This is the best way I can describe my Monday. It can only get better.
I like the bedroom to be as dark as possible when it’s time to go to sleep. This is one of the reasons I’ve held onto the GE Alarm Clock I bought back in 1988; the red LED lights cast absolutely no glow onto my nightstand. Unfortunately, the other functions of the alarm clock are starting to fail.
I tried using one of the Amazon Echo Dots with an LED clock built in. Even at its lowest brightness setting, the clock on the Echo lights up the room enough to distract me while I’m trying to sleep. Aside from the weird maneuvers one has to take to actually turn the alarm off (without barking out commands to Alexa while your husband is sleeping), the brightness of the display ruled out using this little technological miracle on my nightstand.
This is the problem with today’s technology. Everything has some sort of LED light on it. My wireless iPhone charger? White indicator light. Check. Covered with black electrical tape. Check. Sonos speaker? White indicator light indicating its ready to play music. Check. Moved to another room? Check. WiFi repeater? Blue LED light. Check. Turned off in system settings? THANK YOU.
Back in the days when I traveled for work I kept a roll of black electrical tape in my bag to cover all the indicator lamps that are plastered all over technological doo-dads found in your hotel room. And please don’t tell me to sleep with some sort of eye mask to block out light, that’s simply not my jam.
I know LED lamps help control energy cost and are ultimately better for the environment, but we don’t need a status light on every piece of technology released to the masses.
I went ahead and deleted my primary Twitter account today. I have more than one Twitter account, but the one I call the primary account is the one that’s been around since 2007 when I used to tweet by text message on a flip phone. I wasn’t a superstar in anyway; I had only a little over 1200 followers. I had tweeted approximately 46,000 times.
My Twitter feed has become incredibly noisy. A lot of the noise was due to my own actions; when motivated I can belch out some pretty nasty tweets in response to what I perceive to be idiocy. I’m perceiving a lot of idiocy these days, and have been since the election season of 2016, but that’s no excuse for me spewing out some of the stuff I’ve put in tweets since Trump took office.
I started out by deleting my tweets, but that’s not an easy thing to do. Twitter makes it a tedious experience at best. There are third party services that can bulk delete tweets but I’m not shelling out money to a company just to undo my doings so I decided to just go ahead and delete the whole damn account.
It was one of the most liberating experiences I’ve had in a while.
I’ve had my “quiet” account for a little over a year and I intend on keeping it quiet. The focus is extremely narrow. I’m being very selective as to who I’m following. I don’t have Twitter on my phone at all.
Another reason for my nuking my account was because of recent actions of Twitter around censorship. Trump can spout out the craziest things, many of them damaging and/or simply completely untrue, but Trump is the gravy train for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and friends, so they’ll never treat Trump like the other users on the platform. It’s a burning bin of hypocrisy that’s pretty much destroying democracy, but hey, Jack and friends have enough money to travel the world ten times over while enjoying a bath in a bucket of ice.
There are such better ways to do eccentricity.
So don’t go looking for me on Twitter. I’m not there in a meaningful way anymore.
And that’s what I call progress.
Here we are getting ready for the weekend and we have absolutely no plans. They’re predicting severe storms for Illinois but I feel like it would be irresponsible for us to go chasing storms, what with this COVID-19 and the like going on. Illinoisans should be limiting their activity to essential travel only and with the my idle knowledge of weather, chasing storms seems like it falls in the non-essential category.
I suppose I’ll just watch the storms from the balcony. That is if the storms make it to the north side of Chicago to begin with.
I’m finding my motivation to be lower than normal, even though working from home is the normal mode of operation for me. Nothing has really changed in our lives except that we’re not going out as much as we usually do and the streets are much more quiet than usual. Still, knowing what’s happening in the outside world, and the Federal government’s reaction to it, is yanking down my energy. Thank the universe for leadership like that what’s being displayed by Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot. I trust them. I absolutely do not trust anything coming out of the Trump administration.
In that way, nothing has changed.
There were such better candidates for the GOP ticket back in 2016. It still boggles my mind that someone as corrupt and morally bankrupt as Trump ended up representing the party that touts itself as the “party of law and order”. There’s nothing resembling any sort of moral compass in his administration.
Rosie O’Donnell had it right 13 years ago.
