MeWe Exposes Our Hypocrisy @Facebook #MeWe #Facebook

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Don’t worry. This isn’t as heavy-handed a moral lecture as the title makes it sound.

MeWe keeps coming up in my social media feeds. Everyone is asking whether it’s a good platform. Here’s my take on it. MeWe is an attempt to remove the privacy concerns of Facebook, and they absolutely succeed as far as I can tell. However, that’s actually the problem with MeWe. This is a tough pill to swallow, but the truth is that I, and probably many of you, don’t actually want the level of privacy that we demand from Facebook, at least not initially.

One of Facebook’s strengths was allowing us to reconnect with former friends and acquaintances. The privacy protections of MeWe prevent me from doing that. The last I checked, I couldn’t find my friends unless I already had their email addresses. That’s quite an impediment to connecting with lost friends, in which case, what’s the point of MeWe?

But that brings us back to the our own issues. We criticize Facebook’s lack of privacy, but the level of privacy we demand from Facebook would have prevented Facebook from generating its current value to us. I think we are again missing the big picture. The only reason we’re in a position to make such demands from Facebook is because we’ve already used their lack of protections for years to accomplish what we’ve wanted. That is, because we already have found our old friends on Facebook, now we want them to secure the platform. Though there are far greater sins, that’s a bit hypocritical, but the point is this: For new competitors without those existing connections, it’s nearly impossible form them to enter the market, so we’re stuck with Facebook unless we change.

As a result, I have a MeWe account but have no idea what to do with it.

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I’m a Terrible Driver, and So Are You #car #drive #singularity #AI

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Returning now to my recent car purchase, I’ve learned just how bad of a driver I am. I always knew how bad a parker I was, but now I realize that my cruising practices are pretty bad too. The car is fully loaded, which includes all the safety features: blind side detection, intelligent cruise control, lane assist, auto-break, etc. Every time I do something stupid, the car lowers the volume on my music and beeps at me. For the first couple of weeks, that happened a lot. It’s not happening nearly as much now, but damn if the car hasn’t taught me to drive. I still can’t park, but it’s okay, because my self-awareness on that had me heavily relying on the parking features from the moment I bought the car.

I also know that you suck too. That’s right; all of you. My experiences have made me far more aware of my surroundings even when they don’t impact me directly, and it seems like everyone weaves over the lines as they drive. I can tell when other cars have intelligent cruise control because they maintain the same two-second rule. What happened to the three-second rule? That’s for silly humans. When the car is driving, it needs only two seconds. It’s better than you.

Terminator will return in 2019 with the help of James Cameron - The Verge
Gratuitous nerdity for your viewing pleasure.

The singularity is here, and it’s a good thing.

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Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb @Netflix #Saqqara #archaeology

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Netflix suggested Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb to me. Based on the tagline, it seemed like a documentary, but with all the science fiction Netflix has been sending my way, I assumed it was a supernatural thriller. Either way, I was interested. I’m a sucker for ancient mythology and the cultures that create it, so I’ll legitimately enjoy movies of that sort even if the rest of you don’t. But this is a documentary about a real find. Archaeologists found the tomb of Wahtye, an official of the 5th century Egyptian dynasty.

Clocking in at two hours, it deals with both the real world (e.g., archaeology, budget constraints) and the mythological world (i.e., they find a temple to Bastet/Sekhmet). I don’t think it’s for everyone, but it was right up my alley.

It still could have used an animated mummy. As always, YMMV.

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Don’t Forget to Take Your #Vacation

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This week I’m taking Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off from work. The pandemic eliminates most vacation spots of interest to me, so it’s going to be a staycation. Sadly, I have missions to complete — I got my passport renewed today, am having my annual eye appointment, etc. — but for the most part am just relaxing. As someone who used to never use my vacation hours, I can assure you that this is important, even if I’m not going anywhere.

In case a three-day vacation seems strange, the idea is to avoid making life miserable for my coworkers — Thursdays and Fridays are almost always busy — and to save a few vacation days. I can carry over only one week into the next year, and I intend to do that every year for my annual February vacation. I’ll have a little over two days left, which I’ll burn up over the holiday season. It makes sense, and I’m not going to give up any of my time.

