New York Daily News photo essay revisits the Apollo 11 mission
Stephen Marche in The New Yorker on AI and language
Hank Green’s latest vlog is terrific as always. It’s about how hard it is to not get drawn in to some of the bad things about social media, and he offers some advice about not getting drawn into that while having a presence in those spaces.
One of these WordPress blogs on blogging and cultivating the habit landed in my inbox.. and I clicked on it. And read it. And here I am. Just, writing. Sometimes you gotta just. Start.
It’s been a while since the better half and I took a break from the grind, and it’s been a rough and rocky sixteen.. seventeen months now since the pandemic started to really affect our lives? I know it’s far from over and a lot of people world wide are still going through a difficult time, but it’s nice to be doing something nice right now. If you’re not doing something nice, I hope you get to do something nice soon. Hang in there. We will get through this.
I resolve to update this thing at least twice a week. Even if it’s just links to things I find interesting.
I’m excited about the OMNY rollout being completed for New York City MTA buses and trains. If you’re not familiar with OMNY, the MTA is phasing out the metrocard over the next couple of years and transitioning to a tap to pay system. As of New Year’s Day, it’s been installed and is active on all New York City MTA buses and trains for smart devices with digital wallets. At press time, there’s no unlimited ride option with tap-to-pay. It’s only individual fares. For an unlimited ride option, you’ll still have to use a metrocard. Sometime in or before 2023, metrocards will be phased out and an MTA issued tap-to-pay transit card will be issued and unlimited ride options will be available with tap-to-pay. I know there are privacy concerns about the new system, if you’re concerned about that, your best bet is to continue to use metrocards and pay cash. Although, I honestly think your privacy concerns are overblown. This was an inevitable transition, and I’d argue that it’s for the better. You show me a person who doesn’t like it and I’ll show you a person who doesn’t regularly use the MTA in New York City. It’s just convenient. Like Tide Pods. These little things that can make our lives a little more convenient are where technology companies are doing good rather than harm. As far as people using data for bad, I’d worry more about Spotify, Lyft, and Facebook than I would tap-to-pay on the subway.
Although, I do believe the concerns about an eventual transition to a pay by distance system and/or fares based on peak/off-peak time are valid. The last year saw an unprecedented change to the system, as of a few months ago, the subways are now closed from 1AM to 5AM. Cuomo wanted , and tried, to do this before COVID-19 to save money -the MTA always needs money. It was an inevitable change that was coming… But it was also unimaginable, like everybody just transitioning to working and school from home and riding bicycles and bikes. And it happened overnight, pardon the pun. Because 1AM to 5AM is literally overnight. Ok, I’m running that joke into the ground… What was I saying?
Unimaginable things are happening and we need to get used to that. We need to imagine more. We need to imagine the good in this world too though. A cell phone in everyone’s pocket, text messaging and every other revolutionary thing making our lives more convenient have privacy and security concerns and we’ll just have to face them together.
I’m also excited about the completed Moynihan Train Hall in Penn Station. However nice it is, it doesn’t solve the biggest problems, not enough tunnels under the Hudson, not enough tracks and platforms, but it’s nice.
I’ll save my “this change signals the end of the world, the sky is falling” or “this isn’t nearly good enough” for something else, in the meantime I’m going to enjoy these two little big things.
I’m going to leave for work extra early to tomorrow so I can take some pictures of the station, and I’m going to enjoy that too.
Barack Obama in The New Yorker on the sausage grinding involved in getting the ACA passed. Regardless of how you feel about him or the ACA, he’s worth reading. Sometimes I think I should better appreciate being alive at the same time he was president. He’s the best we’ve had in my lifetime, and is by far the best orator to occupy that job in it’s history. I mean, my politics lie far to the left of him. There are a lot of things I don’t love about the man, but I’m glad he’s still writing and can appreciate his point of view.
Brian M. Rosenthal and Michael Rothfeld’s terrific reporting on the NYC BOE in the NYTimes
Ben Smith, with a very insightful read in the NYTimes partly about this nonsense “October Surprise”, but moreso about media in general.
That’s all for now.
Must watch: Frontline October 20th 2020 episode: Whose Vote Counts featuring correspondent Jelani Cobb.
That’s all for now.
Well, one read today rather. Ross Anderson’s The Panopticon Is Already Here in the September issue of The Atlantic is well worth a read. It’s a long one, and although it spent a little more time than it needed to on hypotheticals, there’s plenty here about what China is currently doing with the surveillance state it’s built, how it’s using and developing AI, and what other nation states are doing with the AI and surveillance tech they’re exporting.
If the last four years or so have taught me anything, it’s don’t think the terrifying stuff going on in other places on the planet can’t happen here. I mean, I knew that, but I didn’t really know that. Ya know?
