Facebook 101: When they Say “Like and Share” Probably you Shouldn’t

If you haven’t already figured this out by the thousands of radio stations firing off memes on Facebook, let me spell it out for you. “Likes” are worth money. Here’s the part maybe you didn’t know: Likes can be sold.

My Facebook news feed is clogged with shit like, “LIKE AND SHARE IF YOU DON’T THINK CHILDREN SHOULD BE BEHEADED AND LEFT FOR THE VULTURES.” Or maybe “LITTLE CINDY-LOU IS DYING OF CANCER, LIKE AND SHARE SO SHE CAN SEE SHE IS LOVED ALL OVER THE WORLD. ONLY 2% WILL LIKE AND SHARE. ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?”

It’s always 2%.

Perhaps you say to yourself, “gee, I’m actually kind of against beheading children.” You like and share. Otherwise, you’re implicitly in favor of juvenile decapitation, right?

A few weeks later you get an item in your feed about vacations in Mexico. Not a sponsored item, mind, but a notification from a page you liked. “The heck?” you think to yourself. “I don’t remember liking anything about travel in Mexico.”

And in fact you didn’t. The Travel site bought your like from the child-beheadding page.

Well, to be more exact, they bought the page itself, likes and all, then just switched in their own content. People are making a sound business out of creating pages, getting likes any way possible, then selling the page.

These days, I block almost every item in my Facebook feed thingie that says “like and share”. When you look at the name of the source page, it’s amazing how often page name and content don’t match. Even when they do, I block. Don’t tell me what to like, Chumley, and I share only the good stuff. Which is maybe one thing a month.

1

Starmind: Chapters 3 and 4

It’s not often I find a novel where every damn chapter is worthy of comment. Starmind, by Dave Van Arnam, turns out to be one of those. Not because it’s good, oh no, not all all.

When last we left this little yarn, I was wondering what possible excuse the author could find for medical professionals to even want to try to put the halves of two different people’s brains into one body.

Dr. Brian pretty much says he just wants to see what will happen. There’s a first time for everything, after all.

Yeah, Dr. Brian. The Brain surgeon. I have stopped correcting myself as I read. Nascent writers out there, if for some reason you want to call your guy Dr. Brain, just do it. No need to be coy. (Or better yet, call him Dr. Mtumbo.)

At this time, there are six characters of note. Inside the head, there are two men and one woman (although one of the men is more of an emotive blob). Outside the head, there are also two men and one woman. Both women are attractive, in nonspecific ways. Only one of the men has been described at all.

In chapter three, two of the three men capable of this sort of thought decide it might be kinda cool to have their brains installed in a hot female body. Both women find the idea of being installed in a man’s body to be loathsome. So… 1969.

On the second page of chapter three I laughed more than once. The dialog! Holy crap!

Here’s a choice nugget — the doctor, talking to the reporter:

I will not speculate on any emotional ties that might exist between you and Miss Rost, but it is obvious that your concern runs deeper than I, as a medical researcher and practitioner, dare to take cognizance of.

He better not dare to take cognizance of it! Or this gem three tiresome paragraphs later, as Parker, the reporter, continues his stilted verbal sparring with Dr. Brain Brian:

I am a professional in my own field, as you are in yours, doctor; and in my case it means I know how to research those necessary background facts that make conversations such as this more meaningful than the customary exchange of platitudinous awarenesses of each other’s position.

Both those quotes are parts of much longer paragraphs. Despite this unbearable verbal mass, they do little more than exchange platitudinous awarenesses of each other’s position, along with a heapin’ helpin’ of as-you-know-Bobs. The reporter, for instance, tells the brian brain surgeon that it has been eleven years since the first successful brain transplant.

But I will say this: although there are some horrible moments in the discourse between the characters inside the head, it is way better that the interactions outside the head. At lest so far; the head occupants aren’t to a stage where they can engage in stilted verbal exchanges. Though there are plenty of problems inside the cranium, as well. Jailyn is witness to one of Joe’s sex fantasies, then exercises her will to make it stop. She apparently has none of her own. Sex, it seems, is something men want and women allocate.

There’s a nice twist, though, as the “simple” thoughts of the Idiot Adonis unexpectedly rise from the previously-unmentioned surviving lower parts of his brain and provide an emotional foundation for the two intellects who discover themselves so intimately connected. In the hands of a skilled writer, that might make the premise of a great story. I could picture a one-act play based on that theme.

