will we someday see IBM with badminton courts in the middle of the corporate office courtyard and employees working to the job--not the clock--and half their staff logging into today's video-meeting from a park, a coffee shop, or a home office 500 miles away?

Will it be the next generation--or the one after that, or the one after that?

Like I said. Random thoughts. Leading nowhere in particular.


_________________________

* Because I'm cynical and disillusioned, it's my personal guess that 10% or less of the workplace is fit to be their own boss.

Anyone, for instance, who imagines sleeping late every morning, working when their favorite soap opera isn't on or it's too rainy to go golfing, "firing" clients they don't like, and having a lot of free time? Is too clueless to go it alone.

Anyone who, when the boss is out of the office, takes that opportunity to spend three hours chatting with co-workers and anyone who sneaks in four hours of social media updates, personal email and texting, during the average workday--they should not go it alone.

If you don't work when no one is watching you? You'll never make it on your own.

Anyhow. The "American Dream" used to be for people to own a house. Now it's to own their own business. Why can't we dream of world peace, an end to hunger, curing disease, something like that? Sheesh.

:: Comments left behind ::

I cite the Peter Principle frequently enough: it's deeply embedded in the university system, which takes effective teachers and researchers and turns them into managers. Sometimes it works....

But the increasing use of academic day-labor (class-by-class adjunct hires, etc.) means that the Tenure-track faculty -- from which administrators traditionally came -- is shrinking, so it's getting more and more likely that anyone with a pulse will get tagged for administrative duties, and if they show any skill whatsoever, more administrative duties....

:: Ahistoricality September 30, 2011 12:02 PM

Well, according to this new analysis, corporations have a less-disastrous impact on their own productivity if they promote randomly instead of promoting "the best."

Universities might wind up having to hire actual administrators from outside the system--could have an interesting impact.

:: Anne September 30, 2011 01:25 PM

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Long, Little Privacy Rant (11:50AM)

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + - they've all gotten kicked in the teeth recently over the same thing.

Privacy.

Just this week, we found out that LinkedIn had sneaked in permission for themselves to take information from our profiles and use it for their advertising. Many users are leaving in disgust--others are simply fighting their way through the system to the place where they can block the practice.

At the same time, Facebook is getting their tenth (or is it twentieth?) kick in the teeth--this time it's over the issue of harvesting and displaying people's phone numbers.

Notable in the vast majority of the wars over personal privacy in the last year or so is one, simple concept--opt out vs opt in.

Every time a new privacy-violating element is added to these services the companies opt everyone in and it's only thanks to the handful of people who monitor their account settings daily that most of us find out that we need to go and opt out.

I get that websites services are desperate to turn "social media" into a cash cow. There's been so much press and so much hype about how fabulous social media is--how when Brad Putz buys a new vacuum cleaner it will inspire all his friends and relations to rush out and buy the same make and model--that these companies are all starting to believe.

What they don't seem to get is that we refuse to be milked without consent.

Whatever creative way you think your engineers have come up with to monetize your system is fine. Give me the option to opt in to it. Maybe I will and maybe I won't--you have a 50/50 chance.

I promise you, though, that if you opt me in without asking, I will opt out 100% of the time.

Privacy is not, as some seem to think, "just so 20th century."

I'm sure Zuckerberg and others wish it were, but it's not.

Like some politicians, these people make the mistake of thinking that if they wish a thing hard enough, it will become reality, but the ruby slippers only worked in Oz and this is so not Oz.

Privacy is a serious concern for a huge number of people and it becomes a bigger issue every time one of these cases hits the headlines.


*TANSTAAFL, people.*

Now, let me speak to the vast body of users of these "social media" websites.

Nothing's free.

Y'all are sucking down a lot of internet bandwidth. Are you paying your share?

Someone has to pay bills for every website you visit. If you spend a lot of time and use a lot of resources on some site regularly, you should be paying. Information and entertainment cost money--even street performers drop a hat in front of you and ask you to toss something into it. If you're reading the articles or playing games or uploading and watching videos, etc., then you're getting a lot of information and entertainment and you should be willing to pay.

If Facebook is your first stop every day, without fail, you should be willing to pay something for the use you make of the site. If the hundreds of thousands of you sitting in Facebook for ten hours a day were willing to pay a reasonable fee for access to the website & services, maybe the company wouldn't be so desperate to pay the bills that it resorts to what I would characterize as underhanded tricks to harvest private data for ad serving.