It’s an engaging listen, actually that’s an understatement. Wu and Hayes do an amazing job breaking down and explaining what went right, and what went wrong, with the internet from it’s inception to the present day here, and I’m sure it’s available in most, if not all of the standard podcast formats if that’s how you’d prefer to listen.
I’ve enjoyed Hayes for a long time now, both of his books are awesome and I really enjoy the podcast. His show is good too, it’s a good show, I just don’t do a lot of live tv, it just isn’t a part of my lifestyle. I’m going to have to check out more of Tim Wu’s stuff, starting with The Master Switch.
I’m having a pretty busy week… Well, month really, so today’s update is also just some recommended reading. I know that’s two days in a row of that. I’m still getting into the swing of writing here regularly and I’ll hit my stride soon enough.
I’ve been following journalist Zeesham Aleem‘s work for a while now, his 8/7 newsletter features an interview with a legal scholar named Lawrence Douglas and it’s a must read. I mean, his stuff is always a must read but it can be overwhelming to figure out where to begin. I think this one’s a good starting point.
That’s all for today. Enjoy.
Today’s update is just some recommended reading.
I stumbled across an article today entitled Printers Will Always Be Terrible and it isn’t just about printers, there’s an important thesis going on here about the world around us.
I enjoyed it so much I had look up the author, Joe Veix, and check out more of his stuff. It’s Weirdly Hard To Steal Mark Zuckerberg’s Trash spoke to me as well. I’m definitely going to have to follow his work.
So, I’ve been frustrated about the amount of time I spend on Facebook. I’ve tried taking hiatuses and breaks, and I think the longest I went without logging in to the thing was 36 days at the beginning of this year. I always seem to find some excuse to go back on there.
I’ve been on that thing for 13 years, sometimes spending over an hour a day on there. I don’t totally blame myself. The thing is evil now it wasn’t always that way. It isn’t just about what I can tell that it’s done to my brain chemistry or how it’s influenced the way I interact with others (at least on there), it’s also what I’ve noticed about what it does to others. I’ll be fine without it after a few weeks, but I’m genuinely worried about everybody else. I’m not even talking about Cambridge Analytica or ownership of my data which are important too, I mean more like the “dopamine feedback loop” stuff. More on that from a former Facebook executive. This article is a couple of years old, but this problem has not gone away.
I’ll start with a year off and see how I feel about the place then. I’m not going to deactivate or delete the thing; civilization is breaking down out there and it might be a good idea to keep that channel available. Or a bad idea, I don’t know.
A John Green article in the Washington Post from January of 2019 about his year off from social media altogether one month into it.
and his reflections on on it November of 2019 in on vlog brothers.
I wasted a lot of time spreading my writing across many different apps, trying things out. Word is just better. The file management is better. There’s just something I enjoy about writing in word, naming the document, and saving it in a folder.
And for just jotting things down? I also wasted a lot of time with a lot of other things there too, but Notes seems to have caught up to all those other things feature wise. It isn’t perfect, but it’s good.
Microsoft To Do
Keeping a task manager organized should not be an aggravating task. Microsoft’s To Do, is easily managed and just works.
For taking pictures of stuff:
There’s the axiom that the best camera to have is the one that’s always on you. Anyway, this is the part of the listicle where I get to say I like the iPhone. If I were to get a standalone camera of the iPhone’s quality, it would cost a lot of money, which eases the pain of the price tag on those things. Even their “affordable” model, the iPhone SE, has an excellent camera. I just like it. Do the other smartphones have good cameras? Yes. Sure. I haven’t used them so I can’t vouch for them but these days it seems like they’re all fine, but I can vouch for the iPhone camera.
Continental Gator Hardshells. A lot of my friends like the Gatorskins, but Gator Hardshells have reinforced sidewalls, Gatorskins do not. If you’re going spend on durable tires, you may as well spend a little more and get the most durable ones. You’ll save in the long run. I can’t say that I never get flats anymore, but I don’t get them often.
Encyclopedia Britannica. If you don’t mind ads, it’s free on the web and the mobile app, or for $75/yr you can remove the ads. Considering how much the print edition used to cost, I think it’s worth paying for. I hate ads.
The web based version of Oxford English Dictionary is great, and you can use it for free -at least in New York- through your library card, but the mobile app stinks. There’s a whole bunch of OED apps, and I can’t make heads or tails of which one to bother with. Merriam-Webster on the other hand has ONE excellent app. I look up a word, and that’s that. The word, pronunciation, definition(s), examples of use, synonyms, antonyms, and history of the word come up in one entry. It may not be as upstanding in reputation as OED, but it just works.
For reading books on an electronic device:
I don’t own a kindle or a tablet, and now that smartphone screens are pretty big, I can’t justify getting one. Overdrive is the best app for taking books out of the library, and I think it’s the best app for reading because the margins are fully adjustable. For some reason, even the Kindle app, which set the mobile reading device standard, can’t do that.