Even if you’ve been working throughout the pandemic, take your vacation. Maybe watch some of the movies and shows I’ve been reviewing.

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“Unknown Unknown” Perils of Space Travel @StarTrek #StarTrek #space

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Sundays are now lazy days for me. Going forward, I’m just going to re-post other people’s work or just do something silly. Today, however, it’s serious. Neil DeGrasse Tyson and other assorted space scientists always caution us about the “unknown unknown” perils of space travel. This is an example of such a peril. Who could possibly have anticipated this?

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and people walking

At least now we know to look for space rabbits. You’re welcome.

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Twitter Sucks, but Only Because It’s Exactly What We Want It to Be @Twitter #Twitter #SocialMedia

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We all know how humans argue. We don’t listen; we just wait for our turn to speak so we can claim our opponent is wrong. As a result, we hear maybe a sentence or two of an argument, then fill in the missing pieces with our own assumptions and prejudgments about what we think our opponent is arguing. The result is that we hear only a portion of what they say, and even worse interpret their argument in the opposite way in which it was intended.

But it’s not completely our fault. Twitter gives us only 280 characters per tweet, and even if we chain them together, people will usually see only a single tweet in that chain. This reinforces our tendency to address only a portion of our opponent’s argument. As the conversation continues and others contribute, the effect snowballs into a real mess, and you don’t always remember to whom you’ve already clarified your points, meaning you make assumptions about what they understand.

A flowchart of a typical Twitter conversation.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Twitter is so popular and that it’s effect on dialogue mirrors the way we choose to discuss politics and religion. We choose to use Twitter because it’s how we argue. The cure to this social disease is to address only those topics that can be covered in 280 characters. If you want to blog, then blog. If you want to write a PhD dissertation, go back to school. Then it’s not your fault when people choose to miss the point. Otherwise, it is your fault.

But not mine. I’m always right.

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Good Watch: My Octopus Teacher @Netflix #GoodWatch #nature #ocean #octopus

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The plural of octopus is octopuses. It’s a pseudo-Latin word, which means it was a word made up to sound like it was Latin, but it’s really English.

Wait. That’s not what this post is about.

A Facebook conversation between Kessel Junkie, Jason (Facebook friend), and I led to a discussion of octophilia (is that a thing?), which in turn led to a recommendation of My Octopus Teacher on Netflix. I gave it a watch. The bad news is that this documentary is narrated by a guy whose voice is completely monotone. There’s no inflection in it, even when he’s upset. Make sure to have a cup of coffee or some Mountain Dew handy. Even just 90 minutes of that voice could put you to sleep.

The good news is that this is a neat story of how this guy found and kept track of a skittish, female octopus (as Jason put it, he became an “underwater ranger”), then convinced it that he wasn’t a threat. He chronicled the relationship and the life of this octopus over the course of about a year, and how that relationship changed him.

But to answer the film-maker’s burning question is: Yes, it was your fault. You were no longer studying behavior; you were forming a relationship. You wouldn’t allow your cat or dog to be injured, would you, dipshit?

If you’re at all into nature and can somehow stay awake through this guy’s droning, you may, like I, find this to be interesting. As always, YMMV.

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Reactive Centrifugal Force (Actually, Language [Actually, Me Being a Pain in the Ass]) #physics #science #language #pita

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Here’s a random memory triggered by an unrelated Facebook post I read.

When I was a physics major, one of my professors, referencing a carnival ride, actually said, “Centrifugal force doesn’t exist. What you’re experiencing is centripetal force pushing you in.”

I responded, “But if centripetal force exists, doesn’t Newton’s Third Law of Motion demand that centrifugal force also exist? Wouldn’t that be the force your body exerts back on the wall?”

Boy, was he pissed. Of course he knew that the “reactive centrifugal force” existed. This is the force that you exert on the wall in reaction to the wall pushing you towards the center. It’s a very real force. However, even back then, I was killing people for linguistic imprecision. I couldn’t help it. It was a legitimate question brought on by a quirk in how physicists label these topics.