Alas, we are not in the hands of a skilled writer, my friends. Yet still I read on, finding comedy where none was intended, hoping the pretty nurse kicks her boss of irrelevant appearance in the balls, knowing she won’t. The mystery of “why would anyone do something so stupid” has been answered with a “why not?” and on we go. The next question is: how will the author contrive to expose this odd trio to pseudogravitic multiwaves? And will he manage that before the ridiculous dialog slips from funny to tiresome?

Stay tuned, dear readers, for the answers to these burning questions!

1

A Long Night

Lying in bed, left hand clamped over my eyes, my right arm wrapped around my head to apply pressure so my sinuses don’t blow my face off. Everything hurts. My teeth hurt. Looking forward to the next sneeze, building somewhere in the background, a feeling of squirrels chewing my nasal passages, but when it comes, fifteen seconds of bliss. Or at least reduction in discomfort.

There are no more pills to take. I lie, wheezing, and think, “Maybe whiskey will help…”

Trump and Idiots

I have, on several occasions, said that people who vote for Trump are idiots. Having read the excellent article Why Trump Voters are not Complete Idiots I have been forced to question my stance.

The article, if I may be so bold as to recast, turns the US into a two-story house. The folks on the ground floor get by, the folks upstairs do well. By any measure, I’m living upstairs.

It’s important to note that while money is a big factor in where you think you live, it is not the only factor. Income is only one way one’s value in society is defined. Respect from those around you is another. Upstairs people feel more valued.

There’s no guaranteed pass to the upper floor, but a college education is pretty damn close to one. Go to college, move upstairs. And here’s where the core resentment toward immigrants comes in. It’s not the illegal immigrants coming in on the ground floor that rankle, it’s the legal immigrants, the educated ones, who step right onto the upstairs that piss people off.

It’s not how well you’re doing, it’s how well you’re doing compared to the other guy.

So Liberals and Democrats (not at all the same groups) make two basic promises: 1) we will make living on the ground floor suck less, and 2) we will make it easier for your kids to go upstairs.

But for a man just getting by, with his kids already past “college age”, there’s not a lot of upside there. He remembers when just being a hard-working man doing his job and not bitching too much was enough to feel secure in this country. Maybe he couldn’t get upstairs, but hard work meant something, and he could be confident that his family would be taken care of. For that guy, that was when America was great.

Trump, while not offering anything specific at all, implies that he will restore America to those good old days. But he isn’t offering to make living on the ground floor better, he wants you to believe that he’s changing the rules for who gets to live upstairs. For people who feel stuck downstairs and degraded by assholes like me calling them idiots, maybe it’s time to change the rules.

It gets a little ugly, though, when you consider that during this mythical period when America was great, the upstairs was occupied almost exclusively by white men. So when he talks about going back to the good ol’ days, he’s talking to the working white men whose fortunes have flatlined while all the other demographics in this country have caught up. But he’s making it a white-men-vs-the-world proposition. Sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much.

These folks have heard all the political double-speak before, but there they sit, downstairs, even while brown and yellow college-educated kids skip up to the luxury suites without breaking a sweat. Time to shake things up! Time to value the people who work with their hands, who actually make stuff. So people in the making-stuff group who want to shake things up are not inherently idiots. They are following an agenda that, at least superficially, gives them the better chance to get upstairs. The Democrats are telling them their grandchildren will have a more fair shot at the stairs, but that’s far away.

Blow up the system. When the debris stops falling, who knows who will be on top?

So far, that makes sense. But there’s still the question: Is Trump the guy to do that?

Let’s take another look at those good ol’ days. When a working man could provide for his family and maybe even send his kids to college. Or at least technical school, or a skilled apprenticeship. Those days actually existed, not long ago.

Was it the Republicans, or the white men upstairs that created those conditions? Well, no. Not even remotely. It was the labor unions. The Great America Trump wants us to remember is the America when workers had power. When there was dignity in labor and a comfortable life even while the fat cats upstairs got rich.

So, white men who remember a better past, is Trump really going to return us to those days? Will he restore the power of the unions?

Hell, no.

He couldn’t if he tried, and he’s not going to try. Among the many lawsuits Trump has settled, there are the union-busting ones. He is famous for shitting on the working-class people. Gleeful, even. He is the worst thing that could possibly happen to the working-class joe in this country. He is a spoiled rich man with a long history of disregard for the people he is now asking to put him in the White House.

So, back to my premise: are people idiots for voting for a fundamental change to the system? No. Not if they don’t believe that we are on a path that makes things better for their grandchildren.

But are they idiots for voting for Trump? Yes, absolutely. Trump is one of the people who put them where they are, and he has no intention of changing that. Just ask that man of the people over in Russia.

