War.

As a teenager of the 1980s I used to have nightmares about nuclear war. There’d be a bright flash, lots of wind and destruction and then we’d melt. Sometimes the nightmare included walking into a bright light holding hands with someone. It wasn’t until I married Earl that someone held my hand in this nightmare. I haven’t had this nightmare in a good many years because I kind of thought the era of a nuclear threat was behind us.

But here we are, with North Korea claiming they can hit the U.S. with a nuclear warhead and Trump pretty much goading them into with a series of “my button is bigger than your button” tweets.

A lot of this fear could be toned down if Twitter would just shut down Trump’s account. Actually, I think it would be best for the world if Twitter shut down entirely and I have occasionally advocated for their demise right on their platform. I sometimes wonder why I stick around on Twitter, after all, it’s not about crowdsourcing information as much as it’s about PR and getting your name, your brand and your ego out there. I can be absurdly snarky on Twitter. It’s not something I’m proud of. It just adds to the noise. I’m trying to calm down about that in 2018. I’ve probably made that statement before in previous years.

The thing is, I don’t have news organizations trumpeting out every idiotic statement I make on Twitter, but Trump’s tweets are out there front and center. His carelessness on the platform can change the National, heck INTERNATIONAL dialog in an instant. I don’t believe the powers that be at Twitter really know the power their platform wields.

I hope they don’t wait for a bright flash and a nuclear winter to convince them that they’re making a terrible mistake by not taking control of their platform. Heck, their CEO sees his duties at Twitter as a part time gig. He doesn’t even take the platform seriously.

Is this the instrument of war and peace we want in our volatile world today?

Crowdsourcing.

Earl and I binged watched the last three episodes of CBS’ “Wisdom of the Crowd” tonight. There are two remaining episodes scheduled for January; the show has been cancelled, mostly because of the alleged sexual misconduct charges against series star Jeremy Piven. It’s a shame this show has been cancelled as it’s taken this long for the show to find its stride. The technology is a bit showy for television but the concept of the show is interesting: a crowdsourcing application is used to solve crimes. The show also tackled some interesting challenges we are seeing in today’s society, including video “stars” being stalked by other users. On the show the video platform is called AllSourcer, but in reality it’s YouTube. Our society is fueled by notoriety and this one episode in particular tackled that head on.

It’s a shame there’s only two episodes of the series left. Like “Century City”, the short lived lawyer show on CBS from 2004 that took place in the year 2030, “Wisdom of the Crowd” is just finding its ground as it meets its early demise.

One of the things I like about “Wisdom of the Crowd” is the use of crowdsourcing. Engaging users into an application platform and urging them to make quality contributions to the information being shared is so compelling. Using the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ to solve problems that plague us today should be where we’re headed with technology today. We have a great number of steps in that direction: Waze, Wikipedia, Yelp, TripAdvisor: all of these platforms rely on quality content from contributors. There has to be a sound, trusted way to curate this incoming data. This is tricky for software engineers, this is tricky for algorithms and this is tricky for human screeners, but the community contributing to the platform bears the ultimate responsibility.

Is our society today ready to handle wide-scale crowdsourcing efforts? I wish this was the case but honestly I’m skeptical, especially with the amount of disinformation that is spread on the social networks. There are many bad actors that use Twitter, Facebook, etc. for building distrust and spreading lies as fact. They’re the new avenues for FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Distrust. At one time I would have considered Twitter a crowdsourced event platform. Earlier in Twitter’s history I used it as a source of late-breaking news. Today I’m skeptical of anything I see on Twitter. The company has failed in securing the authenticity of the information on their network. This is a shame, because Twitter had the potential to be one of the greatest crowdsourced platforms out there. But they went for the numbers and the revenue. Quantity over quality. Ad revenue over accurate information. A wasted opportunity that has moved into the realm of notoriety.

