Wish I was here

Grisdale

It’s just over six years since me and a friend went wildcamping in the Lake District. Two days of (very) long walks, bathing in crystal clear rivers and sleeping on soft grassy ground. We really should go back.


Election 2019

I’ve been trying to put my finger on what it is about this election that I find so bleak. I wrote, and then binned, about four hundreds words on why I think the whole thing sucks – because I figure enough has been written on the detail by people much smarter than me.

At it most basic level an election is a simple choice. Just choose a tribe: Lib Dem, Labour, Tory, Green – depending on your view of the world at that particular time. I’ve always been pretty sure who I will vote for by this time and that choice, and its certainty, is like being embraced by a warm coat on a bitter day – except this time the choice is between a coat that smells bad, one that fits poorly or one with arms missing.

So, for those that are struggling to make a choice like me it all becomes a little disconcerting – especially as the media cranks up to fever pitch during the final few days. Make your choice. MAKE. YOUR. CHOICE.

I will, but for the record, all my options suck.


George

He might be old, but he still enjoys his walkies.


The Greatest Propaganda Machine in History

The biggest publishers on the earth are distorting the truth.

If you haven’t yet seen Sacha Baron Cohen’s remarks to the Anti-Defamation League’s summit on antisemitism and hate in New York – which has been covered extensively in the media – here’s your chance. Well worth watching the full thing.

There’s a couple of things that stood out to me: that Facebook, Youtube, Google et al are effectively the biggest publishers on earth, and that with that, and the way they police their platforms, they become the largest and most effective propaganda machines ever created. He singles out Facebook as being the worst offender – especially Zuckerburg’s assertion that they continue to allow politicians to serve targeted lies because accountability trumps censure.

The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged – stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear. It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth … As one headline put it, just think what Goebbels could have done with Facebook.

Sacha Baron Cohen

A few years ago a friend of mine, one of the most compassionate, fair and reasonable people that I know, shared a post on Facebook created by Britain First (a fascist pseudo political organisation) which in turn ended up on my feed. My friend had no idea who the author was and the post wasn’t actually offensive – it was cleverly designed to amass likes so that their other content would show higher on peoples feeds – but I was offended that my friend had been manipulated into sharing it. That was the day that I permanently closed my Facebook account.

Large social networks are certainly the worst thing to happen to the internet, and probably one of the worst things to happen to our societies.


2019/17: Perfect Circle

Greetings from the Humber Estuary.

My car went in for the mandatory yearly safety check this week and needed no work, which was lucky as I couldn’t have paid for any work unless garages now accept tokens of gratitude as payment. This car is the most boring car I have ever owned, but in three years it’s only cost me four tyres and a two wiper blades. Can’t argue with the economy of it.

Currently Reading:

  • The Heart Goes Last, By Margaret Atwood. This distopian fiction is a welcome relief from the dystopia outside my front door, and the one in my head.

From the net:

The internet blessed me with the following great content this week:

  • Computer Files Are Going Extinct – OneZero [Medium]. Modern tools, especially online ones, are making the filesystem less relevent – but at what cost? Long live the filesystem, and my complex but logical file structure.
  • Why these social networks failed so badly [Gizmodo]. A fairly long list of the social networks that have come and gone. How long until we see Facebook on this list – a decade? More?
  • Be amazed as Alexander Overwijk draws a perfect freehand circle:

Look after yourselves, anonymous readers, and be kind to each other.


2019/16: I wish I could have the time back

  • On Tuesday, Costa Coffee machines around the country were dispensing for free because in recognition of International Coffee Day. Whatever that is. Anyway, I didn’t find out until Wednesday.
  • Confession time: I can’t tell the difference between a robot made Costa coffee and a real one.
  • We got new mobile phones at work. They’re quite fancy. We have to ask permission from the gods above to install anything – which I imagine, because I have not yet tried, is by way of a gloriously convoluted process that only makes sense to IT people. I understand why they do this but they haven’t even given me a calculator.
  • An oddity of this new device is that I can’t see missed calls unless I unlock it. It’s a GDPR compliance thing, apparently.

Finished Reading:

The Wanderers, by Chuck Wendig: This huge book took me nearly a month to read. It was so, so long. You know when you read a big book and the time flies past because your really engrossed and invested in the story? This wasn’t like that at all. I wish I could have the time back.

Finally:

Here’s your regular reminder that not everything is as it first appears:


2019/15: Slow puncture

While last week was a week of winning, this week has been the opposite. There is a screw neatly embedded in the offside front tyre of my car, and our house is plagued by a random electrical problem.

Here is a rough overview of me troubleshooting our electrical issue:

  1. Examine the consumer unit. Identity that RCD and lounge sockets have tripped. Cool. Safety features are working as designed. Reminisce about changing fuse wire in old style fuse carriers.
  2. Turn off all breakers and reset the RCD. Switch on breakers one by one until problem circuit is identified.
  3. Swear.
  4. Unplug all appliances on the problematic circuit.
  5. Flip the breaker again and watch in despair as the RCD trips despite no appliances being plugged in.
  6. Swear loudly and scratch my head.
  7. Open every socket and look for loose wires or damp.
  8. Ring father-in-law for advice.
  9. Show father-in-law all of the troubleshooting activities you’ve done before escorting him to the consumer unit.
  10. Flip breaker and watch, despondently, as the power stays on.

I went through this routine three times over two days, but thankfully the power has stayed on since. We’ve no idea what caused it and no idea how to solve it. We wait in suspense.

It’s cold, and wet, and officially autumn.