Nevertheless, here we are in the middle of one of the biggest crises to his the country in a very long time and we are ill prepared for it. We will get through it, but we will not get through it unscathed.
I hope whatever voters are left standing come November are able to make smarter choices.
Yesterday I went for a walk through the neighborhoods and ended up at a Starbucks I had never been to before. On the edge of Boystown, this location was rather small with only a couple of tables and some stools along a counter, which was up against the window. At the time the window was all fogged up with moisture, making it difficult to see inside or outside, depending on where you were.
I picked up my order at the counter and found one seat at the counter available if one was playing by the “every other seat” rule so typical these days. I got situated with my iPad and I started perusing through some blog entries and the like. I was getting in the mindset to write a blog entry.
I realized I didn’t have a napkin so I turned from the window and stepped toward where these things were stored and a woman locked eyes with me. She was middle aged, rather disheveled looking but had a gigantic laptop in tow. She started walking toward me with an engaging look on her face. I knew she was going to talk to me. Her t-shirt proclaimed in very large letter, “You Need Jesus”.
I maintained the locked gaze, raised my hand in a signal of “wait”, and simply said, “Nope”. I maintained gaze for a second or two and she returned to her seat in the corner.
Settled back at my seat in front of the fogged up window, a large man sat down to my right. He was accompanied by a smaller man and they began talking loudly. There were lots of sounds of complaint, exasperation, and resignation coming from the both of them. Determined to settle in my space, I focused on whatever I was doing at the time.
It was then the man started receiving text messages.
I knew he was receiving text messages. Everyone in the shop knew he was receiving text messages because his phone would make a startling and very loud screeching noise each time someone sent him a message. There was no vibration. There was no ping or ding. It was a loud, clacking, banging, screeching sound.
What I would have done for silent mode. I would have even welcomed the comforting ring of a Western Electric telephone. But this noise was too much and I had already put the brakes on one person in the store, I didn’t need to bring down the rest of the population so I did the reasonable thing.
I picked his phone up and smashed it down on the counter. It was so easy to just reach out, pick up the phone, and using all the rage I was feeling at the moment, just slam the phone down so hard that it broke. The cheap Android phone shattered and I felt vindicated.
I didn’t actually do that, but I fantasized about it and I’m fantasizing about it again right now as I think back on the experience. What I actually did was pack up my stuff, put on my jacket, recycled my cup, and headed out the door.
I glared at him on the way out. He was too busy listening to his shrieking phone.
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.
For Halloween I might dress up as Spock in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and give the Vulcan Nerve Pinch to every ass that blasts their music without headphones in every Starbucks or on every bus or train I travel on.
When did it become OK to blast your music out in public like some sort of shrieking banshee? When did it become acceptable to scream a custody battle with your ex on your phone while wedged into a tight public space with dozens of people you don’t know around you?
Let’s get back to the simple social contract: Don’t Be A Dick In Public.
I’m a happy man. I have a wonderful husband. I have a wonderful family. My career is going well. We finally live where we’ve wanted to live for a while. I can fly an airplane when I want. I can see and do things that I enjoy.
So why do I occasionally feel glum? Why did it take a conscious effort for me to not crawl back into bed this morning?
It’s the tempo of our society.
While I have whittled down the number of news sources, political reporters, etc. that I follow on Twitter, my feed is still a constant barrage of Trump stupidity. It still boggles my mind that there are enough incredibly stupid people in the United States that managed to find their way to a voting booth and cast a ballot for this pathetic excuse of a human being, let alone leader of anything. I look at Facebook hoping to see happy faces of friends and family enjoying life and there’s a bunch of commentary about the same thing: the blatant idiocy, inadequacy and utter instability of the President of the United States. Once in a while a politician will belch out some sort of statement that is meant to admonish whatever the Idiot has done this week but the words ring hollow. There is never an action as a follow-up. It’s all about the words.
It’s all my fault for relying on my computing devices for information. There are many times that I long for less of a connection to technology. I know this is odd, since I make a living building applications to make the user experience better but honestly I would be perfectly content reading and writing text on a flat-panel black screen with amber characters and a flashing cursor. Perhaps that’s the route I should take. Find a laptop with a beautiful display that just gives me a command prompt when I log in.