For purchasing books, Kindle is best, followed by Apple Books, although I’ve read that authors and publishers get a larger percentage if you buy through apple rather than kindle, the tradeoff is the format is inferior.
If you think you can justify spending on a subscription. IF. Scribd has a wide variety of stuff and seemingly no limit on how many books you can have checked out at a time.
One that displays the time, date, and day of the week on one screen. You don’t realize how often you stop what you’re in the middle of doing to pull out your phone just to check the time or the date until you wear a wristwatch. I like Casios, they’re inexpensive and stylish. They even still make the old school ones with the calculator on them.
On deciding which apps to buy or use, and applying a philosophy to it:
Whatever software you’re using, whether it’s “free” or not, think about how the company that makes the product makes it’s money. I’m not going to get to into what is or isn’t an evil company, all companies are evil at least some of the time.
Microsoft is a software company, they make and sell software, and software as a service, and some hardware.
Apple makes and sells hardware and software, software as a service, and some media sales and subscription services.
Google is an advertising placement company, that makes some of it’s money off of software, software as a service, people’s data, hosting, and hardware, media sales, and subscriptions.
Facebook is an advertising company, and a data company. They make their money placing ads and selling people’s data.
I’m not sure what Twitter is, and by that, I mean I’m not sure how that company makes it’s money. I think it’s similar to Facebook.
WordPress makes content management systems and sells hosting services.
Amazon? Amazon seems to have it’s hooks in everything. I don’t know how they primarily make their money these days.
I’m not telling you whose products to use or not use, I use products from all of these companies. Sometimes I pay for them with money, and sometimes I pay for them another way, but I always pay for it, and in deciding what to use, I’m trying to consider things like:
What makes their stock price rise? And why? And when their stock rises, is that good? Or is it bad? What kind of labor practices do they have?
Does the product they make benefit people or cause harm? If the answer is a little of both, what’s the benefit:harm ratio?
Vlog Brothers’s Hank Green talks TikTok, Marshall McLuhan, and social media.
A terrific read from Jill Lepore in this week’s New Yorker.
Tiffany Hsu and Eleanor Lutz’s reporting in the NYTimes on the Facebook ad boycott’s impact.
Gilad Edelman in Wired on this week’s Big Tech hearing.
Steven Levy in Wired on the Big Tech hearing.
Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post on revamping antitrust law .
David Sims recommends some movies in The Atlantic.
Kaitlyn Tiffany in The Atlantic on the Big tech hearing, and specifically, Facebook.
I don’t call it a social media addiction. I have a twitter and I go on there occasionally, and I go off of there, and that’s that.
I joined Facebook in 2007 and I don’t recall what year it happened, but they introduced a feature called Newsfeed, it was a feed of all your friend’s posts in chronological order. That was really cool.
Then they introduced the “like” button, and then they started doing a buncha weird shit where what they put in front of you is based on what you give them to keep you on there longer. Then they became publicly traded. Facebook makes their money by leveraging their user data and selling and targeting advertising. I never heard the phrase Dark Patterns until this week, and I’m not sure what the sociological or marketing term is for what Facebook does, but it’s bad too.
Congress did pretty good on the topic of antitrust, I didn’t give much thought to the antitrust issues, until this week but considering how the last time Mark Zuckerberg appeared before congress went down and how pathetic it was, either members of Congress learned a few things, or they just understand business law issues more than technology ones, either way, they did good.
I think from when I joined the thing up until they did away with the chronological feed, the time spent on there wasn’t a waste, but from then until the present, which is a lot of years, the thing has been doing more harm than good to me. I don’t think anybody goes to their grave wishing they spent more time watching TV, same goes for Facebook. I’m probably never going to delete the thing entirely, but I gotta cut down. When an alcoholic walks into a bar and orders a drink, you don’t blame the bartender, but, unlike Facebook, they do not allow children in bars. A generation has grown up thinking that thing is the internet. That sucks.
I know I’ve said it before, I’m gonna do most of my writing and sharing of stuff here from now on, I think for real this time.
Hello. If you’ve been to this site before, you’ll notice I moved all my old posts outta here. I didn’t delete them, they’re still on my hard drive and backed up to the cloud somewhere as everybody does nowadays with most of their stuff.
Anyway, I think I was torn in too many directions with what I wanted to do with this site. It was a combination of journal entries and odds and ends which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that on a personal blog. You can do whatever you want with it, I just felt most of those journal entries upon rereading lacked enough social relevance to justify being published here, and the odds and ends…
I think if I got into blogging before Twitter or Facebook existed, in the “golden age” of blogging, I would have held those posts to a different standard before publishing.
So, I’m starting over. I’ll be relaunching this endeavor soon. I hope you and your loved ones are happy and healthy, and if you’re not, let’s hang in there.