The Holy Core.

Today I discovered a new Star Trek fan film; this one takes place in the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” timeframe. CBS Paramount has chosen to limit fan films to a specific length and set of guidelines, so the fact these folks were able to tell a cohesive story in such restrictive standards is quite impressive.

The visuals were very well done, the story made sense and flowed well, and the acting was better than expected. If you feel so inclined, please take 30 minutes to watch “The Holy Core“.

Hooked.

So ten days or so ago I proclaimed I was done with Twitter and had deactivated my account. Here’s where Twitter hooks you in; if you deactivate your account you have 30 days to reactivate your account. And that’s what I did.

However, I have not installed the app on my iPhone and I’ve opted to go with Tweetbot on my iPad Pro.

Here’s the thing. Cutting myself off from Twitter completely made me realize how many things I monitor through the service: CTA Train alerts, the National Weather Service (as long as it’s not compromised by the Trump Administration), and most importantly, the aviation adventures of pilot friends I’ve made over the years. In addition, I’ve been on Twitter since its early days and I have a good number of people I’ve met via the service over the years and unfortunately I don’t have any other way to get a hold of them.

Twitter has me hooked.

I’m still culling my followers list to make sure I’m not getting depressed the service and I’m not following it on the phone, so I think I can keep the chaos at bay.

I wish myself luck.

Truth.

If you’re gonna bathe in the muck, it’s a lot easier to avoid idiotic memes on Twitter than it is Facebook. Also, it’s better to endure stupidity from a stranger instead of your blood(y) relatives.

Routines.

I think Truman is starting to get used to the concept of the weekend. During the work week he’s usually stationed outside the bedroom door, ready to stretch against my waist and then demanding a couple of treats before I go for a walk. On the weekend he makes a bit of a ruckus for a few moments around the same time and then settles down; he starts to complain about the schedule change around 8:00 a.m. As long as he gets his treats, he’s fine.

I know most of my feline friends over the years have enjoyed a predictable schedule, but Truman is the closest adherent to the clock I’ve met thus far.

His automatic feeder gives him a light midnight snack at 10:00 p.m. He stations himself next to the feeder at 9:30 p.m. every night. On the dot.

I wonder what he would have been like with the audible sounds of the old school clock system we had in the old house. Earl says he’s just tuned like Pavlov’s dog, but I’m thinking he’s just a wise cat.

Digital Rights Are Human Rights.

Donald Trump’s 2016 digital campaign director claimed to have run 5.9 million visual ads on Facebook, in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s 66,000.

When I was in Junior High School we had a “lifestyle” class the rotated each quarter, or 10-week marking period. One of the lifestyle classes in the rotation was General Art. Taught by a passionate Mr. Tassone, one of our exercises included taking turns standing on a desk and modeling in front of the class while our peers sketched our pose. I’m horrible at drawing; I’m lucky if I can sketch a stick figure and remember all the appendages, but one thing stuck out during this lesson: “no two people will sketch the exact same thing because no two people can have the exact same perspective.”

While this certainly applied to the stick figure I was drawing at the time, it really is something that applied to life. Who knew that Mr. Tassone would offer such a nugget of wisdom in a required class?

The differing perspective of an art subject is very much like what we experience on services like Facebook today. Because of the careful curation, regurgitation, and thousands of other data points in the Great Algorithm of Facebook, no two experiences on the social media platform are alike. What I see on my Facebook feed is nothing like what a straight, white, conservative male in RandomTown, Red State is going to see. True, we might both see the same Gillette ad, or the latest rage in a snack chip, but when it comes to pushing ads tailored to our respective demographics, there’s going to be little overlap.

Now, imagine one of us has been identified as a “Persuadable”. Let’s say the straight, white, conservative male in RandomTown, R.S. has been on the fence when it comes to voting for Clinton or Trump in the 2016 Election. He knows Clinton is a Democrat but she’s rather middle of the road on a lot of the things he believes in. He also knows Trump is a blowhard from Manhattan who’s lost a lot of money in casinos and god knows what else. Our friend in R.S. really doesn’t feel like he has a great choice for President and he’s trying to make a good decision at the polls. His vote is a secret, after all, so he might just vote for Hillary after all and not just talk about it. He partakes in a few political discussions on Facebook and is subsequently identified as a Persuadable.