5

Email Security 101: A Lesson Yet Unlearned

So it looks like the Russians are doing their best to help proudly racist Trump, by stealing (and perhaps altering) emails passed between members of the Democratic National Committee. It seems like the Democratic party preferred the candidate who was actually part of the party over a guy hitching his wagon to the Democrats to use that political machine as long as it was convenient to him.

But that’s not the point of this episode.

The point is this: Had the Democrats taken the time to adopt email encryption, this would not have happened. When the state department emails were hacked, the same criticism applies.

It is possible to:

  1. Render email unreadable by anyone but the intended recipient
  2. Make alteration of emails provably false

But nobody does it! Not even people protecting state secrets. I used to wonder what email breach was going to be the one that made people take email security seriously. I’m starting to think, now, that there is no breach bad enough. Even the people who try to secure email focus on the servers, when it’s the messages that can be easily hardened.

There is no privacy in email. There is no security in email. But there could be. Google could be the white hat in this scenario, but they don’t want widespread email encryption because they make money reading your email.

Currently only the bad guys encrypt their emails, because the good guys seem to be too fucking stupid.

I Agree with the Republicans about One Thing

At the convention the delegates on the floor are getting all frothed up. One of the signs they’ve been given to wave around reads, “We deserve better.”

Yes you do, Republicans. You deserve better. But you hitched your wagon to a racist xenophobe child-king and now we have to embarrass your whole party as monumentally as possible to make sure you grow the backbone to not be railroaded again.

1

The RNC Drinking Game

trump_1868826aMy cousin, over in Facebook-land, has been soliciting ideas for drinking games for the Republican National Convention. It’s going to drive you to drink anyway, why not make a game of it?

The major political conventions have been reduced to noise and flashing lights anyway, since the conclusion is foregone. In smoky rooms where cameras never reach, actual policy decisions might be made, planks laid for the coming campaign and whatnot, but those meetings hardly need the hoopla of the convention. It is, really, just an extended political ad that the major networks offer up for free.

The Establishment will now do pretzel contortions to pretend they liked Trump all along. But they didn’t like him then, and they don’t like him now. A large chunk of the party just wants to punt this one over to Hillary and try to take it back in four years. There will be agonizing moments of discomfort durning the RNC.

So, the drinking. I figure there are a couple of easy categories, and one tricky one.

Things People Say
These don’t have to be an exact match, it’s the spirit that counts.
“Donald Trump is a savvy businessman.”
“Donald Trump cares about America.”
“Make America Great Again!” (if you accept this one, you will get hammered).
“Donald Trump undertands
Untruths that can be verified within thirty seconds.
“The beautiful city of Cleveland”
“The great state of Cleveland” — With Trump, it’s possible. You know it is. 10 drinks.
Any attempt to use Cleveland’s NBA championship to generate excitement.

Images
Weeping male zealot (1 drink)
Weeping female zealot (3 drinks)
Big crowd shot with all the signs pumping to insipid piped-in music
Trump, with his hand raised in a gesture that might not be Hitler but is definitely in Mussolini territory
A black person. (1 drink)
The same black person (2 drinks)
The same black person another time (Ok, there will be four black people there, and the cameras will be hungry for them. Your call whether to go linear or exponential here.)
Beauty shot of Cleveland from the air.

Tongue-Biting
One of the greatest travesties of this election is otherwise-rational people will be backing Trump out of misguided party loyalty. Moments when those people are captured by the cameras will be the most precious of all.
Party leaders golf-clapping.
Top Republicans forcing smiles only made possible by the intake of copious cocaine.
Conventioneers wearing Hillary buttons.
Mentions that if Trump doesn’t win in one round, delegates are free to back other candidates.
“I’m not saying Trump is [racist/sexist/stupid/unethical]…”
Referring to his campaign as unorthodox.

Things you will die if you include
“The great state of…”
“The next president…”

If the list gets too long, the game gets too complicated (and dangerous). It might be too long already. Still in the spirit of the convention, I’d like to open the floor to proposals for other planks in the game platform. Comments left here at the blog will live on long after Facebook comments are lost in noise, so I encourage the conversation to take place here.

5

Complete the Analogy:

The 1970’s are to food as ___________ is to ____________.

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Exhibit A: a dish made from hot dogs, published by Weight Watchers. Remember, this is the decade during which anything could be put in green jello.

But I DO Blame You

In a few months the “Don’t blame me, I voted for Trump” bumper stickers will start appearing. The implication is that a Democrat is in the White House despite the efforts of the Trump faithful. Well guess what, Sunshine: you and all your pals who endorsed the clown-car politics of the Republican party are entirely to blame for the coming election outcome. You nominated a toddler to be President of the Unites States; what did you expect?