When we ride the train I noticed that 85% of the people around us are glued to their phones. There’s always someone taking a barrage of selfies. Most have headphones in. They’re looking down and oblivious to the world around them. I wonder if they’re reading about the latest display of ignorance from the White House or if they’re just watching videos of teenagers trying to drink boiling water through a metal straw (don’t even get me started on that) or if they’re watching movie trailers of another dimly lit superhero movie.
Where’s the sunshine? Where’s the positivity? While there were some horrible things going on with racism, homophobia and the like in the mid 20th century, you have to admit that back then eyes were on the future. People dreamed of flying cars and going to the Moon and building computers that helped make our household lives easier. Today many have eyes down a hole, looking for zombies and making moves to take us to the past.
The times we live in are so unstable. I would give something, anything for just touch of stability.
Earl and I were in the mood for something sweet before bedtime. We don’t really have the option of going to a late-night diner in this neck of the woods, as the only diner open at this time of night is Denny’s, and our local Denny’s has security to help control unruly crowds, drug rings and folks that try to leave the building without paying their bill.
This is not our idea of enjoying some time together over a slice of apple pie.
The local convenience store chain, Fastrac, has introduced their weak attempt at being like Wawa or Sheetz. They call their little eateries “Fastrac Café”. They brightly lit and have a kitchen where you can order things on a screen, just like Wawa or Sheetz in Pennsylvania, but that’s not open for the late night crowd. They also have a selection of bakery goods. Earl and I selected a sweet treat, filled up a cup of pop with diet(?) ice and sat down in the little café area to eat our treats.
Many establishments in this area have installed a television in circumstances such as these. The trend started shortly after the attacks of 9/11. Prior to that the only place that really had piped in news was the airport, and even then they showed the “CNN Airport” network. Televisions are found everywhere these days and in this neck of the woods they’re usually tuned to Fox News.
There is no escaping the news in modern America and there’s especially no escaping the likes of Donald Trump. As we sat in the Fastrac Café we were assaulted with debates about how latest belches of tweets on Twitter. People yelling and screaming and laughing. Of course Fox News trotted out a news clip of Joe from Morning Joe saying something derogatory about Melania back in 2007 and said “see, that’s why we have fake news today”.
Fake news. I really, really, really hate that term. It’s such a reductive thing to say. People hear something they don’t like on the news and they belch out “FAKE NEWS!” as loud as they can. It’s the Trump version of putting your fingers in your ears and going LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA.
There is no escaping Trump and there’s no escaping news bias and there’s no escaping idiots that buy this stupid shtick on either side of the aisle these days. You can’t go anywhere without being assaulted by a blaring television. You can’t go online without someone screaming “Fake news!” at one thing or another. You can’t go an hour without someone somewhere mentioning another stupid thing the Trump Administration has done. Anyone that thinks this country is “the greatest country on Earth” is delusional. That country is long part of our past. We should be doing better than this, we are better than this and we deserve better than this.
I’m always bewildered as to why Fastrac advertises that they have “diet ice”. I once asked why they label their ice, which is frozen water in cube form, as “diet ice” and they told me it was so customers would know that the ice was calorie free.
I’m getting tired of reading about the recent rise of bigotry, racism, misogyny and homophobia in the United States. School shootings still make me shed a tear, no matter how commonplace they become. No matter how hard folks try, one can never erase the fact that POTUS 44 was a black man and the Republic is better for it as a result of his leadership. Do unto others as they would do unto you. Give more to society than you receive. It’s not hard, people. But we live in a time where willful ignorance and outright stupidity are celebrated. “It’s not my problem” is the mantra of the day. Stupid, idiotic, banal things like Pepsi ads and James Bond microwave oven conspiracy theories and Kardashians are the distraction from the nepotism, the stripping of common sense legislation and the sheer greed planting strong roots in Washington D.C. Our government should have representatives of sides of a debate, not warring factions intent on the utter destruction of “the other team”. This is not a reality TV show. This is real life. And we should be working together, through compromise, intelligent debate and without these grandiose, empty and often damaging gestures to make the entire world a better place. When our country thrives, the world thrives. As a pilot I can tell you this: when you look down from the sky, there’s no way to tell one country or one state from another unless you build a wall. Don’t build a wall. Build a better world.