If you send and receive 500 Tweets a day, you should be willing to pay for the service. (Also? Shut up already. No one is that interesting.)

Ditto for LinkedIn. A one-off professional listing is one thing but those of you setting up massive numbers of groups, linking to the first 5,000 people you can find, sending out dozens of messages a day, blogging, linking, and loading images, networking across half the user base--how many of you are using the paid version of the program and how many of you are riding for free?

TANSTAAFL - There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Someone's gotta pay the cook. If you don't do it willingly, then you shouldn't be surprised when you find out that he slapped an ad on your back when you weren't paying attention. The cost of your lunch has to be covered, one way or another.

*Privacy*

People in Spain are going to court for the "Right To Be Forgotten" -- to get references to themselves removed from public search databases.

It's a bit of a different issue but maybe not. It's all around how internet information is gathered, indexed, and shared.

The recent trend toward harvesting more personal data about individual people is being driven by both social uses and for advertising to Brad Putz & like-minded friends.

Clearly some people--and some countries--object.

The push toward "real names" online is the same thing. (I believe LinkedIn pioneered that one since it made sense in their venue, although naturally Facebook was right in there.)

We're all to have one name so that all we do online is connected to that one name so that our demographic and advertising profile can be as complete as possible.

Bah.

You know what? I don't really think that a blog post I made when I was nineteen, wherein I admitted to having crazy, drunken sex in a public place, _really_ needs to be connected to my professional business profile ten years later. Nor do I feel that it needs to come up in the SERPS when my daughter idly searches on my name one day just to see what the world says about me.

I don't really think my participation in a serious U2U forum talking about quantum physics really needs to be connected to my silly posts in another forum where I was giggling over some celebrity gossip.

None of those three personas need to be linked to my professional accounts online. None of this is particularly appropriate or necessary data to have linked together

I'm sure both corporations and the government would like us all to live our lives with our full names, our annual incomes, our age brackets, our genders, and our social security numbers tattooed across everything we do but it's not gonna happen.

My right to create a "real name " persona that doesn't intersect with my persona of PutzLuvRH8R and neither of which intersect with my persona of BadMom does no harm.

Contrary to what some people have said, anonymity does not breed contempt and we would not all be more civil if we used "real" names.

Rude people are going to be rude. They'd be rude under any name--real or assumed.

Names do not breed civility. Civilization does.

Society forms social interactions and boundaries.

If you think everyone posting online under an pseudonym is rude, maybe you're just hanging out in really rude spaces?

I hang out in a lot of places all over the internet, and civility is the norm in all those spaces. The names we all post under are our "real" names and the social norms of each space inform and define our behavior.

:: Comments left behind ::

I've thought of a service whereby users could pay $X, and the service would go out and create hundreds of references to the user's name with made-up information so that the information harvesters would get confused.

:: GDad August 12, 2011 05:50 AM

Heh. There's a certain amusement value in that.

But when I stop to think, I decide that adding to the already enormous amount of spam and worthless content on the internet is not an attractive idea.

:: Anne August 12, 2011 07:59 AM

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Gotta share the funny (01:47PM)

The infamous Blackwater corporation (now alias Xe and whatthehell is that when it's at home?), frequently under fire (bad pun) from allegations of drug use, theft, murder, and general misdoing is gettin' itself some ethics.

It's hired John "there's ho's and homo's everywhere!" Ashcroft as it's ethics chief--although the exact euphemism they're using is "subcommittee on governance."

Ashcroft. The man qualified for nothing and appointed to everything. Sheesh.

From Wikipedia:

Political career

In 1972, Ashcroft ran for a Congressional seat in southwest Missouri, narrowly losing the Republican primary to Gene Taylor. After the primary, Missouri Governor Christopher Bond appointed Ashcroft to be state auditor, the office Bond had left when he became governor.

In 1974, Ashcroft was narrowly defeated for election to that post by Jackson County County Executive George W. Lehr, who argued that Ashcroft, who is not an accountant, was unqualified to be the state auditor. Jack Danforth, who was then in his second term as state attorney general, hired. Ashcroft as an assistant Missouri attorney general.

To be fair, he eventually did win an election or two--to be Missouri's Attorney General and then governor and then a senator (until he was edged out by a corpse).

And to be even more fair he did fight crime and boost Missouri's economy. He boosted jobs by increasing the number of law enforcement agencies and keeping companies busy constructing more jails to accommodate the unusually long prison sentences handed out to Missouri's lawbreakers, especially the underage ones.