In the process, you robbed the electorate of any sort of grown-up conversation about the future of our nation (outside the debate among the Democrats), and utterly silenced the rational conservative voices who have valuable contributions to make regarding the governance of our nation. You put Trump in the election and you not only screwed your party, you screwed the United States.

Ok, I have to grant that “Republican” and “conservative” have nothing to do with each other any longer, but wow. The only people who want Trump to be president are stupid people. I’m going to say that a second time, to give you a chance to reflect on the Buddha-like wisdom: The only people who want Trump to be president are stupid people. Intelligent conservatives are wondering where they can go to be heard. Intelligent middle-of-the-road folks have had their minds made up for them.

Trump voter, you have kicked your own party in the balls. And while it might have seemed fun at the time, you have left yourself with no voice. You’re an idiot, Trump voter, so you losing your voice doesn’t bother me much, but you also robbed the rest of us of a chance to hear a clear conservative argument in what promises to be a watershed election.

I do blame you, Trump voter. This is your fault.

2

A Slow Ride

As I passed through Campbell park today, I wondered which was more depressing: that I was only halfway through my morning ride, or only a quarter of the way through my riding for the day. I seem to have misplaced a lung somewhere.

I bet it’s tire pressure. Yeah, that’s it. I got lazy and didn’t check it this morning.

On the other hand, I’m really glad I rode. It would only be worse if I waited until Monday. Next week: 90 miles! I can do it! (If I go slowly enough, that is…)

2

The Class Action Channel

Sometime back in the dark ages a friend came back from Japan and said, “They have a TV channel there that is only advertising! People tune in just to watch ads!”

I was befuddled. In the United States, that tradition was, back then, reserved for the Super Bowl. (Hm… maybe not even then. This was before 1984.)

Now of course we have QVC, an enormously successful company that has television channels devoted simply to advertising. And people watch.

But that’s product advertising. Unscientifically, I think half the ads I blip past fall into two categories: new medical therapies (mostly drugs), and law firms suing companies for the side effects of the new medical therapies.

With all those dollars being spent, and the country getting older and frankly more cranky, doesn’t it make sense to have the Class Action Channel? “Call in the next fifteen minutes to get in on the ground floor of this major lawsuit! Lyon and Lyin’ have a proven history of corporate blackmail, but you only benefit if you sign up before the settlement. And for the next five minutes we’ll add a bonus Lyon and Lyin’ mouse pad, even if you’re not qualified for the settlement!”

It’s gonna happen.

So close…

About to purge the last of the Windows from the house, and say goodbye to the flimsy crap Asus laptop. The last task: getting it to talk on the network so we can move everything over.

It worked on the network two days ago. It has all sorts of other problems, far too many to enumerate here, but at least we were able to move files.

Now, not so much. Along with this happy message:

A problem is preventing the troubleshooter from starting.

Yay Microsoft!

Whither the Sports Columnist?

ESPN.com has completely gone to hell; si.com’s not much better. Grantland has ceased to be. Where does one go to read sports journalism any more? Does it even exist?

What’s In A Name?

This morning I rode my bike to work for the first time in a good long while. To commemorate the event, I thought I’d give the ride a special name in Strava, one of the apps* I use to track my pedaling. The default name for rides in the morning is, remarkably, “Morning Ride”, but this seemed more significant than that. As I rode through the graveyard, appreciating only peripherally the mist clinging to the ground as I huffed along rather slowly, I thought “Back in the Saddle” might be a good title.

By the time I was pulling my sorry ass up Willow, I had changed my tune a bit. “It’s like starting over,” I hummed, as it seemed I was in no better shape than I had been when I first bought the bike. Somewhere along Los Gatos Creek Trail the title changed again, to “Holy Crap”, and a few miles later on Prospect it was “Oh God Oh God it hurts make it stop.”

By the time I turned onto the benign stretch of Miller Ave. heading north, the name had been simplified to a nice concise “F***”. (I figured Strava wasn’t a place to go saying things like “fuck” where just anyone might see it.)

And now, were you to go to Strava and look me up, you would see my effort this morning is called “Morning Ride.”

—————————
*Yes, one of the apps. It’s a long story, the rough draft of which is already in the system.

1

Up… for now

Techno-troubles here at Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas! The faithful little computer that has been serving up this site for the past years is not healthy right now. I didn’t realize how important this damg blog is to me until it stopped working. Just when I was getting some momentum, too.

I’m looking for the best answer now (MacMiniColo.net has a pretty spectacular special running right now), But in the meantime it’s proving tough to keep this thing up. So, sorry in advance for outages.