“Centrifugal force” is used differently from “reactive centrifugal force,” which is stupid. All forces have a reactive counterforce, so why qualify it as “reactive”? Unfortunately, that’s the linguistic convention, but when you say “centrifugal force doesn’t exist,” it misleads people who otherwise have a grasp on what you’re teaching. Physics professors should make it clear that there is an outward force, but we experience a misperception that this outward force is acting on us. In fact, the outward force is acting on the wall (or whatever is forcing you to take a curved path). Without “reactive” modifying it, “centrifugal force” refers to the misperception rather than the very real force.

If you want more details on the physics, here’s a relatively short lecture on this topic (about 12-1/2 minutes), though it doesn’t discuss the issue I’m raising here. In fact, it makes the same mistake. I originally provided a paragraph explaining some concepts the lecture takes for granted, but that paragraph would probably have made things worse. 🙂

You may have expected this to be about science, or language, but it was really about me being a pain in the ass.

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Good Watch: Halt and Catch Fire @leepace @tmackenziedavis @scootmcnairy @tobyhuss @smugorange @Netflix #HaltAndCatchFire #GoodWatch

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“I can’t take so much sunshine up my ass. It makes me itch.”
— John Bosworth

During the 80s, I was a physics student fascinated with the progress of the home computer. In the 90s, I was a software engineer working with computers professionally. Halt and Catch Fire is a dramatization of that culture and era starting in 1983. Perhaps this makes me prone towards liking this show more than others, but my guess is that most people likely to read my blog fall in that same category.

In season one, the story introduces Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), a salesman who left IBM on less-than-ideal terms. He latches onto the fictional company, Cardiff Electric, based in Silicon Prairie, which in this case refers to Texas. He convinces (forces?) Cardiff Electric to include within their business plan the development of portable computers. Familiar (to me) terms such as “XT,” “286,” “386,” and “GUI” are thrown around as several companies vie to get their idea to the market first. By the end of the series, they progressed to the early 90s and the birth of the internet, and during more than a decade, the characters develop, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Their mistakes have them pushing each other apart, yet they always find themselves coming back together, which in turn leaves you hopeful at the end of the series even though there’s distance between some of them.

While I was never involved on the sales end of the industry, I was certainly the salesmen’s target, and I feel like the writing and acting capture the feel for that era quite well. Is it an exaggeration of the truth? At times, of course, but in this case that’s not done merely for the sake of drama. Many of us that are or were in the industry hold a romanticized memory of those times, and we’re just as guilty of exaggerating the events of them as the show’s writers did.

If, like me, you need an excuse to choose one show over another, here it is: If anything I said above sounds appealing to you, consider watching this one. It’s only four seasons, with only ten 50-minute episodes each. At the very least, if you’re as old as I, you’ll love the 80s and 90s music. It’s not as important to the show as it is to, for example, Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’ll remind you to give some songs another listen.

P.S. I hate Cameron and Gordon. I knew too many of them.

Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

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The Squeaky Wheels: A Lesson in #Anecdotal Experience @Erik_Nowak #movie #statistics

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On April 3, 2020, I posted my observations made during the quarantine watch party of Shazam. During a resultant discussion on Facebook, I referenced haters of the film, to which my friend, Erik, responded, “I’m sure they’re out there, but I can’t think of anyone in my real life who saw it and didn’t like Shazam.” My impression is that people hated the film, but Rotten Tomatoes says otherwise: critics at 90%, and audience at 82%. This reminded me of a nearly identical conversation with Erik about District 9, and Rotten Tomatoes tells the exact same story: critics at 90%, and audience at 82%. (I’m going to try not to get distracted by how weird of a coincidence all of this is.)

Sometimes when I post about a movie, all I get are negative reactions. Sometimes all I get are positive reactions. In either case, I don’t really know whether I should view the movie in question as a guilty pleasure or myself as one of the sheeple. (Reign of Fire remains a guilty pleasure at 42%/49%.) Our Facebook and Twitter streams provide relatively small amounts of data and aren’t random sources. There’s too much commonality in our respective audiences, especially considering that, even if you feel you’re open-minded, you probably live in a bubble. I’m not just talking about political bubbles, but also social bubbles defined by hobbies and such.

Don’t let the squeaky wheel dictate your worldview. Take it for what it is: sometimes thought-provoking but rarely dispositive of anything important. You may make a mistake far greater than this one.

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