I’m intrigued by the concept of “Sophe”, the crowd-sourced crime solving platform on the show “Wisdom of the Crowd”. I like to think that if users think they are doing good thingin the world through an app, they’ll share their information at face value and hopefully bias is set aside. Is the U.S. ready for a real-world “Sophe”? Only time will tell. I’m sure someone out there is already working on building such a platform. I know I would participate.

In the meanwhile, I’ll keep writing quality reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor and sharing data on Waze. I like being a voice in the crowd to make the world a better place.

2017.

As the sun sets on 2017, I can’t help but feel excitement about the New Year. The reality of it all is that tonight just marks a moment in the manmade construct of time where the Earth is approximately in the same position it was one revolution ago. We’re not lined up with anything, it’s not the beginning of a season or the ending of an era, it’s just a mark on a timeline. But still, we like to think of it as a chance to make changes, to celebrate ushering in something new, to do something to better our lives, so tonight we celebrate the end of 2017 and welcome a New Year.

What will 2018 bring? Only time will tell, but I have plans. I always have plans. But honestly, I’m anxious to start working on those plans. I’m wired to always need a pivot point to better myself, and ringing in the New Year is #1 with a bullet when it comes to the list of pivot points to choose from.

Moving to Chicago earlier in 2017 was a good start, but I brought some old habits with me. It’s time to push in the clutch, rev the engine, and shift for even better things.

I feel hopeful. Let’s make 2018 the year of hope.

Repost: Resolution Revolution.

From my first New Year’s Eve blog post, December 31, 2001.

With New Year’s just around the corner, it’s time to completely revamp one’s life with what I call the Resolution Revolution. I tend to take New Year’s Resolutions very seriously. With the dropping of the ball and the birth of a new year, its the best time to take a new lease on life, slip into the body that I’ve always dreamed about, clear my skin, become more spiritually focused, get involved in civic affairs, become a cook, a gardener, a sky-diver, a nuclear physist, the list goes on and on.

But seriously, I do have hopes of improving my life and well-being around the New Year’s holiday. The holiday holds so much promise.

Last year, one of my major New Year’s resolutions was to become a full-time vegetarian. I had been dinking around with being a part-time vegetarian for a couple of months beforehand, mostly when it was convenient, but I told myself I needed to become dedicated to the cause. If it had the ability to take a dump, I wasn’t going to eat it. That lasted until we went out west for vacation and I discovered “Sonic” and “In and Out” burger. So much for that.

Another resolution I made last year was to not spend unnecessary money. In celebration of this event, I went crazy on ebay and purchased a cash register system from a defunct department store. I guess I needed a place to store all the money I was saving.

One of my better resolutions of last year was to learn to speak French. I did the whole CD tutorial thing, along with “French for Dummies”. Earl and I headed up to Montréal for a weekend, the perfect opportunity to test out my French. Trying to be friendly, I tried to strike up a conversation with a nice older woman in the mall. Since it was July, I simply said “Boy, it’s hot”. After she slugged me with her purse I realized that I had said, “I’m in heat.” So much for French.

The first resolution of this year is the only one I am going to share. I’m not sharing my resolutions with anyone. After years of making promises to myself, and announcing them loudly to everyone within a 50 mile radius of my mouth, people tend to not take me seriously anymore. But after my Resolution Revolution of 2002, suffice it to say that I’m going to be rich, famous, a contributing member of society and absolutely gorgeous to look at.

At least until January 15.

Cold.

Not to be deterred, or maybe because I’m just stubborn, this evening I walked a little over a mile from Wrigleyville to our condo. According to Siri, it was 1ºF at the time. The colder temperature kept my step lively. I was rewarded with Exercise Bling Circles on my Apple Watch when I reached the warm of the lobby of our building.

I can handle the cold better than I can handle the feet of snow they’re getting right now in our old stomping grounds. I grew up in the Lake Ontario Snowbelt, and there was always a certain amount of excitement surrounding heavy snowfall, but after the excitement wore off the excessive amount of snow was a bit of a pain to deal with. We have less than two inches of snow here on the north side of Chicago. I can handle that. I can even handle the overnight sub-zero temperatures. I come prepared.