Cambridge Analytica then uses that data to flood his timeline with a crazy amount of propaganda swaying him in the direction of their client. There are no guard rails to guarantee the ads being pushed at him are based in any sort of truth, but the FCC doesn’t apply here, so the spin on television is a walk through a poppy field compared to the ridiculous vitriol spun through Facebook ads.

Our friend’s family back East can’t figure out why he’s solidly flipped to Trump because they don’t see the ads he’s being subjected to on his timeline. Everyone’s Facebook feed is different and unless you pose as a Persuadable, you’re not going to see an ad targeted to at them. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandburg don’t care; they’re worried about rolling in as much money as possible because in the United States, money is power. Status is power. Fame is power. Mark and Sheryl want to be rich and famous, and they have set aside any resemblance of a moral compass to feed that demon they have inside. I’m sure I’ll chat about my disgust of them in many future blog entries.

Folks like to screech about Cambridge Analytica and their scandal and quite frankly, they deserve to be screeched about because they’re a company devoid of any sort of moral foundation. Like Mark and Sheryl, they want money, and some folks at Cambridge Analytica would probably get elementary school kids addicted to Meth if it increased their bottom line and pleased a top paying client. But the truth of the matter is Facebook does whatever they want, paying token fines for their behavior, because they are unregulated.

Personally, I believe if you can’t make that claim on the Evening News on traditional television, you shouldn’t be able to advertise it on Facebook.

Are things going to change? Not under this administration, it benefits them too much. Right now the only way to change Facebook is to abandon the platform. Hard to do? Absolutely. Hell, I have an account on Facebook and I’m still active on there, mostly sharing photos and talking about stupid crap. One day I’ll get an ad for MAGA hats and the next day I have Kamala Harris begging me for money. The Gillette ads still coming along with regularity.

But I do my very best to eliminate Facebook from any other of my online interactions. I don’t “Sign In With Facebook”, I don’t allow cookies, and I use “Private Browsing” mode in both Safari and Firefox. Google Chrome? Oh hell no. Using Google Chrome for web browsing is like walking through town naked while screaming your personal business at the top of your lungs.

As I said in an earlier blog entry, technology has vastly outpaced society’s grasp of what we have at our disposal these days.

Digital rights are human rights. Interestingly enough, personal data is now more valuable than oil.

It’s time to take our digital rights back.

A little more about the documentary “The Great Hack”.

Geek Out.

Photo by Colin.

A few months ago I purchased a hoodie designed in the pattern of a “Star Trek: Voyager” Starfleet uniform. It was on sale and I wasn’t sure when or where I would wear this hoodie but I liked the look of it so I grabbed it from the dwindling stock.

Summer is slowly giving way to Autumn in Chicagoland, so this weekend the need for a hoodie like accessory has presented itself; I decided to wear my “Voyager” hoodie out in public. This is a little bit of a bold step for me, as I tend to try to blend into the crowd. But I was prepared to boldly go and after a few moments of self-consciousness I felt comfortable in my hoodie and I was “working it”.

I wore the hoodie to “Out In The Park”, the LGBT-positive event at Six Flags: Great America. Several folks remarked on the hoodie and all of the comments were positive.

Owning my inner geek in a public way like this is a pretty big step for me. Maybe today’s society needs more geeks like me to express themselves like this. It might be the only path left to get to the Star Trek-like future of peace, compassion, harmony, and exploration.

Or, I just like wearing a cool looking hoodie.

Return.

Everyone can relax, I have my MacBook Pro back in my possession. While Earl and I were out for lunch I received a voicemail from the local Apple store and they said I could c’mon down and pick up my repaired MacBook Pro whenever I was ready to do so, but I had to do it within a week.

We were there within the hour.

For those just catching up with the story, my mid-2015 15-inch MacBook Pro was part of the recent battery recall due to fire and explosion concerns. Some airlines were not allowing this model on flights (though my MBP has flown thousands of miles over the years). I took advantage of the recall and Apple told me it would be two weeks to get it repaired.

My computer was repaired in one week, and that was including Labor Day occurring in the mix.