Obviously I'm cherry-picking his less-attractive initiatives but it wasn't hard to find them.

He's a little bit crazy.

After September 11, 2001, Ashcroft was generally credited as 'architect' of the PATRIOT Act, which established several short cuts to circumvent such traditional and constitutional safeguards as search warrants and judicial oversight of police. Ashcroft authorized secret arrests and detentions, expanded wiretapping, blocked Freedom of Information Act requests, OK'd eavesdropping on defense lawyers and infiltration of political protest groups. He tried to organize a nationwide "tips" line for mail carriers, home repairmen, delivery drivers and others whose occupations bring them in contact with the general public to report suspicious activity. For all this effort, however, Ashcroft had surprisingly few successful prosecutions against terrorists, and the Justice Dept was caught several times playing "shell games" with the numbers. For example, crimes such as writing bad checks or protesters trespassing on a Navy base were listed as "terror convictions", despite having no cited connection to any acts of terrorism.

Possibly a lot crazy:

He has said he was anointed with oil "in the manner of King David" as he took each successive political office in his career. When he became a Senator his father anointed him with Crisco brand cooking oil, and died the next day. Before becoming Attorney General, Ashcroft had Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas do the anointing.

John Ashcroft and the Blackwater Corporation (alias Xe) deserve each other.

:: Comments left behind ::

Thursday, April 28, 2011


My Takeaway (09:10AM)

I read this article, as I read dozens of others in a week, with a ready grain of salt alongside my willingness to be educated.

It's about internet marketing, as you can probably tell from the title of Is Search Dying Ė and Will Your Business Die With It?

First, I should point out that I'm unconcerned with the idea of the entire world going to the "cloud." Amazon's recent data storage misadventure combined with the PlayStation hack where a bazillion users had their data stolen tells me that this rush to cloud living is a bit ahead of itself.*

I don't doubt they'll solve the purely technical problems--data storage and retrieval within the near future but I also don't doubt that human nature will continue to be what it has always been and any encryption one person uses, another person (or their computer) can hack.**

Anyhow. Not to sidetrack myself or anything.

I was reading the article (about computer advances and the ubiquitous "app") when I ran across this paragraph, broken up for convenience of complaining about specific bits:

That day came barely three years later, with the debut of the iPhone and the iOS operating system. Gesture-based manipulation of objects on a touch-sensitive screen was suddenly within the reach of millions of people.

And now I'm full of so much rage and despair I don't know which to address first.

I've never handled or, really, paid any attention to the whole iPhone thing and had no idea what the big deal about it was. Now this paragraph explains that the interface relieved people of the need to just evolve, already by letting them to go back to getting through life by poking stuff with a stick.

Color me underwhelmed by humanity's progress.

Many of these had never used a personal computer, or had tried and failed to use a keyboard- and-mouse-controlled PC, lacking the time or aptitude to learn.

The idea that a mouse is too hard--that just oodles and oodles of people lack the aptitude to put their hand on what's essentially a rolling rock and move it to move a little symbol on a screen is manifestly absurd.

Even stupid. Anyone too stupid to move a mouse is going to be too stupid--excuse me--lack the "aptitude"--to learn how waving their arms around accomplishes the same thing.***

Even the real-world metaphor of the file folder is prohibitively difficult for most people to grasp. What is a file, anyway? How can a file be so many different things Ė a photo, a song or a book?

Now the author is reaching. I've never met anyone for whom the "metaphor" of a "file" was "prohibitively" difficult to grasp. If nomenclature had been this big of a problem, they'd have started calling files something else in the last 20 years.

And why do I need to navigate through folders to tuck my document in a safe place Ė one that Iím forced to remember or face the possibility Iíll lose it forever?

If you're that stupid, you deserve to lose it.

Anyhow. The rest of the article was really good but this one paragraph left me in despair over the future of our species.

It's possible I haven't had enough coffee.


_________

* That might sound absurd coming from someone who needs only a laptop and a handy internet connection to do 99.9% of her job, but still.

___________


** Cloud data simply isn't secure. The password protected file on your home PC is a more secure environment for your confidential data.

This is not because the security measures taken for cloud data aren't massive, because they are. It's because any time you put a million people's financial information in one spot, that spot becomes a huge target for hackers.

Breaking in to your home PC might give a hacker a single bit of negotiable information. There's a very good chance you'll notice the problem immediately and a 98% chance you'll take instant steps to change passwords and alert financial organizations that your data was stolen. That's because it's personal--they broke into your house-computer.