I am looking forward to warmer weather, though I’ll probably have to wait a few months.

21.

Earl and I are celebrating 21 years of marriage today. Being a gay couple, we are fortunate to have many anniversaries, including the anniversary of our original commitment ceremony, the anniversary of our legal marriage, etc. Today we celebrate that 21 years ago we exchanged our wedding rings in a simple commitment ceremony at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia. The ceremony was witnessed by Earl’s youngest brother Rick and his, at the time, girlfriend (now his wife). A boat load of Marines went by. That was not planned.

Tonight we ate at Cité at the top of Lake Point Tower near Navy Pier here in Chicago. It was a very romantic evening and we have a very lovely time together. We’ve had a lovely time together for the past 21 years. I wouldn’t change a thing.

My wish is that everyone finds the happiness that they seek, because, as I speak with first hand experience, when you find the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, life is truly awesome.

Push.

We live alongside one of the stations along the CTA Brown Line. For those not familiar with the ‘L’ in Chicago, the ‘L’ is our version of the subway. Most of it runs on elevated tracks throughout the city, with only some portions in the downtown area underground like a traditional subway. It’s one of the best run mass transit systems in the country. The lines are marked by color; it is a prime example of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) concept. I love the ‘L’.

The closest crosswalk to our building is near the ‘L’. It is controlled by a traffic light installed specifically for the crosswalk. We lived here for less than a day when I discovered two things about this traffic light: 1. The light will not change unless you press the button at each end of the crosswalk and 2. The light will change in tandem with the traffic light at the nearest intersection. It will not change separately.

One thing that amazes me about this crosswalk is the number of people that can’t be bothered to press the button to get the light to change. The buttons are marked with large signs. The roadway is busy enough that at many times of the day it can be a challenge to use the crosswalk against the light. There’s a reason the traffic signal is there. But several times a week I’ll see people trying to run across traffic, narrowly missing getting hit by cars whizzing by. Often folks will just stand there and stand there waiting for the light to change, when I can see the light at the nearby intersection going through its cycle. Had the pedestrian pressed the button as instructed, they would have been able to cross the street with ease.

Occasionally drivers will stop at the red light that allows pedestrians to cross and once it’s clear they’ll run the red light. Sometimes the crosswalk isn’t clear and people start driving through anyway. Like many other parts of the country, motorists in Chicago can be quite inattentive, especially the ones that are busy on their phones while they’re driving.

I think it drives Earl crazy that it can be 2:00 a.m. and I’ll press the button and wait for the signal to cross instead of crossing the empty street against the light. He always claims that I must have been Boy Scout in a previous life, but I assure him that was not the case.

I just try to follow the rules, especially the ones that follow logic.

Learning.

Bipartisanship madam secretary s4e9

Television was first introduced in 1939 at The World’s Fair. The first news broadcast was in 1941, the first live presentation from meteorologists, the first weather forecast on TV was in 1954. In the early days, it was said that television would never catch on because it required the viewer to watch it all the time; one could multitask while listening to the radio. The television would be an appliance of education. Viewers could watch Latin in their spare time.

Oh how we have strayed from the television as an instrument of education.

When I was a kid we had a donated black and white television in our elementary classroom. We watched “Free To Be… You and Me”, “Inside/Out”, “The Electric Company”. Television programming taught us something. I don’t know if that continues today. I hope it does.

The news it too bleak these days to be assaulted with it after a hard day’s work. But I do enjoy television shows that go beyond blowing things up or are mindless television. This is one of the reasons that “Madam Secretary” remains as one of my favorite shows on television today. The plots are mostly plausible. The storylines are somewhat reflective of the current political climate, albeit with a lighter twist. The show is well scripted, well acted, and isn’t dumbed down for the lowest common denominator. I am reminded of “The West Wing” in its early years. I occasionally end up wondering what I can do to better the world after watching an episode of the show. It’s smart. We don’t have enough smart on television today.

Entertainment can be educational. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.