The computer is over four years old, so the battery was getting rather aged. When I was chatting with the Apple Genius during the intake process, they told me a new battery might make things run faster on my computer, and I can tell you, that is absolutely true. Since getting the computer back interactions are much more responsive. My computer feels new again.

All of the work was fully covered under the recall program.

While my MBP was in the shop I was using my iPad Pro as my full-time computer. I mentioned earlier this week that it was a 100% one-for-one experience and I still maintain that feeling to absolutely be the case. While my iPad Pro is great for most things, it’s not great for all things. There are times where I just want a full-sized keyboard and a full web-browser experience. While the upcoming iPadOS 13 (which I’m running on my iPad Pro) promises a full Safari experience, there was something still just ‘off’ for me. I don’t know if it’s the smaller screen or the reduced keyboard on the Smart Folio or just the way of interacting with the computer itself, but I don’t feel like I’m ready to move to an iPad Pro for 100% of my computing needs.

Suffice it to say I’m really happy to have my MacBook Pro back. Because I bought a fully-tricked out version of what was available back in 2015, I’m confident I can still squeeze a few more years out of this laptop. It still may be my last laptop, and I’m still going to see what I can do with my iPad Pro to move to it 100% someday, but …

I’m happy to have my Mac back.

The Great Hack.

We sat down and watched “The Great Hack” on Netflix. For those not familiar, “The Great Hack” outlines the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal around the 2016 elections. The production value of the documentary is typical 2019 fare and sometimes the narrative wanders a little bit, but the documentary as a whole is well done. It’s interesting, and more so chilling, to see what bad actors will do with the data of individuals.

tl;dr Cambridge Analytica had at least 5,000 data points on every citizen of the United States. They used that data to target people they categorized as persuadables, and then blasted propaganda at those people to convince them to vote and to sway them to vote to the wills of their clients, including The Trump Administration.

Illegal? Debatable. Immoral? Depends on who you’re talking to. Unfortunate? Absolutely.

I firmly maintain the growth of technology has outpaced the ability of society in general to use it responsibly. So many folks fear AI and sentient robots and the like, but technology is already being weaponized against the populace. Since this benefits the bad actors currently in power in the U.S. government, I have little hope that something will be done from a governmental level to address this issue. So it’s up to us to be vocal about what’s happening and to educate those less tech-savvy as to what’s going on behind the curtain. Oz was not a benevolent wizard.

Neither are the actors behind the curtain of our democracy.

Intelligentsia.

I decided to skip Starbucks this evening and instead went to Intelligentsia for a cup of coffee while I wrote this blog entry. My husband is hosting a business meeting at home this evening, so I decided to make myself scarce while they took care of business. I look forward to the leftover snack supply when I get home; like all good hosts my husband shops for an army when he’s hosting a half dozen.

Being a relatively new coffee drinker, I am still a little gun shy when it comes to ordering coffee outside of a Starbucks, but this coffee is a delight. It’ll probably keep me up tonight; I should have asked for unleaded.

I took a peek at Facebook earlier today and came across a photo of Ivanka Trump dressed as either the Jolly Green Giant or an avocado. I don’t know a lot about fashion but I’m sure this isn’t it.

I am curious as to whether the Trump family ever tires of being such easy targets. I’d laugh more if they weren’t destroying democracy and all that.

Speaking of which, I don’t know everything about weather, but as a guy that chases storms and a guy that flies around the stuff all the time, I’m pretty sure drawing a bubble on a weather map with a Sharpie doesn’t magically change the path of a hurricane.

Imagine being so incredibly insecure that you hold press conferences to show off obviously modified maps just to cover your own lack of intelligence.

It still boggles my mind that anyone voted for this idiot.

Once in a while I go back to my old blog entries during the George W Bush administration and I find myself pining for times when quotes like “Of course the California is important. That’s the only opinion I got.” (this blog entry) irked me.

I never thought I’d find the day I’d be pining for the likes of George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

The worse part of all this is I thought we’d move onto brighter times and recover stronger than ever after we got past 9/11, over the Bush era, and further into the 21st century. I just never considered how stupid the American populace really is.

I’m going to go back to enjoying my cup of coffee. It’s a delight.