Breaking into PlayStation gives them data for millions of people and, unlike your personal PC, it's an impersonal crime. It didn't happen at your house--the break-in happened elsewhere. I'll bet only about half the people potentially affected bothered to take any steps to protect themselves after the news was released. It's--remote and consequently less "real" if it happens somewhere else.

_________


*** Unless they sneeze, in which case they'll find they accidentally purchased three dishwashers, ten cases of dog food, and a subscription to Little Movements Mean Big Profits Monthly, all of which have already shipped by the time they finish blowing their nose.

:: Comments left behind ::

I'm constantly amazed at the low opinion we have of each other. Then I remember who we're talking about.

:: Ahistoricality April 28, 2011 11:05 AM

Sunday, April 10, 2011


If I Had It To Do Over Again (10:39AM)

*
The corporate personhood debate refers to the controversy (primarily in the United States) over the question of what subset of rights afforded under the law to natural persons should also be afforded to corporations as legal persons.

Wikipedia

As a matter of interpretation of the word "person" in the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. courts have extended certain constitutional protections to corporations. Opponents of corporate personhood seek to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit these rights to those provided by state law and state constitutions.[4]

The relevant Amendment opens this way:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

Are corporations "born"? Are they capable of being "naturalized"?

No, and no. Semantic fancy-dancing aside, a corporation is an artificial legal construct without independent life or purpose. It is a legal fiction that exists to permit actual "persons" to work together toward a common end.**

A quick review of judicial and expert opinion of the "personhood" of corporations and the intent of the Supreme Court at that time to declare corporations as "people" entitled to equal protection under the law--any reading done before the relatively recent and highly militant defense of corporations by the Right--shows that any no such decision was made. The Supreme Court specifically avoided ruling on the question.

Others argue that corporations should have the protection of the U.S. Constitution, pointing out that they are organizations of people, and that these people shouldn't be deprived of their human rights when they join with others to act collectively

A certain cognitive dissonance results if you contemplate this statement in the context of recent rightwing demands to limit the rights of actual people to join with others and act collectively, doesn't it? People acting "collectively" are persons if they're working for someone else's benefit (the CEO, Board of Directors, shareholders, etc.) but evil if they're working for their own good (labor unions).

I'm losing sight of the point of this rant, aren't I?

My point is that corporations are not equal "persons" under the law and should not be treated as such. A corporation does not need and is not entitled to the same rights as a human being. This tendency toward believing otherwise is ominous. It's how citizens become "consumers," even to their elected officials. It's how human beings become "units," and how a society becomes a set of emotionless "demographics" to be measured and manipulated.

What we should have done ("we" as a country, I mean) was to declare that corporations were something other than persons--nothing wrong with the very descriptive and accurate "entities" as an identifier--having only those limited rights specifically granted, those rights not to include political activity, or financial or other support for any primarily political organization.

I'm making stew (Literally, I mean. Chopping veggies and putting them in a pot.) and I've interrupted myself so often that I lost sight of my original point.

I'm pretty sure it had something to do with this country's original interpretation of what kind of "person" was a citizen entitled to full rights and liberties (i.e., white men) being repurposed today to encompass only corporations--the bigger the better (largely run by and for the benefit of white men). Racism reborn as personism or something.***

I foresee a day when the rest of us are relegated to three-fifths status. That's all I'm saying. If you take the broad view of the situation over the last 30 years or so, there's a definite pattern.


________________

* I mean, okay, I didn't do it the first time, but you know what I mean. (I never let reality get in the way of a good post title.)

** Okay, not so much in today's rat-race society, but in theory.

*** Anyone thinking I'm taking this country's history of racial discrimination lightly should think again.


:: Comments left behind ::

Wow. Your rant made a sort of sublime sense, even with the stew interruptions.

What kind of stew was it?

:: GDad April 12, 2011 03:17 PM

It's hard to rant when you have a life to live. :)

Beef stew. A very simple recipe from my mother. Inexpensive, filling and very tasty.

Thanks for the kinds words!

:: Anne April 12, 2011 03:42 PM

Friday, March 18, 2011


Made Me Think (02:39PM)
Iíve dispatched Hillary to the Middle East to talk about how these countries can transition to new leaders ó though, Iíve got to be honest, sheís gotten a little passionate about the subject. These past few weeks itís been tough falling asleep with Hillary out there on Pennsylvania Avenue shouting, throwing rocks at the window.

President Obama, during a stand-up comedy act last week, making light of Hillary Clintonís strong feelings for supporting the opposition in the Middle East protests.

