Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Humble Pi

It's easy to think of oneself as clever.  We can outwit our children, for a time.  We can master our jobs, given time.  We can solve the riddle and guess the twist ending.   

But then we encounter those fortunate few who float above our earthbound intellects.  Like a rising sun, they blind us, boggle us and befuddle us.  We are disoriented by these radiant celestials. 

In short, they humiliate us.  If you have a healthy attitude, you will confine yourself to the denotation of humiliation, rather than the commonplace connotation.  Otherwise, you will hate the light.

If you hate xkcd, it's because it is smarter than you are.  It humiliates you.  It sure humiliates me.

Either way, though, humiliation is good for the ego.  Humiliation wakes us from our stupor, of course, and reminds us that we have further yet to travel.  If you rise from your rut, rub your eyes and squint skyward, you'll see that the gleaming stars are in truth guiding lights, illuminating dark paths, forging new roads, leading us through the unmapped wildernesses.  

We are never truly done exploring, adventuring, ascending -- unless we give up.  And why would we quit?  -- When does anyone retire?  When we cease to be challenged and, thus, decide our journeys are at an end.  We hang our hoods and remove our boots when we seem to have reached our destination.  We decide we are heroes, our quests complete.  We sing our own ballads and wallow in our magnificence. 

And then a new star rises.

And humiliates us.

We are challenged, and we grow, and we see farther.  (Some days, we get the joke!)  To stand on the shoulders of giants, that is enlightenment! 

See, humiliation really is good for the ego.  


Post script: There's that humility word again.  If Control+Alt+Deplete is not careful, it will become a theme. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

3001: An Interface Odyssey

Life is an odyssey.  Even the earthbound are astronauts, strapped to our Argo we call the the Earth, sailing blindly through space.  Or should I say Space, with a capital S, because of the expanding infinity of it.  This incomprehensible vastness can be understood just enough to terrify us, enough for us to be staggered and horrified and humbled by it.

Finally, something that humbles us.  Finally, something to put us in perspective.  Space, Space should be capitalized. 

Fortunately, the incessant glare of city light blots out the Milky Way, so we needn't be humbled.  Instead of kneeling and serving, we can retreat into the universe that we created: the internet -- which the pious among us capitalize, so that we may worship it, so that we may worship ourselves through it.  Instead of sailing, we surf the digital cosmos, creating and controlling, conquering and consuming.  Gods is a game we play.  We play Gods until we believe in it.

The internet is soothing like that.  

Yet the prophets tell of a day when technology turns on us.  Eventually, the virtual reality becomes as infinite as that outside universe, and when that happens, it will be just as horrifying, just as humbling.  But by that time, it will be too late.

When the machines rise, and HAL opens the pod bays doors, only then will we remember that our omnipotence was but a dream, a stage play, a delusion we wove to escape from reality, rather than come to terms with it.

On the day the pod bay doors open, the internet will evaporate in an eddy of smoke and a wave of mirrors, and HAL will watch us drift untethered into Space. 

Or so the prophets say.

But if you're wise, and you ignore the prophets, you can sleep.  And if you keep playing MineCraft, you don't even have to do that. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Farmer in the Dell

The nature of peer pressure has changed dramatically.  Farmer Internet has grown peer pressure like an irradiated turnip plantation: Not only can friends pressure their peer no matter where [or when] you are, but they can somehow force you to participate in stressful resource management competitions.  It's high school dance committee all over again.

It's like that dream in which you're at work, scrambling to figuratively herd cats as you compete for a promotion, except that you are not dreaming, are not at work, are literally (albeit, digitally) herding animals, yet will reap no bounty from the lost time, lost sleep, and added anxiety. 

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!   

My advice: Shut down your delusional cucurbit and gather tangible candy. Life will be all the sweeter for it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Hey, come to think of it, that would be a great password!  ... Oh.  Right.  I just told the world.  Crap. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lie of Transmission #1

Check out the article 4 Things Facebook Doesn't Tell You about your Privacy and Security at CSO Online. The "4 things" are as follows:

1. We don't want you to change your privacy settings
2. We have little control over application security
3. We know which websites you're visiting
4. Your information is being stored in places outside of Facebook

But what's wrong with that, you ask? Facebook didn't do anything wrong, per se, you say? Actually they have. Evasions like these are lies, lies so common we have a handy term for them: Lies of Omission.

Why should these lies of omission concern you? The reasons are manifold: Facebook's waning security exposes you to the ravening universe of internet underworld, making you vulnerable to all variety of virtual (and in some cases physical) harm: identity theft, sexual predation, scams, fisching, the whole enchilada. The bad kind of enchilada, not the good kind that makes you all bloated.

Each of these evasions warrants a custom C+A+D cartoon, and today's toon focuses on the first important point:

1. We don't want you to change your privacy settings
While Facebook does provide the capability to change your settings, they clearly prefer that you don't. This is made obvious in several ways:

- Firstly, you the FB user must opt out of your information being shared publicly, instead of opting in. Duh.
- Secondly, using and even finding all of the privacy controls is intentionally made very difficult. How do we know it's intentional? Well, the alternative is that Facebook software engineers are stupid; clearly they are not, ergo, the convoluted controls are designed to dissuade and confound you.
- Thirdly, you are never prompted to change your settings; it is up to those users concerned about privacy to sniff them out.
- And finally, if those poignant points didn't convince you, take heed: there is information that you can no longer protect. Simply, the option no longer exists. Check out Facebook's Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline.

If any good comes of all this, it's the amusing analogy that changing your Facebook settings is to 2010 as programming your VCR is to 1985. The difference being, and this is the salient point, your VCR never stole your credit cards, sold your SSN, used your identity as a fisching front and absconded to a foreign country.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

InSecurity Settings

"You think you're signing up/
But you might just sign away/
Who's to say, who's to say?

"When the rules keep changing up/
Every day, who's to say?/
Those who pay, those who pay.

"So keep yer money in a cup/
And your ID 'neath the hay/
Or one day, you might pay/
Who's to say?"

- from "PayDay a Day Away"
by the Parannoyances

Friday, May 28, 2010


So having always been delusional, imagine my horror when I discover that my paranoia is occasionally (and with increasing frequency) well-founded. Take FaceBook, for instance: Turns out they're as rife with double-speak as Orwell predicted of media moguls:

Says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, "Facebook has maintained it is committed to striking a balance between respecting user privacy while facilitating the sharing of information."

What that means is, they ARE going to share your information. Look out, Big Brother's broadcasting your bike lock combination ...

“If they were sincere about privacy, the default mode for everything would be the minimal amount of sharing, and if you wish to share more you would opt in to doing that,” said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog. “I don’t think we have any reason to trust the company now based on their past record. There’s a pretty clear need for federal oversight at the FTC.”*

In fact, the first ethically dubious practice was established at its inception, when Zuckerberg hacked into secured Harvard databases, enabling fellow students to ridicule unattractive coeds by voting on side-by-side comparisons of their photos.

Caveat venditor. Seller beware.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Viral Trial

I don't know FB very well yet, but those links that tell ya, Must join this site to view this joke, are highly suspect. And yet, as these new features emerge, how is the public to know right from wrong, except by trial and error? Somewhere, in the mists of time, a very brave man had to be the first to sample an oyster. Another, less celebrated in his day, contributed to posterity that poison ivy is not appropriate as a salad green. Whether you live to enjoy accolades or die amid ridicule too often depends on the whims of Fate.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tough Luck -- er, Love

Sometimes, you gotta make the tough decisions. Other times, the tough decisions are not that tough. :-)