(From http://officialssay.tumblr.com/)

I'm not mocking President Obama - I'm sure it was a good joke and a funny moment.

It's just that this got me wondering how a President Hilary Clinton might have reacted to recent events?

:: Comments left behind ::

It's hard to gauge these things: Clinton as SecState may not be the same person as Pres. Clinton would have been. She has the liberty of a limited portfolio. Also, apparently, lacks the discipline to keep her differences with the boss to herself, and lacks the courage to risk her job and come out publicly in favor of a different position. Or maybe she did, and I missed it.

Since a lot of Obama admin staff are former Clinton people, I don't know how different a Clinton administration would have been, in terms of day-to-day decisions. Bill Clinton certainly was no great shakes at the democracy promotion things.

:: Ahistoricality March 18, 2011 04:47 PM

That was what I was thinking--that last bit. Bill was no great shakes at it, but maybe Hillary has different views?

FWIW, I was aware that she was more interventionist than many others in the gov't over the past couple of weeks. Haven't read much, but did read a story or two about her views.

:: Anne March 19, 2011 09:31 AM

"Also, apparently, lacks the discipline to keep her differences with the boss to herself, and lacks the courage to risk her job and come out publicly in favor of a different position. "
Oh, goody, more sexist crap and another round of "Bash The Bitch." Imagine if people had to back up their claims about Hillary. They'd probably talk a lot less, don't you think.

:: Maria Solis Diaz March 23, 2011 04:25 PM

Thursday, March 17, 2011


TNSTAAFL (12:25PM)

Finally caved in and got back onto FB. I refuse to give them my cell # so they can text me, but when they offered the option of an automated call, I used my work line for the verification. (Hah! When they sell these lists, I will not be spammed with sales calls.)

It drives me absolutely batshitcrazy how people don't understand that these sites are invading your privacy with all this stuff. There is, in fact, absolutely NO reason FB needs to verify that everyone with an account is a real, individual, human being. They're only doing it to create a cleaner list to sell to advertisers.

I'm not unreasonable and I know things have to be paid for. I'd accept the option of paying for access with the understanding that none of my personal information would ever, under any circumstances, be published or sold to advertisers.

(I'd actually decided, quite happily and easily decided, never to return to FB several months ago but then two long-ago friends I really wanted to be in touch with sent me 'invitations' to connect and since I couldn't find them online any other way, I had to either let them think I was ignoring them or cave in to FB's phone number demand. I hate being blackmailed.)

After logging in with the stealth phone number, I double-checked all the privacy settings I could find to make sure there's as little info about me as possible on the site. Where I work or where I went to school or what my hobbies are is none of their business. My friends know those things.

I understand that the NYTimes is going to start charging for access to content for heavy users (>20 articles/week). I think that's fair--producing the news does cost money, after all. I'd sign up if they offered a version of their pages that had fewer ads. Nothing blinking or flashing or chasing me around the page. They'd also have to stop cramming ads into the middle of stories. I'd want to be able to read the stories.

I do understand that sites have to be paid for, but I'd so much rather be offered the option of paying my share myself and be able to avoid being beaten into stupidity by ads.

I am not merely a consumer.

That sometimes seems to me to be the biggest difference between the Right and the Left. To the Right, the population of this country is a pool of consumers*, some of whom are insufficiently docile in the voting booth but they're gonna fix that by decimating labor rights.

__________

* No one can deny that after our own big disaster on 9/11, instead of being asked to pull together as a country and rebuild better than ever, Bonehead asked us all to go shopping. That was the only thing he and his cronies thought millions of concerned citizens had to offer. Consumerism.

That is, I should also point out, the biggest problem with treating corporations as 'persons.' It's all too easy to lose sight of the differences between an artificial construct with a limited function and an actual human being. People do, in fact, matter to this country. Corporations do not, or at least are of infinitely less importance. Drives me nuts when idiots start thinking that people are on the planet for the health and welfare of companies instead of vice-versa.


__________


TNSTAAFL = There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, btw

:: Comments left behind ::

It really gives it away when large corporations advertise that we can follow them on Facepage or Twiddle or whatever.

:: GDad March 22, 2011 08:08 AM

Don't know if my comment saved....

:: GDad March 22, 2011 08:09 AM

Monday, February 21, 2011


The next book I'll read will be this one. (03:39PM)

Gene Sharp: Author of the nonviolent revolution rulebook

His writing has helped millions of people around the world achieve their freedom without violence.

I'm skeptical, but fascinated.

:: Comments left behind ::

ceesombczkvmyxwdwyio, aqjhvkdnmw

:: ynahecjrah February 23, 2011 11:25 AM

Seriously. Get a life.

:: Anne February 23, 2011 01:59 PM

Friday, January 14, 2011


Republican Boondoggle! (04:12PM)

Get this:

Homeland Security chief cancels costly virtual border fence

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday canceled the controversial virtual fence along the U.S. border with Mexico, citing technical problems, cost overruns and schedule delays since its inception in 2005.

The Secure Border Initiative-network, a high-tech surveillance system to reduce border smuggling, so far has cost taxpayers almost $1 billion for two regions in Arizona, covering 53 miles overall on the 2,000-mile border, according to a Homeland Security report.

That's five years, and ONE BILLION DOLLARS for fifty-three of the 2,000 miles.

Bigotry is expensive.

I guess I should be grateful someone finally pulled the plug on that monstrosity but all I can think of is how much good ONE BILLION DOLLARS could have done the economy, if spent wisely over the past five years.

Well, no, that's not all I can think of. I also want to know who got the money.

Later the story talks about those drones they're setting up to start watching us all. I read a few days ago about how someplace in Florida is also planning to implement them over the city.

If I had the time and the energy, I'd be bitter about how fearmongering and paranoia are leading us ever-closer to a totalitarian state and about how bigotry kills liberty, but I don't and anyhow the people who need to be convinced don't hang out around here.


:: Comments left behind ::

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Moderation In All Things (12:49PM)

Just when I'm about to write Brooks off, he goes and says a lot of sensible things.

"Moderation", as he makes clear, is not the same as centrism, weakness, or ineffectualness. What our politics needs is more moderation.

To be moderate--measured and thoughtful--in one's approach to ideas and events does not preclude being passionate about one's beliefs.

Also, shut up already with blaming the Rightwingnuts for Arizona. Stories, even those that came out less than 24 hours after the shootings, make it clear that this young man was mentally ill, and has been for a very long time. As distasteful as I find the Rightwingnut rhetoric*, I have to say that rhetoric didn't make that kid sick. Those of you who jumped into the driver's seat of the Blame Wagon over the weekend should be ashamed.

Sometimes I find myself wondering--if he hadn't fixed on a political target, would he have wound up as another "school shooter"? Who would you have blamed then?

With the stories that have come out in the last 24 hours, it seems to me as though that young man had been crying out for help for a very long time. Why no one helped him get that help--we'll probably never know.




P.S. Others might make a good case of disagreeing with my stance that a sick person is not the fault of someone who never met them.

There's validity in Wright's position. Unless someone points out a specific target to a disturbed person, the disturbed person probably won't focus on that specific target. It does not follow, though, that the disturbed person won't find some other target.




_________________

*Rightwing talk radio isn't a new phenomenon and I've always thought the Lefthand side of the blogosphere had as much or more to do with its rise to prominence as anything else. If you pay attention, how can the Republican Party ignore them? If you take them seriously, why would you not expect the Right to do so?

And, yes, Palin is a fame-hungry ignoramus. So what? Don't feed the animals. You also empower her with your attention and your vitriol. Just ignore her. Trust me, she doesn't have the staying power to be a problem in the long term. The more the Left talks about her, the longer her quasi-political 'life' will last.

:: Comments left behind ::

There's a good argument to be made that his last significant interaction with an institution that could have helped him was his community college, but aside from expulsion - which seems to have been the responsible thing to do (he would more likely have been a VaTech than Columbine shooter at that point) - higher ed just doesn't have the authority or expertise or resources to be a mental health screening clinic to the masses. Though we may have to be, just out of self-defense.

:: Ahistoricality January 12, 2011 02:04 PM

I don't think it's the responsibility of an educational institution to monitor the emotional/psychological health of every student.

On the other hand, I know hindsight is 20-20 but the young man's history shows a strong pattern of early psychological problems that clearly escalated through the years. Based just on the (admittedly cherry-picked) incidents of his life we've been told about, I find myself wondering why no one on the social media forums or even HIS FAMILY helped him get some help.

:: Anne January 13, 2011 12:26 PM

I suspect what we'll find is that he fell just outside of a lot of ambits of responsibility, and was only sporadically problematic until the final, rapid decompensation. Unless he didn't decompensate at all, and this was a rational, if nihilistic, act after all.

:: Ahistoricality January 14, 2011 06:07 PM


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